Advice From the Trenches

Trenches in 2023: What are the Trenches?

What are The Trenches? Where are they, who lives in them, and why? This was a question asked by our publisher and it seems like a good way to start this new year.

I define The Trenches as the sub-paths that branch off of the straight and narrow highway of the American Dream. Those of us in the Trenches are all here for different reasons, but we tend to have certain things in common. We often lack higher education or prestigious connections. Until Obamacare narrowed the gap, we were all without, or had very limited health insurance or access to medical care. We live with challenges that preclude clear passage on the road to  successful careers. We might be immigrants to this country, we may be natural born citizens with chronic debilitating health and/or neurological problems. But whatever the reason, one thing is certain – we can’t easily buy or borrow everything we need. We have to make do with what we’ve got and figure out a lot for ourselves.

We have to figure out a lot more than relationship problems and tension at work; we have to deal with aches and pains, plumbing problems and our income taxes. We need to know home remedies and what to look out for when buying appliances. We should probably learn how to sew on a button.

That is what pretty much decides your fate here: if you can figure things out, you’ll do OK, both with your health and your state of mind.There’s always something you can do to make things better, no matter how unsolvable problems can seem.

I’ve been living with Crohn’s Disease, an incurable autoimmune disorder, since my early 20’s. As a struggling artist I had no insurance and no money. Mainstream medical doctors wouldn’t even treat me without thousands of dollars worth of tests. Things looked pretty hopeless, and no one had answers. But I am a stubborn bitch. I decided to figure things out.

It was trial and error. Progress was very gradual. I’ll be honest, it took decades to develop a system for staying in remission. But by the time Affordable Care gave me the first insurance I’d had in decades, the first time I really needed it was when a cat bite freakishly sent me to the hospital on an IV for nearly a week. As for Crohn’s Disease – my new specialists ran tests on me, but they decided to pretty much leave me alone. Whatever I was doing was working.  

The reason I tell this story is to illustrate the point – if we are willing to put in the effort, we can have a lot more control over what happens to us than we’ve been led to believe. We have this idea drummed into our heads that the only way to solve a health problem is with medication or surgery, the only way to succeed in life is with a degree from a top university, and that personal security and happiness is defined by our bank accounts.

The thing is, not everyone in this country lives in the same world. We don’t all come from the same socioeconomic backgrounds or have the same core beliefs and values. In a 2006 study by Harvard investigators, they had to break down the country into “eight Americas,” based on race and culture in order to compare the mortality rates of each group. With this much diversity, there aren’t any clear answers that even the top experts have that are going to work for everyone. We all have to look at the America we live in and figure it out from there.

What Advice From the Trenches aims to do in the upcoming year is to answer questions and offer perspectives and solutions on a wider range of questions. We want to address mind, body, household repairs, community support and available resources for the groups and subgroups that live in RI. We are going to talk with people who are thriving in The Trenches and have figured a lot of things out.

In short: a bigger picture, affordable options that take the pressure off, and advice that is relevant to the particular America you live in. We will not forget that laughter is the best medicine. 

And we’d really like to hear from you. Got advice that you’d like to share? Want to tell us to shove our suggestions up our ass? Great! We are always learning.

We hope you are too.