Saturday, January 31, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I met Dr. Sandra Gladding on June 5th, 2007. Her assistant, Angela, came into the exam room before she did and had got me talking about myself and my background. Dr. Gladding came in and sat down, smiling and told me to continue on with my story. I’d reached the part about how my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer at thirty-two, and she asked me some questions about that. Next she casually asked me if I was married, how long I’d been living in the area, about family and friends; typical “getting to know you” types of questions. All the while she was smiling and calm, rather like a horse trainer around a skittish colt.
Both ladies were open and friendly, and we talked for several minutes before I started to get nervous. There was nothing specific that caused the hairs on my body to slowly start standing to attention, one by one, but a quiet voice in the back on my head reminded me that I was there for a biopsy, not tea. Perhaps noticing my increasing nervousness, Dr. Gladding stood up, put her arm around me and squeezed my shoulder. “You’re going to be fine; it sounds like you have a good support network.”
My mind struggled to interpret her words. The first voice to speak up was Denial. ‘She must be talking about the baby. A good support network for the baby,’ Denial said. Fear chimed in, ‘Support network? Why do I need a support network?’ Suddenly my emotions were all talking at once, blanketing me in the white noise of a noisy theater. Panic raised its voice above the din, ‘Oh my God, do I have cancer?’ ‘Why else would she say that?’ sneered the Realist, “you’ve been waiting for this for ten years now, don’t act surprised.’ ‘What about the baby? If I have cancer, would she have it too?’ cried the mother in me. My hands went automatically to my bulging stomach, cradling my daughter who was due to be born in approximately four weeks. With Herculean effort I shushed the voices in my head.
“So it’s cancer?” I asked, my voice surprisingly steady.
“We’re going to do a biopsy today to be sure, but the mammogram and ultrasound you had yesterday indicate that yes, it’s very likely cancer.”
The white noise got loud again and I struggled to hear her, to make sense of what she was telling me. I had interpreted her behavior correctly; she had been preparing me for the worst.
“Wendy, you need to be prepared to have this baby this week,” she told me, noticing my hands clutching my very pregnant belly.
Bile rose in my throat and I broke out in a cold sweat. “But I’m only 36 weeks along,” I argued ineffectively.
“We’re not going to let anything happen to you and… what did you say you were going to name your daughter again?” she asked, pulling me back from the chaos in my mind.
“Angelina,” I answered numbly. Just saying her name calmed me though, as I’m sure Dr. Gladding anticipated.
She squeezed my shoulder again. “Angelina is going to be just fine, and so is her mommy,” she reassured.
Thus began one of the biggest learning experiences in my life. I could go on and on about the lessons breast cancer taught me, but for now let’s focus on perception.
While this is an extreme case of perception checking, sometimes the extremes can better illustrate the point. Honing perception skills is invaluable and will help in the worst of circumstances. Even before I asked the question, my mind and body were already picking up the undertones and preparing me mentally and physically to deal with the answer.
Of particular note is the white noise that fills your mind when something dramatic happens. It can completely drown out voices outside of your own head, and is why you sometimes don’t recall what someone said to you at the time. However, it’s not always bad. The white noise can drown out all but the calm voice of reason necessary in a time of crisis, which gives one the ability to deal with the matter at hand and leave the emotions to be dealt with later. I would assume that’s how nurses and EMTs make it though their days.
I’ve learned to not drown in the white noise, or the distractions that surround me daily, but to use the noise to drown out the rest of the world so I can focus on what’s important. That’s one thing cancer teaches you - what’s important.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Ah, I remember coming home from work when Angie was still a baby (my baby is growing up - SOB!), laying her on my knees, pulling the socks off her sweaty, stinky baby toes and enjoying "Toe Time" together. Mommy has a foot fetish - but only for baby toes. Daddy's toes are quite safe.
In other news, I'm turning over a new leaf. Instead of speculating on what people "really meant" I'm going to actually... are you sitting down... ask them what they really meant. What a concept! My communication class this semester, in all honesty, is really teaching me a lot. It's very interesting. But then I've always considered myself a student of psychology (I love the stuff) and this is yet another facet of that. (Does that help explain the Hannibal reference at all? It should.)
This semester has me swamped, so you may see a few more lazy posts, if I think the paper is interesting enough (at least I don't bore you with papers about "Legalism in China" circa 1,000 B.C.E.), so it could be worse! :)
Monday, January 12, 2009
There’s a moniker for people like myself: “Jack of All Trades, Master of None.” That statement sums me up perhaps better than the various reports from the assessments. It would also explain how I would have made either an excellent Muppeteer or Judge, as the two careers seem to have nothing in common. However, the Jung Typology Test did indicate that I possess a “distinctively expressed judging personality,” which would, we presume, assist me as a judge. But then again, perhaps not, as it also told me that I had only a “slightly expressed thinking personality”.
Actually, the most revealing analysis from the Jung Typology Test was the link to an “INTJ” type description by D. Keirsey which described me as a “Mastermind”. Masterminds are said to make up only about one percent of the population and are described as planners who consider every contingency. They prefer not to take command until those around them “demonstrate their inability to lead”, at which time they step in and take over. They are strong-willed and self-confident and are not impressed by traditional authority or catchphrases.
I must admit, that does sound a lot like me. People must earn my respect, they are not granted it simply because they have a title or position. I am a planner who absolutely loves policies and procedures. I’m stubborn and self-sufficient and am happy to stay in the background observing and doing my work quietly, allowing others to take the glory (although I do like mention of how brilliant I am from time to time), until they make it apparent that they’re incompetent, at which point I have no further use or patience for them and will simply take over from there on out. I personify a favorite quote of mine, “Step up or step aside!” – Christopher Titus.
Ironically, when I took the Keirsey Temperament Sorter test it gave me startlingly different results. The first time I took the test it suggested I was an Artisan. The assessment did not fit me very well at all, as my only artistic ability might be in the realm of writing, although in retrospect perhaps Muppeteering skills would fall into this realm. I retook the test and it then suggested I had a “Guardian” personality. This seems a better fit, as it describes a person who uses their skills to keep things running smoothly, is dependable and trustworthy, responsible and loyal, and honors customs and traditions. The most specific thing it said that fit me was that Guardians like to work with people who carry their weight. Yes!
The Color Quiz gave me a short and sweet personality assessment, “Needs peace and quiet. Desires a close and faithful partner from whom to demand special consideration and unquestioning affection. If these requirements are not met, is liable to turn away and withdraw altogether.” If there was more to the assessment, the website refused to share it. My husband sagely agreed with it and went back to what he had been previously doing. Actually I think that it, and he, was correct – that does fit me, despite how harsh it sounds.
The final test was the Mental Muscle Diagram Indicator which suggested I have an INTJ or Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging personality. While each of the prior assessments had points that I felt clearly described me, this report seemed the most “dead-on”. It clearly describes me as a systems-driven perfectionist who quickly loses respect for those considered “slacking” at the workplace. The analysis further describes me as someone who seizes opportunities others may miss, and who often takes it upon themselves to make decisions without consultation, but is also “scrupulous and even-handed” about recognizing others who contribute to a project. I specifically liked how it explained that our perceived self-confidence is really more specific in nature and based on developed specialized areas of expertise developed from a young age which allow us to “know what we know, and perhaps still more importantly, they know what they don’t know.” Wow, someone out there really does understand me!
None of the results really surprised me, at least not in content. I drive more than ten hours a week and often spend that time picking apart my day, my experiences, my reactions and ultimately my personality and communication skills. I did find it gratifying, however, to see some of the more unique parts of my personality explained in a way that I’ve been unable to express to others. I feel that these tests give some insight on how I communicate with others, specifically my frustration with co-workers who don’t pull their own weight. My communication skills and leadership also tend to relate these principles.
In conclusion, I think that these tests did a very good job of highlighting aspects of my personality. Even the assessment that suggested I have an Artisan personality fits to some degree, although I still feel it was incorrect. Even if I possess some artistic abilities, they are not dominant. Perhaps whose are the aspects I should work on in myself. I believe I have concluded that I should take the information these tests provided me and use them in my current self-improvement process. Specifically I need to trust myself and my instincts more.
It is often said that history is written by the victors. This certainly makes sense, if only because the “losers” throughout history were often wiped out in the process. Any story, in fact, is told from the point of view of the person telling it and thus will always carry a varying amount of prejudice. Perhaps even more interesting is that early history was written by those who could afford to learn to read and write or to employ a scribe – typically the upper class. In fact, socioeconomic factors play heavily on recorded history, perhaps even up into the last century.
With these factors in mind it would seem that recorded history has been left up to a very small portion of the population. Yet to some history is not so much a search for truth as a delicious glimpse into the lives of people who live far and away from today’s world. History is an attempt to figure out how we arrived where we are today and what factors played a part in that. It’s the story of people and how they shaped the world around them, either alone or as a civilization or society. Yet knowing that a story is often only as good as the telling of it, perhaps some of history’s greats simply lucked into having a great storyteller to write about them.
It would seem that our understanding of history derives in no small part from our own history. If I were black, the stories of the Civil Rights Movement would likely inspire me. Had I been born in Scotland, I might feel a personal fury about the Battle of Culloden. Were I born into wealth or poverty, I’d likely have strong opinions about things like Welfare and private schools. Just as how and where we were raised effects how we view the world today, it is arguable that it would affect how we view history.
Also, as with the telling of any story, no two recitations are exactly the same. A prime example would be the telling of the story of the American Revolution. In grade school we were all regaled with inspiring stories of our Forefathers and their battle against the English to take the United States of America as their own. “Give me Liberty, or give me death,” cried Patrick Henry in 1775. However, think for a moment about the version English history books might tell. It’s rather doubtful that the Americans are portrayed as heroes, visionaries and great leaders. I couldn’t tell you, actually, because I was never introduced to their side of the story. In retrospect that seems very one-sided, doesn’t it?
Today, with the popularity and relative ease of access to information, the recordation of history may be changing. Instead of relying on the oral or written narratives of bystanders, we are now able to view video clips, documents, witness statements and a whole host of other information regarding most incidents of historical merit. There has even been some effort towards public collaboration of knowledge, most famously at Wikipedia.org. The concept is fascinating; touting itself as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. However, and perhaps sadly, Wikipedia is not considered an acceptable resource for information because of its claim to fame. Anyone can edit it, which means that anyone can change the “facts”. It’s a shame, really, that the recordation of history has come so far to have gone past the point of being trustworthy. This would differ from a time when history was considered to be absolute fact, perhaps even as recently as a few decades ago, when no one thought to question history books or facts as presented.
In conclusion, history is the telling of a story from one point of view. It is impossible to believe anyone can know every factor that has lead up any one event during the course of history. To do so you would need to understand every person involved, their motivations, what influences drove them, along with a host of huge and seemingly inconsequential factors that brought all involved (including the historian) to the exact moment that the event occurred. The only true “facts” of history would be those directed by Nature, such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions, and even then tales of their impact would be told by people. Perhaps the best conclusion on what history means is that it’s “his story,” fascinating as it may be.