The White Tornado

Crying out in agony in the Emergency Room on Tuesday, a nurse had the temerity to shush me. “Don’t shush me!” I yelled at her. “This is the ER and I’m in pain, for god’s sake!” Another spasm hit me, so I had to cry out before I added, “Maybe if I hadn’t been shushed as a child, I wouldn’t be here at all!”

I’m not sure where that thought or connection came from, but it’s not only in vino that there is veritas; pain also provokes truth, if it is severe enough. (It seems to work for the CIA and other torture-mongers, anyway.)

The nurse is not the only person to shush me, whether actual or implied, in the past. Indeed, since I left Ireland, there are many who have done so. The tags of “oversensitive” and “over-reactionary” have been taken very much to heart by me, causing me to question why anyone would want me around at all. Especially since I “came out” about the cancer in April, doom and gloom have cast an unwelcome shadow over my life.

These last few weeks would depress the strongest spirit, going OVER and OVER and OVER my medical history with a steady stream of professionals, whether writing it on the myriad forms, discussing it on the telephone, or dealing with medicos face-to-face.  (Once in the ambulance, and then in the ER, I was asked no less than four times for my entire history. Would someone please just tape record it the first time? What a concept!)

I GET IT, folks: cancer is serious stuff. But I allowed myself to succumb to the Rationals, to those who think that because I’m near death, I should shut up already. I used to be like the bird singing in the storm I wrote about in an earlier blog; nobody had said I shouldn’t sing in the storm, that no one could hear me, and it was a waste of effort. In the last few months of FACING FACTS, all I’ve done is turn myself into a depressed mass of female tissue (with a new uterus, even, it seems; I love that the root for ‘womb’ — hystera– is the same as that for hysteria), a far cry from the Force of Nature I’ve always been.

My dear friend Debs has a nickname for me, “The Tornado.” I love it! Wild, unpredictable, destructive — but at the same time, awe-inspiring, even sublime. Would you shush a tornado? Would you even try? Would it hear you if you did? Should a tornado be quiet? Of course not; it’s not its nature to do so. Oh, there’s an eerie quiet before it hits, and there’s another type of silence after it passes, but when it’s doing its thing, there’s no shushing it.

My Irish friends had another nickname for me, which I still love; if truth be told, I miss hearing it: “The Mad Yank.” “She’s in full flight, no need tryin’ ta stop her!” they used to say. (I can still hear you, Caro and Noely! And you, too, Tony…and Alice…and Mary…and, well, just about everyone there! Love you… xx)

Not that I need to justify being the kind of person I am, but I do have a precedence — all the way back to the Greeks, actually. They were effusively emotional, yet cultured, learned, those Greeks on whom the men of the Renaissance and Romantic eras modeled themselves. They were as proud of the depth and scope of their passions as on the breadth and range of their education and interests.

Let’s face it: I’m a dreamer, a hope-full Romantic. I’m emotive, deeply passionate, alert to the tiniest sounds and smells and sights, and ready to give any one of them center stage for a moment. Nothing is trivial to me. Yes, to you, I overreact; may I remind you (as I reminded myself, yesterday, in my session with Pam) that people have paid to see me ‘overreact’? I used to do a lot of acting, paid and unpaid. I wrote and directed plays for my siblings as soon as they were old enough to move around a makeshift stage. I auditioned for a TV program when I was a mere toddler, singing! I didn’t sing the song my folks had picked for me, but I did sing. My artistic bents were encouraged, as long as they weren’t loud and they didn’t cost anything. I think it’s why I liked high school so much; I was encouraged to make the noises forbidden at home. And I know that’s why I loved  being in Ireland: I could be who I wanted to be, and they loved me just the noisy, vivacious, emotional way I was.

And the way I’m going to let myself be again. People often say to me, “Chill out! You’ll live longer.” Well, I may live longer, but it sure won’t be as exciting. If I chill to American society’s acceptable level, I will die, a frozen little blob with a frozen little blog.

I’d prefer to be myself, reacting to things very differently than most of you do. And be honest — would you be reading this blog if I were a milk toast, a wimp, a quiet little flower on the wayside? Would we  be friends, or still be friends after all these years? You are my quiet lakes and roaring rivers, the calm to my storms. Over bodies of water, tornadoes unwind, come down to earth. Gently, though, not destructively, and the landscape becomes serene again. We need each other.

Consider this a warning from the Weather Service: a tornado, a White Tornado named Jen, is heading your way. This storm is not life-threatening, just unpredictable. However, all persons in close proximity are warned not to shush this particular storm, or take its wild ramblings to heart.

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