Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looking Ahead Without Real Hope

Ooo that sounds dreadful, doesn't it?  But I'm talking about my annual list of books I intend to read next year.  I so rarely manage to read any of the books I intend to read.  Oh, I get the books, and I line them up on a shelf, and I look at them.  Sometimes I will crack one and read a chapter or two.  Then something else will call my attention.  I'll get a curiosity going and dart off to some other book, then another, then another, until I look up and the book I was reading is dusty.

But I make the list anyway, because I'm like that.  Here are my good intentions for 2013.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Hangin' In There

Well, so far, aside from a helluva wind outside, it looks like the world is pretty much here still.  Of course, I expected that it would be because, really, the whole Mayan thing was completely misinterpreted just so certain media outlets could have a story, but every time one of these things gets into the news, there's a little superstitious part of me that is sitting in an imaginary cave with  her shirt collar pulled over her head.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And in Less Exalted Spheres...

So, after rehearsal on Monday, I could sing but my throat still hurt.  I went back to the clinic for a check and from them got a referral to an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist.  Lucky for me, I got an appointment there the for that afternoon.  And I had my throat scoped.

Scoping.  Let me tell you about it.

As medical investigative procedures go, this one is on the mild side -- no blood,  no complicated preparation, no anesthesia (if only!).  First, the doctor shoots some nasty chemical numbing agent into your nose.  Did I mention this stuff is nasty?  Now, it's not nearly as nasty as it could have been if it had gone in my mouth, but even at the back of my throat, well away from my tongue, it made promises of nastiness via fumes.  So there's that part.  As things I've had to swallow in the name of good health go, it's not the worst (the worst was Barium in a giant cup of Raspberry Crystal Lite, but that's another story).

So, after this numbing agent gets to work, the doctor brings out the scope, which is a long, thin, flexible tube on a sort of handle grip.  The end can twist and flex around in a way that was admittedly cool.  It has a light and a camera on the end, of course,and this also goes into your nose and down your throat.  You feel it but you don't feel it, which is in itself pretty weird.

Now, among my many mutations, I have an incredibly sensitive gag reflex.  I can set myself to retching by something as simple as gripping a pencil in my teeth.  However, this reflex has never served me well -- I don't vomit easily at all.  I can retch and gag like a sonavabitch, but many the time when I wished I could just throw up whatever was in my stomach and be done, I could not.  Still, I have the reflex and it's fully operative.

The good news is my vocal cords are all healthy and in good shape.  The bad news is I have a kind of silent acid reflux that is burning the back of my throat and causing all the trouble.  The better news is this is easily treatable and my throat will heal up.

The worse news is that the doctor put that scope VERY far down my throat and it triggered my gag reflex.  Oh boy, did it trigger my gag reflex.  He pulled the scope out before I fell prey to the whole body curling, eye-watering, coughing, retching part of the experience.  I was still coughing and retching 10 minutes later.  In fact, I was a little hypersensitive for about an hour, fighting to control the desire to retch and coughing a good bit.  None of this did my throat any good and so it's sore today.

But I feel I have conquered yet another of the various Scopings I will have to endure as I proceed in life.  That's 2 down.  How many more do I have left now?

Review: The Testament of Mary

The Testament of Mary
The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a slim little volume, a novella really, a sort of long prose poem. It is small, but heavy.

Mary, wife of Joseph and mother of Joshua, is facing her own oncoming death and is compelled by her own desire for simplicity and hoping it will make a difference despite her conviction there is no difference to be made, to tell her truth. Her truth is formed of anger, grief, shame, and pain. She denies the stories her son's followers are writing about him, refusing to go along with their attempts to shape events into a great story.

"I know that he has written of things that neither he saw nor I saw. I know that he has also given shape to what I lived through and that he witnessed, and that he has made sure that these words will matter, that they will be listened to." (page 3)

On another level, this little novella takes a small chisel and hammer to the Christ story and the to creation of the New Testament that is likely to upset many a Christian, in particular fundamentalists or literalists. Luckily, this book being a short list Man Booker nominee, it's not likely enough people will read it to create much of the controversy it opens. For the less literal Christian, the nonChristian, the non-religious, and those who do not follow the Big Three monotheistic religions, however, it makes for interesting thinking. It posits Mary as a human being, fallible and weak, yet clinging strongly to a truth that is not popular -- that her son was the son of her husband, not of God. Her son's death was a matter of chance and poor choice.

"I was there," I said. "I fled before it was over but if you want witnesses then I am one and I can tell you now, when you say that he redeemed the world, I will say that it was not worth it. It was not worth it." (page 80)

What caught me about this fictional recreation of Mary's voice was the woman Colm Toibin envisioned and brought into being, a woman who was a simple creature content with her life, with her family, with her husband, with her God. She loses all of these things, and must replace them with a grim, even heartless, self realization and truth. She isn't stupid or unaware -- she knows of the unrest in her ancient world. She understands that people change, places change, lives change. But she is not agitating for those changes. She longs for a peace made up of sunlight, quiet, her husband and her child. She is a creature of flesh as well as of mind. This Mary inevitably faces the truth she carries and refuses to support any other arrangements of events, any easy narratives or comforting stories.

In this book, in which she recounts several of the Biblical stories as well as the story of the Crucifixion, she brings us a new viewpoint, one that sees Jesus Christ as a baby and a child and then as a man drawn away from his mother, becoming something his mother cannot understand or want, but to which she is nevertheless still connected. Mary in this story is a very angry woman, but resigned. She wishes and dreams of things not turning out as they did, but accepts that she cannot change the past. However, she's determined that, even if it doesn't matter, she will speak her truth before she dies.

"All around there is silence and soothing, dwindling light. The world has loosened, like a woman preparing for bed who lets her hair flow free. And I am whispering the words, knowing that words matter, and smiling as I say them to the shadows of the gods of this place who linger in the air to watch me and hear me."

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Worst Case Scenario

A week of mostly silence -- no speaking, no singing -- because my voice has gone out.  After a week of silence, liquids, vitamins, and so very many throat lozenges, I took a trip to the doctor.  After a lot of looking and listening, he reported no particular signs of infection (so no tests) and prescribed some pills (steroids and antibiotics) as a sort of "throw everything at it" treatment.  I get a week and if there is no improvement, I go to a specialist to see what's up.

What could be up?  At the worse -- at least in my mind -- would be nodes on my vocal cords.  Now, these can be removed with surgery (and not everyone ends up like Julie Andrews.)

My livelihood does not depend upon my singing voice, but my sanity certainly does.

So I have this particular terrifying thought tucked into a little locked box in my head.  I'm not allowing myself to feel much about it because if I do, I worry I'll go right into the darkness.  So, not thinking about it, not taking it into consideration, not spending time on it.  Not going to mourn something I may not have really lost but just temporarily misplaced.  I have a week to concentrate on the medications, vocal rest, and all the other bits of regimen I've learned from years as a singer.  Stick to right now for right now.