Thursday, July 3, 2008

The 'I'm not your Bond girl' conducts a musical review

Awhile back, Mr. J. William posted seven swans--seven songs you're into in the moment, and why--and suggested that it might be the kind of thing I might like to do as well. I have tried to get to this post at least a dozen times since then. The last month of internal medicine was a lot of freaking work. I was busy. I'm not sure what else I can say about that. Hmm...

They called my intern James Bond. When I asked him why, he said, "Oh, they all think I look like Daniel Craig."

"Huh," I said. "I think you sort of look like my brother. In particular, the years after he quit smoking pot all the time, but before he started going to church."

"Were those good years?" he asked.

"Yeah, they were good years...but not license to kill good. Sorry, dude. I guess you can't win 'em all."

We got along quite well in spite of the fact that I was the only heterosexual female in the building who thought he looked more like a close relative than an international sex symbol. Frankly, I think he was a little relieved. That's got to be a lot of pressure, to be that hot all the time. I remember how exhausting it was the year everyone thought I looked like Posh. I eventually had to quit wearing that outfit to work.

Now, on to the music...
I should start by saying, these are not seven songs of this moment. First, there are only five songs here. You don't want to read about all seven. Trust me. Second, they are actually the songs from five different moments when I tried to write this post--it's a musical review.

If You Were to Wake Up - Lyle Lovett
Way back in May, I wrote about a patient named Jane and her partner Anne. When I ended that post, I said that Jane wasn't quite there yet, she wasn't quite well. In fact, she was spending quite a bit of time asleep. I would check on her several times a day. There were days she was up for hours at a time, and others when she was out all day. When she was awake, sometimes she was with it, sometimes she wasn't.

It was hard to watch Anne watch her sleep. You could see it in her eyes, the fear that her love may never really be here like she was before she got sick. When Jane was awake, Anne would soak in every moment of it. It was hard to watch that, too. One night, I came home and listened to Lyle Lovett and His Large Band. I didn't choose the album with Jane and Anne in mind, but when I heard this song, it reminded me of them. And it made me cry.

When I left town for my month of internal medicine, I had Graci check in on Jane. She had been moved to the rehabilitation unit and we were all crossing our fingers that she was going to make progress there.

Graci checked on her and then called me and said, "Uh, I'm not sure exactly what you were worried about, but she seems fine to me. Just like any other 50 year old woman." It was then that I began to wonder if Graci might be full of shit, because Jane was far from just like any other 50 year old woman when I left her.

I went to see her when I was back in town that weekend. It turns out, Graci was not full of shit. Jane was just like any other 50 year old woman. (Except that she's actually closer to 60. She looks great for her age.) We sat and talked for over an hour. In many ways, it was like finally meeting her. I spent the whole time trying to keep my jaw off the floor. I couldn't believe how well she was doing.

Anne called me yesterday just to let me know that Jane is still doing well. She is at home now, and this week, they are both celebrating their July birthdays with a big wine party. Now that she's alert and oriented, they're going to get her good and drunk. I don't think I'll ever hear from them again. But, you know, that's actually okay with me. (This is, perhaps, where I differ from someone who wants to go into primary care.) I feel incredibly privileged to have been a small part of this brief chapter in their lives.

A Case Of You - k.d. lang
(or here, if you can ignore the stalker video)
When I drive in to work early in the morning, before it is light, I listen to Hymns of the 49th Parallel. This started back in surgery, at the beginning of my 3rd year, when I was secretly terrified to go to work every day. I started the year in the ICU and started every morning assessing patients by myself, all the while thinking, "Don't miss anything, don't fuck it up. Don't miss anything, DON'T FUCK IT UP." I still think that, the little voice in my head just doesn't jump up and down yelling it anymore. It's more like a reminder, less like a reason to consider sedating myself before rounds.

At the beginning of the year, though, when I began every day with secret terror, I found that k.d. lang helped. I would put in this album, fill my car with her music, and float to work on her voice. This is my favorite song from the album. If I ever face a firing squad, I want k.d. lang to sing Joni Mitchell to me while they lock and load.

What Happens Tomorrow - Melissa Etheridge
(or here)
I don't have a TV at home, but there was one in the call room where I stayed for internal medicine. I didn't watch much of it, except on the night of the last democratic primaries. Which states were those? I don't remember. It was the night when Obama claimed victory and Hillary said she'd be making a decision about where to go with her campaign in the next few days. We all knew what she was saying, though. She was done.

I was not a Hillary supporter, but I have to admit, I teared up a little as she spoke that night. I would try to explain what that was all about, but Rebecca Traister already said it better...

Language fails us when we say that Clinton "ran for president." Hillary Clinton didn't just run for president. She hustled and jumped and slogged and cried and ate and drank and didn't sleep and put up with her nutty underminer of a husband for president. She lit herself, and everything around her, on fire for president.

Clinton behaved with the kind of naked drive and aggression and mercilessness we revere in, for example, football greats, wrestling stars and military heroes. Her political ambition and ruthlessness are qualities native to anyone putting themselves up for the job of running the country...

And, yes, it's terrific that generations of little girls will grow up knowing that women can run for president. But count me as gratified that those who do so will also know they are not responsible for bearing the highest expectations for their gender's morality and politesse, because one hell of a difficult dame has been there before them and knocked everybody around pretty hard.

When Melissa sings, I believe a woman can work hard and succeed, and we could be content to believe that she could be in charge of the free. And be the President, I get a lump in my throat.

I'm not sure I would have felt so strongly about this before my 3rd year, but I only had to hear one physician tell me that women shouldn't be physicians to change how I view things. And then, there was the doctor who introduced me to his patient as a student nurse. (You bet your ass I corrected him.) And the person who told me I should wear fewer button-downs and more "cute tops like the other girls"...and on it goes.

Now, I swallow hard when I see a woman rock.

Squeeze Box - The Who
(or here)
There are two fabulous things about this song. First, if you've just finished the 3rd year of medical school, this is the kind of total absurdity you need to celebrate. Second, if your friend Graci hates this song, the celebration is all that more enjoyable.

I'll Cover You - Rent
(or here)
This weekend, I went to hang out with the women I worked with in labor and delivery before medical school. My best friend from that group, J, recently lost her mother in a house fire. It was as terrible as it sounds, complete with local news footage of the fire fighters doing CPR on her mom in the front yard as the house burned behind them. When J went out to the house two days later, she found a used endotracheal tube lying in the grass from where they had tried to intubate her mom. She drove around with it in her car for two weeks.

J is an only child, so she has had to take care of everything on her own since the fire. Except that she hasn't really been on her own, because her friends have been absolutely amazing. They went to her mom's house the day of the fire and rummaged through the wreckage, retrieving what they could. They filled the fruit bowl in the center of her coffee table with Xanax and kept the bar stocked with red wine. And, they played Rent. Over and over again.

J loves Rent. If you've seen the musical, you know that this song is sung by the cast at Angel's funeral as they all come around her boyfriend, Collins, and together say goodbye. It will now forever remind me of the way that J's friends have come around her in the last few months.

I just realized I'm sort of ending this on a tragic note. In fact, the weekend was great. J made her mom's German potato salad, which tastes like a potato would if it had an orgasm. We drank lots of that red wine. The Xanax centerpiece has been replaced with chocolate, which we also dove into. And, we laughed like hyenas at things you just shouldn't laugh at. It was a great way to end the year.


MmeBenaut said...

This is a fabulous post Terroni. As always your writing is well thought out and from the heart with a pinch of humour and a pinch of worldweariness about it - the whole package. One of the reasons I love you so much little one is your incredible depth of feeling for everyone and everything about you and then you verbalise it in prose that hits this reader right in the heart. I'll listen to those songs tomorrow, when the rest of the household (M.B and cats) are awake.
Happy 4th July sweetheart.

Maria said...

God, I am so glad that you finally have time to do these kinds of posts again. What a writer you are.

Your patients will never get to see that side of you, though, unless you start writing all weird in their charts and then the rest of the staff will just think you you find some good shit in the cabinets.

I, too, was never too interested in finding out what happened next with patients. I liked my fantasies better, I think. The real world can really, really suck and the happy endings on ER and Grey's Anatomy are just so much farce. But, yeah..maybe Jane and Anne will make it. At least keep them there in your head, yes.

And wow....thanks for noticing about Hilary. I got so weary of slogging through all the blog beaters about her when no one seemed to notice that what she was doing was not just phenomenal, but NOTEWORTHY phenomenal. I sometimes thought that the only other one who got her was Obama himself. I think he had her ticket, knew her stripes and was proud of her even as he took her on. There were days when I thought if I had to put up with another wacked out photo of her on someone's blog, I was going to lose it.

And Lyle...oh, Lyle. He has my heart. Right in the middle.

Amanda said...

oh my gosh. This was so great!!! maybe you need to quit focusing on medicine so much and just write funny blogs. Isn't laughter the best medicine anyway?

.j.william. said...

those are fantastic stories.