17 September 2009

I Can Be Healed; I Wish I Could Heal Them

Today I saw Dr. Jennifer again. Every woman should have a gynecologist like her. And I really hope that some day she teaches somewhere: She is so good at explaining--and, even more important, anticipating what you might want explained.

She says I'm "almost there." About my healing, she says, "Everybody's should be like yours." The bacterial infestation is gone and now I have to wait for the perineum area, where most of the pressure would be, to heal. That is the reason why she still recommends that I follow Marci's advice and not have receptive sex or ride my bike for another month. At that time, I will see Jennifer again and, if my healing progresses as it has been, I should be "good to go."

Having Marci do my surgery and Jennifer for my gynecologist makes me wish I were better at things like biology and chemistry. Both Marci and Jennifer insist that I should not wish for such things; they both say that I'm a "lovely" and "beautiful" person. But they perform miracles: They help people to live, live well and live better. In my case, Marci helped to make possible the life I always wanted--no, was always meant to live--and Jennifer has been helping me through its earliest days.

I wish I could do for someone else what they've been doing for me.

That's how I always feel when someone heals or nurtures me. I don't think that anyone can do anything more important or beautiful. Of course that is the reason why nobody will ever be as important to me as my mother; after her, in there are Marci and Jennifer, Bruce, Millie and Kevin (my first AA sponsor) and every cat I've had. There are other people who, for brief periods of time and in smaller ways, helped me to get better or to develop in some beneficial way. But I simply don't have the capacity to do for anyone what they've done for me.

It's not just a matter of the gaps in my education or talents, although, as I said, I would need to have more aptitude for science to do the kinds of work Marci and Jennifer do. What I lack is what some people would describe as a "touch": I might feel someone else's pain, but I don't always do the right thing for them. And, as much as I aspire toward the spiritual, I am not any sort of medium or holy person.

I'm thinking again of the course I took last semester: a PhD level (whatever that means) English class called "Literature, Gender and Sexuality." I was going to take a course in Mandarin, but a couple of people suggested that I take a course like the one I took. After the momentary thrill of deciphering convoluted essays and books, I couldn't think of anything that I gained by taking it. And I still can't think of how it will benefit me, much less anyone else. I mean, if reading those unreadable texts couldn't change my life, how could I use them to anyone else's benefit?

Even if you enjoy solving things that are made to be puzzles but needn't be so, the sheer pretentiousness of the enterprise and the people involved in it can choke you. Any of the people I named earlier are far more intelligent than anyone I met at the Graduate Center of CUNY, where I took the course, and Marci is the best at the kind of surgery she performs and has been named one of the 100 best doctors in the United States. If someone like her can explain complicated ideas and procedures without condescenscion, or if she or anyone else can respect my humanness as I struggle to learn one thing and another, why do I need to be around people who can't offer me much more than their attitudes and jargon.

As long as I understand something, I can explain it in plain English. And that's all I've ever done for most of my students. For a few others, I have listened to whatever they've entrusted to me. One such person is Sarah, who "came out" to me last year and, when she saw me in the hallway at the college--for the first time this year--ran up to me and hugged me. I am glad she felt so confident, or at least comfortable, with me. But I wish that I could help her with the pain she's endured--some of which she described, and still more that I could simply see.

In other words, I can give someone like her relief and solace. I can also give those things to other people. But I don't have the sort of hands, if you will, that can transmit healing and create nurturing.

At least, I don't think I have them, or the sort of intelligence one needs in order to use them for healing. I'm not talking only about the academic knowledge; I'm also talking about a kind of spiritual intelligence.

At least I get to experience it in other people. That I have such people in my life is certainly reason to be grateful. But that doesn't stop me from wishing...


EdMcGon said...

When you mention that class, I was trying to think what books I would include in such a class. Shakespeare's Twelfth Night comes to mind immediately.

Arguably, Sylvia Plath's Bell Jar could be in there too, although I found the book a bit too self-pitying.

Now you have me curious: What books were in that class?

Justine Nicholas Valinotti said...

Ed, I wish any Shakespeare at all had been included in that class. I agree with you about "The Bell Jar," but it still would've been better than most of what we read.

The highlight of the reading list was Walt Whitman's poetry. Then there were three novels, none of which I'd heard of, much less read before the course: Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton's "Who Would Have Thought It?," Julia Ward Howe's "The Hermaphrodite" and Frank Norris's "The Octopus." All were written in the later part of the 19th Century and were forgotten until recently. They all dealt with, in one way or another, the way gender roles of the time affected one aspect or another of society. Of the three, "Hermaphrodite"--which Howe never finished and was not published until about 100 years after her death--was the most interesting. It dealt with what happened when the eponymous character's father decided to raise her as a male. It was certainly ahead of its time, at least conceptually.

The majority of the reading list, however, consisted of books and articles by gender theorists who fancied themselves as literary scholars, or vice versa. It was deadly dull, and what's truly unfortunate was that the literature was used to undergird the theories; I would have preferred it the other way around.

Oh, well. You live and learn, right?

EdMcGon said...

I can't say I've read those stories, but at least I know to avoid them now. :)