I've been Professional Lurker for a long time, and it never fails to surprise me that someone else hasn't taken the same tag. And yet, every time I register it as a user name, it works on the first try. In short, I'm a professional, in a stuffy high-profile job, who lurks. I hide in group shadows & listen to what everyone else has to say, and (most of the time) I don't say much myself. The Internet is the only place in the world where I take that role. And it's the only place in the world that lurking works for me. Anyway, here I am, snuggling into my easy chair with the ottoman, right under the Tiffany lamp. For anyone who remembers, I salvaged the furniture from the original Bronze. Come say hi - I'll share!
ABOUT THE CHRONICLES OF VALENTINA
If you see a post headed with this, then that’s my other persona, writing about work as a doctor. Over the years, I’ve worked in so many different practices in so many different places, I can’t help but have accumulated stories.
I am not a goddess. I know that. But I so often find myself expected to be one, that I have come to think of this role as "Goddess Mode". Many professions can make the same claim. However, it's a prominent subject of jest & criticism that doctors are compared with gods, or even God. I find it ironic that the joke has to do with the doctor seeing himself as God, when the real problems start when the patients or their families find out he's not.
Deities are supposed to work miracles, protect their worshippers, and bring all good things with them. They can over-ride death, reverse misfortune, you name it. What deity doesn't have any number of magical powers? People pray, they make gifts, sacrifices, all sorts of bargains to have their gods work miracles for them. (Makes me wonder: do these divinities get any more time off than I do?)
Gods aren't always beneficent. Many cultures calmly accept the notion that even benevolent gods are egotistical, capricious, reveling in their elevation above normal mortals (when the normal mortals aren't hoisting them up there), but willing to stoop to save after the proper supplications. Resentment and fury when salvation doesn't come can be bitter. Every deity has been the subject of hatred as much as adoration.
A god is adored, feared, lionized, entreated & hated. Same goes for a doctor. Hence the Goddess Mode concept.
For this section of this blog, I wanted to name the work in a way that reflected the implied power in my profession, not as a form of self-aggrandizement but as a description of the job. Also, it’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek. So I began to seek out a symbol or icon for the things I do. Honestly, first I looked for a saint, but the best health-care related female saint I found was Dymphna, the patron saint of insane people, and she struck me as a bit too tongue-in-cheek. Looking for a female version of St Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, wasn't successful, which is also probably a good thing.
So it was a goddess I sought. Someone involved with healing, preferably not just midwifery. First crack out of the box, I found a lady whose domain was not only healing, but motherhood & marital love. Perfect! I adore my husband, my kids and my grandkids. Someone in charge of the three major aspects of my life would be cool. Turns out, she's Isis, the queen of the Egyptian gods. The queen? A bit grandiose for me. I'd be more comfortable with someone less prominent. Obscure, even, would be good. Besides, the paradox of an obscure deity amuses me.
The research was great fun. I sorted through goddesses from around the world & throughout history, until I came up with a handful of candidates for my Chronicles' title. The de facto world tour stressed the commonality of history & human nature to me.
The Celtic deities were intriguing. Brigid was a great candidate, but she is as prominent among the Celts as Isis is for the Egyptians, and again, this was a little grand for me.
Then I found Boanon, and she was very tempting. Very. Goddess of the river Boyne as well as of healing; considering how often I feel like I'm under water, I could relate. Boanon is represented by the White Cow. That was a demerit. I'm not sure I can get into ancient spirit enough to favor being compared to a cow.
I waded through Greek & Roman pantheons, Far Eastern & Middle Eastern varieties, African, Native American, Eskimo, and a few fantasy demon realms. Had a ball. But it seems I kept ricocheting between the Celts & Druids & the Etruscans for preferences. Don't ask me why.
Valentina was an Etruscan goddess of healing. At least one of her temples was in a little town called Ocriculum (now called Otricoli), another in Bevagna. Bevagna & Otricoli are in the silver-and-green part of Italy called Umbria, somewhere in between Rome & Perugia. Don't know much else about her. There was another Etruscan deity of healing, a god named Clitunno, and their temples were set up near each other, but I haven't been able to learn if Valentina & Clitunno were supposed to be a couple. They were trendsetters. Centuries later, long after the Etruscans' temples disappeared, another holy pair erected their matching temples in Umbria: Francis & Claire.
I chose Valentina for several reasons, some of them private. Suffice it to say that she's simple (goddess of healing, no other backstory) and obscure (for a deity) and ancient and I love the strength of her name. I myself am not very simple, but I'm just a run-of-the-mill doctor, and that carries plenty of obscurity.
I like the image I get of an old temple, lost & forgotten, that has served its people for millennia. Winds blow, seasons pass, new religions come, and new lives are built on top of this old place of worship. Still, the place exists, a birthplace of learning for a profession that both defines & is defined by hope. Scattered on the ground are stones that may have been the temple itself, who knows? Where would the stones & timbers of an old building go if they weren't carried off? A child walks through a field in Umbria & stops to knock a pebble out of her shoe that was once the corner of Valentina's altar. Analyze the soil, dig deep & find the remains of fires that burned for her, traces of libations that were poured to her, insignificant bits of the past that rest beneath the roots of old-but-not-as-old-as-Umbria trees. Medicine's history is a lot like that. Things that were certain knowledge developed, were discarded, replaced, resurrected & reused for totally different purposes. We all stand in the tracks of those who practiced before us.
I want to keep this chronicle as anonymous as possible, not only because it's the right thing to do by the patients I've looked after, but because of HIPAA (look it up). So, there will be no real names, no real locations indicated. Colleagues & health care personnel of all sorts will only be referred to by their job names. That’s a sort of cold and objectifying approach to very hard-working people, but it's the most generic way I can think of. Patients will be called by fictitious names, and their family members designated by their relationship title (eg, Daughter Smith, Nephew Jones). At times, I may base the name on the diagnosis. Depends on my mood. Please note: the names John and Jane Doe will be reserved for the same use as in the hospital systems themselves: they designate a person whose identity we don't know.
There's actually a chance that someone could read a story here & recognize the experience for himself. If he does, I hope he can be circumspect. If confronted by someone with that realization, I simply will not confirm or deny a thing. Again, HIPPA. There's an equal chance that someone could read the same story, and know that something just like it has happened elsewhere. That could be cool. Or disturbing. Truth be told, I really don't expect that wide a readership, and I'm not about to tell anyone who knows me out in the Real World that I am Valentina of the Chronicles.
Another bit of housekeeping: when things get really technical & scientific, there might be a digression labeled "Huh?", after which there will be an explanation of the science in something as close to real English as I can remember. I'm setting these digressions apart to be skipped by the squeamish, if they so choose. I apologize in advance if something should have a "Huh?" & didn't, it will all depend on my level of energy…. Some of the tales I tell are hard to talk about. Some of them can only be described as, um, earthy. Some of my opinions are unpleasant to think about. But (and what else would a blogger say?), I want to express the unvarnished reactions of someone in the business, and if at times that makes me seem crude, uncaring or heartless, I refer you back to the very first sentence of this page.
So, who is Valentina? Valentina is a physician, a wife, a mother, a daughter. She gets up & goes to work, and sometimes she comes home the same day she left. She is alternately warmed, infuriated, amused, repulsed and thrilled by her patients. At least once a day, she finds herself awash with pure awe of humanity; her patients are her heroes. No two days are the same, many days run together into a blur, there are times when it's the best place in the world to be, and other times when it's the worst, but it is never, ever boring.