Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Non-Cancer Types

Reading Amber's message about the definition of cancer personalities as types who can't say no to favours they don't want to do, or to put-up-ons in general regarding their time, expertise, even their bodies, got me thinking about the opposite personality type to this: the ones who don't give an inch. 

You find them in all walks of life, even in professions which are meant to be vocational (i.e. 'caring'). I've met  a couple this last year or so in local musical circles, and I shudder to think of all the little children taking music exams or auditioning before these asocial men (they happen to be men...) with zero people skills: an insensitivity that isn't so much chilling as cryogenic! I've seen grown women in choirs, women who have borne children, held down responsible jobs, passed serious examinations, quake in their shoes before the MD of a provincial choral society.  I used to think it was funny, until it happened to me. Then I slapped myself and reminded myself of what I have achieved, the rich life I have experienced beyond the limits of the cathedral cloister or rehearsal room. I thought about the personality type, and how these anally-retentive and charmless martinets are more to be pitied than feared - even though they probably don't get cancer! 

Having cancer readies you, and steadies you, to face pretty much anyone and anything. This is not necessarily a good thing, of course; and definitely not a state to be envied or sought after. But it is in many ways a privilege being able to laugh at what isn't important, or only important within a little kingdom in  limited locality. The wide world is bigger than that, and to survive, you have to learn to put yourself out there, in the top percentile. No one can give you permission to write or sing or make music, or make a fool of yourself. More often than not, it's the mediocrities in this world (the Salieris, not the Mozarts) who set themselves up as permission-givers (and often, too, by cowardly proxy); but once you learn to see them without their clothes (or on the loo), their power slips away. Although they probably don't get cancer...

My oncologist (a Mozart, not a Salieri - although I hope he doesn't die so young) rang me yesterday to put my mind at rest about the recent smear. An atrophic cell, which could indeed be down to the Tamoxifen, but no need to call for the heavy artillery yet. Duncan is in the right job for the front-line branch of medicine that is cancer. I'm so glad he isn't playing the organ in some cathedral or directing a loss-making choir. A physician, like a musician, should be an artist (even if that implies a certain open-hearted vulnerability). It's more than an ability or capability. It's a gift.

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