Monday, January 29, 2007

This is Who I Am

by Rene Allen

As this is my third blog, I should probably tell you something more about myself. I've noticed some of our authors share their horoscope information. Even though I don't put much stock in astrology, I'm a Gemini which actually may explain some of my more interesting qualities: for example, being of two minds, able to see both sides and taking forever to make a decision, and going two directions at the same time. But since I saw my horoscope and it said your day is going to be so bad you might as well stay in bed, I've thought about getting a new birthday. Can you change dates on your birth certificate the way you change names?

Now, I already have one official birth certificate change. Apparently, my mother gave me a name that was her OB doctor's favorite but one my father just couldn't give me when it came time to be named and blessed in church. So, there it is, I'm two weeks old and already have an official birth certificate change. FYI, that first name was Elye, but my father had a cousin named Elye and her friends always called her Elye Elephant. He didn't want that for me. So, I'm named Rene (with a long e sound, not Rene') Elizabeth and have plenty of opportunities to explain that this name is not short for Irene, that it is not Rene', and that the only person my father knew with this name was his college roommate's girlfriend.

I'm fifth generation Arizona on both sides. My great-great grandfather surveyed the city of Mesa and was the first postmaster. That was the Shill/MacDonald side. Today, my parents live on land my Grandfather Shill was born and raised on in Lehi: down the hill from the Mesa cemetery.

On the other side, great-great grandfather Edmund Lovell Ellsworth led the first handcart company to the Salt Lake Valley. He didn't spend much time in Mesa, settling in the Show Low area instead. He may have had some name problems himself since three of his four wives were named Mary Ann.

I grew up with some unusual ideas about myself and marriage so figuring out when I was 13, I would never marry, I decided to go to medical school instead. I finally finished that project in 1981 as a board certified Ob-Gyn, but also as Mrs. Dwight Allen, and mother of three sons. Eventually we had a fourth. Coming as no surprise, that Gemini spirit was at work again. All day I took care of women and at night it was boys and men.

Now about writing . . . My mother told me I was a real pain to have around until I learned to read. I probably talked too much and had too many opinions--which describes me today as well, though I hope I'm not such a pain. She sent me to summer school every summer with swim lessons, ceramics, sewing, Spanish and finally, literature and writing with Evelyn Denton. ZING! It was a match!

In sixth grade I wrote long love stories that I read to my friends underneath a tree on the Lehi School playground during lunch hour. In eighth grade my final project in Social Studies was a hopelessly trite and boring play about the Oregon Trail. But yes, I received an A because the teacher was impressed with my tenacity if not my historical accuracy.

In high school, I took Journalism and wrote Rabbit Ramblings for the Mesa Tribune for two years. I won fifty dollars in a New Era writing contest for a short story, "The Capture of Gid," and placed in an advertising essay contest for which I received a savings bond but lost before it matured. In college at ASU, I did the LDSSA newsletter for a semester before returning to what I call submersion in my pre-med studies.

You'd think I should have seen the handwriting on the wall, the newspaper and in my essays and chosen to go into Journalism or English. Maybe I should have, but these decisions we make about ourselves when we are children are powerful. So, I practiced medicine for 17 years, then, quit ill with chronic fatigue syndrome, retired.

Fortunately, the chronic fatigue is behind me. I can think clearly again, and have energy. My life is good. And, I've found something I never understood until I retired and that is contentment.

There is a window over the desk where I write. From it I see sunsets, the passing seasons, and, whenever I'm troubled and writing in the early morning hours, the pale and cold light of the moon. Writing has been therapy. It has provided access to deep and painful secrets. It is also a sublime act of creation: to put words together in a powerful and moving way, to stir the finer impulses of your own soul and possibly another's, to describe something so that without eyes you can see and having no ears, hear . . .

There is a lovely story about a young man in a literature class. The teacher was an old, white-haired gentleman who had the reputation of being a stern disciplinarian. The subject was poetry and the assignment was for each student to write a poem.

The following day came. One by one, the teacher called on his students to read their poems. Finally he came to the young man. The boy stood, sputtered, and turned red-faced with embarassment as he tried to read his poem. Finally, in despair, he looked at the teacher and said "I can't do this. I'm not a poet. I'll never be a poet. I can't."

A great silence filled the room. All eyes were on the teacher who slowly stood, his lips pursed in a tight grimace. He stared at the youth. At last, he spoke. "Don't ever say that," he said. 'You are not finished yet. You are not yet who you will be."

Perhaps this most of all sums up my introduction. This may be who I am now, but like the young man in the story, I'm not quite finished yet, either.

5 comments:

  1. Wow, Rene, what a great post. I really loved learning more about you.

    Deb*U*

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  2. Interesting dichotomy--the analytical brain that decides at 13 not to marry, but the romantic writer churning out love stories.

    I liked your story about not being yet who you will be. I feel that way, still.

    I was glad to learn more about you. I salute your tenacity, to finish medical school while being a mother.

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  3. And I appreciate how supportive my ANWA sisters are. Always. Rene

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  4. Rene,
    I am a libra, but I too see both side of an issue which drives my husband crazy. I have trouble deciding anything, and I get involved in too many things. I guess I was born at the wrong time!
    My great whatever grandfather, Oscar Stoddard, led the LAST handcart company into Salt Lake.
    Thanks for sharing about yourself.
    Terry

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  5. Hmmm...I noticed that the system actually just posts the astrological signs automatically when you enter your birthdate on the personal information.

    I enjoyed learning these things about you Rene. Love the name, btw. I admire your tenacity and I admire your husband for supporting you!
    Thanks for the great post!

    ReplyDelete

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