Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Before there’s any reaction from my readers, I would like to clarify the idea. I did not do anything dirty, and I had no intention to. It was just the literal meaning of the phrase “brought a man home” and nothing else. This isn’t a big deal for most families but for mine, it is. No matter how I try to assert an inconspicuous existence in this house, I am still my parents’ only child, about to turn 30, and a doctor at that, and apparently it’s a very big deal for them that I am still single and have always stayed single ever since I breathed my first breath in this world. And so no matter how I try to convince them otherwise, they have always made it known in their quiet and sometimes-not-so-subtle ways that they’re getting on in their years and I, in my pathetic solitary state, should already come to my senses because I owe them an apo.
And so, that being the state of my household, I refused to face the facts and still decided to bring my man home. And by “my man”, I mean someone I’ve grown up with, known to the core for the past 15 years, cried with, argued with, vomited with (or even vomited at), everything you can imagine good old childhood friends have shared, plus everything they will probably share (heartbreaks, weddings, christenings, strollers, glucometers, arthritis medications, Viagra prescriptions, funeral homes). It was a great thing that “my man” is a tall, great-looking, smart, funny, thoughtful and sweet guy who happens to be interested in farming and who happens to be straight. Although it was also an absurd coincidence that he was single.
That being the state of “my man”, I forewarned him. The last time I brought a man home, the household was in an uproar and my dad gave him the interview and there was a shotgun displayed in the bathroom for him to gaze at. A not-so-subtle way of pointing a shotgun at someone, huh?
My good friend said he wouldn’t mind. And so the visit went on. The evening and the conversations were excellent, light, humorous, and natural. We visited the farm, talked about future ventures. There was no grand interview, no bottle of brandy, no shotgun, not even until I hugged my friend goodbye. We looked at each other, “No shotgun.” And we laughed. Boy, I was relieved.
When my friend was gone, my mother came to me. And she said, “OK sya.” I just glared back. She then proceeded to lecture me on marriage and family life.
I just kept quiet. There was no grand interview, no bottle of brandy, no shotgun in the bathroom. But this was worse. The shotgun was being pointed right at me.
Next time, it's going to be a cannon, or an armalite, I'd bet. Plus a knife at my throat. Waaah!
I’m in a pensive mood lately. The mental and physical lull that the holidays have afforded me created a void in my brain that I initially resisted but eventually learned to appreciate. This time, I’m getting used to the slow and steady pace of country life, the long hours of idling around with a cup of tea in my hand, enjoying the cold breeze under mango trees, with the occasional droning of tricycles on the background. After the initial stage of resistance, I came to realize that despite my identity crisis and acquired taste for the city life, in the end, I still love it here.
I still believe that the reason why I suddenly changed my mind and chose to spend the next three years staying in the big city is valid. I called that reason “unfinished business”. That general term encompasses both its literal and metaphorical implications, including the rational and the staid, the banal and the sappy, the vital and the comical.
These days, however, after retracing back a few steps into where I came from, and discovering that some old prayers are still unfolding, and that some treasured people from the old days are still around and have even evolved to become much better, I can’t help but wonder about the real nature of my unfinished business.
What if my unfinished business is not in the big city, but right here? After all, I’m always a small town girl who still dreams to live in a farm. Years of living in the city have never and will never change that. Why do I have this strange feeling that whatever I’m looking for is just waiting for me all the while? Whatever this means, I hope it will still be around when I come back. Someday I will come back, to complete that unfinished business that I have postponed far too long. I hope it will still be around until then, when I will finally be brave enough to stay home.
Friday, December 26, 2008
My friends used to speculate on how long I’ll manage to stay sane at home. My great mentor, in his usual trusting manner, said I’d find a way to love being here. Some of my friends gave me 2 months, some 1 month, or 2 weeks, or 1 week. Whoever gave me one week was right. One week of rest and I’m dying to go back to work. Work in dirty, noisy, overcrowded Manila.
But, heck. This is reality. I’m down to my last paycheck. And nobody in this godforsaken town accepts me for moonlighting jobs. Ugh! I guess I have to be practical. There are piles of backlog work I brought from Manila, still left untouched. These, I have yet to deal with.
So for the next few days, my love affair with the serial killing weirdo named Dexter would have to unfold. At least until the new year comes, I can’t break off certain patterns yet. Or hmmm, will I ever?
Hey, I'm trying here.
Monday, December 15, 2008
There's noise coming from the nearby AVR. The 1st years and the 3rd years have decided to merge their batch parties while they were already all half-drunk. There's screaming and shouting. Sounds of happy people taking their time, as if they're aware that their days are limited, that they have to make the most out of it. Life in this hospital, though often hard, is worth every minute of it.
The kids are already drunk. If someone from the hospital administration walks in and finds all those beer cans and wine, tequila and vodka bottles scattered around, we'd all be kicked out. I watch them for awhile. I remember my batch. I miss those days. I walk away. For the first time since I stepped in as chief resident, I'm not getting drunk with them. I'm staying sober tonight. I'll let them be. Walk away. Let them be. Finally.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Up to this very day, I still can't believe I did this. Sometimes I wonder if that person known as Jean during the past year is an entirely different individual. Or how much of that new person would I be carrying with me through this life. There are several unresolved issues and unfinished business I'll be leaving behind, but perhaps today is not the time to think about them. I have to remind myself again and again that tomorrow is just another day.
I'm allowing myself a little indulgence though. I'm giving myself every chance to be grateful.
To everyone who helped, to everyone who shared, to everyone who stood by, to everyone who caught me when I slipped, to everyone who endured, to everyone I neglected, to everyone who became part of this amazing year, thank you. It has truly been an awesome time for me.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Crazy. Baliw. This has been my favorite expression for the past year. Something pisses me off. "Baliw!" Something is so amusing. "Baliw!" Something unbelievable happens. "Baliw!"
Crazy. This sums up the entire year. Ups and downs, good and bad, planned and unexpected. The year has been crazy, all in a good way.
Crazy. This is the greatest compliment anyone ever gave me this year. "I have an admiration for crazy people, and you are one of them." Spoken by none other than my greatest teacher. Wow!
This year has been crazy. I have become crazy. I will continue being crazy. This world is really crazy. And crazy people like me happen to love everything about it.
I closed down the office, dragged along two bags of stuff I had accumulated in my little cubicle during the past year, and went home to my cluttered and messy apartment. I was a bit fulfilled but a bit depressed, a bit angry but still a bit optimistic, my brain was a battlefield of my warring selves. I had too much in my mind. Imagine a computer with too many programs running all at the same time. My mind was that way last night. No wonder it just conked out. “The computer is not responding”, the screen said. “Do you want to shut down?”
Yes, I needed to turn this computer off! So without even brushing my teeth or washing my face, I jumped into bed still dressed, stared for a few minutes at the ceiling and then fell asleep.
I woke up 14 hours later, in a rush of energy and panic. Too much to do, too little time. Too much done, too much left out. Too much left unsaid, and too many words uttered. So many people to thank, but a number of people lost with too great a value. Too much, too little, too fast, too soon, too short, too quiet, too timid, too cold, too attached, too far, too intense, too apathetic, too loose, too drastic, too hopeful, too… stop it!
I forced myself out of bed, took a quick bath and got dressed. I got myself two cups of coffee. Played “Tuloy Pa Rin” on my iPod. Tuloy pa rin ang awit ng buhay ko… Too jologs. Too sentimental. But I had to convince myself, anyway. So I turned the repeat mode on and the song just kept on playing, over and over again. Handa na akong hamunin ang aking mundo pagkat tuloy pa rin, tuloy pa rin ang awit ng buhay ko…
Perhaps I’m convincing myself a little too hard.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
"If you know you have six months left to live, how should you spend it?"
"Be a resident in the PGH Department of Medicine."
The residents wondered, "Why, sir?"
"Because if you're a resident in this department, every minute would seem like eternity."
Today, I have 6 days left in the department. And here I am, stretching every minute. When your minutes are running out, even eternity is finite.
But yes, the memories do last. And eternity, though unfathomable, just might be possible.
Monday, December 8, 2008
It's like falling in love. Before the fall, there's always the choice to take the plunge. Gravity takes charge thereafter. You don't know where you'll end up and there's no looking back or moving backward, but you take the crucial step anyway. So ultimately, it was still a choice. A choice to fall, a choice to embrace the unknown and the unstoppable.
In Medicine, we find ways to calculate risks, to estimate probabilities, to quantify prognosis. But in life, we take our chances. Damn if we do, damn if we don't. There's no such thing as Evidence-Based Living, no such thing as Logic-Based Living either. Sometimes, we just wait, let things unfold, and then take it from there.
I had my interviews for Cardiology fellowship this morning. Some people who knew I was a serious advocate for the generalist, all ready to go home to the province immediately after my residency, were surprised to see me there. Well, I also can't figure out why I chose this too!
The inevitable question came. "Why CVS?"
Still baffled, I simply replied, "Unfinished business."
(yeah, go figure. i insist the business is research. yikes!)
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I can still remember my last stick. Marlboro Lights. June 15, 2008, at 3AM, Valle Verde, during the despidida party of a very good friend leaving for Australia. I got so drunk, and I was sad she was leaving. Alcohol is never complete without cigarettes. So I drank and I smoked until my lungs gave out. I was never a tobacco addict. But I didn't plan on quitting the occasional stick either.
Later during that day, I had the good fortune of stumbling into my favorite and most stubborn patient. I was convincing him to start taking his medications for his chronic hypertension since he was already showing signs of end-organ damage. After a long discussion, peppered with intelligent arguments, he just said, "But you smoke. How can you convince me to take my medications?" And he laughed an evil laugh. I was dumb and red all over.
I never touched a cigarette since then.
Hmmm, six months and counting. My lungs have not tasted a single whiff of smoke. I survived a month in Leyte, a handful of ER rounds with my old yosi-buddies taunting me with their Marlboros, really stressful months of chief residency, even the department teambuilding where I usually head the yosi group for bonding purposes (hehehe). I even survived my first intro dive (compressed air dries up the gullet so much that I was panting for tobacco after that dive)without smoking a single puff!
And boy, I feel good.
Tonight, I was again so tempted. I need that smoke. I have every reason to break my abstinence. I am stressed out. My things-to-do list is two pages long. I'm ending chief residency in a week and I deserve a yosi break. I'm down to my last three paychecks and it's Christmas and I still have my Batanes trip to spend for. It's my interview for CVS tomorrow and I'm still undecided if I should take it. And besides, I've lost that patient so he will never know anyway.
I went outside PGH to get some fresh air. I headed straight to that cellcard stand across Taft where I used to get my occasional stick before I head home. I looked at the Marlboro lights. There they were, so tempting, offering a promise of heaven within my reach. I'm getting a smoke. To hell with those 6 months, to hell with what I've been through trying to avoid it, to hell with my profession. To hell with that patient. I'm getting that stick of Marlboro lights!
I reached into my pocket for my wallet. But there was no wallet. My ailing hippocampus deliberately left it behind at the office.
For the nth time in my life, I was saved. I went back to the office relieved. I had to write this story down before I start working again. So I did.
And up to this very minute, I am proud and happy to say that I am still smoke-free.
I felt fabulous. Single, unattached, independent, smart. Even beautiful and sexy. I walked on, feeling the cold December breeze on my face. Fergie was crooning G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S on my iPod. All the men in the world can get lost. I was happy.
I was standing outside PGH, by the gate, waiting for the light to turn red. There were a couple of empty cabs parked on the side of Taft. A thirty-something man, apparently the driver of one of the cabs approached me, "Taxi po." I nodded. He was persistent. "Sige na po. Saan po kayo, nay?"
Did someone just call me "nanay"? I stared at him. I could kill a man.
The light turned red. I hurriedly crossed the street.
Some men are just so stupid.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
At his age, he can still win a tennis match with a twenty-something. He can carry a sack of rice. He can dig a hole 6-feet deep or even deeper. My dad is indeed a strong man, physically, mentally, spiritually. He may not be computer literate, nor widely read like most dads, or someone who wears a coat and tie, looking suave and debonair. He doesn't eat in fancy restaurants, he doesn't know a thing about wine or fine dining. He doesn't care about the newest phone, he can't even use a digital camera, and he doesn't have any idea what an iPod is. He doesn't know a thing about Barack Obama or the latest news on JokJok. He can't speak straight and impeccable English and his Tagalog sounds so ridiculous. Make him speak in front of people and he'll turn red and his hands will shake.
But he can sing Beatles songs with me. We can spend hours in front the video karaoke together, whether at home or in a secluded beach. He can get drunk over brandy just so he can gather enough guts to interrogate a male friend I brought home (waaah! wrongly and most embarassingly). But he knows when to stop asking his questions. He trusts who I trust and appreciates what I appreciate. He understands how I feel even if I never have to say anything. He knows how to make me change my mind, and he never asks why I always do. He knows the Holy Bible by heart and his faith in God is unbelievable. He lets me alone when I want to be alone. He knows I talk to myself and to invisible creatures but he never stopped me. He lets me travel the country on my own and he promised he will climb Mt. Apo with me again someday, even if he will be much older then. And he will.
Last night, my good friend Vicvic had a craving for dark chocolate ice cream. So I took a break from TRP practice and together with another good friend, Bevy, we went to Robinson's and got a scoop each of sinful chocolate ice cream from Theobroma. On our way to the mall, we were talking about couples. Each of us has 3 or 4 friends or acquaintances who recently got engaged, tied the knot, or are about to. While we were enjoying our ice cream, we were all disturbed by a supposedly regular sight. Every direction we looked there was always a twenty or thirty-something obviously pregnant woman, or someone brimming with maternal bliss with a kid or several kids in hand.
The three of us looked at each other. "The world's getting crazy these days." "Yeah, it is." "People are crazy getting hitched during hard times." "Uhmm, yeah." "I'm getting myself a kid in the next few years, I'm doing it the natural way. But the man can get lost once I get knocked up." Laughter. "Why would anyone even want to hook up with someone for life?"
Silence. We devoured our ice creams. Silence still.
And as if on cue, each heaved out a sigh.
Friday, December 5, 2008
I have an aversion for dancing. I've always been enthralled by graceful bodies doing those awesome moves, but my own body just can't imitate them. Even if I force myself to like dancing, I just can't. I can undulate like mad, even dance around a pole when I'm drunk, but I can never dance an organized dance. Not even the simplest folk dance. Not even the simplest childhood field demonstration calisthenics. No way can I memorize the steps, the movement of the arms and the head, and when you have to do them all together, I just go crazy.
Among all medical doctors, I probably have the poorest memory. It was such a wonder I even made it through medical school. My head just can't figure out all those little details about biochemistry, physiology, all those memory work we had to get over with. I can't remember stuff, especially the important ones. For me, remembering all these academic nitty-gritty was the hardest thing a medical student had to go through. Eventually, I found out that body memory is worse. My body refuses to remember patterns of steps, arm movements, head twists and hip thrusts and arm jerks and all those supposedly graceful movements. When I do them, the grace disappears and all that remains is a ridiculous set of uncoordinated movements.
When I arrived home, I proceeded to get busy with my bottle. Corkscrew in hand, I paid close attention to my Shiraz. Excitement building, I ripped off the plastic seal and suddenly… Uh-oh… I had this awfully horrifying realization that after 7 years of medical school and 4 years of residency training, I do not know how to open a bottle of wine!
I found this to be such a disgraceful and appalling thought. I have quite prided myself with the fact that I probably have acquired more alcohol dehydrogenase in my liver than usual females my age. I can drink beer like water. I have mastered the art of opening a beer bottle using a spoon. My dad has taught me how to open a bottle using another bottle (but I never learned it, and no, I will never open one with my teeth!). I have joined rowdy old men over shots of Tanduay, Ginebra, Emperador, Gran Matador, lambanog, tuba, whatever spirit is around.
But I can’t open a bottle of wine! Well, my taste for alcohol is probably a valid excuse. I’ve always been a beer drinker and all the rest that I really ever drank was simple: turn the cap, pour, gulp, and burp. I enjoy wine, but it has always been served in a wineglass, ready for the taking. That I can’t open a bottle of wine, it’s a humbling idea.
I took my corkscrew, turned it around the cork, and pulled and pulled. The cork didn’t even budge. Is there a right way of pulling, of turning, of holding the bottle? I did it all over again: turn, pull, push. My fingers were already warm and red. The cork budged a little, about half an inch. I turned the corkscrew around again and again, and pulled and pulled while pushing the bottle down. I even intensely analyzed the mechanisms and the dynamics of a cork and a corkscrew. I twisted and turned, pulled and pulled until I was flushed and sweating. My right hand finally gave up.
The bottle of wine remained unopened.
I brought up the white flag and laid the bottle down. I went outside to the nearby store to get a couple of good old reliable beers. I stared at the beer bottles with their crowns that I can easily jerk open with a spoon. I looked at the beer cans with their easy flip-pull-and-open lids. Hmmm, too easy for me.
I changed my mind about the beer and went home. I laid down on my bed, tired. Then my eyes strayed over to the still unopened bottle of wine on my bureau, corkscrew still stuck in the cork, cork already mangled but still very much stuck in the bottle. The full, unopened bottle of 2006 Shiraz stared back at me in all its vain and obstinate glory.
I smiled at the bottle. “You got me this time kid.”
I went to the kitchen to get myself a cup of tea.
If anyone can show me how to open a bottle of wine, please do share this bottle with me. A bottle of wine this hardy is too grand to enjoy on my own.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I admit I have a severe form of neurosis which is akin to paranoia, but which I'd rather call, for simplicity's sake, Trust Issues. It's hard to believe that someone like me can actually write a rather intimate and honest online journal. I am Ms. Solitude who can't sleep in a bed with someone else, who can't endure a relaxing massage or spa which most people find comforting, who gets irritated when someone joins me in my morning walks along the boulevard, who can't go to church with other people (because that's my most intimate hour of the week), who'd rather sleep under the stars than in a tent with someone because of claustrophobia. I have this bothersome, almost alarming need to keep a safe distance all the time. I don't think I can endure anything intimate for long. But here I am, pouring out my entire life and wearing my whole heart out in...(WTF!#$#%) a crazy blog!
On second thought, however, I think this is a manifestation of Trust Issues in its most severe form. It's really easier to share your life's story to strangers. It's easy to show a part of your heart to people you barely know, to people who are distant, almost inanimate, than to people you most hold dear. I don't know if this is also how it goes with most people. But when I'm talking to someone I truly trust, I just can't say anything. Words become immaterial. And somehow, silence becomes more soothing.
I think this is why blogs are effective. They tell a story, but never the entire story. They tell the truth, but never the entire truth. That way, reality becomes masked. The blog becomes a story, and the blogger a storyteller.
So for my friends who are reading my blog, thank you for your patronage. Your interest honors me. If you were to give me a diagnosis, what would it be? I'll help you with some differentials: histrionic (as in OA), lonely (as in walang makausap), bored (as in walang magawa), schizophrenic (as in nagpapanggap), the list could go on and on. But let me give you a word of caution: I have Trust Issues in its most severe form. And this blog is nothing but a story. And in my vocabulary, fantasy happens to be stronger than fact.
What is most important is what the reader gets out of all these. What you make out of your own reality, regardless of how other people perceive and describe theirs, that's what matters most. After all, stories unfold, whether they are written or not. I am indeed grateful and honored that you have become a witness to the written part of my story.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I can’t attribute this to my hormones either. This is supposed to be the time of the month when I should be feeling most bloated and cranky. But here I am, enjoying a fairly decent length of sleep and going for hours without munching a bar of chocolate. My coffee intake is at its lowest. All I need to bring a day to a close is a cup of tea, a few pages of non-medical reading, and a prayer. I still don’t exercise and I still spend too many hours in the office twirling around my chair and staring at nothing. My elation may not last for a long time, and I’m already anticipating another big time slump. But for starters, it looks like Depression is not going to get the best of me yet.
These days I find myself actively searching for my everyday miracles. Those tiny details in my life that do not follow a pattern: certain events, images, words, or people that may seem simple but are actually redeeming. A folded bill in my old wallet when I’m broke, a gift of galunggong with sukang pinakurat from my staff during a toxic day, a post-duty day with no consult at my continuity clinic, a report that my kids earned more than P100,000 from our 3-day rummage sale, a free movie with good friends after a bad day, a statement from a revered mentor, a ‘thank you’ from an old intern, excellent endorsements of a shy clerk, a discovery that my old journals still exist, an old poem I wrote on a page of an obsolete medicine textbook, a whiff of a familiar scent, a familiar song playing on a patient's transistor radio, an appaluse from a crowd, a smile from a stranger, an unexpected text message from an old friend.
Interestingly, I find that a blighted spirit has a heightened sensitivity to details. Perhaps this is the body’s way of compensating. It’s like in Endocrinology. Our body’s organs send out some sort of signals to the brain, and there exists a form of positive or negative feedback mechanism where the ultimate goal is this: to cope.
(Ahh, the perfect explanation. And I was vehement when I was told I was left-brain dominant. haha!)
I’m suddenly finding myself smiling more often. There’s a lightness, a certain freedom in my heart that I would like to share to everyone I meet. Recently, I realized how easy it is, how absolutely natural it is, to forgive. And then I knew what happiness is: it’s when you believe even before you understand, when you trust even before you judge, when you forgive even before you are wronged. And then everything just follows. Everyday you find miracles. And you're just so sure that despite of, inspite of, and because of all this crazy crap you have to live with, life is indeed worth all the trouble.