Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Day in the Life

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

Living up to my standards as an irresponsible citizen, I refuse to monitor the news these days. I maintain my belief that newspapers contain biased reports, that journalists tend to focus on the sensational and downplay the truly important events. I don't watch TV at all. Not only because I have no access for any network in my apartment, I simply just don't give a damn. Apart from my 30-second look at all the headlines of major dailies and tabloids alike on my way to the hospital every morning, I practically don't have any idea what goes on with the rest of the world.

Last Sunday, I was able to get a copy of a major daily c/o Jollibee breakfast meal. Irresponsible as I am, I stuffed the paper in my backpack and forgot about it. Last night, after my hospital duties, I finally got the chance to scan through the paper. It was mostly about Monday's SONA, ads about GMA's achievements, political ambitions of some traditional politicians, petty crimes, murders, floods, Vicki Belo, Tito, Vic and Joey, Manny Villar, etc.

You see these news aren't new. They're old stories, ran again and again. They're disgusting, reviling in fact. What we need to read are stories that matter, achievements of the countless souls around town trying to make a difference in their own little ways. Everybody knows the government is corrupt. Everybody knows GMA and all those other politicians are trying to put on a good face, to convince people that they are capable and trustworthy. A newspaper is nothing but a paper with stories that aren't really new.

Irresponsible citizens like me read them and discard them. An old newspaper is good enough for wrapping dog manure, or to serve as absorbents for the leaking windowsill, nothing else.

Last night, however, was a different story. Way into the last section of that Sunday paper I was reading on a Monday night, I was stunned into silence. I saw a familiar name and a familiar face.

Why of all papers in the world I picked this one. Why of all days it had to be that day. Too bad, just when I started to care about the news, newspapers are making me sad once again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Latent nymphomania

Lots of sex. That's the common element of my past lives, that most unfortunately, escapes my present. In the 1600s, I had illicit affairs with wandering minstrels that I was charged for prostitution and was eventually burned at stake. In the 1800s, I made a lot of cowboys and lonely rangers happy by giving them free pokes (Gus McRae of Lonesome Dove: "A man who wouldn't cheat for a poke don't want one bad enough"). In the 1960s, I was a groupie (a "Band-Aid" according to the movie, Almost Famous) who made love with the Beatles, and a lot of other stoned musicians who made poetry and music as if they're one and the same.

This could be a manifestation of a latent illness called nymphomania. I could be a functional nymphomaniac masquerading as an intellectual, required by necessity to live a life of involuntary celibacy. Perhaps I've totally forgotten how to give men that "bastusin-mo-ako look", an art I should have already mastered during my past lives. I've become completely clueless about the non-verbal side of flirting, all those tomcat signals and the predator-prey roles that every woman should have already perfected. So unfortunate. Very unfortunate, indeed. I guess this life is my karma life. And I'm paying for all my sins.

Or perhaps I'm just waiting for wandering minstrels and cowboys and lonely rangers and stoned musicians who reinvent poetry and music all rolled into one perfect modern-day man. Sigh... And then my curse will be broken. Then karma stage will be over, and real life finally begins.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Past Lives

When my blogging buddy Will talked about reincarnation in his hilarious blog, I couldn't help but wonder about my own past lives. Though I don't exactly buy the concept of reincarnation, I find the idea of a past life appealing and perhaps even logical. Considering the many insanities and eccentricities that I egotistically claim to possess, perhaps a troubled and colorful past life is the only explanation.

My mind can only take me as far as the 1600s. And these are my theoretical past lives:

1. During the 1600s, I was probably what they would then call a witch. I was probably in the early struggling United States, unmarried but landed. Poet, musician, and breaking all the laws by not being chaste and quiet. I made poems and songs, mostly about unrequited love and freedom, wore my hair long or short depending on my mood, rode horses and travelled alone. I made love to whoever I liked, mostly traveling minstrels and artists, and strangers speaking different languages. I studied astronomy, biology, and was known as the local apothecary too. After speaking up against the custom of marriage and chastity and insisting that women should have the same rights as men, they burned me at stake. Before I was executed, they found a poem written for a stranger, a lover I never had. They thought me mad, my crime was witch-craft, treason and prostitution. They burned me at stake but some old lovers scattered my ashes around rivers and the nearby ocean. They made songs out of my works but forgot my name after a few years.

2. During the late 1800s, I was what used to be known as a "buffalo-girl" - a female version of a Western cowboy. I ride horses, was an expert with the lasso, I can even tame the wildest bronc. I was a famous hired hand during round-ups, who can also double up as a source of entertainment in the evenings due to my skill with the guitar and the flute. We used to steal cattle from Mexico. In between cattle seasons, I spent time in saloons, occasionally the source of cheap sex for lonely cowboys. They got my services in exchange for a few swigs of whiskey and good conversation. Both a friend of the whites and the reds, I used to spend evenings around campfires, singing with Indians and cowboys. Sometimes, I wake up in mud puddles, drunk, or in Indian villages. Calamity Jane was said to be my legend. I was killed during the battle between the Texans and the Sioux. They say I never took sides, and was killed in the cross fire as a Medicine Woman.

3. During the 1960s, I was a groupie. I screamed during Beatles concerts made love with all four of them, followed the Rolling Stones during their concerts, smoked pot with Elvis himself. Bob Dylan wrote a song about me. He used to tell me I just move through life like a rolling stone. I helped Joni Mitchell write "Both Sides Now". She wrote that song when I was crying over a man I lost. I used to wear long skirts, and my hair was long and wavy. I played the guitar, rallied againts the Vietnamese war. I helped establish the first Woodstock festival. When I was high on marijuana, I went up to the White House, bringing a streamer with "Give Peace a Chance" written all over it, poured petroleum over myself, and lit a match. I died and nobody knew my name.

These were the lives I imagined I led. As you can see, they all explain why I'm still crazy up to this very day. A common theme pervades: alone, unmarried, unconventional, and too easily forgotten. The same theme persists until now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Music Therapy

It works. If there's one thing in the world that works wonders for the broken heart (yikes!), the wounded spirit, the bruised self esteem, the angry ego, it's music! Creating music, appreciating music, listening to music. It really works wonders for me.

These days I've been listening to a wide variety of tunes: from Indian music, to old Filipino folk music, Marvin Gaye, Nirvana, Buklod, Ray Charles, Simon and Garfunkel, Asin, Billy Joel, The Beach Boys, Sara Bareilles, David Bowie, Chinese traditional music, Pink Floyd, the Jets, Neil Young, Aegis, Gary Granada, Crash Test Dummies, The Cure, Annie Lennox, Everything But the Girl, Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, Bob Marley, Sharon Cuneta, Elton John, Mozart, Hillsongs, David Foster, Tuck and Patti, Basil Valdez, The Gipsy Kings, Eraserheads, Metallica, Alice in Chains, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Beethoven, Joey Ayala, and the list goes on and on... And of course, the Beatles, Jack Johnson, Indigo Girls, James Taylor, APO hiking Society, and my other good old favorites are still there.

Ahhh, nothing can be better. Music heals everything, I guess. Even if it's the same music that breaks your heart, the same music that makes you cry, the same music that rubs salt on your wounds, it is also the same music that makes you grateful for everything you are and everything around you.

And then there's a tune for everything. A different soundtrack for every day. And you sing your songs even if nobody cares to listen. There's music in your mind every moment, and you hum yourself to sleep. Even if you're tired and broken, there's always a way to go through life singing. Until one day, life itself becomes your song.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rain Man Revisited

The rain always brings me a certain kind of high. While everyone else is gloomy, I feel lifted, rejuvenated. It always reminds me of good conversations, ice cold beer, warm coffee or tea - and with all these brought together, there's that cozy sensation of finding peace for just a few hours, even if you've spent your entire lifetime vainly searching for it.

Whenever it rains, the city acts, looks and even smells differently. There's a provincial allure to it, the frantic pace temporarily goes away, and people seem more gentle and less cruel. A good friend once said that after a strong rain, Manila's skies become metallic and the city seems to be washed off all its filth. Rain, according to my friend, brings us home, even if we can't say where that home is.

My love affair with the rain has gone on for years. It comes and it goes and the sun always shines after every downpour. I've grown hardened and scarred enough to even bother to make songs out of rainy days. But during quiet rainy evenings like these, I discover that some love affairs never end. They just go on, unnoticed.

I still love the rain. I love the sounds it makes when it hits the rooftops. I love the puddles it creates and the way it ruins clothes and shoes and schedules, making the poor and the rich equal in their dampness and frustration.

Of course, it's extremely difficult and painful to avoid thoughts of good conversations and ice cold beer and all those other good things I inadvertently lost, I still find comfort in a quiet rainy day. For some strange reason, a rainy day just seems to make the world a little less lonely and a little more capable of sympathy.

Perhaps raindrops are God's tears. And God brings us the rain to remind us that it's all right to cry. Because sometimes, He does cry too.


From Rain Man (1988)

Charlie: When I was a little kid and I got scared, the Rain Man would come and sing to me.
Susanna: Rain what?
Charlie: Oh you know, one of those imaginary childhood friends.
Susanna: What happened to him?
Charlie: Nothing, I just grew up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


This part of my life is called Floating. This is when I move through life emotionless, feeling neutral towards everything. This is when everything, even the most supposedly exciting circumstance, becomes mundane and boring. This is when the brain refuses to absorb and process new information, when there is resistance to accept additional responsibility.

This is the time when I start to look back and lose faith. Perhaps I made the wrong choice to stay. Perhaps I shouldn't be studying hearts at all. Perhaps I should have gone hiding, gone somewhere remote and be a barrio doctor instead. Or to Somalia or Afghanistan and work in war-torn areas. At least I'd be useful.

But the choices were already made. There's no turning back. The only way to go is to float. Not resisting, not moving at all, just floating. Even driftwood finds dry land one way or another.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Anatomy of Melancholy and Schadenfreude

Already with a growing reader base (cough cough, snicker, puke), I've been receiving complaints about the recent somber tones of this blog (oh my, whaat, did I really sound depressed?). And although I've always been writing for writing's sake, I would like to temporarily bow to the wishes of my readers and act happy. Yeah, sing-song, Sound-0f-Music, wedding planner happy. Again, abrcadabra, invoking the mask of normalcy...

Anyway, always the crazy pseudo-intellectual fool, I did a bit of research about my current state and was surprised that another loony pseudo-intellectual twit already got ahead of me and dissected his own affliction way back in the 1600s. And as fate would absurdly have it, he came out with a book. And he called it: The Anatomy of Melancholy (Full title The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Historically, Opened and Cut up.) Oh my, the guy was probably a twit indeed, caught up with his own depression, made it appear like it was interesting, and even made money and history out of it. By the way, his name is Robert Burton, whoever he is.

Since Mr. Burton already did it, I could not write a book anymore. So I'm writing this blog instead. Go ahead, readers, eat my shit. I'm pouring out all my angst for the world to feed on. Oh, good old cruel world. May you obtain satisfaction and great joy from my moroseness. Aside from the pseudo-literary entertainment, just allow me to give you the great enjoyment that you're not me.

My good friend and language guru introduced me to this word this morning: schadenfreude. It is a German term which means pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. She said it's from the musical Avenue Q (all I really know about that musical is the song the internet is for porn, porn, porn...). Thank you Kods, you just gave this blog a temporary sense of purpose.

So may you readers obtain schadenfreude after reading this blog. I am allowing you to take pleasure in my pain. Have a great time reading.

(Waaah! What pain?)

I'm getting immense satisfaction from reading all these angsts myself. Ahh, that other self that capitalizes on angst for art's sake. The '60s called it hippie. The '90s called it grunge. I'm neither hippie nor grunge. Just pissed off and tired and bored. Today's young people would call it "emo". And when it's "emo", it's definitely uncool!

I promise. This is the last of it. My next entries will be full of smiles and sun. But for now, enjoy schadenfreude. After all, this freakin' word is so hard to remember and definitely unpronounceable. So just like angst itself, let's all enjoy it while it lasts. =)

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I haven't been myself lately. I'm at this time of my life when I'm living what a good friend would have called "functional autism". The autistic, antisocial self is taking over. Life, however, demands some form of social interaction all the time. There's a need to work, a need to wake up during the day, to move around with other people. So even if the inner self calls for some alone-time, that is just not possible.

To survive, we allot a special place in our brains that would serve as our sanctuary - pristine, untouched, unseen. It's a place where we can hide, where we can retreat when the world's troubles engulf us. It's a place where we can be alone even if we're in the middle of a crowd. I find myself retreating into this place more often than usual the past several days. I have this crazy but familiar compulsion to withdraw from the world, to just curl up in a corner, to put a gag over my mouth and just stay in the shadows unmoving.

During these times, when the inner self is safe in that sanctuary, the external self wears masks. The mask of a smiling, completely functional, sane, reasonable individual. Just like a white coat or a stethoscope, or perhaps they're part of the same gear, made for the same purpose. With that mask in place, the self is able to respond to situations requiring attention, much like a plane's autopilot. A patient arrests - intubate. Cardiac monitor shows ventricular tachycardia - cardiovert. An attending asks questions - give the best answers. All done without feeling. All done without memory.

While the self is in that sanctuary, sound asleep.

The past few days, I've been having this trusty mask on. Sometimes though, the weary self becomes manifest. Symptoms include terse answers to simple questions, empty looks, episodes of absence seizures, inability to do non-routine tasks, anhedonia, claustrophobia and agoraphobia. It takes considerable energy to talk to people and extraordinary effort to act normal. But as it goes, the world has no room for dysfunctional people. The mask of normalcy, aahhh, perhaps that how it should be named, should be called on for the sake of survival. And mine, though a bit defective, still somehow serves its purpose.

And the inner self, well, it's still in that secret corner fast asleep. In an ICU recuperating or a looney bin undergoing rehab, steadily recovering. For now, functional autism will suffice. But this mask of normalcy I'm wearing will certainly be on indefinitely.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lessons from the King of Pop

After weeks of being oblivious to world news, I finally realized that Michael Jackson is dead. Not that I didn't know. It's just that I never really cared until tonight.

All right, I'm there. In some ways, Michael Jackson was a genius. He did something different - the way the Beatles or Elvis did something to their music. He made a lasting contribution to his art, something that stood out because it was extraordinary, a bit flamboyant, but nonetheless special from whatever angle we look at it.

Though I appreciate his music, I could not say I'm a big fan (though yeah, I admit. The first album I ever bought with my own hard-earned savings was his "Dangerous" album back in 1992). However, Michael Jackson's death and the media hype that followed it brought about several not-so-related-but-what-the-heck epiphanies:

1. I'm old. I know Michael Jackson, sang his songs, danced to his music, tried to imitate his moonwalk at least once during my childhood days. He was the King of Pop when I popped out of my mother's insides. His very white face and very thin features quite strangely remind me of that Gray Skull in He-Man. He was at the prime of his youth when I began mine. And now he's dead. That means my time is not too far out. He was King of Pop once in his life. I'm Queen of Poop. He once wrote a song to help Africa. I can't even write a song to help myself.

2. Everybody dies. Even a pop star dies. Francis M dies. Farrah Fawcett dies. Optimus Prime dies. The patient you're taking care of dies. The dog you've had for years dies. The computer in the CVS callroom dies. Soon enough, I'll die too. But there are thoughts in my head that keep on coming back every morning. They won't outlive me. But they better die too.

3. Everyone forgets. No matter how media distorted MJ's image, people cry for his memory. Songs are played, his albums are sold-out, even people who don't know him become interested in getting a piece of him. He's no longer remembered as the psycho of Neverland, the phantom who molests young children. He is the King of Pop, the legend who made lives better because of his music. Memory has a way of blurring things. Memory has a way of erasing them. So I better beware of my memory too.

Like a comet blazing 'cross the evening sky
Like a rainbow fading in the twinkling of an eye
Gone too soon
Shiny and sparkly and splendidly bright
Here one day, gone one night

Like the loss of sunlight on a cloudy afternoon
Like a castle built upon a sandy beach
Like a perfect flower that is just beyond your reach
Gone too soon

Like a sunset dying with the rising of the moon
Gone too soon

Gone too soon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Writer's Block

Almost 48 hours and I'm still staring into space. My head is still heavy and empty. I've been trying to write a good enough entry to mark this historical milestone in my existence, but I can't. When words come into play, reality is obscured, they say. But when your reality is obscure enough, you can't even play with your words.

Honesty comes with a price. Would things turn out better if I remained silent? If I had been more patient, would I be brave enough? If I just stoically endured things, will I stop feeling anything? If I stifle hope, would it gain me reality? If I embrace reality, would hope be too much to lose?

This is it. The choice is made. The line is crossed. The word is uttered. There's no turning back. What is there to lose has been lost. All because honesty comes with a price. And honesty was what I chose.

And although it's empty, yes, I'm keeping the shell...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wordgames and Scrabble

It's Saturday. What started out as a warm and sweaty morning evolved into a humid but still
warm afternoon. Because I started my day a bit too early, I finished my rounds of 30-something patients quite earlier than expected, at around 2PM, skipping lunch at that. Exhausted and sleepy but very much satisfied with my efforts, I found myself alone in the newly repainted and retiled CVS Conference Room. And the same old question pops out in my mind, "What now, Jean?"

After a whole month of cramming during Saturdays for my Monday hemodynamics conferences and whining about my perennial lack of worry-free weekends, I finally had this quiet late afternoon moment for myself. It's not exactly an entire weekend, and it's not even a day. But it IS some time off. This is not exactly a quiet spot by the beach. But it IS quiet. This is not exactly where I'd want to find myself. But I am here and where I'd rather be is still a matter for consideration.

I look around the office and suddenly, it's lonely. Perhaps, nobody ever gets used to loneliness. Perhaps, even I, the Queen of Solitude, used to being alone for the past 29 years, would need company sometimes. I've been waiting for weeks to disappear from the world and find some quiet time for myself. And today, the moment is here.

But why is it that the silence is frightening? And the word I can really ever come up with to describe the day is "melancholy"? Ahhh, melancholy like sunsets and blades of grass, and abandoned ruins, and old broken shoes without pairs.

Perhaps "melancholy" is just a glorified, intellectualized, and embellished word. Edit it and you'll find what is hidden. You'll find "lonely".