Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Notes From A Pissed Off Mind

I just turned 30 last Monday. I had expected fireworks or shafts of light or epiphanies to greet my 30th year. Instead, there was nothing - just the usual hospital routine on a post-duty Monday. After making rounds on my patients, I spent 3 hours dozing through the hemodynamics conference which has, in my lowly opinion, surprisingly become boring, halfhearted and full of intellectual gibberish. My consultants, in their attempt to give me a little bit of joy and semblance of a celebration for my birthday, made their rounds quick and short. Go home early, they said. Have dinner with family and friends. Have a great time. It's your birthday, celebrate. Celebrate, my ass.

Instead of going home early, I spent my free afternoon napping on the rickety bed of our callroom. There were several calls from old friends, which of course, in my silly, unemotional, anhedonic way, still warmed my heart. After the sun has set, I commenced my routine 15-minute walk to my apartment in Nakpil.

As I was walking home, I couldn't help but wonder, "So this is me at 30, huh? What's the fuss about being 30?" No wonder my parents never even bothered to call, and my oldest near-40 best bud only sent an unembellished 2-word "happy birthday" text message. They must have known. There's really no big deal about being 30 at all.


Unemotional as I was, I still wanted to do something different for my birthday. And I did! For the first time after a long long time, I studied my Cardiology textbook. Ahhh, my shiny, good-as-brand-new Braunwald was finally opened, and for the next 3 hours, colored with yellow, orange, and green Stabilo highlighters. I didn't have a party, I didn't even have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, and no, I never blew candles on a birthday cake. But I highlighted 20 or more pages of my chic and flawless Braunwald. Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...


It's my end-of-the year exam tomorrow. And as always, I'm bound to fail it, grandly at that. It's not like it's going to make me sad. A grand, big-time, audacious failure is what I deserve. If I get 30%, i would be laughing already. I believe exams should accurately reflect what the trainees have learned during their training days. A 30%, for me, would be an overestimate. I do believe my testmanship skills are already on their full gear with that score. And I have great testmanship skills, I even give lectures on that!

Tomorrow, I intend to make a statement. My failure, which will probably irk a lot of my teachers' sense of pride for their beloved home institution, should be worth all my embarrassment, self-esteem attacks, and the realization that my brain is all dried up and good-for-nothing. My failure should display a clear assessment of what I learned and what I have become as a cardiologist during the past year: NOTHING.

I have learned nothing. I'm still that big, ugly girl, awkwardly dressed in a long white coat, pretending to be adept at all problems of the heart, but I know and I am nothing.

So go ahead, Jean, fail that exam. And if they will be alarmed, thou shalt not fail in vain.


This afternoon, I gathered enough strength to ask my good friend who recently lost his mom how he is. I'm not a bad friend, unemotional and extremely cerebral though I am. But when it comes to this particular friend, words just seem to be too much. For some strange cosmic reason, we somehow manage to convey important statements without saying a thing. That's how really good friends are supposed to be, I guess.

Anyway, I asked him when they're burying Nanay. Having cared for her for more than a month, I would have wanted to be there when the family says their final goodbyes. And yes, I have loved her, again, for some strange cosmic reason, or more appropriately, perhaps for no reason at all.

I had quite expected my friend's response. They have buried her already, last Tuesday. He didn't bother to inform me. He assumed I knew. He was even wondering why I wasn't there.

Assumptions. Perhaps this entire relationship was based on wrong assumptions. Perhaps there's really no such thing as strange, cosmic relationships after all.

I hope one day, my friend and I would really get to talk, bring out all the assumptions in the open, and discuss things out loud. When words come into play, reality is obscured - I know this and I subscribe to this notion fully and without doubt. But sometimes, words would have to be used.

On the other hand, my friend and I may have had assumed a multitude of wrong ideas about each other for the past years. There are just some things that need no talking about. This bond, however, isn't assumed. It's a strange, weird, spiritual connection. And though I assume he doesn't know, I do. Oh yeah, ever since Day 1, I do.


One of my newest and dearest friends, very sweetly and thoughtfully, celebrated my 30th birthday with me last weekend. The trip to the mountains, the flickering city lights, the cold January breeze, the warm company and amazing conversations - they were all better than any party or gift or milestone I could ask for. To whom this may concern, yeah, I know you're reading this, thank you for putting up with all the crap that is me. I can never thank you enough.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

An Elegy for a Mother

A few days ago, a dear patient passed away quietly, in the arms of her beloved son. The passing was poignant, like a strange, sweet draft of air you would have wanted to inhale deeply for a long long time. Every movement of the chest, that empty distant look of her dark eyes, that feeble grip of the cold hand, everything is playing back again and again in my memory. For more than a month, I have watched a miracle unfold, borne out of the pain and anguish of suffering and threat of death. I have witnessed how hope can endure, how love can be conveyed without words, how family can withstand even sickness and death, how laughter can go on despite suffering.

To Mrs. L, for the strength you showed, for everything you allowed me to do, and for everything you left behind, thank you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's Complicated

Why is it that when people ask the usual questions and you tell them the usual answers, they continue to probe further and ask more questions? And so you try to come up with the simplest answers using the shortest statements and try to approximate the facts as much as possible.

Take this bizarre scenario for example (I'm sorry but it IS bizarre for me!). You do something magnanimous for a very good friend and people start asking you "Why?". And so you say, "Uhhmmm, because we're friends!" And people start asking you more questions such as, "But why are you doing this?" or "Isn't your sacrifice too much?" or "What kind of friends?" or "Is he your boyfriend?" or "Are you sure you're just friends?" And so you start avoiding the very typical and absurdly inaccurate showbiz "we're-just-friends" answer and use a different strategy.

"We're cousins." I'd say. And then more questions come. "Which side of the family?" or "So your mom and his mom are sisters?" or "How come you don't resemble each other?" or "So you have the cancer gene too?" Nooooo! Stop these! Alright! Do I have to outline my entire family tree so people will finally get it? No, we're not cousins, satisfied? Not even a single microliter of blood can make us blood relatives! But does it require some sort of a genetic connection for anyone to love anyone as family?

And so we're back to, "We're friends." And then the same old questions come.

Please, enough!!!

How much can anybody ever give to anyone in need and still be considered socially or morally appropriate? Some give to complete strangers (usually via a limited and a short-time deal) and the world will suddenly praise them as saints. You give to someone who's dearly loved by someone you also love and then suddenly, you end up the proverbial time-bomb that might explode and screw everything up anytime. And you remain a potential villain unless you can provide logical answers and definitions to the usual questions the rest of the world asks.

I don't need definitions. And I don't even consider myself as having given anything. Sometimes the things you suddenly do just come out naturally, like you would have done the same things anytime, in any situation. And you're just absolutely sure you're right, and you will do everything over and over again, without keeping account.

For the past several days, I have finally come up with the best answer to the usual questions. I just say, "It's complicated." And suddenly, like a magical charm, people suddenly have a glimmer in their eyes, and a knowing smile on their lips, and an obviously hardly suppressed laughter. And then they keep quiet. They nod their heads if they understand. And surprisingly, it seems that they do understand.

Ahhh, it's complicated. Love is. Life is. And perhaps everything in this world, no matter how simple, has a bit of complexity in them. It's complicated. And somehow, I just realized, I like it this way.