Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Quest for the Perfect Man

This is a sequel to my previous post about my farmer dreams. No, I haven’t changed my mind yet. In fact, I’ve made up my mind to really double my efforts so I’ll finally run into him – the man of my dreams: my farmer and then some.

Last night I had the biggest laugh of my life – that sort of laughter that you get when you’re alone and something really hilarious happens but nobody’s around to hear you, so you stifle your giggles and end up weeping instead. You see I was able to dig up some fragments of the history behind my “farmer and then some” fantasies. As a matter of fact, the definition of my “then some” is rather unambiguous – for it was explicitly written on notebook paper almost 8 years ago, during my younger days when I still believed in the existence of the perfect man.

I was going through the clutter in my room last night, searching for my copy of Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray when I found one of my old journals. I have kept a journal since I was 13 – although the word “journal” has somewhat evolved into many different things: 1. Eight years of scribbling on notebooks or stationary pads, 2. Around 2 years of Microsoft word entries which I was fortunate enough to print out before my first laptop totally crashed, 3. About 18 months of writing (and whining) to a person I met online whose existence to me then was literally a huge question mark (this entity’s profile picture in Friendster during its glory days), some of which I was also able to print out after meticulously combing through sent boxes of my Yahoo and Friendster accounts, 4. This blog, which of course doesn’t really qualify as a real journal because this is really just all bullshit and plain fiction if you believe me, though I keep a good old notebook on the side for really intense emotional entries.

Anyway. I was able to retrieve an old journal from way back 2002. And written on the last few pages, in my childish medical student's handwriting, among scribbles of clerkship monitoring schedules and Tolkien quotes, was the detailed description of my perfect man.

Here they are...

I read everything again and again, every word, every expletive or emphasized statement. And I laughed out loud and cried because it’s just too funny, too absurd, too impossible to even grasp. Because crazy though this list sounds, my 30-year old already cynical subconscious self still believes in the same list, the way I did 8 years ago when I first wrote it.

But the craziest, most ridiculous, creepiest, hair-raising part of all is the realization that this man exists!!! Based on my definition then and now, the perfect man actually lives and breathes, and he has a name, and a face (And a beautiful one at that. Whoa, that’s not even on the list)! Every word, every expletive or emphasized statement – God must have read my list way before I was even born, and created the man for me. I already found him. I know it's beyond belief. But my man is real! Yes, my perfect man is real!!!

Uhhmm, ok... that’s not exactly right. “The” man is real, but the word “my” is grossly wrong.
Too bad. And this is even worse than not finding him at all.

What good is the perfect man, when he’s not yours? Sigh. Earth to Jean. Earth to Jean.

On the next page, after my perfect man, is a perfect admonition for my foolishness. It was a quotation I copied from one of Tolkien’s books. And it said:”There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

Sigh. I guess there’s really no such thing as the perfect man after all. But then again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with waiting. And while the waiting (and the loads and loads of praying) is on, this blog entry should serve as an ad - a desperate attempt to find him.

So, here goes...

Wanted: perfect man. Specifications: as above. No experience required. BTW, must love dogs. If interested in farming and living by the beach in a small quiet town for the rest of your retirement years, that would be a plus. Must know how to travel with autistics like me. Must be weird. And most importantly, must adore me.

If interested, please apply ASAP. Offer good while my eggs last. Contact me for details. Spread the word. =)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Farmer's Wife

Tonight, as I was midway through my second to the last duty as first year Cardiology fellow, I chanced upon one of my most venerable consultants. It was already 11PM, and he was just stepping out of the elevator, about to start his evening rounds. He's not a heart doctor, but he does deal with another vital organ of the body - the kidneys. He probably has 30 or so patients in this hospital alone, since he is known for his novel ways of treatment, and so he's the top nephrologist in this side of town, handling all cases, from the most banal to the most profound. He is a diminutive guy, almost balding, with an explosive temper and an uncanny sense of humor - attributes which, added to his sheer genius, make him one of the most lovable and adorable consultants around.

I always have great awe and admiration for this doctor. Indeed, to even ambition to reach his stature is too much, getting even half his genius is way too out of my league. But I sure don't want to end up like him.

I want to go home every night to a family. I want to cook dinner for a husband and a brood of nasty little ones. I don't want to make rounds in a lonely and sterile hospital at midnight, sneaking only to my bed to get a couple hours worth of sleep. I want to be in all family dinners and intimate gatherings and kids' Christmas plays and my husband's basketball games. All I really want to be is a farmer's wife. Seven years of medical education, 4 years of residency training, and 3 years of fellowship - and all I really want to do is live in a farm by the beach with a brood of noisy but God-fearing kids and a nice husband who adores me.

I'm not kidding. Oh boy, I'm dead serious.

But that dream, just like my meal of galunggong, is so hard to come by. Oh well...

Whatever will be, will be. Obladi oblada life goes on bra, la la, how the life goes on...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

To DSLR or Not

I'm itching my hands to get that DSLR. You see I'm finishing my first year of Cardiology fellowship hell in 10 days. Ten days!!! Wohoo! So I'm currently dreaming my way through these final days, surfing online domestic airline tickets scavenging for promo airfares, or bloghopping around travel sites hoping to catch that next secret pristine destination before the crowds get there ahead of me, all the time assuming I'll have unlimited weekends to dispense during these next few months. Ahhh, just the thought of the sweet life is making me gain so much unwanted weight already.

Since this blog is already bereft of photos, I figured it would be nice to finally get a DSLR so I can post great shots of the places I'll soon visit. Photography is the husband of traveling. But speaking of husbands, it seems so absurd to even dream of getting my hands on a nice professional-level camera. I'll never get a husband, so what made me think of even dabbling with photography? Well, that association seem tangential, but it seems so logical too. I mean analogies usually work, don't they?

Anyway, I haven't received my salary for almost 3 months already. If not for well-meaning but definitely enterprising drug company representatives, I wouldn't be able to eat three times a day. My teacher Dr. D often said that there's no such thing as a free meal - somebody always pays for them. But when you're a struggling, unfairly compensated fellow like me, you'll try to get as much free meals as your stomach can take. And when the free meals come, you try to stuff yourself to as much as you can take, in anticipation of the possibility that your next meal may no longer come. Hence, the weight gain.

So this pathetic state of my finances reminds me that a DSLR is not practical in this time of El Nino and impending nationwide famine. But if you've been deprived of luxuries for some time, your human nature argues that you deserve some indulgence, and somehow succeeds in making you look forward to something you can't afford - something like a DSLR camera.

I need to get some sense into this darn head. The way things are going, I guess one of my good friends will be right. The moment I'll get that oodles of free time, I'll start grumbling and look for more work again. Aaaarrrgh!! Oh please, I'm NOT workaholic. I'm just so damned crazy. A DSLR will cure that, won't it? Won't it?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Old Photographs

I was blessed with a quiet duty today. So instead of wallowing in self pity over my lack of anything to spice up my Valentine weekend, not even a piece of tikoy to bid me good luck for my Chinese new year, I spent some time scanning old photos I brought from home. Here are some of the old photographs of my parents, mostly my mom's.

This post should be called "Wala Lang".

Preparing for Independence Day

In exactly 15 days, I'll finally stop being the "fungus that feeds on pond scum" in the PGH medical hierarchy. Oh well, perhaps, not exactly fungus, since there are IM residents and nurses and residents from all other departments to bully and spread shit around. But you're getting my drift, do you? In two weeks, I'll stop being a first year Cardiology fellow - fodder for the Cardio gods and goddesses during Hemody, brunt of all pent-up frustrations of seniors, consultants and disgruntled staff, front-liner for whatever storm and trouble is brewing out there, a doormat, a flower pot, a soul-for-sale, a worthless individual walking around the hospital like a zombie with a dazed look on her ugly face, while flaunting evidence of one-year worth of fat and flab she gained from too much free meals in exchange for her prescribing soul. Ahh, I'm exaggerating, of course. It wasn't really all that bad.

Hmmm, yeah, I'm not being phony here. It wasn't really so bad after all!

How does one prepare for Independence Day? If you're a caged bird stuck in a rut for so long, how do you look forward to a transfer to a bigger prison? If you're an inmate in Manila City Jail, how do you prepare for Alcatraz? Because all kidding aside, this is how I look at March 1 - a move to a bigger prison - a place with more air and free time, but still a prison just the same. It's my silly existential angst attacking once again. But here's how I imagine the next few months, anyway.

I'll be running daily along Roxas Boulevard. 2010 will be the year I'll join my first marathon. I will lose 10 kgs, at least. I will look so pretty, fit and fabulous you would all wonder why I even work in PGH and not in ABS-CBN or some modeling agency. I will get a DSLR and start a new blog - a fabulous photo blog at that. I will travel to Palawan, Baler, Cagayan and the Babuyan Islands, Marinduque, Mindoro, Cebu, and Bohol, and I will have a mysterious, smart and handsome man traveling with me. I will not set foot in the PGH-ER ever! And never will I have the hem of my white coat touch anything in the OBAS again! Wahahaha! I will be fabulous, cool, hot, you'd all look at me and wish you were me.

Obviously, all this crap is written on a duty weekend - which makes it all irrelevant and downright revolting. All the same anyway, let me do a Holden Caulfield, put on my red hunting cap and scream at the top of my lungs, "Goodbye, all you silly motherfuckers, all you phony sonofabitches!" Then I'll get the hell out and run out of PGH as fast as I can. Of course, some stupid patient will have his blood all over the floor and I'll slip like I always do and I'll damn near break my disgusting neck. That's how stories should end, right?

Everything above's bull, of course. I'm still here, on duty for the next 18 hours or so. Still very much the fungus that feeds on pond scum. Or the bacteria that lives in the gut of the fungus that feeds on pond scum. Oh please, Jean, write another word and you're dead!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Galunggong, Or Something Like It

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. A lot of people I work with, those who are openly "in a relationship", are busily planning for their Valentine's Day dates. I've never had a Valentine date before. Well, I've never really had a real date in my entire life, if date is being discussed in the context of romance and if we're really going to be strict about it. After all, what does "date" really mean? When does a simple hanging out of two people who enjoy each others' company become a romantic date? Does dinner of grilled fish and rice capped with a couple of beers already qualify as a date? How about steaks and wine in a famous restaurant, such as, let's say, Highlands' Steakhouse? Or a ridiculously expensive dinner of lamb chops and sea bass in an old house converted into a dimly-lit culinary attraction with customers dining in cocktail dresses while sipping wine? Nah. The definition still eludes me. It puzzles me sometimes, that I refuse to think about it. I prefer to call everything "dinner" rather than "date", on account of the potentially dangerous and outright icky connotations the latter evokes.

Before I completely digress, however, I'd rather leave the above discussion hanging. I'm open to comments from my readers, and would appreciate your valuable opinions on the matter brought up.

To proceed with the real meat of this post, I am currently imagining my ideal Valentine date. What would really sweep me off my feet will be a dinner of fried galunggong, warm rice, toyo and kalamansi, and fresh tomatoes soaked in sukang pinakurat, all eaten with no forks and spoons required. I want those galunggong young - small and crunchy - deep-fried enough so the head, tail, and all bones can be eaten without me having to worry about choking or a perforated viscus. The setting could be anywhere - by the beach on a moonlit night, or under the trees and the stars, or in the candle-lit warmth of anybody's kitchen. The Beatles would be softly playing on the background, of course.

The right man plus galunggong - I am that easy to please. I really don't need fancy dinners, or wine, or culinary masterpieces I could not even pronounce arranged so grandly that I wouldn't even want to touch them. All I really want is that lowly poor-man's fish, my all-time favorite food, something I wouldn't mind having every day for the rest of my life - and the right man to enjoy it with me.

Too bad, even galunggong is so hard to come by.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Just another one of those

"Please order in chart of 718: IVF to consume then shift to heplock." - my batchmate Diva texted me this afternoon, on a quiet Sunday while I was on duty.

For some weird reason, I could not bring myself to 718. Not yet. The memories are just so fresh, the images so vivid, that I could not even walk across that wing without a tinge of sadness tugging at my stupid, overly emotional heart.

I could still remember her - that frail, jaundiced woman, who can barely open her eyes. Her lips were sore and swollen from her chemotherapy, her arms edematous and punctured all over by my unsuccessful attempts at cannulating her veins. She couldn't even drink water without using a straw. She hasn't eaten anything in days. Her BP was 40 palpatory when I first received her. She was dying and I knew it. And there was nothing I could do.

But she smiled each time, during those last mornings of her life, when I visited her. I made it a point to spend a few minutes with her as soon as daylight came, when I was sure there was no one else in the room except for the quiet and unassuming Maria. More familiar eyes would have seen through me and would dread my utter lack of professional detachment. More familiar eyes would have shed tears, and I wouldn't have wanted that.

On the morning of the day she left, she still smiled. Though her forehead was locked in a perpetual frown of pain, and her eyes were too heavy to be opened, she still nodded when she recognized my voice, and gave me a fleeting smile. I hummed her Sinatra's As Time Goes By and Andy Williams' Moon River - a scene that must have been reserved only for her children, something that I boldly and shamelessly claimed, and she hummed along, until she fell asleep.

She died later that night. And I was there, standing beside her children, in my spotless white coat, making sure she had no pain. But I wished I could take off that coat and hug her. The rest of the family cried. I could not. I had no right to.

After long hours of procrastinating, I trudged along to Room 718, but didn't make it past the nurses' station. I looked at the chart. The room was already occupied by a different patient, of course. And his attending, who made rounds a few hours prior, already wrote down the latest orders. Heaving a sigh of relief, I went back to the callroom to brood.

Room 718 is just one room in this big hospital. The patient who stayed in that room almost three weeks ago is just one out of the thousands I've handled. But in my silly, contraband way, I have loved her. And I still do. A contraband affection, where contraband is the operative word. I guess it's just another one of those illegal secret stuff doctors like me try to cover up with their white coats. And in my absurd case, this type of contraband is getting to be a family affair.

Later in the morning, as my duty was about to end, the duty phone beeped. "Referring Mr. X for SVT on cardiac monitor. Room 509." Aaaarghh! Room 509! Of all the patients in the hospital who could have an SVT, why does it have to be Room 509!?! I hastily grabbed my white coat and my dilapidated stethoscope and dragged my feet to that room. Room 509 - I can almost smell her there. She had her last birthday there, and her last new year's eve, when the blue moon was brightest. And the scent of the wine that we smuggled into the room during one of those nights still tickles my nostrils that I could barely breathe. Room 509 is just another one of those rooms filled with memories of contraband affection. Oh well, I just had to do my job. Indeed, the new patient, a grouchy old man I do not even know, was having an SVT. Sigh, being in that room was giving me a contraband SVT too.

Friday, February 5, 2010

My Early Valentine Present

This morning, an 82-year old lolo consulted at my OPD for his regular check-up. He was a hypertensive, post-stroke patient, who had to travel all the way from Caloocan by himself, assisted only by a make-shift cane. He was gaunt, with half of his body paralyzed by the stroke, and with one eye blinded by an untreated cataract. He was a retired teacher, left to fend for himself by now grown-up children. His travel to PGH must have been very hard for him, his standing in line since 4AM probably took an entire day's strength. He refused to give up. He refused to complain. He was just a silent presence, among the hundreds of other patients waiting outside the 1BO4 complex.

Lolo was still relatively in a good state - both brain and brawn. His mind was still sharp. He can still recite his medications and their dosing schedules. He claims he has religiously taken them, as long as they are available. And so despite his old age and illness, Lolo's love for life pushed him to endure the ordeals of a PGH consult so he can get prescriptions for drugs he will eventually beg from PCSO and from the offices of our country's politicians.

So this morning, I handed him his newly filled up prescriptions and his clinical abstract. I again reminded him to find someone who can travel with him during his consults since his other eye is starting to fail too. But he said no, he will be alright.

Before he left, Lolo fished out something from his worn-out canvass bag. It was a small package wrapped in bond paper, held together by a rubber band. Meekly, he said with a huge smile, "Advanced happy Valentine's Day, duktora." I gratefully accepted the gift and led him towards the door.

Low EQ as I was, I hastily opened my first Valentine gift for the year. Wrapped in the bond paper were 3 bars of Choco Mucho chocolates. Despite the busy clinic, I couldn't help the tears.

The gift - P20. The experience - priceless.

Definitions and Identities

This post will probably be evidence of how schizophrenic I am. I just can't seem to make up my mind on so many things. After a short-lived burst of anger a few days ago, I am now back to my old normal self - that self that adores His Royal Weirdness - the good, the bad, with the imperfections themselves making the entire Baffling Phenomenon wholly perfect. While Dr. Jekyll basks in the glory of this unadulterated though bewildering spiritual connection, the insatiable Ms. Hyde aspires for the banality of formula love stories - to sacrifice what is utterly mysterious and terrifying for a more predictable and less riveting ending.

Last night, as I and my Baffling Kindred were musing about Grace and the strange but exciting design of things, I just realized, "Oh my God, what have I wished for? Please save that adventure you have planned for me from it's greatest enemy - myself."

Aung San Suu Kyi once said, "How wonderful it is that we do not know what tomorrow will bring." Jesus himself reminds us that tomorrow will worry about itself. I have such little faith...

Now that I'm past anger stage, acceptance comes. But it has nothing to do with the acceptance of a state of loss, or the mourning over something that wouldn't come. It's the acceptance of the reality of mysteries, that some things that happen can just elude logic - the highest currency of the human mind.

Last night, I had another amazing conversation over dinner with To-Whom-This-Post-Concerns. And though the probability of him ever reading these posts is extremely low and even minute, I have a duty to put some things into writing: There's no anger at all, there never was, and there never will be.

To-Whom-This-Post-Concerns, His Royal Weirdness, Him That Bewilders, The Phenomenon That Baffles, Birthday Boy #3, My Good Friend J - I have called him a lot of names in this blog. I have never defined him, and perhaps, for a long time, I never will.

For to define is to limit.


"Romance lives by repetition, and repetition converts an appetite into an art. Besides, each time that one loves is the only time one has ever loved. Difference of object does not alter singleness of passion. It merely intensifies it. We can have in life but one great experience at best, and the secret of life is to reproduce that experience as often as possible.”

“Even when one has been wounded by it, Harry?” asked the Duchess, after a pause.

“Especially when one has been wounded by it,” answered Lord Henry.

- From The Picture of Dorian Gray

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Inner Caulfield and Kubler-Ross

I'm not going to write about my usual mushy, sentimental stuff about the favorite topic - not just my favorite topic, but the be-all and end-all of this blog. If my readers have noticed, there's a certain theme in these writings, a frequent and pervading issue. And I'm not referring to my angst over my job as a doctor, for chrissakes! I'm referring to the reason why this proverbial walk on water started, the shell that was empty but I just couldn't throw away, that strange cosmic dust that I misconstrued to be the same as my own just because I happened to breathe it in, by some absurd twist of fate. Ahhh, 5 years of ultimate insanity.

Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Kubler-Ross once said that we don't necessarily go through the stages of mourning in this order. She's right. I've gone through all the other four, and anger just happened to sneak in today. I'm there alright. This thing - no this Phenomenon - can come in and out of my life, and yeah, it's really alright. This Phenomenon can happen again and again and it's not going to change - it's still going to be a phenomenon - extraordinary, enchanting, and strange. Twenty years from now, This Royal Madness will probably drop by my life again and I'm going to be as enthralled as Day 1, taking it up all over again as if nothing happened in between.

My Christian faith tells me to be patient. Common sense tells me to invoke the comforts of amnesia and just totally forget everything. Kubler-Ross tells me to just go through the stages of death and dying and let healing happen. She doesn't know I have nothing to mourn about.

For now, I'm just so goddamn angry!

(This post was influenced by my recent rediscovery of Holden Caulfield. Giving a damn about JD Salinger's death when I hated Catcher In the Rye when I first read it is such a phony thing to do. But then I'm rereading it now, and I realized there's a Holden Caulfield brewing in everyone, waiting to show up in a red hunting hat, screaming at the world in pure unadulterated anger. There's a phony in everyone and in everything too. But, ahhh, love is the phoniest sonnofabitch of all!)