Monday, September 30, 2013

Vagaries of a Middle-Aged Schmuck

Last night, I found myself in a coffee shop sipping hot vanilla latte and indulging in decadent blueberry cheesecake while musing about my solitary existence. It must be my age and the fact that I’m supposedly way past Erikson’s Intimacy vs Isolation Stage but am still very much stuck in it, struggling to keep my head afloat like a child who doesn’t know how to swim, that this issue is becoming a recurring thought, almost an obsession I couldn’t seem to shake off my head. The question whether I should battle against my imminent fate of being forever alone or just gently and graciously acquiesce to lifelong solitude nags me all the time that I decided to take some time off from work, pretend that I’m going somewhere far away, when in fact, I’m just wandering around this little city, spending my hard earned money on expensive coffee and pies, and books which will probably take me months to read. In the next few days, I will just hole myself up in a quiet beach-side resort a half-hour drive away from the city to meditate and contemplate on my fate. Hibernate, so they say. Like a snake molting off her skin and eventually emerging with a brand-new one, or a cat who will just sleep all day to recover her nine lives.

Well, being single at 33 isn’t entirely miserable. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m not sour-graping, mind you. I’m simply stating the obvious. I’m a woman who runs, reads, writes, takes pictures, travels, drives my own car, and has an incredibly fulfilling and relevant job, and millions of other women in the world would have dumped their husbands to take my place. And while other women are growing fat, grumbling about their boring lives and their mundane home routines and the impossibility of the perfect afritada or adobo, I am steadily and slowly getting fit, evolving while sucking the marrow out of life, learning and relearning new things, exploring possibilities, loving the world and everything in it. This week, I’ll get diving lessons for an open-water diving certificate. In the next few months, I’m getting swimming lessons, try my luck in biking, then train for 21K, travel to India or to China, perhaps get an MBA. There’s just too much to do, and I can’t imagine being able to do half of these wonderful things if I have a husband who’s unwilling to do all those with me, or much worse, several kids pulling at my pants or sucking at my tits.

But I am alone. There’s the rub. I am alone. Alone, alone, alone. Is this the price I have to pay for asking more out of life? Do I need to remain solitary so I can "suck the marrow" out of our short existence? Am I willing to exchange all my plans for the possibility of having a better half, to be loved, to be entwined with another soul for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until life as we know it is extinguished? Don't get me wrong. I am one of those thirty-something single women who enjoy solitude. And yet, I also desire to share my solitude with someone. And no, I am not jaded, at least not yet. I am still one of those hopeless romantics who still believe that the one made for me since the beginning of time is still out there, searching for me. I am just a solitary soul waiting to be found, trying to live an extraordinary life while at it, but waiting, every single day, waiting, waiting, waiting... 

Am I stupid to wait? Should I just abandon this hopeless-romantic-ship and jump overboard into the ocean of eternal solitude? Should I? Or should I not?

I took a few days off from work to contemplate on these things, to give an answer to these nagging, seemingly unimportant but utterly pivotal questions about my existence. Also, I promised myself that I will write again, that during this short break, I’ll have at least some form of documentation of my thoughts that is much more substantial than a few annoying words in an egoistic self-elevating Facebook status. I have resolved that at the end of three days, I will be able to answer these perennially baffling and troublesome questions: Would I rather be alone? Am I prepared to be alone?

Today is day one of my vacation. And I am successful enough to squeeze out a blog entry from my tired and overworked brain.

So far, my answer to both questions is a resounding NO. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You Should Date a Cardiologist

Date a cardiologist. Date a woman who spends most of her time studying and healing hearts, literally. Her passion for her profession will overwhelm you, at first. But once you get to know her, you will discover why. Her interest in the human heart extends beyond the literal. She is more interested in the deeper and figurative significance of the human cardiac tissue – that of love, giving love, and being loved back. Date a cardiologist because she will do everything to take care of your heart – she swore an oath to honor and protect it at all costs. She will never break it, unless you provoke her and break hers first.

Find your cardiologist. There aren’t too many women like her around, but when you do come across her, she’s not easy to forget. She is the woman who is comfortable among men and people of power and authority – she is confident, direct, smart, and assertive. She thrives in a man’s world because her field used to be a man’s world, and still pretty much is, and she spent years of hard struggle to earn her place in it, and very well-deservedly. She walks with a perpetual sense of urgency. Her schedule is meticulously planned, her phone is incessantly ringing. Referrals, emergencies, cardiac arrests, and all sorts of frantic calls for help from patients, nurses, colleagues, and family, come during the most unholy of hours, and she is always patient enough to receive them with gentleness and much grace. She lives and breathes those virtues – patience, gentleness, and grace – the same gifts that she can offer you. 

Talk to her.  Start a conversation even if she appears to be too busy for small talk. Look her in the eye. Remain calm and undaunted even if she stares you down, as if finding fault in your grammar or the syntax of your words, if you can find enough courage to muster them intelligibly. Ask her about her patient load, her newest intensive care case, the latest drugs for dyslipidemia and hypertension. Pretend you’re a patient with chest pain. Feign a heart attack. She will find you out. But if she considers you interesting enough, she will immediately stop her rounds, forget her piles of ECGs to read, and agree to have a long conversation with you. Or even coffee, or beer, or dinner, if you’re lucky.

Once you find your cardiologist, keep her. Her heart is as fragile as the cardiomyopathies she has seen, so handle it with utmost care. Her moods may be as unpredictable as ventricular tachycardia, but all she really needs from you is that you will consistently stay. She deals with patients with stormy clinical courses every day, so she can never be satisfied with sporadic bursts of passion and intermittent displays of affection from you, no matter how intense, no matter how sweet. 

Pick her up from her hospital. Offer to drive for her even if she insists that she could still drive for herself. And when she falls asleep in the car from sheer exhaustion, plant a kiss on her forehead, or on her cheek, or on her lips, if you’re bold enough. Surprise her at her clinic. Give her flowers in front of her patients and watch her blush. Secretly drop silly love notes into the pocket of her white coat or in her handbag where she keeps her precious stethoscope. Insert your handwritten poetry in the pages of her Braunwald. Or a ring. If you think she’s The One. A cardiologist may be obsessive-compulsive in the monitoring of her patients, but when it comes to romance, she is very to please.

Let her take care of you. Allow her to fret over your blood pressure or the ischemia on your ECG. Let her take your pulse. Let her listen to your heart for murmurs or whatever she might find there. Allow her to take you into her world where life is sacred and loving it is a necessity. Her desire to serve mankind and make the world a better place will infect you, and you can’t help but make those your dreams as well. But despite her passion for her work, you are her first love, her top priority. Yours is the heart that she would give up her life for, the heart that she keeps within her heart.

Grow old with her.  Get used to the way she beams with delight whenever she pulls a patient out of shock. Even when you’re both older, give her a warm hug for every life saved, a kiss for every patient sent home walking. Keep her close whenever she weeps for each life lost. Never grow tired of holding her, for she will still weep even if she has lost hundreds.  Hold her hand whenever she whines about how toxic her life has become. Stifle your grin when she does that, because you know that she will always complain, busy or not busy, but more so when she stops being busy.  She would always want to retire from her job and go somewhere else with you. So take her somewhere else with you. To a beach, to a mountain, to a secluded restaurant, to a far-flung town with no cellphone signal. Anywhere with you. And she will come back recharged. Because you are the oil that keeps her lamp burning.

Disappoint her. A cardiologist knows that even infarcted hearts get a chance at healing and life can be made normal again with adequate rehabilitation. She’s not a stranger to failure, so she won’t hold a grudge against you when you fail in some of your promises. She knows that a patient’s course can sometimes go downhill despite all effort. That parting is an inevitable fact of life and what matters most is that you did your best. She knows that her attempts at healing may fail sometimes, but her efforts to give comfort will always succeed no matter how the patient will end up. 

Date a cardiologist if you’re brave enough. Not everybody deserves her. But those who do will have the greatest adventure of their lives.

Better yet, date a cardiologist who reads. And writes. And travels. And runs.