Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Room of Fear

I walk into a coffee shop in a rush, trying to get as much work as i can do before my yoga and plana class that i have missed for two weeks.  Usually, I step into a neighborhood coffee shop near the studio.

Something now seems to be different.  The room is full.  Many twenty somethings frantically reading, highlighting, trying to keep awake and sane.

It is a scene I am all too familiar with.  All of a sudden, there is a wave of recognition, nausea and vomiting that came over me.

It is the week in between the two weekends of the physician licensure examination!  And i remember I took mine 11 years ago!

I look at the trainees and those studying with pride for the medical school and internship that they have finished.

I look at them with pity for the weeks, months and years that they still have to go through educating themselves.

I look at them with envy for all the choices they can make and the possibilities that lie before them.

I look at them with encouragement for all the hardships that they will go through.

I cheer them on silently and pray that they may continue on this path because though difficult, it is rewarding.

Carry on!  I hope to one day welcome you as colleagues so that we can all work together to try to better the health situation of our country.

God bless!

I would like to take this moment to recognize and thank my board mates:  queen and frichmond.  I don't think i could have survived this period without you and that every reliable cup of starbucks coffee!

Sometimes, God is really Funny!

*warning, cheesy post.

Going on vacation now and meeting a lot of my old friends, they say that my skin looks so good.  Yes, I did have especially terrible skin in med school, when my face was all blotchy, even with all the topical and ORAL medications.  Imagine that.  It must have been stress, lack of exercise, lack of sleep or lack of beauty regimen.

Since I always associated myself with blotchy skin, I always open my eyes in wide surprise every time people say that my skin looks great!

Reflecting on this, I realize that it really is exercise.  However, I think a big part of it is I worry less about things and lean more towards acceptance and appreciation of life.  I just go on trips, enjoy what is handed to me.  And this year, I was handed a lot!  I am in a pretty good place.  When people ask me how I would rate my life, I often say nine out of ten.  And when they ask, what makes the missing one point, I would always reply, “the one!”

Yes, I have come to be more graceful, but there are moments of challenge.  In this trip to Sydney, particularly, I was surrounded by a lot of retired couples going back packing or touring.  You see these fifty year olds and sixty year olds holding osteoarthritic hands with their hunched over osteoporotic backs having the time of their lives.  Dressed comfortably in tees, shorts and rubber shoes, they would brave the falls, take dips in natural pools, climb walkways to view mountains. 

Sometimes, these retired couples would have grand children with them,

And I would think to God, “Lord, magkakaroon kaya ako ng ganyan?”

Close friends would often tell me to pray the prayer, “Lord, I would want to have a family of my own, but if it is not Your Will for me, please take this desire away from me!”

Diyos ko, Lord.  15 years na ako nagdadasal, wala pa rin.

This particular trip, I wasn’t very much alone in this personal conquest.  Riding a long, three hour bus ride to Edith Falls to Darwin City Proper, I get a viber messge from my good friend Thorn, currently working her normal day in Manila.  Out of the blue, she sends me screen caps of a particular spinster in distress with the following thoughts: 

Why don’t you like being alone? 


Yes, these ever so strong words interrupt the quiet, reflective time I have been trying to have in the bus ride through the dry, savannahs of Australia, talking to God, but more gently about the same matter. 

And she concludes by saying, “Yan ang mga thought bubbles ko.  Ahahhahaha!”

I try to be encouraging in my reply and say, “Yes mother, currently I am wrestling with God about the same matter while in this bus ride.  Lord, kelan kaya ako magkakaroon ng ganyan (pertaining to the retired couples adventuring their way around in the bus)?”

We further discuss the matter, tackling topics like speed dating, how we are lazy to do it.

I try to supportingly give an anecdote of hope.  Upon landing in Darwin, Australia, we made friends with a 74-year old lady at the bus stop.  She goes on to tell us about her teaching career and how it was moved to Australia when she met and married an Aussie Guy. 

Her future husband apparently saw her in a coffee shop when the lady was 38 years old and in the height of her teaching career.  The man stepped on her foot so that they would meet.  After six months, the rest is history, The teacher went AWOL from one of the prestigious Universities of the Philippines, left her teaching job and moved to Australia.

I end by saying, “Mother, simple lang naman ako.  Gusto ko lang ng lalaki n aka-holding hands!”  To which we both laughed.

The next day, I am riding a van with my good friend from high school and her son.  Out of nowhere, her son, C, grabs my hand and says, “let’s to holding hands, Ninang!”

Here is a picture:

I tell my friend that the day before, I was just praying to God for a man to hold hands with.  And there you go.

Nakakatawa ka naman Lord, eh.

My friend says, “you should have been more specific!”
My sister says, “sana man lang, kasing tangkad mo!”
To which I reply, “yes sure, maybe in 18 years!”

Yes, the Lord did answer the man I got to hold hands with.  But I get this weird feeling that the Lord just wanted to make me laugh and is laughing with me.  Ah yes, humor!

But it’s all good.

Call me ideal, call me fairy-tale-y.  However, what I take home from this is that God is listening.

God answered me when I asked for the opportunity to travel all over the world.
God answered me when I asked for coffee and didn’t want to spend…I got free coffee in the airport.
God answered me when I asked for Laksa.  We had dinner at the Malaysian restaurant.
God answered me when I requested to check in all my luggage and not be overweight.  The weight of my two bags were exactly, exactly at 30 kilos.

I guess the desire to have a family is still in my heart because maybe there is still hope.

I ask for the opportunity to have husband and kids.  I hope it comes at exactly the right time.

Until then, I will just be busy, enjoying my life, laughing out loud with God and with friends.  What do you know, the best is yet to come.  Maybe just around the corner, someone will step on my foot as well!

Questions Coming Home

Exchanging a conversation with my friend’s husband, he shares that the saddest time he has is when he is in on the plane.  In those hours on flight, he feels that he doesn’t belong anywhere.  Yes, he came from the Philippines, has black hair and black eyes, speaks Filipino, but his family is all in Sydney.  His wife and son, who he feels is part of him, have a new life in Sydney where they are among Caucasians who call jacket jumper and hats beannies. 

Asking him to elaborate why he felt as if he never belonged anywhere, he said that when he comes home to the Philippines, he often feels harried when he meets up with friends back home.  He feels like he isn’t really at home because the Philippines becomes a vacation spot.  People are entertaining him.  When he is with friends they are all in a hurry because time is lacking and people are just catching up.

My brain flickered in recognition at this situation.  Despite the fact that I have lived and worked in the Philippines all my life, I see this in my day to day events too.  It may not be as extreme as going to another country, but it is true when I go to another city or another town when I meet friends who have moved to where they are. 

And then I pose this question to him:  Is this really a function of being at home or a function of age?

I don’t have an answer.

Another question I always get upon leaving a country is, “Don’t you have any plans of moving here?  Life is so good here.  Ang gulo gulo sa Pilipinas!  Baka makahanap ka ng asawa dito.” 

With this question, I have an answer, but I don’t know if I have sufficient explanation.

The thought of living in another country for good makes my skin crawl.  And not in a good way.  

Yes, if the situation would call for it, I know I can adjust.  My entire life being the middle child has been all about adjusting.   Yes, living overseas presents itself (very temptingly) with less traffic, a better transportation system and bigger pay.  There are luxuries like a washer-drier, a dish-washer, a temperature with less bugs, strawberries, blueberries, and jobs for everyone.  Particularly in Australia,  the people were very kind and family oriented.  Life is quite laid back and everyone I saw seems to be genuinely interested in helping others.

I come to the conclusion that this place of goodness comes from lack of want.  For instance,  a lady left her phone in a train, and no one even thought of getting it or stealing it because everyone had a phone and they just returned it to the authorities.

In the bed and breakfast where I stayed, everything was still in pristine condition.  Everyone who stayed wanted to keep the place nice.  They cleaned up after eating, and every thing was put back in its proper order.  No guest got an extra slice of bread from the pantry or stole rolls of toilet paper even if the cupboard was filled with them.

Everything seems better and approaches perfect.

Then why is it that I can’t go to this new and better place with a “better possibility” (or so they say) of making a happy family of my own and not being a cougar? ;) (this story for another entry!)

The sad, or maybe happy part, is there is something in every cell of my body that still wants to help the Philippines.  I am a Filipino.  I would just like work with the system, contend with the traffic, be with and relish the extended family system, eat a lot of mangoes, treat the black-eyed and black-haired person who may not have money to pay, laugh out loud, maybe deal with trash all over.  I take it all.  It seems to be grosser, more crass, more terrible.  But these conditions don’t make me uneasy or don’t make my skin crawl.

Maybe it’s because my dad and brother will never uproot themselves from this country, and I feel that I am enmeshed with them.  Maybe its because there is no pressing reason to leave (example, family abroad).  Maybe its because I love being a princess with helpers to tend to me. 

I don’t know if this explanation is sufficient or enough.  But it is what is.

So given that the conclusion that I will stay in the Philippines for now, what is the struggle?

The struggle is every time I leave, I feel a twinge of sadness and a wave of jealousy.  Why doesn’t the Philippines have water and tissue in every toilet?  Why are there beggars in the street?  Why do many people want more for themselves and less for the other?  Why is it always a competition for more resources.  And the answer I always find is that many of the people are coming from a place of want.   And there is this perceived lack of money.

The struggle is that when I go to the zoo in Sydney, I don’t just see the animals, and think “they are terrific!”  I ask myself many layers of questions.  Why is it that the zoos in the Philippines look as if they are meant to entertain the people instead of educating the kids?  Why is it that the people who tend the zoos are looked down upon compared to the professionals when probably zoo-keeping isn’t less of a job?  Why are the animals treated as animals and not afforded the rights?

When I walk ride a train, I don’t just think, “wow, this train is nice!”  I ask myself the questions:  Why can’t we get trains like these?  Why aren’t there enough trains?  Why do our trains get broken easily?  Why do people not give up their seat for the vulnerable population.

When I see my friends with their new, and nice lives, I ask, “Aren’t you really ever coming home ever?  Are you really staying here in this new country?”  I have to content myself with seeing them happy and with a good life, and thinking “it’s a good thing that travelling is more accessible these days and I have the capability to do so.”

The struggle is I always ask, “Is this impossible for the Philippines that the Filipinos feel that the only way out is to move to another country?”

I may not be that youthful anymore, but inside me, I feel that I can’t let the hope in me die that maybe, in my lifetime, or in the next, there is hope that the things first world countries consider basic would one day be basic for us as well.  That the place of want wouldn’t be as big for each person so that we can work together to improve our country.

I don’t want to feel as if I have given up on the Philippines.

Maybe this is why despite all the questions, I still choose to stay.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Life Goals

I am at an impasse.  Yet again.  I feel this growing restlessness inside me.  Thankfully, this long plane-ride, my laptop, my reflection questions, and above all, TIME, is on my side.  I am slowing down.  And I ask myself…

What are my CURRENT life goals?

CURRENT is an operative word.  Things change.  People change.  Values change.  I cannot even count  how much I have changed over the past few years, especially when I was “released” into the world away from training.  Today, September 5, 2017, what are my life goals?
  1.   To be one with my family and friends.  Relationships are the most important.  To let the people I love know that I do, without fear of how they will react.  And I usually do that through the love language of time. 
  2.  To continue to advocate for the value of life through teaching
  3.  To share music in my soul
  4.  To live cleanly: diet, exercise, and avoid clutter in my house. 

Thinking further, my mind is blank.  I could not come up with any more life goals.  Yes, I want money (ehhehehehehe), but I have come to the conclusion during this trip, and all the other trips that have presented themselves to me this year, that money is not an end, but merely a tool.  That money cannot be the master but the mere consequence of fulfilling one’s life purpose as above.

Given the four points above, I am challenged to come up with my own life motto.  Consider it my 40th birthday gift to myself for the coming 2018.  However, at the moment, I cannot come up with one, so I list down the ones I live by.  Among my favorites are:

  1. 1.     Live long and prosper.  Yes, I am the ultimate star trek fan.
  2. 2.     Time is Gold.  Hardly original (hi annski!), but very, very true.
  3. 3.     Health is wealth.  Self-explanatory
  4. 4.     And of course…PTN…Para Tapos Na!  Of course, this sounds negative, but is truly a driving force for me to get things done.

Having listed down my goals and my motto, the remainder of 2017 and 2018 will be spent pruning away the things that I would already want to pass on the other people, and possibly starting projects that I really am passionate about:
  1. 1.     kidney advocacy facebook page
  2. 2.     singing group of contemporary, newly arranged songs, where we are to learn a new song once a week.  Possibly to perform at rolando’s during mic night.
  3. 3.     Seeing patients
  4. 4.     Finishing masters in physiology to teach
  5. 5.     Starting to study in College of Music (after literally 20 years of delay!)
  6. 6.     Passing on the PSN CME after this year
  7. 7.     Weekly cleaning of the house
  8. 8.     Thanking people NOW and not being afraid to.
  9. 9.     Monthly reflection / blogging?
  10. 10. Finally sharing my blog to the public!

Sounds like a plan.

Until the next planning session then.

What is the distance between you and God right now?

I am now in a plane heading to Sydney, Australia.  I am seated in the aisle seat (my favorite!).  The middle seat beside me is empty.

It took a while of reading the word, reflecting and listening.  But by doing so, I feel that God is right beside me, sitting in the middle seat, as I write.  Because there is peace.

May I always feel that He is beside me even in the busy-ness, noisiness and speediness of daily life when I get back to Manila.