To Create

I woke up at 3am. Darkness is in its purest, most glorious state. A time when silence makes the most noise.

This early I am left with not much to do so I started to scroll on my Tumblr entries. Writings made in the ripe womb of the night deserves a trigger warning.

To write is to create something that has part of yourself in it, like conceiving another being and giving it life. It is assembled in ways like its creator, a bit haunted, a bit tormented, somehow lost in the labyrinth that invites both the past and the present to intertwine in a lurid, sickening embrace.

It’s a little after 3am. I find my thoughts in avalanche. It’s the moment writers and artists alike wait for. The moment of unmasking, — the ritual of emerging from our hiding places, in order to create, to put life into words, into lines and shades, — allowing a parallel universe to exist and to transcend beyond pages, beyond mediums and canvases, to invoke powerful emotions, and convey empathy.

We are all hidden behind masks. It’s what’s acceptable. It’s the norm of a civilized breed. We wear clothes, we wear our status, we wear our smile.

And we hide our hearts and souls.

To walk bare amidst the fully dressed is a huge deviation to what is conceived as the social norm.

The night allows disrobing. It allows nakedness. It opens the gate to ideas suppressed by daylight, and thus the creation of writings with the element of fire and blackness; with the spitle of truth and the stale breath of a soul forcefully induced into sedated slumber, it could trigger emotions and memories that could invoke a past long dead to resurrect and to haunt the present.

Words have the power of an army’s arsenal.

I curled into a duvet on the porch and waited for the first glimpse of sunrise. The night is retreating, and daylight is about to take over. A cacophony of sound has replaced the monologue of silence. A new day is about to begin.

I stood up to begin the tedious process of covering up.

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Racing Thoughts

Racing Thoughts

They said I need to keep on writing, even if I have nothing more to write.

I need a subject, but it defeats the purpose of putting my thoughts on paper. Thoughts that are usually jumbled up and random. Thoughts that are senseless even to me –especially to me.

My pain talks, but in tongues – or in a language long dead. It’s like putting together an entire book shredded into bits and pieces. Still, I need to try.

I’ll start with a dream I had last night. I was running from something I can not see. I was terrified. I felt I needed to get away, but I was moving in slow-mo, like running under water. I woke up very tired.

If what I feel and what my mind fires up along the way is analyzable, then I won’t be sitting with a shrink every so often. If the fog emits clues as to why I have been chosen among so many others to be tethered to depression, I would have untangled the mystery of me by now. But there were no giveaways, no hidden answers -only broken, indecipherable thoughts running like race horses without a race track.

I hate the rain.

It’s not personal though. I just hated the way it hides the sun. I hated its familiarity, like meeting someone from a long forgotten past. I hate what it represents, how much it reminds me – of me.

I am the rain.

I’ve always been the rain…

I am that sudden cold draft; that muddy puddle on the imperfect sidewalk; that grey cloud that hovers too close to everything nice casting ugly shadows; that blinding downpour that overwhelms…drowns… consumes…

I fear the night

Not because of its darkness… but because of its innocence.

I fear its trust. I cringe from its warm embrace. My soul is unworthy to rest on its bosom – simply because of my restlessness. I taint its purity by being a shadow – disturbing the sanctity of sleep, my nightmares breaking its holy silence.

Do you think I’m crazy?

Do you think you are not?

If there is a line demarcating the normal from the insane, where do you think you’ll be standing? I have no idea where I should belong to.

What I do know is the imperfection of that line. I know how liquid the parameters are, often encroaching upon each other than people wish to see. Sanity is relative.

And so is being normal.

Fake It Until You Make It

Fake it until you make it used to be my mantra. It’s what I used to tell myself when giving up wasn’t an option. I did not become a doctor because I am smart. Mental strength plays only a partial role in the journey every doctor needs to go through. It’s the will to survive that provides the greatest thrust of all. How much do you want it? How many times can you fake strength until it becomes real?

The pull of grief is unmistakably strong. It swallows a person all at once, not little by little. I’ve been into that dark hole many times over. I managed to crawl out each time not because I am unconquerable, but because I refuse to be cheated out of the game too easily. Pride makes it easier to choose which way to go. I chose to stay. I chose to walk my path like I am not lost. I chose to smile like nothing is hurting. I chose to present myself as if nothing is broken, like I am all together even if chunks of who I used to be have broken off like pieces of an old chugging train long forgotten. I chose to live as if I have not yet died.

Courage is the ability to keep an eye on the runway amidst the inevitability of a crash. It is untarnished hope, and the undaunted will to keep on going, even if it meant taking optimism too far; even if you are leaning on a mirage of strength, until what was once a mere illusion becomes real.

Fake It Until You Make It

Fake it until you make it used to be my mantra. It’s what I used to tell myself when giving up wasn’t an option. I did not become a doctor because I am smart. Mental strength plays only a partial role in the journey every doctor needs to go through. It’s the will to survive that provides the greatest thrust of all. How much do you want it? How many times can you fake strength until it becomes real?

The pull of grief is unmistakably strong. It swallows a person all at once, not little by little. I’ve been into that dark hole many times over. I managed to crawl out each time not because I am unconquerable, but because I refuse to be cheated out of the game too easily. Pride makes it easier to choose which way to go. I chose to stay. I chose to walk my path like I am not lost. I chose to smile like nothing is hurting. I chose to present myself as if nothing is broken, like I am all together even if chunks of who I used to be have broken off like pieces of an old chugging train long forgotten. I chose to live as if I have not yet died.

Courage is the ability to keep an eye on the runway amidst the inevitability of a crash. It is untarnished hope, and the undaunted will to keep on going, even if it meant taking optimism too far; even if you are leaning on a mirage of strength, until what was once a mere illusion becomes real.

A Flight Story

A colleague, my senior in Internal Medicine and a mentor, was on board a boeing plane enroute to the US a few months ago and shared with me his flight experience that significantly diminished his fear of flying. Yes, this mighty doctor feared the plane like it was some unknown disease he could not identify and manage. It’s actually the fear of putting your life in somebody else’s hands, just like what most of his patients probably feel when they lay sedated on his table praying for his good judgement call and decisiveness. He is a well respected pulmonologist, one of the best I should say. A veteran military doctor, who have seen the worst of what people can do to each other.

It all started as an ordinary flight. The usual airport and immigration procedures. He carried just one luggage and he had it deposited early on. He had with him a duffel bag that was pretty much empty, he said, aside from the anti anxiety meds he had refilled the day before, to help him tackle the arduous task of staying sane amidst a 16 hours air travel he clearly and absolutely feared. He would have chosen ground transportation, if it was possible, even if it takes him days to reach his destination. He simply needed to be on that convention. His reputation and his future with the prominent cardiopulmonary team he belonged to, depended on his ability to bring home breakthrough medical knowledge and expertise they can use to help gravely ill patients. He can’t see any way out of flying, and he will never admit to his peers ( well, except with me) how terrified he is to leave the solid, stable earth.

20 minutes before his scheduled boarding, he already took half a dose of Diazepam. He is flying alone so he is careful not to be too aggressive with his own sedation. He wanted to be calm, but not too calm as to be unresponsive to possible dangers he might encounter while on flight. He is a paranoid flier. He tries to spot anyone acting suspiciously. He tries to hear everything and anything that seem out of the ordinary. An over thinker on its grandest state 😁. The decision to be just partially sedated in flight gave another passenger a second chance to life.

3 hours in flight, he closed the medical journal he was trying to read, albeit unsuccessfully, to focus on what the PA system was saying. They were asking if there is a doctor on board. “ At least they are not asking if there is anyone on board who can fly a plane”, was his first thought, and then it dawned on him, there is a medical emergency 39 thousand feet above the ground and a doctor is needed. He is a doctor ( a very terrified one at that moment). His seatbelt is still securely fastened in spite of the other passengers walking to and from their seats to the lavatory or stretching their feet. The lavatory, another place he is terrified of using on the plane because he feared that one of the buttons ( used to flush the toilet obviously) will eject him to kingdom come. He reluctantly unbuckled his seatbelt and stood unsteadily to approach the nearest cabin crew. He was in business class. The passenger who is in trouble was in the economy cabin. “ Hi. I’m a doctor. What’s going on?”, he asked.

“ Oh Hi Doctor. We think it’s a heart attack, but we can’t be sure”, the cabin crew said.

“ Tell me it’s not the pilot”, the doctor said.<

“ No. It’s one of the passenger. Please follow me”, and he was led away from the cockpit, to his utter relief 😁.

Upon seeing the old man, he immediately shifted gear, from a terrified passenger to a seasoned and and well trained doctor. He asked the crew to place the patient on the floor of the plane were he made a fast assessment and began CPR.. He was amazed that the plane was sufficiently stocked with emergency drugs and equipments ( more so than the airport, ours particularly). The only thing missing is a doctor who knows how to use all those things.

He intubated the patient with the help of a nurse, who is also on board the flight, with the very efficient cabin crew by their side. He and his unlikely team managed to stabilize the patient enough to keep him alive until the pilot made an emergency landing to the nearest airport, where a medical team is waiting.

Back to the plane, he slipped into a calm slumber, without needing the half dose of diazepam to help him get through his remaining flight time. He finally realized that life is just like his particular flight. A very self reliant person who is used to calling the shots hated depending on someone else’s’ expertise and decisiveness for his life. But most of our life is actually like being in flight, be it being the captain or the passenger. Most of how our stories go will depend on our symmetrical turn with the movement of the wind. Go against the wind too much and you disrupt the entire highway of air; Go too fast and you break your fin; Go too slow and you stall; Know too much and you bypass the directions of ground control; Know too little and the plane ends up flying itself. It draws a fine line that makes a difference between life and death.

There is also the factor of circumstances. Where everything and anything you do become inconsequential when life and fate itself dictates the outcome of one’s story. Regardless of the final status of our “flights” in life, be it an unremarkable landing, a braced impact, or a collision, what matters really is the flight itself. The courage to show up when final boarding call announces your name, amidst fear and uncertainties, is what makes every flight story worth sharing.

Old Friend

Old Friend

When we were in grade school, you were the artist and I was the thinker. You make my aprons and my pajamas for work ed and I make your book reports and math equations. You salvage my art works and I catch the volleyball for you when you are too afraid to get hit. I listen and you talk and talk until the bell signals the end of lunch and we walk back to class. With you, I don’t have to say anything. You fill the silence with your endless chatter. That suited me just fine. I’ve always found talking too tiresome. With you, I did not feel the need to say anything. You did the talking. I did the listening ( and sometimes, the punching).

In high school, you got your period first. Mine did not come until a few years later. It was so funny watching you walk with those bulky pads between your legs. You never were lady like, and having your periods did not make you anymore so. Puberty however also made your mood confusing. Your arts became as intense as your feelings. The change made us clash every now and then, but we always make up. There is something about your early puberty that kept you from being who you used to be. You were growing so fast and leaving me behind. That was kinda sad.

We did not get into the same university in college. Your NCEE score did not reach average. I got 99. Maybe because there is no work ed or practical matters included in the test. You had to select a course and a school that does not give weight to that. I started my university life and I was overwhelmed by how big a world I’d be in without you in it. You started your college degree and became your very own version of “the renegade”.

We were eagles taking off with a wing missing. Several years later, it was not surprising to find each other all broken and conquered. Life isn’t like high school, where the bullies only play pranks on you. Life is meaner, nastier. And we faced it alone.

You got married before I did, and had a son. But it was not a happy ever after kind of thing like you thought it would be. The fate of your marriage left you angry, and broken. You attacked life just as you thought it attacked you. You were self destructive, vindictive, and out to cause pain – because you were so wounded you did not know any other way to deal with it. The world had no time to listen. You were left alone in your own misery, while the world continued to live.

I got married after med school. Had two kids. It’s no fairy tale either. Mine was a roller coaster life. I tried my best to hang on but I got thrown every which way. It had always been a bumpy ride – this life. But we get used to it. We learn. We adapt. Eventually, it’s no longer all that bad. I learned to put everything in writing, like how we used to do when we were kids. That way, I put the ambiguous into a perspective I can understand. When I do that, it ceases to be overwhelming.

I know you started painting again. That’s good. The burden of living sometimes make us forget who we really are. We played roles for far too long we’ve forgotten how to live with only our bare skin. You are your paintings. Those vibrant shades that used to represent your excitement is still there deep within your heart, within your soul, untouched by scars and by broken idealism.

The Wish

I wish I could sleep. The real sleep without needing to swallow all those pills. I wish I could dream real dreams, without the terror of relieving the horrors. I wish I could recreate a world where I no longer have to pretend to smile, while being drenched in my own tears; to belong without the need to play roles, to hide behind characters that is not me.

I wish I am not so tired to crawl in between the crevices of your perfect life; and to get away from the torture that haunts my own. I wish I am not too defeated to stagger into the crackling blaze of your hearth, to touch the fire, while I watch my frozen soul defrost and ignite; to be consumed and be nothing. I’d rather be nothing…than to be so cold…

I wish I could be whole enough, to be able to walk the day, without falling apart; like old paint peeling off me, exposing the scars I’ve tried so very hard to hide. I wish I’m whole enough to dance in your music and to sing your song. But I am all wrong. My parts are all misfitted, like a ragdoll haphazardly sewn back together. I hold my heart into the palm of my dirty right hand, while the other drag along a deflated dying soul. An unwelcomed blackness, in your perfect universe.

I wish I could hear your laughter, but I’ve grown deft. I wish I could make you see me, but there is nothing of me left.