Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ever wonder?

No matter how much you dread a certain pending situation or event, somehow you end up getting through it just fine. And the dread isn't really serious dread, after all: you weren't really afraid that your mortal life would be over, or that you would become seriously injured or deformed, at least in most cases. You're nervous, you're anxious, you're worried, but it's a "comfortable"--for lack of a better term--level of apprehension. If you don't think so, just try to imagine what your job would be like with no co-workers to deal with or problems to solve; or what your studies would be like with no exams or difficult concepts to work through. ...Yuck! There must be some level of stress in order to keep life interesting. Likewise, there must be some level of apprehension to accompany the more stressful times.

Many of my friends tell me they're happy. I don't have any millionaire friends among them who sit around and do nothing, so I can't speak for them. But everyone I know seems to be overcoming difficult things on a daily basis. It seems to be part of humanity to undergo and then overcome stress. After all, it also seems to be part of humanity to welcome a "break." What's a vacation unless it's a "break" from something, whether interpersonal relationship dealings, or complex tasks, or the unending routines of household management?

I was talking with a few friends over Thanksgiving, and we happend upon the concept of fulfillment--specifically in lieu of C.S. Lewis's "Surprised By Joy", which I haven't read. I think I want to read it, though, because it sounds like it might speak to this issue of life as we live it. There has to be something to hope for, but as a hope--not as an actuality--because any fulfillment that can be attained in this life will be dissatisfying. So hope is the better thing, at least as long as we're still on earth.

As far as overcoming obstacles, all of these small accomplishments are like small foreshadowings of the great obstacle of death that we are to pass through. Perhaps that is why it's so difficult for us to remind ourselves that we can never "deserve" or "earn" heaven; it's just not possible. We'd like to think we can.

Just like we like our anxieties and worries to be taken seriously, and we like to be applauded and congratulated (or at least we congratulate ourselves) when we overcome them.

But can you imagine what real dread is?
How about dread of something that really cannot be overcome by our power?
How about dread of the loss of heaven--something we cannot attain by our own worthiness or our own justification?
Lasting dread: not just a stress to make life interesting, but rather, eternity without God.

I don't know but that it must be some kind of virtue to even partially comprehend this type of dread--and then more virtue again to accept God's mercy in its stead.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Back to the Music Box

It's like riding on a Merry-Go-Round that takes forever, but you know you're back where you started when you see the music box.

I've just gotten over the worst bout of homesickness I've ever had in my whole entire life. And now I'll be going home for the weekend. So I'm gearing up for the distinct possibility that the same severe homesickness will be back after this trip.

But Thanksgiving was great--old friends, new friends, and awesome food.

In recent news, I'm considering the pros and cons of Dallas In The Summertime--wouldn't that be an uninspiring song title! One major problem is the color of my car: black. My sister suggested carrying around oven mitts with me, in order to get in and out. hmmm.... Also considering the pros and cons of Washington DC In The Summertime.

At present, just trying to finish up these last few weeks of an almost-impossible semester, or so it seems. Prayers are, of course, always welcome and never wasted!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Moving Out

A man moved into the room adjacent to mine in this small upstairs boarding house.
Which means I'll be moving out.
In the span of less than 30 minutes, I met the new tenant, talked to my mother, gave notice to my landlady, and arranged alternative accommodations for next term.
Meanwhile, I'll be moving my stuff and my-self out of this place as quickly as possible!

random concerns

If something happens to me and I die suddenly, how will my parents log onto my computer, if it happens to be shut down at the time of my death? Is there a way to by-pass the password? Also, I'm not a minor, but I don't have a will. Is my dad automatically granted POA, since he's co-signed almost every financial endeavor I've taken in my entire life? Would my banks give him a hard time if he tried to go and close out all my accounts?

This is along the same lines as my continual concern about whether I should carry some form of ID when I run. In case something happens, the police will at least have some idea of who I am.

The things I ponder, even as I force myself to read about the metacarpophalangeal joints....

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Buddhist Baptisms

"Bye, now! We're going to attend a Buddhist Baptism!" yells the man who is married to one of my best friends, as he jets out the front door. I am left alone in their house to chuckle at the suggestion implied by the sarcastic comment. What isn't funny is the truth contained within the joke.
The truth is that the baptism is at a Catholic Church--at the parish across town, where we would never think to go for Mass, except in extreme circumstances. One of those Catholic parishes that seems to hold onto the fear that it will be "too Catholic" for its parishioners. Because of this, everything that happens takes on a form of relativism, modifying practices and rubrics--sometimes even doctrine--to meet the perceived comfort level of the parishioners. The currently popular but misguided principle takes effect: If we do not clearly tell people the difference between right and wrong, less harm will be done.
This philosophy finds its origin in the observation that people are often attracted to a perceived good that is not necessarily in union with the objective, or actual, Good. This reality, however, is due to our fallen human nature. It is one of the effects of sin. It should not be encouraged or exploited by our Church, which St. Paul refers to as The Pillar of Truth. Rather, the goal of each parish should be to educate its parishioners so that they may recognize the difference between a perceived good and an actual good. And then after that, encourage them to seek after the actual good.
Fortunately, the Roman Catholic Church herself stands firmly in the Truth, as she has from the beginning. But she is ailing, suffering from a sickness in her members--a disunity in her body.

And thus, the Buddhism analogy. The first precept of Buddhism is to abstain from harming living beings. This includes killing animals, insects, plants, etc: anything that has life is put on the same level of equality. There is no distinction between vegetative, animate, and rational souls in the Buddhist system. In fact, one of the highest forms of "blessedness" in neoBuddhism, according to my friendly source of Buddhist information, consists in starving oneself, since eating anything inevitably does "harm" to some living being.

So the analogy is quite simple: Buddhists actually believe that all living things should be treated with the same reverence, simply because they are living. Some parishes in the present state of our Church operate on the principle that all parishioners should stay at their own comfort level, regardless of whether they are in accordance with objective good.

Thus the term "Buddhist Baptism."

They just came back.
"How was the baptism?" I asked.
"It was valid," came the reply.
Sad that in these times, that's often the most we can hope for.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

PT dancing

You should see the moves...

We've got sequences made up for all sorts of stuff--

-motions in each of the cardinal planes and the axes that correspond
"Sagittal! Sagittal! Sagittal! Ci-i-i-rrrcumDUCTION!..."

-motions tested for each of the motor nerve roots
"C5. (clap). C7. (slap). C5,C6.C5,C6...."

-contortions for special tests at each of the joints
"Patrick's! Straight leg RAISE! Kernig, and Alternate Sign?..."

Yeah, we'll be a popular crowd out at the bars!

My angel called

I studied in the PT lab at school this evening with one of my classmates, Michael. He's a really good guy; we actually studied "together, separately," which is effective for both of us: we both concentrate on our own studying, but there's also someone there if we run into a question or problem.

As I shut down all my computer windows at the end of the "session," my desktop background (one of my Garden of the Gods photos) popped into view. I moaned. "I just wanna go home," I whined to Michael.
"Sephora, if you go back to Colorado, I'm going back to Boston!" he countered with impeccable logic.
"Huh?? Why does that make any sense at all?" I snapped back, irritated that I was not being allowed to sink into self-pity, due to the skipping and jumping of my cognition neurons at the incongruence of the statement.

Michael has a girlfriend at home, with whom he is very much in love; he has told me on a number of occasions that he'd rather just get married and forget these next three years of school. I continually tell him that he has a responsibility to be able to provide for his future family, and that getting this degree is the best idea at this point. This is what he really wants to do for a career, anyway.
So apparently, my feelings are so strong on this point that I will stay here in school just to make sure that he does, ...right.

Anyway, I walked out of the building into the dark, crisp air of the emptied parking lot. Somewhere in front of me, a very sweet guy named Michael was calling his girlfriend in Boston. Somewhere 1800 miles west of me my family was settling down after dinner in a cozy mountain home living room. Somewhere 3 miles east of me lay a lonely bedroom, a pile of books, and a full coffeepot. ~sigh~

I got in my car, and checked my cell phone. 2 messages.

The first was from my very good friend, just back from the trip to my sister's wedding and the extended vacation into Kansas to see relatives. Yay! She's back! I'm feeling less lonely.

The second was from an "unavailable" number, who called twice, one minute apart. "Hey, at least whoever this is left a message," I thought.
A young man's voice spoke kindly in my ear, "Hi, Sephora; I think I have the wrong number; but, may God bless you, too, and have a great day.... Bye."
I saved it.

As I drove home toward my pile of books, I started to wonder how many people in my neighborhood must be far away from home; how many are in agonizing relationships they can't bring themselves to leave; how many of them don't have anyone, here or miles away, to love them or miss them. I essence, how much I actually do have.
That guy and girl in the car behind me--where are they going, and why? Are they borrowing a car for a study break / donut run, or are they just coming back from a day of sightseeing in the City?

God loves me so particularly, He sent me a message through a stranger. Sure, the stranger said it was a wrong number, but God knew I'd hear Him: "Behold, I have given you all this, and you still consider yourself oppressed?"

I think maybe it was my angel.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


I'll see my first patient(s) today. It'll be at a walk-in clinic, so not even the Clinical Instructors who work there know who I'll see. Kind of scary; I've been in school for less than three months, and here I am, about to go out and do examinations on people. Today, if I get to do a spine and a shoulder exam, I don't have to do another clinical on December 1st! That means I'll have that day off. (which means I might change a certain airline ticket so that I can be back in Colorado Springs a few days before my friend's wedding...)
So I guess today is the first real test of my clinical knowledge. As my clinical advisor at school said to us, "The proof is in the pudding. This is the pudding."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The Church Suffering

Yesterday I was a special witness to a great day in the lives of my sister and her new husband. A great day for them, for each of our families, and for the Church.
The experience of attending this kind of wedding--and even participating as a member of the wedding party--is a certain euphoria. Because it's such a good thing for the world: two good, Catholic people come together as one to follow Christ through the vocation of marriage. So incredible, this witness to Christ's love for His Church.

Welcome to the family, Matt! Now I have three brothers!

After this great event, I was a witness to a scandalous occurrance at anticipated Sunday Mass up the road. For the Communion Hymn, instead of singing the "Litany of the Saints," the music ministry sang the "Litany of Souls." Names that were mentioned between each "pray for us" were members of the parish who had died in the past year and beyond--names of relatives and friends given to the organist by parishioners. Even Ronald Reagan was in there, according to friends of mine who were listening more closely than I.
"Last year, All Souls Day was on a Sunday, and we did this. It was such a hit, we do it every Sunday in November now," the organist told me after Mass, when I went over and asked her "[just exactly] what was that?"
So now a letter to the parish priest is in order, who unfortunately, concelebrated at my sister's wedding, and knows my family. It's kind of difficult for me to speak up when things like this go on in the parishes around my home, since my parents both work for the Diocese.

But I figured that eventually, the day would come.
It has.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Nighttime Productivity

I've marveled before at the disproportionate amount of time that seems to be contained in the hours of darkness when sleep is the natural activity.
This evening, I have reconciled myself to the fact that I'll be awake most of the night, doing work for the rest of the week before I leave for Erin's wedding. As a consequence of this plan, I am sitting on the bed at 1am with my laptop in my lap, but no work done--barely any work started. I have time...I have all night, after all.

Me: I can't wait to come home.
Mom: I'm so glad you're looking forward to it. But you know, there's going to be a lot to do. I'm going to need you from the moment you arrive.
Me: That's fine. I don't mind. That's why I'm coming. In fact, I wish I could've been there to help you out over these past few months.
Mom: No, no, that's fine. Just as long as you're aware that it's going to be crazy-busy when you do get here.
Me: I understand. I do need to get some work done for school, though, while I'm home.
Mom: Umm...well, hmmm. ...Can you do it on the plane?

Hence, the all-nighter before I leave Connecticut!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Bukas na Mukha

There's a pretty even distribution among my friends who tell me
1. I'm really hard to get to know
2. My life is an open book
In fact, the same friends have made both observations!
I guess both can be true, since actually knowing a person doesn't have much to do with what they choose to reveal at any given time.
In the Philippines we used the phrase, "bukas na mukha," which meant, "open face." It didn't refer to a type of sandwich; it referred to the ease with which others could tell what was on your mind. Even there, I received both comments 1. and 2. from the same friends.

I think part of it is that when something makes me happy, I feel the need to tell others about it, whether or not they care. When I'm upset, I usually use all my energy up being upset, and don't save any evergy with which to hide the fact.
Yet still, those who don't know me well do not understand why I am particularly happy or sad or angry: the thought processes that bring me to those points. What I value in life and in people--things that attract or repel me--and what I look forward to from day to day, are secrets hidden from all but my close friends.

And so here I am, not three months into my graduate program, and I find myself in this bizarre social dynamic with my classmates. It's the unique character of early relationships which combines a superficial friendliness with the closeness that follows from sharing one anothers' joys.
I can't even count the number of people who greeted me today with, "Are you excited?" or "How's your sister?" or "Two more days! Do you have your dress ready?" or "Isn't it snowing now in Colorado?"
Most of them don't even know my sister's name--although some do!--but they all know that she's getting married this weekend in Colorado. And they know that while I'm home, I'll be seeing my newest neice for the first time; of course, they all heard the news when she was born a month and a half ago!

It's not really a bad thing. Weddings and births are exciting occasions, and well-wishes from strangers are generally sincere and gracious. Plus, there's no question in anyone's mind that I should be allowed to miss half a week of class for such a joyous event.

As long as I get my work done. ...hmmm. better get to that...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

Never in a million years did I think I would ever hear what I heard last night: an argument that President Bush is actually the primary enemy to the promotion of a culture of life in our country. Statistics came from I-don't-know-where describing

how many people die every day from bad air and water
how many innocent Iraqi civilians are murdered every day
how many children die every day from lack of health care
how many senior citizens on Social Security will suffer under Bush's policies

"...and I hold George W. Bush personally responsible for all these murders and injustices."

versus how many abortions are performed every day (4,000) and why in the balance, since this number is smaller, the culture of life is not determined by it.

It became clear to me that although this man understood by natural law that murder was wrong, he had no sense of the fundamental versus the secondary. So I said I understood why he voted the way he did. I did not tell him he was blinded by his agnosticism and deceived in the assumption that this life is all we have to look forward to.

But he persevered in questioning me about the Church. What does the Church say about gay marriage? Which led to, how can you assume that an "is" leads to an "ought" (the natural order of things and how structure determines function)? Then finally, if we concede the "is-ought" relationship, what does that have to do with eternal salvation--is that man's natural end?
I felt like I was taking a cummulative exam of everything I've learned in philosophy and theology. But it was great. I enjoyed the conversation because it was real. He was really asking me, really wanting to understand. And his questions presented in the most logical sequence one could hope for. So I knew he understood what I was saying. Problem was, what he wanted to understand was why I think the world should be a certain way--not whether he should think so. What boggles the mind is that some souls are so hardened against the concept of objective truth, that when they hear the truth, it makes sense to them, but they can't embrace it. It becomes another line of reasoning that follows logically if you assume the principles; but then, so many different perspectives out there do the same, and they are all equally valid.

After the evening ended, I realized the gravity of our discussion. Although I prayed ceaselessly to the Holy Spirit throughout the evening, and asked friends and family to do the same, I did not comprehend the seriousness of our conversation until afterwards. My heart began to ache. There are people who are so well-intentioned, but so misguided.... And so outspoken. He would be a great Catholic, if he ever were to convert. There are some things that are so fundamental that it's difficult for me to argue that they're fundamental--just because I never try to question the fact.
Last night, when abortion was put on the same level as the Clean Air Act, I felt sick to my stomach. After the fact, when I recognized the importance of the issues we disagreed on, including gay marriage, I shook my head in amazement that I could have been so calm. I guess that was part of the graces I received through many prayers.

It's the old saying, which means much more now that homosexuals want to get married, adopt children, while thousands of others are killing their own in the womb. Scary in this light, but still true.

"The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Inexpensive Luxuries

The knowledge (by Faith) that a 54-day election novena must take effect, either way, to protect our country.

The completion of a major school project before midnight the evening before it's due.

The discovery, upon attendence of some senior graduate students' defenses, that my two huge graduate school "capstones" will be proposals for studies, and not actual studies that I will have to carry out.

The joyful anticipation of my visit home, less than two weeks away; not to mention the excitement contained in the wedding to be celebrated at that time!

The purchase of a bigger, fluffier pillow PLUS clean sheets PLUS flannel blankets PLUS shaved legs ... what more could I ask for, really?

Life is good.