Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Coming into Her Own

video by carine23

It's strange how things sometimes conspire to remind me of certain life lessons that I still need learning - all within the same week.

It all began with this blog entry by my blog buddy and romance guru, Evil Woobie.

Having written about singlehood on and off over the past few months - mainly because it's one of the circumstances that tilted the scales towards taking this particular life adventure I am currently on - I couldn't resist posting a comment to her post in reply.

it’s a cliche that everything happens for a reason, but i believe it - and that all the events in my life so far have led me to where i am today… a happy place to be. :)

i am so happy i had the chance to do this on-my-own thing and discover that i can be this person - strong, independent, and ready to take on anything. achievements aside, looks aside, and relationship-status aside, i know i’ll always have that under my belt and it is an accomplishment i will always be proud of. :)

I don't think that I've sounded as well-adjusted as that in a long time. (My long-time friends might even attest that I've probably NEVER sounded that well-adjusted, as I have always lived with the cloud of my myriad neuroses hanging over my head.)

But while I am certainly in a good place at the moment, there are days when it doesn't take a lot to propel me outside my happy place. It's probably because I've been so used to being so down on myself for so long that actually feeling good about me takes a lot of getting used to. And sometimes I have to fight quite hard to keep the negative voices from drowning out my inner cheerleader in training. Specially when the snarky comments come from important people in my life who sometimes say things that chip away at me simply because they don't know any better.

In keeping with my current lesson plan, I had such a moment just a few days after my enlightened comment on Woobie's blog.

For a fleeting moment, I felt like I was tumbling into the same old self-destructive pattern I've gotten used to for years - defensiveness and defiance. But, in a surprising victory for my inner cheerleader, I suddenly realized that what these people said didn't matter.

Because, for the first time in a long time, I actually feel dang good about me.

I'm brave. I'm strong. Life stretches out before me that's still filled with all sorts of possibility. And I kick ass.

And no one can ever take that feeling away from me but me.

Lots of people grow up knowing this simple truth - but what can I say? I'm a very slow learner.

It's high time I let my inner cheerleader come into her own - and give her room to dance.

* * * *

Post Script: This song is currently on tops on my "Girl Power" list at the moment. I love it because it has such a positive and powerful message. And it's also very true. I was looking for the original music video to embed on this post, but I think this slideshow I found on YouTube pretty much does the trick.

Don’t Need You To (Tell Me I’m Pretty)
Samantha Mumba

I don't need you to
Tell me I'm pretty to make me feel beautiful
I don't need you to
give me your strength
To make me feel I'm strong

I got all of this strength that I need
here inside my own two hands
All that I want is your love and respect for who I am
What I really need comes from deep inside of me

Don't need you to tell me I'm pretty to make me feel beautiful, no
Don't need you to make me strong, cause I’m strong all on my own
Doesn't come from outside
This beauty I know
Comes from inside my soul

I don't need you to
believe in me to make me know I'm worth believing in
I don't need you to
lift me up high to know I can stand tall

I can stand my own ground, I can stand proud upon my own two feet
Don't have to be part of somebody else to be complete
What I really need
Comes from deep inside of me

Don't need you to tell me I'm pretty to make me feel beautiful, no
Don't need you to make me strong, cause I’m strong all on my own
Doesn't come from outside
This beauty I know
Comes from inside my soul

Don't need to come to you for confirmation
Because I finally found this revelation
What I really need I’m gonna find inside of me
Not in somebody else
Respect, comes when you respect yourself

Don't need you to tell me I’m pretty
To know I’m beautiful

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Confessions of an Unreformed Sweet Tooth

diagnosis: one of the best cheesecakes i have eaten. ever.
cheesecake shop's mississippi cheesecake.

Of course I knew I had low-fat yogurt in the fridge at home - I just bought them yesterday. Vanilla, cheesecake, and apple pie flavored yogurt, 8 tubs in all, each just 73 calories.

But there are just days when you can't settle for anything but the real deal.

Which was why I found myself at the nearest service station at 730pm (after getting there on foot, mind you), rummaging through the freezers and looking for the lowest calorie ice cream treat I could find. Did you know that most ice cream bars are AT LEAST a 180 calories? Frankly, I really never wanted to know - but, unfortunately, due to my diligent label checking, I now know.

Luckily, I did find something that suited - a small cup of classic vanilla ice cream, just 110 calories for a small sojourn in sweet tooth heaven. Just in time, too, because the people at the cash register were beginning to give me strange looks after seeing me hovering over all three of their freezers for almost 15 minutes before settling for my treat and paying for it.

What can I say? The spirit is willing, etcetera, etcetera. And when you live in the land of Cadbury chocolate and Tim Tam, it can be quite challenging for any forsworn sweet tooth to to stay on the side of low glycemic index eating.

As part of my personal health reform agenda, which I've embarked upon to avert certain disaster - specifically a date with probable early onset diabetes - I've been trying to wean myself away from unhealthy sweets and going for the more healthy substitutes. Which translates to stocking muesli bars for chocolate bars, fruits for lollies, and, yes, yogurt for ice cream.

While that has managed to work for me somewhat, it's hard not to give in to temptation every now and then. Not having the object of my addiction on hand may prevent me from indulging regularly, but when I'm craving for the real thing, going out of my way to get my fix is not going to be a problem.

I'm trying to practice the value of moderation in this particular area in my life - and buying into the joys of muesli, fruit, and yogurt more often when a craving hits. But I still allow myself one mini-sized chocolate bar every now and then, as well as real ice cream (gelato!) when I want a treat. And no matter what anyone says - I am never, ever going to be able to turn down a slice of cheesecake. Ever.

I am, and always will be, a sweet tooth. I consider it both a blessing and curse, but it will always be a fact of my life. Curse, because it can be so hard to resist indulging in my favorite things in the world and damning the health consequences. Blessing because it doesn't take a lot to make me happy - just a great dessert has the power to make my day.

And, really, in this complicated world of ours where there are just so many things that can get you down, don't you agree that it's sort of great to be able to experience joy from a simple sugar rush?
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pushing Beyond Creaky Knees

photo credit: unknown - if it was you, let me know :)

I've finally decided on my new outdoor sport for my first spring-summer season in Perth - running.

Okay, it's not a water sport. But it's fairly simple, no-frills, and it doesn't require the kinesthetic prowess of an Olympic athlete, just lots of discipline and persistence - things I sorely need to develop anyway. Plus, it complements my insatiable wanderlust and is a great way of burning calories and getting fit while going places.

So a couple of weeks ago, I bought my first pair of good running shoes as a part of my commitment to my initial goal of working up to a thirty minute run. Overwhelmed by enthusiasm and the novel experience of being able to even jog without experiencing excruciating shin pain - something that has always turned me off running in the past - I was literally up and running.

I've started with the Couch to 5K running program, an 8 week training program that builds you up gradually to doing solid 30 minute runs from being totally sedentary. I started on Week 3 using the health club treadmill, and I haven't looked back since. I'm currently on Week 5 Day 3, going on Week 6 - which means I've actually worked my way up to a solid 20 minute run with minimal walking breaks. All of this has been treadmill work because I haven't had time to research outdoor running routes and my current schedule doesn't allow me to do a lot of wandering at the moment, but once my schedule opens up, expect me to be out all the time.

On the downside of things, beginning such a high-impact sport has made my body go into serious protest. My knees, in particular, are on strike and officially hate me.

I now know what morning stiffness feels like. I can almost hear my knees screaming every time I stand up after sitting for so long. My ankles squeak occasionally in accompaniment. My shins organize episodic protests but not quite as frequently.

Okay, okay, I admit I've been a bit of a dunce and, due to my gym addiction problems, haven't really been taking enough recovery days in between increasing my running time. But I have been a good girl about the stretching post-runs and continuing my strength training. The moans-and-groans of my muscles could probably be just a normal reaction to finally being used after happily hibernating for so long.

My friends tell me I just have to be careful that I'm not overdoing things - which means taking more time to recover from my workouts, running or otherwise. (Which is why I am blogging instead of slaving away at the gym right now.) Going for recovery days is actually a challenge in itself, because just the thought, "Hey, I can do this!" actually spurs me on that much further, creaky joints be damned.

The experience has been awesome, and a fitting counterpoint to what this year and this move has been all about.

I can't wait for the day when I'm finally doing my thing along the Swan River foreshore or the Sunset Coast jogging path, wind cool against my face, water on one side, and open road as far as the eye can see.
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Power to Choose

photo found via google. i don't know who took it, sorry!

I am a Christian. I have been raised and educated as a devout Catholic and am fairly active in my church. But I am also a doctor, and this is one issue where my personal beliefs and dogma and I do not see eye to eye.

And I agree that it's past time that a Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines was passed - and executed.

It's a delayed reaction to a fairly dated issue, but I felt so strongly about the topic that I couldn't resist.

I am pro-choice but I do not believe in induced abortions. This is something that I, as a doctor, would never do for any patient. But what I don't understand is the mass hysteria being drummed up by about the issue of artificial means of contraception.

Just reading the statistics alone is already quite convincing. The Philippines is among #15 in Asia with the highest maternal mortality rates - the top causes of which are hemorrhage and abortion, of which a significant number are induced. Many of these deaths are preventable - by adequate nutrition, proper spacing between pregnancies, and, yes, even limiting family size.

How is teaching the largely ignorant populace about responsible parenthood and providing them with means to practice it an affront to the dignity of life? How does seeing the logic behind a smaller family size and wanting to prevent unplanned pregnancies make those of us who are for this bill akin to murderers?

There are those who feel that sex education, education about artificial contraceptive methods, and providing free access to artificial contraceptives somehow encourages a culture of promiscuity. Frankly, I think this argument is flawed on several levels, not the least of which is that it seriously undermines the people that they are seeking to protect. Besides this, the reality is that, despite our largely conservative-leaning society, increasing sexual activity among the young and unmarried is actually quite prevalent and has been for some time. Turning a blind eye to this reality and sticking our head in the sand will not make it go away.

I think, that for me as a doctor, the most convincing argument for family planning, responsible parenthood, and sex education was working in the OB Admitting Section every three days for several weeks as a medical student, then as an intern.

The concept of a woman having more than 3 kids for me simply boggles the mind, but there I saw countless grand multiparas (women who have given birth more than 5 times) reaching their status before the age of 30, already on baby number 6 or 7. I'd had to assist at emergency hysterectomies for these women with overused uteruses that refused to contract after delivery, causing them to bleed and bleed and threatening to leave their many children motherless.

On the other end of the spectrum were the young primis - the youngest in my experience was 14, just in her first year of high school, who never had a single pre-natal consult prior to delivery. I can't imagine what kind of parenting these young girls can offer their babies, not when they were hardly out of childhood themselves and were now forced to grow up much too soon.

And then there were the women who came in for induced abortions that were not completed, septic, bleeding, and often on the brink of death. It was both fascinating and appalling how creative and innovative some of these very desperate women would be in trying to terminate their unwanted pregnancies, turning to methods ranging from the sedate to the bizarre. Some are lucky enough to make it through. Some are not.

Do I believe passing the Reproductive Health Act will change the stories of the women who I've talked about above? Maybe, maybe not. But let's not lose sight of the fact that in the end, no one but the couples themselves can dictate what they do in their bedroom, in their sex life, and in their family lives. No one can argue with that. Isn't it then only right that they are given the chance to make informed choices?

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

To Someone Who Will Never Read This

I know we never got around to talking about it, but I have a checklist.

I've had it since I was a little girl, when once-upon-a-time everything was non-negotiable and I knew with naive certainty that the paragon described on my checklist actually existed. As I grew older and more grounded in reality, I took many of the things off the non-negotiable column and put them on my superficial checklist.

Of course when I met you, I didn't know you'd score so well - on both columns. And to be honest, I wasn't really thinking about those things at the time - upheaval isn't always the best time to think about things like that. But then you were there. And it's hard not to discover someone when you're around each other all the time. In fact, it's all too easy.

You made me laugh and kept me on my toes. We had a lot of common interests. Despite your unfailing sarcasm and contrariness, you couldn't quite hide the kindness under the surface. It was fairly obvious that I enjoyed your company. And, soon enough, being with you became a highlight of my otherwise mundane day. I sorely needed a friend, and you were there - albeit reluctantly.

You were interesting - and I, being only human and maybe a little lonely, began being interested. But, by the time I realized it, I didn't know how to let you know. In keeping with the pattern of my life, I just got sort of stuck. It's so hard not to fall into old patterns when you've been working them so long.

And before I could work my way out of my rut, you had gone. And I was still stuck.

I wonder sometimes why Fate throws the right people our way at the wrongest possible time. I know that in some way I handled it wrong. I also know that if you had been interested, things wouldn't have turned out this way. I guess part of it is also because you don't give yourself enough credit that I could be interested in "keeping" you - as a friend or otherwise - because of you, and not because I don't have anyone else.

Then again, maybe a transient passer-by in my life is all you were intended to be. Maybe to let me know that my naive belief that there is someone out there with most of the qualities I'm asking for actually exists. Maybe you were there simply because Fate knew that you were what I needed at the time - and that was all you were meant to be.

Still I wish things could have turned out differently - because I do miss you.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Big Girls Don't Cry

photo by No More Love

I hate crying.

I hate it because it makes my nose all swollen, my eyes all puffy (and sting the whole day), and my nose stuff up. I hate it because once I get started I can't stop, I just have to ride it out - and that takes a good, long while, believe me. I hate it because I am incapable of crying all dainty and ladylike as they do in the movies, but instead let loose in a cacophony of snuffles, hiccups, and undignified sobs when I get going.

I admit it, when it comes to the crying thing, I've always been a little weird. Ironically, I find that it's much easier to let myself cry over a sappy movie or a sad plot twist in a book than things that happen in real life - which is also why I often resort to using them when I feel too pent up about my life but am unable to do some cathartic bawling. Even as a little girl, I've been a big practitioner of keeping a stiff upper lip. My combination of innate stubbornness and refusing to show any sign of weakness often serve me quite well.

Which is probably a sign of emotional constipation on my part.

Anger is a little bit harder to control for me than sadness or emotional wallowing, and most of my major public tear-fests have been induced by frustration and rage. Being unfairly railed at by someone more senior than me at work or undermining my work are examples of things that can really get me going. It gets really embarrassing and awkward, but crying is at least more career-saving for me than giving into the urge to plant my knee in a superior's groin. It can get so hard to hold in the impulse to physical violence sometimes that it has to come out somewhere - the tearducts seem like a fair enough place to start.

As far as crying goes, I can be obviously such a man.
Unfortunately, I am a product of my conditioning and, until now, I often need an external stimulus not related to my life to get me going (with the exception of being triggered by the really major events - like death or long separations). If I'm really, really depressed and want a good cry without having to make excuses, I have, on occasion resorted to bottle-induced bonding - a time-old macho Pinoy guy ritual reserved for seriously broken hearts (which I may or may not have as my own reason for wanting to wallow at the time).

Does this mark me as abnormal? Is it just me, or has anyone else bought into the idea that big girls aren't really allowed to cry?

Written for The Blog Rounds 20, hosted by Ness. :)

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Channeling Sporty Spice

my battered 3 year old rubber shoes - whose soles have been recently glued back on as a stop-gap measure. I need new ones!

My relationship with fitness has always been erratic to say the least.

Maybe it was my debilitating self-consciousness and fear that I'd end up making my team lose the game (which happened enough times in my budding career as a PE dunce for my fear to have a basis), maybe it was just my general aversion to anything that would make me sweat, or maybe it was my resigned acceptance that I have always been and ever will be "nerd" with mental calisthenics as my forte. But having learned from my elementary physical education classes that I had the athletic ability of a plant, I've never been particularly enthusiastic about any sport I actually had to participate in.

Of course as I grew up, my teenage vanity and my parents' constant prodding made it imperative I get off my butt and get fit. Exercise became a means to an end - losing weight and looking great. Always existing in my life alongside the latest fad diet, exercising would get me results but I would feel absolutely miserable and tired all the time. I mean, who would be happy subsisting on only an apple for breakfast, an egg for lunch, and nothing for dinner for every day activities, not to mention adding an hour-long aerobic session daily on top of it?

Needless to say I wasn't able to sustain that particular diet and weight loss program for very long.

The funny thing about me is that when I am into the whole fitness thing, I am really into it. Seriously into it. I've been through a biking phase, walking phase, a tae-bo phase, a regular gym rat phase, even a very short yoga and swimming phase. (All nice, individual activities - I never got over the trauma of being the team goat.) But once I stopped, inertia would often hit - and it often took serious shake-ups to motivate me to get going again.

Apparently moving to another country falls under the category of a major shake-up - because for the nth time in my life, I am once more channeling Sporty Spice.

Getting back into the active swing of things began as something of a necessity. My lack of wheels initially forced me to walk anywhere and everywhere, and I rediscovered the benefits of having an endorphin high.

After a few weeks of maximizing my on-foot exploration, I realized I had enough time on my hands to make a serious bid for fitness once more - and signed up with a local health club. I do time on the elliptical, the treadmill, and the rowing machine, life weights, and attend the yoga classes. The endorphin high is amazing, and great antidote to on-the-job-stress and on-my-own loneliness. To mix it up, I've kept my fitness walking for weekends when I feel like wandering - and there are just so many beautiful spots here in Perth for walking or jogging that's just a train ride away.

I'm really buying into the sporty, outdoor lifestyle of Perth. I can't imagine feeling this enthusiastic about walking or running in Manila, that's for sure - I happen to have an aversion to inhaling gasoline fumes. I'm even thinking of getting my first grown up bike - never mind if I haven't gotten on one since college. And I am even flirting around with the possibility of training for a 10K run in April, something that I've never ever done before.

Every time I get started on a fitness craze, I always swear that I'm going to stick to it this time around. After all, being a doctor, you would think I'd know enough about the benefits of exercise to keep me motivated, specially given all my personal risk factors and the fact that I am not getting any younger. But I know from falling off the wagon so many times over the years just how hard it is to keep a fitness program up - often because life gets in the way and it just becomes less of a priority. But I am hoping that this is the time when the fitness crazy part of me really sticks for good.

I'm just glad that my schedule here allows me this great form of "me time" - and that Perth is just so conducive to a healthy, active lifestyle. I may have the athletic ability of a plant, but what I seriously lack in ability I make up for in enthusiasm. With the weather warming up, I am looking forward to more outdoor fitness activities in the spring sunshine.

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