Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Right One

Although you come across thousands of patients in your training and practice, you tend to associate illnesses with individuals. You never forgot this unusual disease or that rare medication side effect. But some of the patients you meet stick in memory purely for their person.

It was a Friday night, one of those dreadful 30-hour shifts. Although nobody likes them, you owe a lot of your experience (and most of the gray hairs in your head) to those exhausting nights. And, I have to walk and tell a woman she is dying of cancer.

She must be miserable, I am thinking, as I nervously ask how she is feeling. “I have lived a good life, and had a wonderful family”, she starts. “But if I pass, I want you to let me go”. “I want to meet my husband, he died last year”, she adds. Wow...I am lost for words.

But she continues. “Are you married, young man?” not yet, I answer. She smirks, “You are a good-looking fellow, and you will be meeting a lot of girls, but they are not the same”. An invaluable lesson in life from a dying old lady, I think to myself, my mind registering every word. She continues “there is someone out there, you never met them, and they don’t know of you. But you are meant to be together. One day you will meet, and you will look her in the eye, and know for sure she is the right one”. Now I am the one who is scared of the future and she is comforting me…I certainly did not see this coming. “I promise you, one day!”

My brain is shattered. Why is life so unfair? Why such a nice woman has to go through much suffering? What is life and what do I want from it? What do I want my tombstone to say? And how can I tell who is the right one? How do I find her? Will I be at peace with myself when I reach this old age, or if I endure the same fate?

Few years pass, and I am still wondering. How do I know who is the right one?

Well, it is my turn to reassure you. The day shall come, and you will recognize her…You will know. Though never seen her before, among a thousand people you can tell her apart. No language on earth is sophisticated enough to describe your ecstasy, but there is no mistake about it. Can you ignore the large billboards in Times Square with a thousand lights? It is similar: all the light bulbs inside your head will flash on all at once. A new life starts within you. The universe outside starts looking strikingly more beautiful. How comes you never paused to admire the azure blue sky every morning? Why now all birds come to your window to wake you up with magnificent melodies? And is it your imagination, or the shiny stars truly seem to come closer, confessing in tiny secret signals that someone is thinking of you? The geek in you will believe a fuse was missing and now a circuit in your brain, never wired before, is now constantly on; while the hippie in you will just want to jump on a couch. It's as if you were Pygmalion, and God sent you a woman with a heart of gold instead of your statue of ivory. People around think you are on drugs, yet wonder why you are much nicer to them. There is a smile that no one ever saw on your face before. You feel elated, higher than the moon, taller than the mountains. You could see Forever, ever so clearly, even if the details of lays ahead are still foggy. You realize for once, as if you were born yesterday, that the purpose of your existence is to strive with all your might for the happiness of another person, and you just found the right one!

Bless her soul...I now know what she meant.

(* Story is true, details are modified)

Have you ever been in love
You could touch the moonlight
When your hearts shooting stars
You're holding heaven in your arms
Have you ever been so in love

The time I spent
Waiting for something that was heaven-sent
When you find it don't let go,
I know

Have you ever said a prayer
And found that it was answered
All my hope has been restored
And I ain't looking anymore
Have you ever been so in love, have you...

Some place that you ain't leavin
Somewhere you're gonna stay
When you finally found the meanin
Have you ever felt this way?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

I had a dream!

4 April 2008

It is year 1984, although I am not quite sure. I shouldn't be grown up and all if it was so. We are living in a gigantic, gloomy, soviet-like apartment complex. It is as though the whole country is boxed into it. Most of it is comprised of large, windowless cubicles; with greasy-gray walls, cracked floor and battered rusty-iron tables. Posters are abundant; and an overwhelming smell of filth, tobacco, and bad coffee fills the place, altogether creating a suffocating atmosphere of misery. Groups of weary, fearful men are roaming the place…

Suddenly, the scene changes: I am inside a small, neon-lit detention cubicle faced by one of these men. He is a middle-aged, grim man with an untrimmed, short grayish beard and a tough complexion. For a second it looked as if his face combines all the hatred in our world...something about him was sickening and formidable. Simply, you can identify him as the big boss.
Although I don't remember the details of questioning, but he suddenly comes up with the brilliant idea that we are no longer allowed to live in the complex. Not to be evicted, instead, to be...evaporated. He orders his men to “get us”. They receive the order with almost ecstatic eagerness. Off they go, like wolves after their prey. A dreadful feeling of approaching doom filled me instantly, an instinct sensation of imminent threat. An unexplained catastrophe was about to fall upon us.

I don't know how or why, but I had the power to fly! The next thing I know, my father and I are standing in front of an elevator, a clean, hotel-like one. He takes out $10,000 of his pocket, all of what he has left, he split it into halves. He hands one half to me: you're going to need this, he says. We go in to opposite directions.

I am flying all around the complex, although I feel something is holding me down. We are being followed. The Big Boss's lads are after us. We had agreed to meet outside. We should be able to escape out of the back door of an old mansion: a large wooden cottage that is strangely built into one of the complex's upper levels. It is a long way to go. After many twists and hides, I reach the upper level. It is a classy, shiny place that you would not hope to find an old wooden cottage behind any of its doors. A group of Asian men are meeting with some local officials, and there's only one possibility, I think, of what they might be doing: conspiring. I manage to reach the front door of the mansion, where I see the boys pulling one poor old man, apparently trying to escape, out of it. He is handcuffed. They close the entrance. It is the end, I think. But then I somehow remember that the old mansion has a back door, although it is a long way to reach it. I had hoped to hide behind the stairwell, but I find it guarded, my heart sinks as I think for a second that they saw me...

I don't remember how, but somehow I end up inside the mansion, hurrying towards the back exit, and the lads are after me. I reach a glassy room, with small, dirty glass windows that are locked by iron bars. One guy is immediately behind me. I find a tool to cut the bars, but it is dull; and I fear it is going to take a long time and they'll get me. But time I have not, I make two crossed-cuts in one of the smaller glass windows and I break it open with my bare fist. I escape out of the small window while the guy is just about to cut across my waist with a huge iron pliers trying to stop me. I notice how beautiful the place outside the complex is: a large extended green pasture with a river coming across. I fly over the place, filled with great joy, heading towards an unknown destination. I finally feel relieved, and ... I wake up.

At the time, I had no clue on what this confused dream meant. I believe most of our dreams come from a deep, suppressed desire in our subconscious. Only few of them, if any, might be meant to happen in the future, but there's no way to prove or disprove that except in retrospect.

But for some reason, I have a very strong feeling that I will, one day, somehow, break out of that filthy complex and go see the world

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here we go again

When I started writing this blog, I had no idea on what it's going to be. It was mainly a description of exciting events and thrilling thoughts I was encountering in England. In retrospect, it seems to me as a description of a rather sweet kind of cultural shock. While this pleasant shock made me start blogging, it was the appalling reverse cultural shock I had after coming back to Syria that made me quite Blogmania altogether. Now, I am "back", and experiencing a "double" cultural difference: the helluva difference between Syria and the USA (of course), and the one based on the stupid assumption that I would find America to be "almost" like England. So here we go again.

When I say cultural shock people might think I'm talking about stuff like driver's seat being on the right, the electricity being 110 volts instead of 220, having to squat down to use the toilet, or the dime being actually smaller in size than the five cents coin. But that sort of stuff doesn't really matter and would only cause a problem to an obsessive-compulsive. Surprisingly, what I'm talking about are stuff like People smiling back at you, cars stopping for you to cross, how everything here will start almost on time instead of being always half an hour late, streets having names and directions for Heaven's sake, and the fact that everything here seems to strangely work out instead to screwing up due to some mighty destiny. These kind of stuff make the concept of cultural shock seem absurd, but the difference still exist anyway. However, I can assure you that, under right weather conditions, it wouldn't take any sane person more than two hours to get used to the place. Cultural shock my ass.

And here I am, back and kicking! But would I need to describe my mood during the last non-blogging months for you? Well, you can continue reading if interested, or you can quit and wait for Lessons from London, my series on cultural shock that is still worth writing even though I have left England more than a year ago.

Depression is not the right word for it. I would say 'disgust', but I really think language is limited to come up with a descriptive word that combines the positive (yes, there is!) and negative aspects of living in a messed-up place like Damascus. Anyway, I can say that those who haven't been there would have no idea on what I'm talking about, while those who live there would know what I'm talking about anyway and need no description.
I would only say that I am easily affected by surrounding environment, and I can go all the way up or down simply for being with a genius or with an asshole. I don't blame anybody other than myself for that, and I can say that this last year has told me more about myself that the past 6 years together.

The most valuable gift anyone can give you is a reflective mirror to see your true face. To believe what you're seeing (the warts and all, to quote Cromwell) requires a huge amount of bravery. For that, I feel extremely happy I had the chance to know who really I am, to know my limitations, to expose my weakness, and to denude my vulnerability. Living in two extremely different environments would only enrich that experience.
I can't claim that I have finished with myself, but I daresay I know what I already have and what I still have to acquire. For all of that, I can now start to trust myself and learn to feel the confidence. After spending all that time preparing for just a single USMLE exam, I can trust my knowledge and say "I don't know" with a full mouth without embarrassment or shame. I can walk around in my white coat with the confidence of a learner instead of the arrogance of an ignorant. Most importantly, I can feel content, which is the key of true happiness.

So now, after being in 4 different countries in just four days, I am finally settled. And finally I can tell my dear fellow bloggers: here we go again.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lesson No.1: Inspired

Expressing one's self; Effect of environment

It has been a while. I don't even know how I'm supposed to feel. What's the purpose? I ask myself. Why I am blogging? I can easily find one thousand reasons for not doing so.

It’s astonishing future can be different from how we (like to) imagine it. In my England days, I had absolutely no difficulty in expressing my ideas, at least in writing. I only was too busy to write it all. Besides, I was living the experience, learning the lessons. I thought to myself: well, I’ll have all the time in the world to write about my lessons when I get back. Apparently, it didn’t work that way.

So what’s the problem? Does it really take more than a pen and a piece of paper in front of you to write what’s in your mind? I can’t really say how it is going that way…I can only see it and feel sorry for myself. Sorry for not being able to write when I want to, at the time I choose, about the topic I pick. Never before I have felt the effect of environment to be that big on me. I knew I was always inspired by it, but hated to discover I was almost possessed. I bitterly found out that I can’t be who I am. I felt like a mirror, just reflecting beams. My belief in human will was fearfully deteriorating. The place where we live, people around us, the “atmosphere” as a whole, all owns a big share of the decisions we make…if you believe we can say: decide. We are just too weak to change everything around us, especially if everything seems like it needs to be changed.

I thought to myself: Had it not been for my short stay “there”, would I ever think about blogging? I doubt it. After all, the act of expressing one's ideas and thoughts has been quite uncommon during all those years. It may even be considered a dodgy business. Your feeling should be kept to yourself. When you’re anxious and frustrated you don’t nag, you say nothing. You put up a false smile so that even your closest friends think you’re happy. No one should be able to read your mind, interpret your ideas, or know how you’re feeling. Sometimes you don’t know how you’re feeling yourself. That’s the way it is. Nobody says what’s in mind, and nobody can change that. A very unhealthy environment for writing. So much for a blog. How can I challenge all the habits, problems and mistakes I grew up with? Why I was never late “there” and I’m never on time “here”? At least I want to know: how much of myself do I own?

“I looked at the sky through the white light and the water mist, and my chest was so constricted from all these arguments that I was amazed how birds could keep themselves in the air. Then I realized, perhaps they have no little voices in their head, telling them they can’t do things. Imagine every time a bird wanted to fly, it stopped breathing long enough to think why it shouldn’t fly. You would have a lot lame-winged contorted creatures hopping around on the beach”

When I read that I suddenly looked out of the window. It looked quite the same. Gleams of light were penetrating the heavy clouds of a late winter day. Birds were flying like I haven’t seen before. For the very first time, I felt myself a part of all that. I had wings, and I wanted to fly, too.

Is there any way out? Well, hardly, but yes. I shall get back to my dashboard, no matter how many reasons I can find for not doing so. After all, there are more reasons for things not to happen, but life still happens here and elsewhere. Embryos grow up to be born, even if it seems impossible when we think about it. Seeds that are buried under soil find some way out. Sun shines among the clouds. Universe is full of many and different forms of life that finally make it, against all odds.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Flashbacks from England; Ascribo's Dissociation

It was a narrow path that runs between the Pitts River Museum and New Marston Neighborhood of Oxford, England. I can still see the blue sign indicating that this is a cyclist/foot path. I observe people smiling back at me as they stroll along the leafy trail. Horses in farms on the right, the gleams of sunset colouring the horizon with golden red, a boy with a fishing rod on the left. Soft breeze is blowing; water-flow under the small bridge is making a soft, pleasant bubbling sound, and creating, with occasional songs of birds, a romantic scene.

Not after a long time, I find myself sitting in a train, staring at a panoramic view of Oxford, and thinking about my past two months, and my next station. Against me a young boy is playing cards with his father, his Mom is reading The Times.

Shortly, the scene changes. I'm staying in a Victorian guesthouse, then I'm standing confused (again!) in a large supermarket. Rain washes it away, to find myself sitting in a garden by the lake. Then the lake becomes a ship canal, and I'm standing at the top of a high tower. It's just like a mixed-up filmstrip...

Finally I’m sitting in a waiting hall at an Airport terminal. A Virgin Atlantic Jumbo is preparing to take off, and I’m solving Sudoku in today's copy of The Independent. After a while, as I'm taking a final glance at the beautiful green piece of land that surrounds Manchester Airport, I think I should have stayed more in this pleasant land. Eventually I fall asleep.

Next morning, I wake up on a different combination of sounds that comprises the most irritating melody I've heard in my life. If a picture equals a hundred words, then a video is worth a thousand pictures. You'd better take a look at what I saw from my room's window:

What a cruel, abrupt transition! In less than 24 hours my deadly calm room that looks upon Lyme valley turns into what you've just watched. From now on, this would be the morning annoying alarm. No more green horizons. I think of that Airlines agent asking: "Are you sure you want to fly on Thursday?” Then I dismiss all those memories to where they belong: the PAST, in an attempt to get back to the awful reality.

But now, after I somehow got over the so-called: reverse cultural shock, I'm starting to have flashbacks of those memories. I never expected that I'll see it all again so vividly, and to the smallest detail. But here it is, I start to feel my personality dissociating.

Finally Ascribo tells me he wants to get back to England. He insists he never wanted to leave it in the first place. Now he wants to stay in that "PAST", writing about what he's seen and learnt. I have no choice, for now, he is the one who thinks and dictates; I only write what he says.
We'll call it: "Lessons from London". I think it's interesting that although he's spent just few days there, but he got most of what he's learnt in England from that old city, the heart of civilized world, More or Less.