2007 Edition Vol. 1 Issue 1

Internet publication for CIM 1972 members and interested colleagues and friends.

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is something helpless that wants our love.”– – Rainer Maria Rilke, German poet (1875-1926)

Choices - Part 1

    For almost all of the days of February this year, the weather had been raw and miserable even in Virginia, let alone in Oswego, New York; Wisconsin and the Midwest; temperature dropping to a single digit during the night and early morning, and only up to the lower 20s during the day. It’s been quite a long time ago that I can remember since we had this kind of weather; torrential sheets of cold piercing needles crashing down in some days, turning into icicles the weight of some of which was enough to break off big tree branches, toppling down power lines. Car accidents seemed more common than animal road kill which in our area seems a normal occurrence, especially early in the morning. The icy road even with your all-wheel Subaru can be very tricky to drive through. No matter how careful you are, you slip and slide completely out of control and it gives you a jolt that accelerates your heart and produces heartburn even if you’re lucky enough not to hit anything.

    I felt sorry for those involved in the accidents I passed by on my way to work in the morning. Sometimes a chill would go up my spine when I think that perhaps if I went to work a little early, I could have been one of those involved in the accident. If you’re like me who believe that there are outside forces beyond our control you’d feel lucky and grateful when in times of vulnerability, these forces haven’t gone against you and your loved ones.

     Needless to say, the streets have been empty and hollow in our neighborhood that the only moving creatures you see are the birds and the squirrels, taunting you to come out and play. It’s not hard to imagine people huddling around their fireplace, eating chips, peanuts, or popcorn and washing them down with cold beers while watching sports on TV, and perhaps making love to warm themselves up with their own body heat.

    But this past weekend, as the weather started to warm up to the upper 50s and lower 60s, many came out to the streets, alive and excited, like restless ground hogs that no longer see the shadow. It’s refreshing to see some neighbors working in their yard, some were walking their dog for the first time in a while, greeting each other with a smile, few were jogging, another few were bicycling, while a significant number were just walking and strolling, enjoying the warm weather, wishing the Arctic storm won’t come back to wreak havoc on every one just to prove that Nature is unpredictable.

    It was a sight to behold, hard to resist joining in and get your aging muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments moving before they conspire against you and before they are being immobilized by arthritis and osteoporosis - before the aches in your body come in confluence with the aches in your heart. Regular physical exercise is the only free prescription that has shown to be effective in at least reducing the incidence of many of the crippling diseases from cancer to cardiovascular diseases. Physical workout is often an effective antidote to emotional wipeout. It relieves your stress, relaxes you, and often results in a sense of euphoria.

    Now all of you couch potatoes! - Better get a move on. Go out and let yourself be warmed by the sun and caressed by the breeze. Just cross the initial reluctance and you’re on your way to capture the sound and feel of the wind as you walk, jog or cycle faster down the road. Don’t let your blood stagnate. Let it circulate.

    While sitting on a bench at the bank of the lake after jogging this past Sunday afternoon, admiring the beauty, stillness and calmness of the lake as though the water is relaxing as much as it can before spring comes when boats and jet skis would start brutalizing its tranquility without mercy well into the end of summer, and watching a heron cautiously stalking its fish like an assassin having the patience of a Samurai, a little girl of about 5 or 6 years old came with her big Labrador puppy and sat on the bench that has a picnic table next to me. Her parents stayed in their car. The little girl then lovingly helped the puppy get into the table like it’s a Barbie doll. As soon as she unwrap her sandwich, the puppy snatched it and immediately munched on it. I was about to say something but then stopped in fascination when the little girl simply said: “Wow! Speed. That was fast. I did not know you were that hungry. I’m sorry.” And then she went on hugged the puppy and let the puppy eat all of her sandwich. As I jogged my way back home I kept thinking what exactly that little girl had shown to me.

    When I came back to work on Monday, I was not in a really good mood, because my Internet was acting up again and I was not able to send some documents to my office’s e-mail so I could work on them during breaks. And, as the song goes: “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” I guess we all have what they call the “blues” on Mondays. I can’t deny that I am sometimes one of those working men portrayed by the cartoon that shows the different facial expression of a man at work, depending on the days of the week. On Monday, he looks grumpy. On Tuesday, he looks tired. On Wednesday, he looks tired and grumpy. On Thursday, he looks tired but hopeful. And on Friday, he looks happy. TGIF – Thank God It’s Friday.

     Immediately after I punched in, I was paged by both the second and third floors in our hospital. I was told that one of my patients on the second floor was not doing well and I need to see the patient at once, and for the other patient on the third floor, the family is waiting to talk to me right away and is upset. The nurses of both floors sounded like we are having a crisis. I felt like cussing and cursing as I went to my office to get my gown. But remembering the little girl in the lake as the restless and agitated nurses were telling me about the problems, I found myself saying: “Wow, what a way to start the day.”

    Then I thought about the symbol for the word crisis in the Chinese language which denotes duality – “a moment of danger and of opportunity.” It means that every crisis could be an enemy or a threat to your well-being, or it could be an ally, an experience that can help you feel challenged so you can make changes and grow. In Greek, crisis means “a moment of judgment.” Thus when you face crisis, you make a choice whether to focus on the danger or on the opportunities on the crisis. Somehow all of a sudden I felt eager to face the challenge and get it over with, looking forward to the rest of the week with the sense of anticipation that after that day it was going to get better and better.

    And so I asked the nurses; “Where do you want me to go first?” I don’t know about your experiences with nurses, but there are nurses who are calm, cool and relaxed no matter what the situation while there are also those who are nervous-wrecked like the ones that needed my attention despite their years of experience in the job. So I went on to reassure them that if there is anything that can go wrong, it will, no matter what we do. If the family gets upset of something we did or didn’t do, it’s what they choose to be, but that doesn’t mean we have done something wrong. Yet one thing for sure is that we also have the choice on how to respond to them.

    Each and every one of us owns our emotions and thus it’s our own responsibility to choose which emotion to use in response to a stimulus. When we make others like patient’s family members responsible for creating our emotions like making us frustrated and unhappy, we also make them responsible for curing our emotions like making us happy. But in that case we unwittingly relinquish our power to them and put ourselves in a lose-lose situation. Thus we should take the responsibility of making a better choice as to what emotion we are going to use in response to theirs.

    The fact is; the anxiety, worry, fear, frustration, anger, or all the stresses that we feel are not so much the result of the situation we face, but rather the result of what we choose to do about it. I prefer the choice of seeing the situation as a challenge and rise above it, rather than letting it ruin my day. The day turned out to be a lot better than most of the Mondays I’ve had. The “Wow!” did work.

    In a state hospital medical facility where I work, there are members of some of the patients’ family that are very rude and nasty. They practically dictate you what to do as though they know more than you do. They behave like it’s their right to demand the services they want rendered as though they are the ones paying for the patient’s hospital bills or they are paying more taxes than we do. Yet many of them could not even support themselves, let alone afford funeral expenses when the patient dies. In some of them I can understand that it maybe their way of showing their assertiveness or of trying to let you know that they have more than enough education and intelligence to understand that such and such treatment or procedure is needed. But in some, it’s just pure irresponsible distrust and hostility.

    So through the years I’ve come to understand them a lot better that their irresponsible behavior no longer fazes me. I happen to believe that God has not only populated the world with people like you and me but also with jerks and jack-asses, scumbags and screwballs as examples of the kinds of persons you don’t want to become, and you just be grateful because without them, you’d really have no way of knowing exactly how good a person you really are.

    Anyway, if there is one significant thing I’ve learned in growing older, it is that life is always going to keep us off balance with its unexpected and unpredictable twists and turns of events and problems. That’s a given, for sure, and there is nothing we can do to prevent or avoid them. But what’s not preordained is our response because we all have a choice on how to respond to any situation. We can always step back from each situation, reflect on other ways of looking at it, and then respond in ways that help us maintain our inner peace. We cannot keep looking at the same situation the same way and be able to think and come up with a different approach. If we want different result, we’ve got to look at a situation on a different way and apply a different approach. If we expect a better outcome, we’ve got to make a better choice.

    Thus in a bad situation, we can choose to be frustrated, cursing: “Damn! Shit!” or sighing: “Oh, no.” Or we can choose to be fascinated, saying: “Wow! What a way to go!” or “Wow! What a day!”

    If you are wondering why, instead of resuming Brain Waves, another newsletter with a different name is started, it's because the name Wavelength is more appropriate for our CIM Class 1972. All too often when it comes to our personal stories, jokes, banters, etc. except perhaps for a few who prefer to stay out of range, most of us of the Class 1972 are within the same wavelength. Every time we get together, wherever we are, the place explodes with laughter because we can relate to each other. We know what we are talking and joking about. We understand and respect each other's sensitivity that we often take extra care to avoid impulsive mistakes that could fray and fracture the bond of friendship and fellowship.

    I hate to sound like I've been disappointed, but the past two years before I stopped Brain Waves, I've been hearing words at the few Filipino gatherings I went to that some CIM Alumni had said that I have personalized and politicized the CIM Alumni newsletter, Brain Waves, implying or insinuating that it's not right. I've heard further that many of the alumni don't have the time to read it, anyway, and they are mainly interested in the news about CIM and their fellow alumni. It is as if it was the main objective of Brain Waves that I was supposed to do and that it was my responsibility to collect news, and report. This gossip did not really bother me at all and thus I went on with Brain Waves for another two years to fulfill my goal of making it for five years.

    Such misguided and nutty perception about Brain Waves probably comes from the fact that I started the newsletter when I was an officer of the association. If what I’d heard is true, then these fellow alumni must have wrongly thought that the association's board has authorized and sanctioned Brain Waves and thus I’ve been using it for my own personal and political use. I would have been more impressed and grateful if they have simply told me their concern.

    The new name Wavelength therefore is to make sure it will not be mistaken as being authorized or sanctioned by our alumni association. Let it be known that anyone of us can write about any topic we want for Wavelength, and by God, there will be a hell to pay this time if we’ll be misconstrued of having an ulterior motive. As far as I’m concerned, my only motive, if you can call it motive, is to try to make a difference, no more, no less. I am not interested in getting any credit, let alone competing for becoming known in our alumni association. My ego is adequate enough to take both compliments and criticisms without flinching; to consider mistake as an opportunity to learn, accept it and apologize if I know I hurt someone; and if challenged, to look no further than my own heart and mind to find the answer. But if there is one thing I want, it is to have a happy thought in my mind before life flickers and fades on me that at least I tried and did my best to help make the world a better place to live than when it was handed to me.

    But the main reason why I'm doing it again- starting another newsletter - is because I could not get off my mind what at least few of our classmates of the Class 1972 and some good friends and colleagues had said that Brain Waves was something they look forward to; it is something different and entertaining with thoughts and wisdom that often "hit the nail on the head" and most of all, Brain Waves had given them a sense of connection. I keep thinking that if what I do becomes a tool that gives a sense of connection, provides thoughts to ponder, principles and philosophies to mull over, and helps someone change and grow and perhaps also broaden one’s imagination so one may develop the ability to see the world in a bright and promising way, then it's worth the time and effort even in my busy life. To be of help - to be useful - makes me feel good about myself. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in the movie "As Good As It Gets," it makes me want to do more to become a better person.

    Paying heed to the suggestion of a couple of our classmates to have a newsletter only for us of the Class 1972,  I am keeping the e-mail circulation of Wavelength among the Class 1972, few good friends and colleagues whom I believe have the time and interest in reading it. However, if you want your friends or other colleagues to be included in the circulation, tell them to send me a message about it and I'll include them. If you have received my e-mail message about Wavelength and you're not from the Class 1972, it's because I honestly believe that you are interested and have the time for it. If my belief is wrong, please let me know and I apologize.

    Now why don't you share your stories, experiences and anything you believe could be insightful or could make us laugh, smile, sneeze, snore, etc., with every one and together we'll keep Wavelength going indefinitely. You'll never know how your stories could make a difference and change someone's life forever unless you share them with others. So if you have something written, send it to me and I'd be happy to do some editing if you want me too. There will be no pressure, no deadline, no specific topics, no promises, and no commitments. Current issue will be ready when it is ready regardless of whether it's a week, a month, or 3-4 months later after the previous issue. The objectives are simple - to try to inspire and uplift each other and hope that Wavelength would provide a sense of connection and belonging and would also make our hearts happy and our nerves hopeful. Beauty fades, joints stiffen, heart aches, and mind slows, but as long as we have that sense of connection and belonging, loneliness cannot overtake us down the road to old age.

    I am aware that the biggest barrier especially if we are just starting on something we haven't tried yet is fear - fear of what others might think or say about us, fear of criticism, fear that what we write might not be good enough to interest others, etc. Seneca said: "If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living." Unless we take action and have a personal confrontation with what we fear, the things we fear will only grow and multiply in our mind like gremlins. Life would become a lot less exciting and a lot less interesting. Sunny days would become nothing more than a prelude to the next rainstorm.

    Believe me. We are all riddled with fear, all kinds of fear - fear of ill-health, fear of failure and embarrassment, the loss of job and loved ones, old age and of course the ultimate fear - death. Fear has always been there since the beginning of time. And if you notice, fear is a great motivator. It often motivates us to do something we would not do in normal circumstances. It gives us the choice between fight and flight.

    But if we allow fear to shrink our gonads from the size of a plum to the size of a pea and thus constantly choose flight instead of fight, then we won't be able to change and grow to become the kind of person we would have liked to. It's not the lack of courage but how we cope with fear, how we live with fear rather than live in fear that makes us the manner of person we have become. Suffice it to say, if you constantly allow a shadow that crosses your mind to scare the living shit out of you, then you are destined to live in darkness.

    Tune in to the Wavelength’s next issue for more choices.

    Cle Estrera signing off.


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