Sep 29, 2011

Aging Schmaging

Thank you, NY Times

A doctor I go to for the most basic of facials tells me I am looking old.  He says age is quickly catching up on me and with a quick botox fix on my forehead, fillers under my eyes and a collagen shot on my upper lip,  I should look better.  I will try not to begrudge him.  He has a trained eye to spot imperfections and to point them out.  It is his job after all.  He also tells me that beauty is now down to a calculated science.  That the distance between your eyes to your nose and something about the size of one's mouth (it is easy to lose your comprehension skills after being told you look ancient) can now determine the  perfect face. Calculated beauty,  I guess. I personally think it's a whole crock of  crap but I don't have the heart to tell him.  Ooh wait... if he reads this,  I just did.  Whooops. 

He doesn't need to tell me I am growing old.  I already know it.  Every couple of weeks,  grey hairs pop in to say hello  reminding me that they need to be hidden again in a camouflage of brown.  Those granny panties I used to laugh about are slowly looking like the perfect fallback plan to tuck in that stubborn flab that no workout on the treadmill or barre class can seem to fix. It is hard not to notice when the make-up artist I've been going to for over a decade seems to be dabbing way more concealer under my eyes than I remember him ever using.   While I used to do everything possible to tame my full head of wavy hair, I just brought home a pack of rollers.  My hair is suddenly limp and lacks bounce.  A sure sign it is growing old along with me too.  

I want to tell  the doctor that,  as crazy as it sounds,  the sight of those wrinkles is a sign of personal victory.  That, though it's such a pain in the ass they've arrived when I'm not even forty, I secretly rejoice at the sight of grey hair.  When you secretly suspect at 26 you aren't going to live past 30,  seeing a face slowly losing signs of youth isn't a bad thing altogether. They say each wrinkle is a battle scar for every trial we've faced. The lines on our face are stripes earned for the sacrifices we've made. Amen to that and that.   Yes, the sudden sprouting of cellulite on your thighs is annoying and so are those new fine lines at the corner of my eyes.  But at the end of the day  - some of which involves being stuck  under  the sun with absolutely no sunblock because the boys decided on an impromptu football game at the park  - reverse aging and a flawless complexion just isn't top of my list.  I can go on and on about beauty being more than skin deep but we've all heard that before.  Not to say either that I'm not getting suckered to keep applying that eye contour balm at night or that  Bobbi Brown's peach corrector isn't  a godsend.  

Age is catching up on me.  I'm leaving youth behind.  But I can totally live with that.  

With that, I'm off in a few hours.  Balm, sunblock, moisturizer, night cream.  Check.  

Sep 28, 2011

Birthday Times Four

I'm not too crazy about birthday parties.  At least not the ones where there are hundreds of people with thousands of balloons plus the  host and the caterer, the show, the arts and crafts table, the tattoo dude, the face painter,  the balloon twister, the bouncy house, the mobile beauty salon,  the snack stalls, the works.  If you live in Manila, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't, you must come and check one out  at least once in your lifetime.  Some are just out of this world crazy.  Always a lot of fun.  Just not my thing. 

Mak and Tato both beg every year for the whole circusy-gig. We compromised and agreed we'd celebrate their 5th and their 7th.  Still not the far-out levels were used to witnessing but a party nonetheless. (I also told them they were free to party-out on their 50th, 75th, 80th and 100th but that they'd have to plan those themselves)  Next week the boys turn six.  

Add to that the whole crazy business with Mak andTato sharing the same birth date as their daddy and granddaddy.  Two years ago, we celebrated GrandDad Doc's 80th. That was a big one.  MacDaddy turned forty last year so we went all out with that too.  Then,  of course, the boys got their party. It was their 5th after all.  I never got around to post the photos  so will do that now as proof for Mak and Tato that their corny mom (their word, not mine) who nags them constantly knows how to throw a party too. 

Thanks for the photos, Mon 

This year will be quiet.  Were off for a week with the four celebrants and the whole kaboodle to explore new places down south.  We also plan to make an important stop and visit GrandDadDoc's 92-year old brother. We took the boys to see him when they were months old.  It would be great for them to see him again.   I had been going back and forth over and over with this, not sure if pulling the kids out of school for an entire week was the smartest thing to do.  They aren't exactly in play school anymore.  But I also know that there is  much to learn outside four walls.  MacDaddy says  he wished  he had spent more time with his grandfather. He always makes a good point.  Deal sealed then.  We are going.

As for birthdays,  I hope the boys learn soon enough  that  precious moments and family adventures  trump the parties and everything that goes with it  any given day.  Hopefully in the next three hundred days. Next year is their 7th.  

Sep 26, 2011

Silver Lining

It was easier than I had imagined.  We were all curled up in my bed all set for lights out because thats what we do on weekends.  MacDaddy was still in his dinner  and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to come clean.

Remember I told you I'm going to Davao next week?  And that I'm going because I will  meet hundreds and hundreds of sick people that might need help? I'm doing that because a long time ago Mama was sick just like them.  I had breast cancer also.  I was scared and didn't know anything about it.  And now that I'm okay I want those girls to know that they can get better also.

If you've been reading this blog for some time or actually spent more than five minutes with the boys you would know how different they are.  Night and day.  Day and night. And I mean it all in a good way.  Mak will sit through the scariest, most frightening scenes in a movie.  He will ask you every gory detail.  I once left him with MacDaddy and he sat through the entire Trainspotting flick.  I hear he didn't flinch once. Yes, even that scene with the vomit and the child demon on the ceiling. I know, I know.  Censor censor.  Whole other post for that one.  Tato, on the other hand,  needs to know the ending before a movie even begins before he agrees to sit through it.  He looks away and even runs away completely when a movie is sad or scary or springs a surprise.

If I made a bet  and guessed how each boy would  react,  I would have won big.    I had played the possible scenario in my head over and over again weeks before this and I was spot on.  Ha! I do know my boys.  

Mak:  You were sick before? What else?  What did you do?
Me: I did everything I could  to get better.  I listened to my doctor and followed him.  I even took this medicine that was so strong like a superhero fighting the bad guys that  my hair fell out.
Mak:  Wow! You looked like Papa with no hair?  Wow!

Tato: Forget about it.  Don't talk about Best Caster again.
Me: Its Breast Cancer.  Did someone tell you it was scary?  
Tato:  No I just know it.  Don't say it ever again. 
Me:  Okay deal.  But if you ever want to ask me anything about it, just ask okay? 

Bedtime prayers.  Bedtime hugs and kisses. End of story. End of discussion.  Lights out.

Days later,  all set and ready  to head to the airport to attend Silver Linings, our foundation's cancer conference and homecoming for over a thousand women diagnosed all over the country, Tato stood beside me and the bag I was packing and spoke in a whisper looking around making sure his brother wasn't around to hear it.  His pride gets the better of him lots of times. 

Tato:  Mama, what if you catch cancer from the girls where you're going?
Me: Cancer isn't like a cold or a cough, Tato.  And I'm not sick anymore.  I'm well.  

He gave me the biggest  kiss on the cheek and  we each went our way.  

My own little silver lining. 

Sep 8, 2011

Teaching Compassion and Empathy

When I grow up I want to be fearless like Joan Halifax.

She is a Zen Roshi, anthropologist, ecologist, writer, teacher, LSD researcher, scholar of the US Library of Congress and the only woman and Buddhist on the Advisory Council of the Tony Blair Foundation. Joan Halifax is described in her TED profile as "a driving force of socially engaged Buddhism." Her activism involves helping the sick and dying. In this TED Talk she describes the true meaning of compassion and empathy.

Her talk was enlightening and emotional in many ways. But aside from her clear description of what compassion truly is, here are my highlights, paraphrased:

Compassion is an inherent human quality. We are all born compassionate, but it has to be aroused.

Compassion has three enemies—Pity, Moral Outrage and Fear. To which my mind clicked… 1) Pity—Many people think compassion IS pity. This is what some dogmatic institutions lead us to believe. 2) Moral Outrage—This is why dogma is dangerous. 3) Fear—Which is why the most enlightened people are the least worried about outcome, mistakes, failure and loss. Which is why I aspire to be fearless like Joan Halifax.

Those who cultivate compassion feel suffering more, but they return to baseline a lot sooner. This is resilience. True compassion does not drain us, it enlivens us. It compels us to act.

Neuroscientists have seen how cultivating compassion is not just good for others and humanity in general. Compassion is good for our health. It enhances neural integration—hooking up all parts of the brain and making it work better. It also enhances the immune system. 

And now the highlight of my highlights is this… she asks, "If compassion is so good for us why don't we train our children in compassion?"

The next big query is, and there's already a long thread about it on TED: Exactly how do we train our children in compassion? I have my own thoughts, but it’s a great question to throw out there. Think about it. I'd love to hear your ideas.

Sep 5, 2011

TEDx Diliman

Something special for TEDtalks fans in Manila… There will be a TEDx event held at the Malcolm Hall of UP Diliman this October 8. The theme is How Art and Culture Can Change Our World. The line-up of speakers is very promising.

TED Talks with local flavor!

For more details and a chance to score an invite, visit TEDx Diliman's official website. Because TED rules allow only 100 participants, you'll have to make a case for wanting to go. In 200 words or less they want to know what you are passionate about in your life, your work and your community. 

The deadline for applications may have been August 31, but you can still try. TEDxDiliman just announced on Twitter: 1st set of invites out. So hard to choose & we had to pass on many deserving applicants. If slots open, some may still get in.

Thank you Universe and TEDx Diliman for dropping that invite in my inbox this morning! Confirmed. No, confeeermed

Sep 3, 2011

Getting Ahead of Google

In a Breast Cancer conference I attended in Orlando early this year, I joined a session called: The ABC's of Talking To Your Child about Breast Cancer.  The rest of the conference had us all generally upbeat with yoga classes, chit chat sessions,  and good news  on the breakthroughs and  trends in cancer. This session had us passing around the Kleenex box quite a bit.  It is true.  Tough as we are and  as mighty as we think we can be when we brave these storms, we all turn weak in the knees and marshmallowy-soft when it comes to our children. 

Our speaker was a top-notch surgeon who, after years of dealing with her own patients who in turn deal with their own children, discovered she had  cancer.  With roles reversed all of a sudden she was forced to talk to her own children about  her cancer diagnosis. She has since gone on to write several children's books for children that help them understand and cope with the issues that come part and parcel with being a child of a survivor. At the end of the lecture, when it was time for the usual Q&A I asked something I had not thought about initially and then suddenly been thinking about for sometime.

"I am a twelve-year breast cancer survivor.  I have five-year old twins.  Apart from  my real job I work with other breast cancer survivors  so my boys are exposed to this, to other survivors  and know all about what we do as a foundation.  Should I tell them at all I have had cancer myself and if  I should when is the right time to do it?"

"To your five year olds? NOW.  Now is the time.  How would you present it to them? You would say, you know what these women have gone through because you have gone through it yourself. What are you telling your children? Something bad has happened to you but you made something good out of it.  Now. "

Now.  To think that was seven months ago and I never got around to it. Blame it on real life getting in the way again or conveniently  just forgetting  or me just being  plain old chicken. So  why  - apart from the fact that the -BER months remind me that breast cancer awareness month is just around the corner  and that I need to make that appointment for my annual mammmogram - is this suddenly back into my stream of consciousness? 

Because the boys have discovered the wonderful world of GOOGLE. 

Tato: Mama, I am only in Google. It's the list with my finishing time when we joined the race. I am not in Google Images. I want to be in Google Images.

It seems they have also discovered the dangerously spectacular world of Vanity Googling.  

Ahh.. Vanity Googling.  Verb:  Searching for one's own name on a search engine to check out  what the world wide web has on you.  Synonym: egosurfing, egogoogling

And since it seems to be a trend in our own home, I decided to egosurf myself.  No humiliating high school photos, thank god.  Equally thankful Facebook and Twitter weren't around then to record the bad breakups and the equally bad hair dos.  I did discover quite a number  of articles and interviews I have done over the years about my own cancer journey.  

Tick tock.  I better get to it before Google beats me to the punch. And yet,  just like vowing you will never ever  sit through another excruciating episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians  the next time you chance upon it, some things are easier said than done.