on being a storyteller

I’m a sucker for cellists. I wonder if I would have chosen to learn the cello instead of the violin if I had the option. Maybe I would have. But I think having that distance to breathe in the music made by another musician allows me to appreciate the artistic creation better; sometimes we see our lover in a different light when they are in their element, instead of in our consuming embrace.

Last spring I went to a concert featuring several soloists, one of them a cellist. I actually went because I knew the violinist that was part of a duet that was also featured in the concert. I remember randomly sitting next to a cluster of hipsters and feeling moderately out of place. I had been in orchestras in high school and undergrad, so I felt I should be on stage in the mass of black and white—the men donning tuxedos and looking like constipated penguins—instead of in the audience.

The auditorium darkened and the cellist entered, took his seat, tuned his cello. Then a pause. A silent prologue: the palpable awareness of being emotionally naked in front of one’s audience.  Inhale. The first few notes flowed from his hands, asking the audience for permission: the permission to share oneself. Trepidation. Bashful eagerness. May I share this with you? This part of me?

Then he took hold of my soul and took flight. Achingly, breathlessly. He and the cello and the music born from the two.

And I don’t remember breathing until the end.

I’m listening to Jacqueline du Pré while whittling away at my homework. Yes, we have school in summer. Yes, I agree, it’s no fun being a graduate student. As my brain meanders between skin pathogens and Dvorak, it makes me sad listening to the beautiful stories that this woman is telling through her fingers. Appendages that eventually failed and robbed her of her voice through her instrument. Jacqueline du Pré died in 1987 as complications from multiple sclerosis, after permanently retiring from performance in 1973.

When I heard of Gabriel García Márquez’s passing a few weeks ago there was a tinge of sorrow that the world is a bit poorer in losing a masterful storyteller. And I’m thankful that the stories of Jacqueline du Pré and Márquez remain, through decibels or text, and in a way, their stories continue, each time someone opens to the first lines of One Hundred Years of Solitude or inhale the first notes of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor seeping from du Pré’s hands and her Davydov Stradivarius. And I would like to believe that, in one way or another, we can still choose to be storytellers. At a recent lecture hosted by our program, a Duke PT alumna spoke of being a thoughtful practitioner, an active listener of our patients’ stories, and a mindful sharer of our own stories.

I think this is why, despite the gigantic imbalance of science-to-humanities ratio that is the existence of a physical therapist student, I still need music: I still need to be a storyteller. When I allow music to speak through me, I am reminded of the disclosed fibers of myself, all of the granules that I keep carefully wrapped up. Music seeks them out, and awakens that unspeakable joy and longing, because sometimes words are trite, and our nuclei of humanity need a wordless voice. Vocalise. 




life and plight, by playwright


the inexplicable ordinary

This is a story of no exceptionality. It is ancient and it is born anew every day, every time I draw a breath. This is a story of the ordinary, the sometimes tediously mundane. It is a story of a boy who left and came back as a man, and a girl who, while the boy was gone, grew up a woman.

How do we explain fate? Coincidence? How do two dust particles become tangential for an ephemeral moment, an instantaneous eternity?

He always remained an enigma, a dichotomy, like the way light is both a continual wave and an explosion of particles. His humanity and hers touched briefly in the blossom of a single summer’s day. Does the brevity detract from the sincerity in sharing your souls?

And she still doesn’t know if she was in love with him, or her idea of him, or perhaps, because he was the kind of person she wanted to be.

When the Eurus wind took him to another land she resigned in her heart that their life stories will have no more common plots. Even the most potent disappointment is diluted by the passing of time, and she grew up and he grew distance in her mind, as a line on the yellowed pages of her memories grows fainter with each dance of the seasons.

Then he came back.

He came back and she realized that in her starry-eyed dawn of womanhood, she loved him as her hero, a set of ideals. But now that he has returned she realized that her hero is just a man, a man who, while away, has metamorphosed from his not-so-distant boyhood, a man with his dreams and insecurities.

He came back with the Zephyr wind but she was leaving. She was leaving for a land that beckoned her and a life that she has been growing toward, fighting for. Has she become who she wanted to be? Then what becomes of him? What becomes of them?

He held out his heart and touched hers. Ember inhaled and fluttered into flame. For two seasons their humanities breathed in the same spirit and together recited the names of the constellations. We are a divine comedy, she thought, and comedies parody our tragedies. We learn to say the right lines at the right times and it’s a bit dehumanizing. Whose applause am I vying for?

He did not realize how his heart was the offering for hers, and she was no longer the girl he remembered. There is a strength that he has hitherto only seen from a distance, and a quiet confidence replaced the childish timidity. And he discovered, with a note of amusement, that her resilience has bore the fruit of stubbornness. The woman that grew from the girl he remembered is no longer a child.

But he knew that she was leaving and he, to his surprise, found his heart growing into hers. Two trees entwining into one. He has never given his heart to anyone. Not completely. And now he watches himself entering a rebirth, terrifying and beautiful.

She was leaving and he did not know how exactly do two humanities remain tangent for an eternal instant, an inexplicable now.

This is an ancient tale, the ones that hunters tell around a fire while the stars breathe the night away. No one really speaks the ending out loud, at least, not the wise storytellers, because the end is the beginning.

Photo credit: stockvault.net

Photo credit: stockvault.net

there and back again

Disclaimer: the following contents contain information processed through suboptimal brain function. The author is not responsible for irrational aphorisms, improper grammar, and general nonsensicalness.

I am writing this from the southern quadrants of the Canadian-United States border. One of the slew of reasons I have not updated anything since my last post in Canada is that school crashed in full-force 60 hours after I parked my car in Durham, North Carolina at the end of a 13-hr driving day, and since then my brain cells have contemplated spontaneous apoptosis a dozen times over.

A bit of catching up: since posting about my previous Visa interview, I was able to successfully interview for my student Visa the second time around, on August 19th. Technically speaking, I was not any more or less eligible for the Visa the second time around, since my student status is still in good standing, and I have no questionable intent that might jeopardize my successful term at Duke.

This illustrates my trip since leaving Milwaukee on August 7th:

Plus or minus 5% in mileage for when my GPS decided to be coy.

After I posted about my situation while in Canada in mid-August, people in the States came together and made contacts for me to stay with the local Pastor’s family. So I was an unwilling, yet not homeless, international bum for about two weeks’ time. I really can’t tell you how much difference that made, to be with a family who took me in without a moment’s hesitation and treated me like I belonged there.

And now that I am recalling on the ordeal—can I still call it an ordeal even though I matured and grew from it, more than I could have ever imagined?—I can’t quite capture everything anymore. These moments, the marrow of life, are so real when they were taking place that, once they have passed and “normal life” inundates me, I find it hard to describe them with all of their realness intact.

I haven’t really written much about spirituality and my personal beliefs up to this point, because like relationships, those things are sacred to me and I, perhaps out of selfishness, want to keep them private. But sometimes, a trip to Canada to confront one of my deepest fears, and to be rendered helpless, then delivered, makes me think that perhaps, my faith isn’t just mine, but it’s a story. And we are storytellers, and we are dreamers of dreams.

I wrote to a friend about my recent journey, there and back again, and I think sometimes, life is about reshaping everything you know. Rarely does a traveler returns from the journey unchanged:

“[Speaking of spiritual fire, and the transformative power of trials.] For me, the struggle had been trying to feel worthy by what I can do and accomplish. I associated my worth with my immigration, where I only feel worthy if I can prove my worth by being granted to stay in the United States and build my career that I can call my own, and not realizing (not fully, at least) that I have inherent worth with God, regardless of what immigration rules dictate, or what country decides I can contribute to their workforce. So my personal test by fire for the past decade, and now the fiercest this time around, was God taking a firm hold of my entire heart and being, of what I cared about the most, and taking it out of my hand, and asking me do you trust Me? do you trust me THIS MUCH? And I realize this even now, just a few days after the “ordeal” (since it usually takes me a while to recognize His work), that He knew what I needed, what had to happen for me to grow and mature spiritually, was to cut me to the quick and lay me open so all of my internal demons stood before God and I had to surrender everything I thought I could handle.” 

And I’ve been there and back again and it’s already a struggle to remember that journey, of the people I have met and the roads taken and the battles fought. And I am a bit frightened that I would forget what it was like and what it all meant, because I want to remember. I want to remember my story and tell it someday. And I am frustrated because there’s been hardly a moment to think because a mere two weeks into graduate school I am forcibly suffusing my brain with biomechanics and anatomy and I am about being ready to

I may or may not have already thrown stuff.

So I am sitting down at last and writing; it’s a start, at least, and I hope after a few reams of pseudo-sensical rambling I might begin to tell you a story worth hearing. Because being there and back again, and being here now, I don’t want to let the busyness of life dilute the essence of it.

The beginning.

P. S.: Adding to my no small list of to-do’s, I went online to check my phone account and waiting for me was my monstrous roaming bill.
P. S. S.: For school we’re using MacBooks and being a PC’er I am super discombobulated with all of the Ctrls and Alts and Apple signs being in different places. I feel like a cat after the house has been suddenly remodeled and I keep running into wrong corners.