Monday, March 12, 2012

Tonsillitis, my old friend

I'm not feeling well today. This bad feeling started over the weekend, when it felt like I was starting to get tonsillitis, an affliction I hadn't enjoyed since childhood.

Before I was ten or so, my tonsils would be inflamed on a regular basis. It got so bad that I would know it was summer when my tonsils were besieged by the familiar fiery sharp, scraping swelling that often had me crying myself to sleep.

Later, as an adult, I would find out during a company physical exam that my tonsils were "abnormally large." This solved two lifelong mysteries: why I had gotten tonsillitis a lot and why I had often had fish-bone getting stuck in my throat.

The discovery also made me think of how long it had been since my tonsils were last inflamed. For some reason, as I entered my teens, tonsillitis became a stranger.

Getting this painful visit now throws me back to the days I had to battle the affliction on a regular basis. My mother was my tonsillitis-fighting champion. I would whine and cry, with the latter making the pain worse, and she would push all manner of cures that didn't involve antibiotics.

She had me eat raw papaya dipped in salt and vinegar, saying the vinegar would kill the bacteria. I didn't like the taste of raw papaya, but the acidic vinegar cleaning my tonsils made sense to me, so I dipped with gusto and ate the papaya, until I learned to ditch the fruit and sip the vinegar instead.

My mother wiped me with water and alcohol when I got feverish. And she had me gargling warm salt water that I all too often ended up swallowing, making me fearful that the bacteria was moving deeper into my body, never to leave -- until I learned in school that stomach juices, like vinegar, are acidic.

What do the tonsils do anyway? This is the explanation I remember: the tonsils block the bacteria; they act like a gate to stop intruders from coming in. If they are inflamed, it means they blocked really harmful bacteria, locking them in battle to prevent a bigger war. That explanation painted me a gruesome but pretty picture, and thinking that way, believing that, made me enjoy the illness more than I would have.

I also remember reading as a child how the human body had some parts left over from evolution, parts that we can now live without. The appendix, for example, and that extra bone we have from what used to be our tails. And yes, the tonsils.

When I found out that my tonsils were "abnormally large," I toyed with the idea of getting a tonsillectomy. I even went as far as checking out tonsillectomy videos on YouTube to prepare myself psychologically. But tonsillitis hadn't bothered me for so long, so I decided I could do without the procedure.

Unfortunately for me, who panics at the sight of a needle, if tonsillitis again becomes a frequent visitor, I might have to reconsider.

For now, however, I'm enjoying the body memories -- how delightful that pain can make me remember so many things -- and making some warm saltwater.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The art of eating ice candy

Last week, after maybe twenty years or so, I tried eating ice candy. It wasn't even the homemade sort; I'd bought it after lunch from a Fruitas kiosk at the Eastwood Mall. The stifling summer heat had suddenly come, and I wanted something cold and refreshing.

It took a few bites before I could tear open the plastic with my teeth, much to the amusement of my friend Eric. Bite it at the sides, he told me at one point, the plastic is weaker there. I found myself thinking, now would be a great time to have a pair of scissors.

This is one of the signs I've turned into an adult: something as simple as tearing open a childhood delight has turned into an elaborate process. I normally pride myself in considering, as much as a right-brained person can, the next few steps forward, but how much joy am I losing now that I can't even eat ice candy without worrying about getting my hands sticky?

Eric said that when he was young his mother pointed out that the plastic containing the ice candy was dirty. I remember my mother saying the same thing, but I also remember not caring. The ice kills the germs, I reasoned out to myself, or, if I get sick, my body can take it. Surely nobody dies of eating ice candy?

What did I know as a child that didn't reach the conclusion of invincibility? Fueled by reason that life could only be good to me, I climbed the village water tank to wait all night for the sunrise. I sprinkled alchohol on the floor and traced it with fire because I enjoyed the beauty of the flames. I drank water from a banana tree trunk because my brothers and I had seen it on TV. I drank ice water and ate ice candy and stuffed the plastic, clean or dirty, in my mouth!

Now the adult in me cringes at the thought of all the germs I've survived and is trying to remember if I'd packed the wet wipes. The child that I was would be sad at how... serious I've become.

Oh, but last week, I slowly relearned the art of eating ice candy! I was reminded that it was not about germs and sticky fingers, that it was about the summer sweet that is my sure reward when I break through the plastic.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Making the rainbow connection

So, yesterday, I felt like my heart was completely open. It was open house for all feelings, and to cut the long story short: Cheetos for dinner. It could be hormones, but I was emotional all day, tearing up at the slightest resonation.

There was a time when I was young that I felt like I held all the world's pain. It took quite a while to tap into all the world's beauty and joy, but I eventually got there. Then I sealed my heart from sadness. Not really a good idea for a writer, in my opinion.

But, was I emotional yesterday! I cried when I watched the Choose Philippines video I shared because I felt for my beautiful country's struggles to come into its own magnificence. I cried while reading an article about Eleanor Rigby's supposed true identity and how the first sad Beatles song got it right. I cried when I heard about a first time climber accidentally falling to her death on Mt. Batulao. I cried for the 60s, the decade I never had, when I saw on Facebook that The Monkees' Davy Jones had died.

Perhaps this time I need my heart to learn how to make the rainbow connection? Feeling sadness was a struggle when I was young because life hadn't taught me yet that there is always a choice of a happy ending; that it all depends on how the main character tells the story; that, in fact, the main character and the writer are one and the same.

But I know differently now. Heart, make that rainbow connection somehow.