Manila — I was born in the sign that is ruled by the moon, which, according to birth sign readings, makes me a sensitive and emotional being. I have read that people who love staring at the moon, most often playfully called lunatics (the word comes from the word Luna, the Roman moon goddess) are induced into lunacy and other behavior changes as full moon also changes.
But this is getting too far already. In the last day of January when the super blue blood moon was putting on a spectacular show around the universe, I was going nuts, call it lunatic, because I was not outside looking up at the sky but was holed up in a hospital for an eye surgery the exact same hours that the moon showed off its beauty. I won't be alive anymore when another lunar event like this will happen. Imagine how dreadful that felt.
So as I was wheeled into the operating room, I thought about mortality. More so when the surgical team started administering the anesthesia and asked if I was feeling dizzy already. As I slipped into unconsciousness, I thought I heard one of them say "Just sleep. Everything will be okay." I told myself I wanted something like that said to me as I would lie dying, hopefully in peaceful circumstances.
The surgery was a combination of two procedures called vitrectomy and scleral buckling to fix retinal detachment. I had undergone a similar surgery but just one of the two procedures in the other eye five years ago. Then as I woke up nauseous and disoriented, I asked what time it was. I counted at least three hours of surgery.
I was in so much pain from a swollen eye and stinging eye drops that I forgot about the super blue blood moon. But what I remembered was a dream, or was it an out-of-body experience — of me looking down at five or six people surrounding someone who was covered and asleep. There have been many stories like this from people in near-death experiences or in puzzling states that are difficult to explain but are true stories, and mine is one of them.
The moment was just seconds-long so it was fleeting. But it was clear enough to show me that for perhaps a tick of the clock, I was separated from my body.
People who were given chances to live always say they appreciate being alive. So I went back to being alive, and as I write this, I take a break once in a while from my laptop screen due to the discomfort of using just one functioning eye. The other one is temporarily on eye patch, so I'm on forced break from writing.
I don't have a new normal while being reminded of being alive but I take it to mean that life goes on but it will be by what and how I make it. I will take it from Cassius from the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar, who said, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars; but in ourselves, that we are underlings." Author John Green made it his book title that was adapted into a movie.
Life can be as ugly as it can be, and we can blame ourselves for it. We cannot avoid pain. There are circumstances that we cannot change. Our failings can be our own faults. That is inevitable.
But despite the fault in our stars, we live. There is some prettiness in it too. Look at brainiac physicist Stephen Hawking, who managed to live on a wheelchair and helped us understand the world we live in, was married, had children, taught young people and wrote books.
He also taught us how to live. I think he once said, "Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Never give up work, for it gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. And if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don't throw it away.”
He must have passed on sleeping and telling himself everything will be okay.
Diana G. Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila.