Lucky to have found a gem of a rose.
(Courtesy of gaiaonline.com)
Anyone still remember "ASL"?
Age. Sex. Location.
In those heady days when the internet meant a longish wait for a dial tone and some static noise, ASL was an instant way to introduce oneself as well as eliminate "leads" at an early stage. Most often used in chatrooms of a social/dating nature, it gave a little background into who you were talking to online, and afforded some a chance to be...playful. (A friend recalled that for Location, someone replied "soon, on top of you".)
In the years that followed, my view of online life (social and otherwise) changed from a variation of a dating service, to a one stop information hub, to a place to reacquaint with old friends and classmates (Facebook has made its mark in this arena), to a springboard for effecting meaningful social change, and now - unexpectedly - cultivating deep connections and even friendships with someone you haven't met in person.
If you spend time online, it is inevitable that your interests will show. Instead of the ASL of years past (although I believe it is still used these days), the filter we now use to decide on whether to continue engaging with someone online is to see shared common interests. All those things people click on as "Like", or what groups and sites they comment most passionately on, are an indication (not foolproof, but a reasonably good one) of how a meeting of minds is probable and not just possible.
That is how I met Doc Wee.
She was a comrade, early on, when groups calling for the support of the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill were being put up. Her witty barbs as well as acerbic comebacks ensured that she would get your attention. I later found out that she was a (medical) doctor by profession, which explained how she was able to cite facts to state her case, but always delivered in an engaging manner. (One thing Doc Wee isn't is boring.)
Months later, I would find out that she also ran marathons. I confessed to her that while I never did find the sport itself appealing (ankle problem), I have admired runners for their endurance and dedication: you can't run a 42K without putting in serious time (logging in actual time running for months and possibly years on end) and earning your stripes with each foot strike on the pavement.
She is also a mountaineer. I thought, she goes great distances vertically and horizontally, is there any challenge she isn't up for? Which showcases her fortitude, really. While I have always enjoyed a mountain top view from an airplane seat, she assures me that there is nothing quite like making the trek oneself, finishing an oxygen-wrenching climb, that rewards you with a view that will remain etched in memory forever.
She is dedicated to her family, that much was clear. She never failed to include them in conversations, when the situation called for it, and even when they didn't. I can tell that she was exceedingly proud of her children, and from the little snippets they have shown when Doc Wee was battling with a homophobe who posted hateful, irrational messages on her (Facebook) Wall, she has every reason to be: her kids responded to the homophobe in clear, concise language that put his homophobia in place, showing him who were the adults in this situation. (And proof positive that it's an online jungle out there.) The fact that none of her children were over 20 made the exchange even more astounding, that they had so much insight and compassion at their ages, which can only be a testament to how they were brought up.
Doc Wee also paints, and as someone who was never gifted in the ways of the brush, I am in awe of someone who can say "I'm using both sides!" of their cranial activity. Learning of this fact gave me a sense of jealousy, I admit, because painting seems to be such a tactile, visceral and refreshingly raw way of conveying the inside for the outside world.
And in the many, many conversations we've had and her commentaries online, her passion for helping other women gain control and self confidence in their own lives was revealed to be more than just (online) lip service: she spends a considerable amount of time going to disadvantaged communities, offering advice and help to women who may feel powerlessness at their current situation.
Just recently, she came back from a trip where she also spent time with kids with special needs. She brought her kids along so that they could experience and know what it means to her to do this, and as she said "they give me more than what I can give them". And she did this without fanfare, just sharing pictures of the great time she had with these children. It is in stark contast to someone in the recent impeachment trial, who went online to one of the top blogs to profess her piety as well as her "work with the poor", parading and enumerating how many churches she goes to and how many prayer circles she has with the wealthy and powerful.
Doc Wee has shown me that sometimes, life in its unexpected form can yield marvelous, wondrous surprises. I never, never expected to be able to meet someone online who would enrich my life in a spectacular way. Our conversations run the gamut of why we, uhm, like Barack Obama, to the poetry of Walt Whitman, and dissecting the inanity of noontime variety show hosts.
We have a common inspiration of dreaming for a better country, and when I feel hopelessness and despair with what is happening politically, she is one of the few people who is able to frame things in perspective and to continue keeping the flame burning.
Doc Wee is a woman who thinks and feel with so much voraciousness for eating into life itself; who laughs and also despairs, who thinks the world of her family and friends. She makes this world and life better by striving to better herself and the lives of those around her. She minces no words but they all come from a core filled with compassion and understanding what comprises the human in the word humanity.
On your very, very special day, let me greet you a very happy birthday. One life isn't enough for all your adventures, but you make the rest of us feel that we aren't living our own lives to the fullest of potentials, with an appetite that will devour life in all of its joys and, yes, its pain. Thank you for the gift of knowing you.
Happy birthday, my friend.