Monday, June 22, 2015

From 97 to 0 in a Blink of an Eye

It truly was a blessing in disguise.  But I didn’t know it at the time.

How could I???

At the time, I thought it was the end of the world. And, in a way, it was.  A blissful end to a horrible world… no... No!  A horrible end to a blissful world, is how it really felt.

The dawn of the doomsday was just like any other ordinary day.  

No advance warnings.  No creepy premonitions. No special announcements.

In fact, it was supposed to be a fun day.

Few errands.

A violin recital. I know - we all have our own definition of 'fun'.

A bite on the go.

And to top it off, a field trip to Trader Joe’s!  

How can anything bad happen on a day when there is a field trip to Trader Joe’s???

Be back home in time for my Duolingo Day 97.  I was already planning a 100-day-streak party.  Just three short days until the coveted milestone. Practically already in my pocket.

Then, one little hiccup led to a delay, and then another hiccup, which led to another delay.

No biggie, I thought.  I can handle this.

By the time we returned home, got kids in bed and I turned the computer on, it was already all over.

Instead of 97 what greeted me on the Duolingo home-screen was… a big. Fat. Z.E.R.O.

Do you have any idea how it feels to go from 97 to 0 in a blink of an eye???

How it feels to tumble head-first from almost the top into a mucky nothingness of not even one but zero???

I could sense a giant void being formed inside the pit of my stomach, shaped exactly like that zero mocking me from the screen; then, a torrent rushing into the void at a lightening speed. Denial, rage, negotiation, arguing, the madness of injustice and unfairness of it all. More denial, more rage, more negotiation. 

Mom, are you O.K? A pair of big brown-saucer eyes peers at me from behind the bedroom door just cracked open.

Nooooo… I think I just died!

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Making of a Pharisee

I can’t say I noticed when the great unraveling begun.  Honestly, I didn’t even realize that anything was unraveling at all! If you’d asked me, I would still vehemently claim that the sole reason why I was on Duolingo was because I loved learning languages and I wanted to talk to Margaret.

Then, one day  I almost forgot to clock in.  It was only by the grace of God that I remembered just in time before the day expired.  I was determined never to allow such a slip-up to happen again.

That’s when I set up my Duolingo alarm.

At 20:15 each night, it would go off as if the house was on fire.Sometimes I was in the middle of doing something, and even though I appreciated the reminder, I didn’t really appreciate it.

Mom, have you done your Duolingo today?

Hon, it’s your Duolingo alarm!

Now I had support of my entire family. They cheered me on, genuinely impressed  that I was still sticking with it.  They checked my streak and the number of lingots accumulated in my account.  They even picked up some Spanish themselves without even trying! I can't say I liked that very much.

I still continued to clock in, but somehow most days it felt more like a chore.

Then I found a loophole.

I discovered that if I just re-did my old lessons, it  would count towards my daily quota. Now, I could still keep my streak  if not alive at least on life support, with hardly any engagement of the mind, not to mention the heart.  

Nobody knew about it, so I thought it must be O.K.

My earnest desire to  learn to speak to Margaret in her own heart language faded into the background.

Totally oblivious to what was really happening, I found myself deep in the swampy regions of  Duolingo religion.

My joy was gone, but through gritted teeth I was determined to keep adding to the mindless streak.

Without knowing, I’ve become a Duolingo Pharisee. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Duolingo or Die

When I started Duolingo 97 days ago, it wasn’t because of how many days  I could rack up in one streak.

Nor was it because of how many lingots I could earn.

Nor was it because of all the cool stuff I could buy in the Lingot store.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing as streaks or lingots or Lingot store?!!?!

And I certainly didn’t do it because I wanted to amass an adoring crowd cheering me on as I conjugate verbs in Spanish.

All I had was this long-standing dream of learning new languages and the fascinating worlds the skill opens up.

More practically, I wanted to talk with Margaret, the crossing guard in her language.

Plus, I like making people laugh, which is almost a given when I start practicing my butchered linguistic skills on a willing victim.  

Sadly, life sometimes gets in the way of making dreams come true. So was my sob story until, earlier this year, I stumbled upon this amazing free app.  Suddenly, my  life-long dream came literally within reach of my fingers!  

I joyfully and a bit sheepishly started clocking in my bare-bone minimum requirement day after day. I wish I could have been more ambitious, but I learned that setting my bar low spares me of many a disappointment in life.

High or low, I faithfully jumped  through the tiny hoops and was instantly rewarded with huge sense of accomplishment for reaching my pea-size goals.  

It was pure delight all around. I felt I was learning so much and my brain and my heart were so happy they were doing the dream-come-true cartwheels.  It was so bad that even my family noticed that something was up.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Kindness and Cruelty

Even in my banged upstate, even through the fog of trauma, while firmly planted in mid-air between sheer terror and desperate search for a glimmer of hope, one thing stands out.

There are nurses, and, then there are nurses.

Nurses come in all shapes and sizes. 

There are melted marshmallow nurses.  There are drill sergeant nurses. Crossing-the-t-s-and-dotting-the-i-s nurses. Even the Nazi nurses, one of which I met in the maternity ward after I gave birth to our first child. I could tell she didn't trust me to keep our fresh-out-of-the-oven son alive which was probably very smart. I wouldn't trust myself either.

In many hospitals, it is the nurses, not the doctors wearing the hospital pants, if you know what I mean.  They know so much and they do so much -  the power over life and death, lunch and dinner, surgical supplies and clean sheets resides with them – that they render the doctors practically useless.

The nurses are demi-gods of sort.

The doctors… well, they are more like presidents. Enough said.

Then, this happened. 

I was sitting in an exam room, drilling the nurse who was checking my vitals with the torrent of questions.

The woman was tight-lipped and deferred all my questions to the doctor.

I thought she didn’t understand, so I rephrased my spiel which was met with another,

You can discuss that with your physician.

I was annoyed to no end.

I knew and she knew that she knew the answers to my questions. 

Her silence was embodiment of pure evil meant to torment me in my vulnerable state. 

I could feel my temperature rising even as she was taking it. I would have stuck my tongue out at her if it hadn't already been stuck out.  

But she remained calm, kind and unintimidated by my temper-tantrum, stone-faced and immovable like Mt Rushmore. 

The Doctor will be here shortly. He will answer all your questions. 

And with those words, she smiled, walked out and closed the door behind her.