Tag Archives: Family

You Should Blog.

This is a blog about ‘how not to hit a golf ball… and other things I’m learning.’

People talk about the learning curve that is internship year – the steep exponential curve of the first six months. I remember exhaustion, uncertainties, frustrations and feeling so, so inept. Stupid things I did. The madness of my first weekend shift. Most of all I remember the security of having colleagues I could trust – nurses, clerical and allied health staff, and more experienced doctors – who helped me find my feet and not screw things up too badly.

I was lucky enough to have the first five months in my home hospital. Starting a stressful new career was made so much easier by not just the familiarity of my surroundings, but by having The Girl there by my side every step of the way. Making me coffee every morning, and dinner every night. Amazing, wonderful love and support. None of ‘all this’ could or would have happened without her.

Which brings me to something I’m still learning, which I can’t really wrap up into a neat set of words. It’s something about family. I’m just writing and deleting words from this paragraph, none of which really make sense, so I’ll leave it there and hope that something coherent unfolds at some point in the future of this post or this blog as a whole.

My grandmother died suddenly in February this year, in my father’s arms, a few weeks short of her 90th birthday. I spent some time with her in December, and I’m so glad I did. She had a wicked sense of humour. I wish I’d written more about her.

I was late to the funeral. I expect I will be late to my own.

That’s enough for now.

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Decisions, Decisions…

I’m overselling this somewhat, as it’s not really a huge decision. Though it could have been. It’s Intern Application time!

In overview for the uninitiated, becoming a registered and fully qualified medical doctor goes a little something like this: Graduate – Intern Year – Resident Year – Registrar (Specialty Training) – X Years Later Qualify as Consultant. Where X is a variable according to chosen specialty training program structure, individual preferences, and clearing of assessment hurdles.

It’s a little more complex than I paint it, but that’s more or less it.

Medical graduates across Australia for the 2013 internship year will exceed the available intern positions. This is exceptionally bad news for our overseas students, who may miss out on a position both here and in their home country. Most states are guaranteeing Australian graduates of the state’s medical schools priority in position allocation, so there is a strong incentive for me to stay in my home state.

The Girl is keen to stay put, in our house, in our home of 3.5 years, in the town we have both grown to love. She’s looking to start a business in the next few months, and we both have great friends here. Our geriatric menagerie is also a factor in any decision to move. We are all happy here.

And so it is that the local hospital network will be my first choice for internship, and being a regional network, the chances are good that I’ll get my first choice. I have no desire whatsoever to go back to the city. The downside is that I’ll be able to do a maximum of only two from five rotations in the hospital here in town, so I’ll spend most of the year commuting. We’re going to practice for that next semester, when I’ll be doing my pre-internship (PRINT) and elective terms at the mothership hospital.

Decision made, all I have to do now is finish filling in the 3,000 pages of application forms… oh yeah and… pass the exams.

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Apparently Crazy Cat Lady

Our two cats are brothers, different colours but with virtually identical markings. They have lived indoors (and within the limits of the backyard, under supervision) for their fourteen years of life. This has given us all plenty of time to bond as a tribe.

McCat is most closely bonded to me, especially since his brother has become irritable with hyperthyroidism. We have a few things in common. We both like birds. We both like my armchair and its lambskin throw. We both like raw salmon and roast lamb (not together). For a while there, unbeknownst to me, we shared a bedside glass of water.

One of us is a little OCD.

At bedtime, McCat enforces the following routine:

1. Human is to brush teeth.
2. Human is to fill cat’s bedside water glass with fresh water.
3. Human is to top up biscuit bowl.
4. Human is to pat Brother Cat.
5. Human is to seek out Superior Cat lounging place; this step to be conducted under cover of darkness, simulating safari conditions.
6. Human is to advise Superior Cat of imminent bed entry.
7. Human is to stop faffing and get into bed.
8. Superior Cat shall drink water; four swipes of paw on beside table to accompany drink, indicating primal origins.
9. Superior Cat shall sit staring at Human until such time as Human switches off light.
10. Superior Cat shall patrol perimeter, ensuring all doors and windows secure.
11. Human is to assume supine position; left arm to be bent like tea-pot handle.
12. Superior Cat shall grace Human with presence between left arm and left flank; Human is to remain motionless until 4am.

The penalty for deviation from any of the above routine may range from gentle rebuke to forced sleep deprivation, with such penalties administered vocally, by strategic bladder-trampling, or by judicious use of paws to ensure Human eyes are open and airways clear.

Every so often I escape desert the McCat for education-related purposes, such as placements away, or conferences. The Girl does her best to meet his exacting standards of bedtime care, however as she has the Yellow Dog of Happiness to care for, as well as Brother Cat, McCat tends to develop abandonment issues and his vocal and paw-to-face admonishments eventually become unbearable. Or so I am told.

And so it is that I find myself on the phone to the cat. I am fluent in McEse, and though it pains me that my communications are delivered via speaker phone for all to enjoy, it does seem to settle him down.

I can only guess at what “Brrt, brrt, micmicmic meow” means, but I think it’s something like “Hello, honeycat, I’ll be home soon.”

Mock me and I’ll scratch your eyes out.

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Conversation of the Week

Her: … So have you killed anybody yet?
Me: No… What makes you think I’m in a position to kill anybody?
Her: Oh I don’t know, maybe you prescribed the wrong drugs or something.
Me: No, I’m not actually a doctor yet, I can’t prescribe anything… But hopefully when I’m qualified, I’ll manage to avoid killing anyone.
Her: Well we were watching Doc Martin the other night and there was a locum and he was giving everyone the wrong medications, I don’t think his training was very good. That made me think of you.

Gee, thanks.

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One Hand Clapping

McCat is asleep and purring on my arm, and my one`handed typing can’t keep up with my brain.

It’s Hiroshima Day. Please take a moment to reflect on world peace. Make it as long a moment as you like.

Today I had to go to the dentist in the city. Last time I did this, my mouth stayed numb for far too long and I felt all woozy, so I had an unscheduled overnight stay with my dad. This time, my girl and the Yellow Dog of Happiness came with me to drive me home.

We drove for three hours, got a great coffee, had a quick catch-up with my lovely Step-Ma, I tottled off to the chair; Girl and Yellow Dog had a stroll by the water. They picked me up, excessively numb and somewhat dopey, we picked up some sashimi to take home for dinner, and stopped near our old house to get the Girl a late lunch.

There’s an off-leash park around the corner from the house where we lived for seven years. Let’s take the hound there, I said, and you can eat your lunch before we hit the traffic again. Great idea, off we go.

Yellow Dog is much more in love with her than he is with me, but I convinced him to leave the Girl on her park bench. The two of us wandered across the dusty excuse for a park, greeting assorted small dogs and their owners in the appropriate way. All very harmonious.

Harmonious until behind us, a certain spaniel launched itself at the Girl’s face and stole a part of her lunch.

She politely and quietly suggested to the owner that he control his dog.

Loud enough for me to hear across the park, he suggested that she ‘stop eating for five minutes.’

For the last five months, the Girl has been working against history, genetics and a whole bunch of internal demons to regain the athlete’s frame she lost to sedentary work and too much of a good thing. She has been working HARD. And she’s looking and feeling great. She has muscles on her muscles. Her clothes are hanging off her.

There was a not-so-subtle implication in his choice of words, and I dare say it cut us both to the core.

As the portly man continued to rant at her, blaming her for being in a dog park and completely failing to apologise or attempt to control his dog, she calmly stood up and walked over to the Yellow Dog and I, obnoxious spaniel in tow.

The food obsessed spaniel climbed all over us for a full lap of the park, clawing at our legs and completely fixated on the end of the sandwich. No intervention. No apology. No manners. No accountability.

There was a time when I feared living outside the city because my differences would be more obvious and I thought I would struggle for acceptance. As I got to know the Girl’s home town, I formed the view that the anonymity of the city was a bigger threat. In a small town, people know who you are. Sure, they’ll know you’re the gayest doctor in town. But they’ll also know that if they egg your car, someone in town will know who did it.

He lives in the inner city and has a little rainbow name-tag on his spaniel. Chances are, he’s a friend of a friend. Would he have dared to unleash his stream of vitriol on my Girl if he knew the whole town would know by Wednesday?

Probably. People like that are like that wherever they live their unhappy lives.

But for us, this unpleasant encounter with the obnoxious man and his uncontrollable dog just underscored our growing distaste for the city, and cemented a feeling that our tiny town is the home we want it to be.

I’m so proud of the woman I love for the way she walked away. It implies a healthy stock of inner peace.

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Faultlines

For a long time, I wore a jade bangle. It was a part of my arm, part of me. It had threads of deep and lighter green, red-browns, and specks of white. In Chinese culture, jade has a particular energy and significance, and the jade bangle is believed to protect the wearer.

I was walking home from work one day when my bangle broke in two places. I didn’t notice it break because largest part of the curve stayed on my wrist. I wondered what it had protected me from – a breakage is supposed to represent an escape, a dodged bullet. I retraced my steps and found the missing piece.

I liked that bangle, even though I detest the word ‘bangle’. Something in that stone – its colour, its weight, our shared warmth, a vibration – it resonated with me. It fit.

So carefully, I glued it back together. I let it set. It broke again, in different places. This time I let it stay that way, until the night before my med school interview. Glueing it together, I superglued my thumb… but that is another story. I wore it. It broke again.

All the time I was doing this it I knew it was a futile exercise. The circle was broken. The milk had been spilt. The nature of the thing had changed.

Some things mend themselves. Fracture a bone and the faultlines heal stronger than they started. Slice your hand open and bit by bit the fabric of your muscle and skin will knit itself together until you barely see the scar.

But some things are just broken. They start off broken, they break before their time, or they were always meant to break. No matter how neatly you glue the handle on the teacup, if the porcelain is truly crazed with faultlines there is no fixing it.

Sometimes the nature of the thing has changed for the better, sometimes for the worse, or not at all.

Some things can be fixed. But some things, some people, relationships, lives – some are so riddled with faultlines they are broken, just broken, always broken. They can mend, but they have to mend themselves.

And that is nobody’s fault.

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That Awkward Moment When…

I was reading this post and was reminded of my own recent special moment. That awkward moment when the bank manager suggests you have a baby so that you can borrow some money.

No seriously, he did. And helpfully added “…but even that would take nine months…” Ah, buddy, if only it were that simple.

“Well then, could you lend me eight bucks for a turkey baster?”

Ok maybe that last bit didn’t happen.

A couple of days after the end of exams I zipped off to our mortgage lender to see if we could leverage some of our essential renovations into enough of a buffer to keep paying the bills until I graduate. Sadly for us, government study allowances are not considered a secure form of income. Whereas if we were receiving a family allowance, we would apparently be a much safer bet.

It was a good-natured encounter, and I walked away feeling that I had put my argument well. Plan A, not to be. Luckily we had Plans B through D up our sleeves.

I guess we could develop Plan E, in which E stands for Embryo… It just seems a little extreme.

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