“Freedom is deciding whose slave you want to be”

I am still having issues with the fact that I qualify as a doctor next year. For so long the prospect of qualification was a blip on the horizon and life as a student drowned away any potential musings on the subject. Except now, it’s real and I’m constantly thinking about deaneries, paying off debt and if it’s what I really want to do.

I have danced with the idea of going to law school, essentially a year of rote learning – could I even deal with that after medical finals? I have thought about doing courses in journalism, or teaching scuba diving somewhere in the pretty pacific. All these ideas have given me some degree of comfort about the uncertainty of what I want to do. Except something happened. Obs/gynae happened, and as I predicted; I am absolutely loving it. This is despite the looks of horror I am getting from staff members as if I’m suggesting I like to self-flagellate before breakfast each morning. If I had hated obs & gynae, it would have secured my decision to eventually leave medicine, but on the contrary, it has made me think – horror of horrors – that I would enjoy being a doctor, and a hospital doctor at that.

I had assumed that once I got to the stage of qualifying, I would feel less constricted by my career choice, but as it seems now, the handcuffs are getting tighter. B often tells me to close my eyes and think of what I’d enjoy doing the most, but my subconscious distracts me with food and fond memories of previous sexual encounters.

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To curb my anxieties, I have been collecting discounted cookbooks from a bookshop in Lambeth North. As the flatmate says, “You can never have too many cookbooks.” I am determined to eat more seasonal fruit and veg and I am trying to make the most of the autumn/winter harvest. The tiny greengrocers on the high road is in abundance of Jerusalem artichokes, blood oranges and salsify. I made a rather delicious soup with some Jerusalem artichokes and white truffle oil, which I sat down and consumed while watching some dismal cooking on Masterchef ensue.

Hat tip to a certain cheese sandwich; B got me the Decadent Cookbook for our anniversary. As well as recipes there are some very interesting stories and information on cooking techniques e.g. how to prepare a dog for slaughter – not sure how the RSPCA would feel about that one. (For the interested, a dog should be tied up for 24 hours, and beaten with small sticks to get the adipose tissue moving.)

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Another hat-tip, but I am immensely enjoying “Family,” a web series sit-com about a MFM triad based in Seattle. The clips are short and I’m finding them highly entertaining.

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1 comment January 28, 2009 rooroo

Planet 2009

About a week ago I was on a bus with a Chinese friend of mine talking about all the unethical food we’ve eaten and we got onto the subject of the Chinese New Year. Last year was the year of the rat (my ‘sign’) which is never a good year once it hits your own sign according to her mother. I didn’t think 2008 was too bad, but there were a couple of rough patches of self-doubt.

I never make resolutions, but I like to have an idea of what sort of ‘theme’ I want for the year. 2008 was about stability, 2007 was fitness and so on. This works well for me and given the circumstances, I have decided that for 2009, I’d like to push some boundaries. This will work well for fitness and when I go travelling. It might also explain why the windows open in addition to this one include crockery (I’m collecting Denby White) and a swinger’s website.

1 comment January 11, 2009 rooroo

Teef

The great thing about having had a brief flirtation with anxiety in the past is that going to medical school catapults you into really having to deal with it and ensure it doesn’t rear its ugly head again (especially in front of a patient – which hasn’t yet happened *sigh of relief*). Most people who are secure enough to admit it will state that the first clinical year is a steep learning curve; you’re in a hospital environment rather than the comfort of the lecture theatre, every few weeks you have to get used to new consultants and staff members on the ward. Years ago, I would have walked backwards through hot coals* in order to avoid using the telephone – so the first few times I had to walk up to a patient aka a perfect stranger in their hospital bed and ask if I could take their history and examine them, I was boiling a few eggs inside. 

Despite this, I’m doing ok. Year 3 came and went at lightning speed, and I’m already a third of the way through Year 4. Come the end of August, I start my final year. Again, I think I’m dealing with this, my subconscious on the other hand feels like a Lolcat on repeat: “WTF, WTF, WTF!”

For as long as I can remember having exams, I would always dream that my teeth were falling out. These dreams would become more frequent as exams or results came closer. The premise was pretty constant: I would be running my tongue over my teeth, and as soon as I got to an incisor on the left hand side, it would move akin to a child moving a loose tooth with their tongue. After that, it was a mixed bag. Sometimes I would lose all my teeth, sometimes I would force the tooth back into my gums and pretend it was fine, only to find it loose again on chewing food. On one occasion I went to a dentist, but refused to be examined by them due to their lack of anaesthetic (and clean instruments). Two months ago I had a dream that I pulled out an adult tooth, leaving a patch of gum. Three nights ago I flicked my tongue over that area and the tender gap remained.

A quick consultation with Dr Internet and there are about 20 explainations for the tooth-loss dream sequence. If I was to take it seriously and pick what seems to fit me best; my take on it is that I have worries about change and transition. And with the breakneck speed that my final 2 years seem to be going at, I suppose I have to get used to the sweet relief of waking up to find the pearly whites all intact.

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* I think I do want to walk on hot coals, but my motivations are different.

Add comment January 10, 2009 rooroo

“Accrington stanley? Who are they?!”

I don’t live on copious amounts of milk, but I have decided it’s probably a good idea to self-wean off cow’s breastmilk. Reasons for this are two-fold:

1) I get very bloated and gassy when drinking it

2) I have weird fetishy images in my head regarding people dressed in rubber, odd trance music and cows udders.

I’m not a huge fan of soy milk, so I ventured out and bought some hazelnut milk, and almond milk (the latter at the bottom of my cupboard for now). I quite enjoyed the hazelnut milk, it’s very sweet and the texture was smooth. Bit of an odd aftertaste, but I’m hooked for now. Even better, B tried the milk and didn’t like it, which is good for me as I’ll actually have milk to drink from now on, and it won’t be drunk straight from the pack 🙂

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I’m avoiding the gym this January as I cannot face the crowds of resolutionaries. I know it keeps my gym membership fee low, but it’s too much to bear. I have decided to try the 100-push-up challenge, as my medical school are sending me to what feels like Zone 25 for the first 4 weeks of Obs/Gynae anyway, and it’ll give me something to do besides work.

Add comment January 6, 2009 rooroo

Back from the dead again

I have been negligent in my blogging  for what feels like forever. Studies, exams and such and such. A friend of mine convinced me that Year 4 would be, “far more chilled out,” and in many respects it is, but not at all on the examination front. I passed after all the drama, and had a couple of days to both reflect and cringe on my OSCE performance.

One of the OSCE stations was to speak to a woman who had recently had a baby and was ‘feeling very low’. I did my suicide assessment and wanted to check that she wasn’t having a post-natal psychosis. Thinking back to the green Psychiatry Finals book I had been using, one of the questions suggested was to ask if the woman thinks her baby is evil. It started off well, “Do you think that…” and then I stopped mid-sentence worrying I was about to be pink-slipped for asking such an inappropriate question, so in my panic, I tried to fluffy up my answer a bit, and in the mist of panic, my question ended up as, “…your baby is trying to tell you that… you are incompetent… as a mother?” The actress looked at me in a rather quizzical way and then gave me a look similar to the scowl of Jeremy Kyle, “My baby is 4 months old, how could she possibly do that?!” Ooops. My superego is manically screaming, “YOU IDIOT!”

One of the things I really don’t like about OSCEs is the close proximity to you and other medics. It’s impossible to not hear what’s going on around you, so as some of the other examiners walked around, they looked at me strangely, because at my rest stations, I was sat with my hands clasped to my ears. This particular site did not give us any sweets or chocolates at the rest stations either. Top London medical school, yeah, I’m feeling that.

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My fitness regimehas been put on a brief hiatus, but it hasn’t been as long as the last time I was having exams, which was pleasing. A friend of mine recommended I come and do some Yoga with her, so I thought I’d give it a go as it couldn’t possibly hurt to improve my flexibility (I seem to have very little).

So far, I’m enjoying the classes and it is much easier to switch off. My flexibility is getting better, be it very slowly. I’m hoping that the breathing techniques will cross over to when I lift weights, as I sometimes forget to breathe (bit foolish when you’re shifting something heavier than yourself) and I feel more comfortable on my feet in terms of my sense of balance.

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B and I have been together for almost 3 years. We mark our anniversary from when we met as opposed to any ‘official date’ (I can’t remember), but I’m unclear as to whether we met on Dec 31st or Jan 1st. I believe it was the latter. Because medical school eats up my life and we don’t get much time together by ourselves, we go abroad for the new year. This year we’re off to Barcelona. I can’t wait for several reasons: the food, getting to speak Spanish, food again and copious amounts of hotel sex.

I use the excuse of working very hard for my exams to blow a load (is there a pun in there somewhere) at both Coco De Mer  and Agent Provocateur (wot recession?) While I can’t justify spending almost a grand on a stainless steel vibrator, I thought a tenner for a feather tickler was reasonable. I wanted to buy several books on the subject of spanking, but I thought I’d leave that for my 25th birthday next year.

We shall also be eating here om nom nom. Flatmate who is busting his guts as a junior sous wasn’t impressed that a chef with no previous professional kitchen experience can land a Michelin star a few years down the line. I didn’t realise the restaurant had a Michelin star, I just saw pictures of the food and started salivating.

Add comment December 19, 2008 rooroo

Gym manners 101: putting your weights back

It never ceases to amaze me how lacking in manners some people can be. I’m not exactly foaming at the mouth a la Daily Hate, nor am I reminiscing over how the Golden Age is over (I don’t think it ever existed) but… I often wonder whether my gym would benefit from those ‘A little thought from everyone’ posters often seen on London’s public transport.

Whatever people’s goals are at the gym; everyone is there for a primary purpose – to use the facilities. A workout can go much more smoothly if everyone cooperates and work together for the environment they’d always like to see when they go in.

This didn’t happen yesterday. I walked into the freeweights area and was stunned. Discarded dumbbells – everywhere. Pieces of tissue wiped with sweat left on the floor. Both Z-bars loaded and not in use, just shoved at the back. And the icing on the cake? Two guys deadlifting with the Olympic bar – they then unload the bar, leave it in the middle of the floor and walk off to do some ball work.

I was fuming. It’s really dangerous, especially if a dumbbell rolls in your direction and you can’t see it while walking. Not only that – and while I doubt this is the primary intention – the arrogance sets forth the message that, “Your workout isn’t that important, so I’ll let my laziness cut into your time while you tidy up for me.”

I went and spoke about it to one of the gym managers. He agreed with me and said that people tend to tidy up more when the gym team are around cleaning up. I said that it shouldn’t be part of their jobs to clean up after others. He said if I see it, I should just tell one of the team. Again, I don’t think it needs to be like a school environment ‘telling’ on other people. My boyfriend’s old gym had a poster up saying: “SEX! Now that we have your attention, please put your weights back!”

While I hate confrontation, I think I’ll just brave it and say something. I’ve done it before and it’s worked, it’ll give me more peace about it than I had the other day (although saying that – my anger led me to have an absolutely blinding workout!) It’s just a shame that I have to in the first place.

If that doesn’t work, the clean + press using the offending person as the barbell is looking better all the time.

Add comment October 30, 2008 rooroo

Too big for words!

Poor Madonna. Not the best time to be her is it? Naturally as a woman, the onus falls on her and her lifestyle ultimately being responsible for her marriage breakdown, whether it’s her religious views, career or even her physique! She joins the ranks of Angelina (home wrecker), Posh (too focused on her career than husband) and Heather (gold digger).

I didn’t intend on talking about her upcoming divorce, but I thought I would home in on something that has started to grate my nerves in recent months. I’m always happy to talk to women – including perfect strangers about weight training as I think it has so many benefits as well as making one look quite buff when naked, but no sooner mention the word dumbbell and out comes the almost conditioned response:

“But I don’t want to look like Madonna!”

I guess what they mean when they say this is that they do not want a physique like Madonna. Which is fair enough, she’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. What baffles me is the assumption that by lifting something heavier than a pencil, one will end up pumped like Arnie. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both ignorance and fear; somehow we’re programmed to believe in many walks of life you can get something for nothing. This however, doesn’t work in the gym unless you’re abusing various substances.

My point is, to build a body like Madonna; you have to train like Madonna, you have to eat like Madonna, you have to rest like Madonna, you have to work like Madonna. If you train like you’re bumbling along nicely on the cross-trainer while reading Heat magazine then go home via Subway, don’t be too surprised when you don’t look like the fitness model you wanted to be in 6 weeks.

Building a muscular physique can be incredibly difficult as a woman. It takes time, dedication, focus and some sweaty bloody hard work. Coming into the gym, lifting a 1kg dumbbell and then going home holding a handbag heavier than anything you’ve worked out with doesn’t make sense to me, but challenge any of these people, and there appears to be an assumption that they’re somehow so special that they work differently to all physiological processes and will pack the muscle on. Perhaps I’m being quite harsh as I knew sweet sod all about weights before I started, but there comes a time where the logical processes need to be shifted up a gear.

Being ‘too big’ is a spectrum anyway. What is ‘too big’? Some people consider Madonna too big, some will say she’s too small. Musculature comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution that will please everyone (not that it’s the purpose to anyway). Some people dedicate an awful lot of time and energy to become the way they look, and even if you don’t like the way they do, perhaps it’s worth applauding their commitment than a putdown of, “Eww, I don’t want to look like that!” Maybe once we start appreciating how difficult it can be then the mass panic of, “I don’t want to look like Madonna!” will stop. Or maybe not.

Recommended reading:

Gubernatrix: Why do women still avoid the free weights room?

Gubernatrix: Why lift weights

Stumptuous: Lies in the gym

Stumptuous: Other reasons to lift weights

Skwigg: Define bulky

Add comment October 22, 2008 rooroo

October oddities

My gym is in full swing in terms of how busy it is. I give it another month or two before numbers start to dwindle. I had a rather odd encounter with someone the other day. I needed to use one of the benches, and there was a guy resting on his between his sets. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind switching with me during the resting period. He looked at me as if I had just asked him if I could take a shit in his mouth. He gave me a bit of attitude, “I’ll be done in a minute, yeah, ok?” (He wasn’t actually doing anything bar sitting) But I stood firm, smiled sweetly and got the bench. At this point I’d make a comment here about ‘roid rage, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and conclude that some people are just jerks.

Today I saw a girl using dumbbells for numerous exercises and from the corner of my eye I could see she had a copy of ‘The New Rules of Lifting for Women.’ REJOYCE!

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My hair seems to have almost established its curl pattern (more curls than anticipated) I think it’s still a bit confused, not to mention quite dry (ironic since I haven’t been using shampoo). I think the worst is yet to come in terms of it getting greasy and I’m still a bit paranoid about my scalp smelling weird. The good thing is that I’ve only had compliments so far.

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My tolerance to medical students (myself included) seems to be low for the first time in ages. I wish there was a cream you could buy for that.

Add comment October 13, 2008 rooroo

What is healthy anyway?

I like to think I live a reasonably good lifestyle, but I think the constant bombardment of messages telling us to be healthy could potentially be… well, unhealthy. I think the UK has a bipolar relationship with food, and the pendulum is about to swing in a direction that could cultivate a potentially damaging relationship with it, moreso than there already is at least. I have a lot of respect for Jamie Oliver trying to encourage people to learn how to cook, but I think the TV chefs of the world have done things the wrong way round.

I noticed a lot of this healthy eating drive gained a lot of momentum when there was talk on television shows of buying eggs from happy chickens and eating meat only from animals have been raised in the utmost optimal of conditions, and to do otherwise was tantamount to animal abuse. This message had been lingering in the background for a while, but it has only come into the spotlight in the past year or so. If people who had no idea how to cook and were living on take-aways everynight – had they been taught the absolute basics first, learning to cook and more importantly, enjoying it – then critiquing where our food comes from and how it’s produced would have come later. Give a man a fish yadda yadda yadda. I just don’t see the point of telling someone the beauty of a hardback when they can’t read, then bollocking them when they choose to watch TV instead.

I don’t want to get into a debate on the socio-economics over mass production of meat, the giant supermarkets or free range eggs, I think I wanted to draw on a point that I mentioned ages of blog posts ago, and that was how we seem to moralise our behaviour in food choices. I was at my mum’s place a few weeks ago, and offered her a couple of biscuits I had made. “Oooh, I don’t know if I should, that would be very naughty!” Now if my mum’s diet consisted of processed foods, high in sugar and modified fats etc, perhaps I would have understood. But my mum eats a variety of lean meats, fish, fruit and vegetables grown in her garden, pulses and wholewheat products. Yet still she has conditioned herself to behave like a mischievous child when presented with something that falls out of her perception of ‘healthy’. Something ain’t right with that.

Not that I blame her, or my friends who do it either. Women especially are told about the consequences of giving into ‘tempation’ and how ‘naughty’ certain foodstuffs are. Diet products are now gearing towards a snack shaped hole in the market, not content with giving people crappy tasting meals, now they have to worry about chowing down (and spending money on) crappy tasting snacks – as if the desire to snack is inherently bad – I think it’s perfectly ok and normal to have a snack between meals – listening to your body saying, “Hello, some food in here please!” is a step in the right direction.

So behaviour towards food isn’t necessarily in great shape, yet now we’re being told to step up a gear in the healthy stakes, being kindly shown on packaging what the nutritional breakdown is – in traffic light form, how quaint – and how to feed our family good meals on budgets etc. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it can become a huge preoccupation, bordering on obsession. Don’t believe me? Have a discussion with the mother of a toddler about Petit Felous, a controversy that I never knew existed.

I watched Dana, the 8 year old anorexic last night, and while her story is an extreme one, it shows how thought processes can go wrong, despite the ‘healthy’ messages around us. For some of the people she was being treated at the clinic at, it started with cutting out chocolates, sweets etc entirely, then changes eventually lead to things like jumping up and down on the spot for exercise when exercise equipment was taken away. One of the women who runs the clinic said people are now being saturated with messages about healthy this, low-fat that, no carb this, that we potentially run the risk of damaging generations to come.

I’m not trying to put forth the message that it’s a big slippery slope; what I’m trying to ask is: is a diet and lifestyle that ticks all the right boxes always going to be healthy? We perceive what is healthy on different levels too, so it’s difficult to set a standard, but my bottom line is that a healthy attitude towards food, exercise etc is sometimes more important than what’s going in. If you’re eating well most of the time, and you want to have a slice of chocolate cake once in a while, for goodness sake, have it! You will not gain 5lbs overnight for a single slice! It does not make you bad, it should not be a temptation, you don’t have to modify recipes to make your favourite thing, ‘healthy’. Let them eat cake!

Add comment October 3, 2008 rooroo

Last night’s TV

“I’m Dawn Porter, and for the past 4 years, I have been single.” Besides saying her name, I wasn’t quite sure how relevant this statement actually was, especially as the tone sounded akin to a patient saying, “I’m Mrs Jones and for the past 4 years, I have had Chron’s disease.”

Apparently to research free love (or polyamory), you have to fly across the Atlantic and then all the way back into Europe – but avoid the UK at all costs! All partakers in polyamory must have embraced any New Age paradigm, and be aging. I looked at B across from our contemporary living room, no burning sage in sight, what a disappointing couple we make.

So, the programme itself was exactly how I’d expect someone from a monogamy and couple-centric culture to react to a different lifestyle. One of the really frustrating things for me was how blatantly poor Dawn’s communication skills were; there was actually no interest in the people, what they were doing and the reasons for doing this. Her agenda was totally focused on picking out the downsides of a polyamorous lifestyle, and she paid little attention to what was actually being said by those involved.

Perhaps it could just be Dawn’s intellectual capacity, but two excellent points that struck me, which were glossed over:

1) You are the one responsible for getting your needs met. She had been speaking to a very sad German woman who had just split up with someone in the commune she had visited. The woman said something along the lines of how it’s up to the individual to take responsibility for what they want – this is so important in any relationship, polyamorous or otherwise, and could have been a great way to say, “Ok, perhaps we’re not all *that* different,” but that wasn’t what the programme makers wanted, so it was lost in a long sea of dialogue. It’s a lot easier to paint the ‘dumper’ as a horrible sex-crazed penis monster, rather than thinking about how we have probably all screwed up in relationships at some point, stamping feet, pouting lips and shouting, “But you haven’t x, y or z! How could you make me feel like this! You should JUST KNOW!!!”

2) Society tells us that somewhere out there, there is one person who can be absolutely everything we want and need in a person, and Mr Right will tick ALL those boxes – to think like this, you’re only going to set yourself up for failure, and possibly a long lonely life.I think the leader of the commune said this, but Dawn’s glazed look seemed to infer what was going on in her head; a scene from the Simpsons where Homer appears to be listening intently, but inside his head was a picture of two monkeys picking bugs off each other.

I have no idea what the purpose of the oil scene was, besides titillation and a chance to giggle at a ritual of a group of people who have turned away from mainstream society. It’s easier to do this than to suggest that polyamorists are potentially normal people who gasp, walk among us! Dawn appeared very concerned when another member of the group was saying how uncomfortable he felt about the film crew being there. I actually thought this was a good opportunity to see how the group as a whole resolves conflict, but luckily for Dawn, she wasn’t going to get her wrists slapped back at Channel 4, and the oil ritual was back on. Note no stomping off or slamming doors.

The conclusion was that every style of relationship comes with its drawbacks. The silent message of course was that there was something inherently wrong in polyamory (you could see the pathologising going on when the sad woman was talking about her relationship with her parents – AHA! So that’s the reason!) and that rest assured viewers, despite the credit crunch, we’re still the ‘moral’ ones, these people are obviously Very Odd Indeed. I expected no less, to be honest. One thing I had hoped was communicated that was monogamy was a choice and it isn’t something innately ingrained in us – it’s a choice where it’s ok to say no.

Before the oil ceremony, Dawn sat on a bed exasperating, asking why she was doing this and why she couldn’t get a proper job. My thoughts exactly.

3 comments October 1, 2008 rooroo

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