Monday, April 30, 2012

Navel gazing

Slowly but surely I am beginning to get a picture of my future. But staring me in the face is the big unknown of how and when to jump. And annoying me considerably is the sheer amount of people who seem to enjoy discouraging me from the abyss.

Of course it's their abyss, not mine. I see ahead of me a life not restricted by the days of the week or the need to go to work to fit a predetermined routine of hours within a day. I see a life where I can pursue creative pursuits, read a book all day should I choose, and follow my dreams of experiencing different cultures and scenery throughout this wonderful world.

I have considered cutting the naysayers out of my life altogether, their negativity annoys me so much. "You won't know what to do with yourself!" BULLSHIT!! Don't they understand how trapped I feel at present? Their security is my prison.

I work in Aboriginal Health, a sector of health care which is under resourced. The sheer enormity of health problems, made worse by social, educational, employment and racial discrimination, mean that what is spent only skims the surface. There is a huge lack of health professionals, be they nurses, doctors, allied health or aboriginal health workers, willing to work in this field, and those that do are overworked and overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Many see their work as a vocation, and feel violated when a colleague expresses their work as "just a job". It used to be a vocation, I now understand I'm over it and it's time to move on.

There is no sense of loss. I think I've understood for a while that I have been stagnating. I have reached a point where I realise I cannot encourage my colleagues to take on ownership and responsibility for moving forward whilst I remain nominally the senior colleague. I am, however, optimistic, that with my registrar having been forced by family circumstances to stay, that his enthusiasm and the knowledge and experience of another colleague returning to work in town will see the gains made in clinical outcomes in the last few years continue to improve.

So is it time to jump? Psychologically, yes, but practically, not yet. I need to build enough passive income to keep my head above water, the debts paid and some left over to live on. I have no doubt that another 12 months of employed income should be enough to see me over the financial summit I see so near, but my mental state is not up to the journey. I need this upcoming six month break to rest and refresh, trial pushing the financial envelope a little, and then hunker down for the final dash to the finish line.

I hope to see a change in the direction of my work in the next 12 - 18 months, which will see me getting some of my passion back, even if only in the short term. I know my limits, I've been to a bad place and survived, and am grateful to be in a job that allows me to take the mental breaks when I need them. I will retire when I have enough money,  and when the badly needed home improvements are done, then I will pursue my dreams.

I just have to survive till then. And accept that not everyone has the imagination to see my future as one full of new challenges and opportunities.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ski quest 2012

In 12 weeks I head off to NZ again to fulfil my duties as a ski goddess. Like someone's got to do it right??

Since the now infamous broken arm fiasco yours truly, AKA the ski goddess, has been trying her utmost to live up to the sobriquet by actually looking like one!! With somewhat limited success I might add.

Stage 1: grow hair, get blonde foils (mainly to cunningly hide the grey!) Produces a golden halo effect that fits the goddess theme rather well. My previous persona of short spiky hair with bright red patches? Not really....

Stage 2: get fit. Yeah I've banged on a bit about that recently, but suffice to say I am back at the gym, have put myself on a gruelling 12 week program of running and gym work which should see me buff and strong by July. If I can keep it up. And not indulge in too much sticky date pudding....

Stage 3: keep with the retro theme. Seriously, I love the onesy. I mean, if you are going to mine the goddess image as far as you can go and you are closer to 50 than 40, you need something that makes you stand out in a crowd of cute young chicky babes! And if anything says "goddess" more than a bright red onesy, do let me know.

Word is that the onesy is coming back into fashion too, so there!!


No, that is NOT a disco ball, I'm not THAT pathetic!!

Stage 4: try not to run into anyone, fall off a cliff, do anything stupid that causes me to injure myself. Now wouldn't that be a novelty? A whole ski trip without an injury....

Stage 5: ski with style. Goddesses ski with style. Hmmmm, work in progress...

Further suggestions for the goddess anyone? Just warning you though, no snide comments will be allowed through the moderator, the goddess will not be amused should her onesy be besmirched.

You got any idea how sweaty it gets posing for these photos in the heat today?? All in the name of "art".


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Birthday mayhem

Some people spend their birthdays catching up with friends and family, getting nice presents, enjoying a nice meal, and maybe a few drinks. Kind of indulge themselves. Not me, I spend my birthday tackling major garden projects!

Geraldton weather is basically stinking hot from about November through March, meaning the garden is a no go zone. It just isn't possible to spend more than a few minutes in searing heat (we are talking upper 30s, even in the 40s, celcius!) doing anything more strenuous than sipping on an icy cocktail. Even that's better done in the shade.

Then in May it begins to rain. Just a few quick overnight downpours, enough to get the farmers seeding, then a relatively dry June before the major rainfall in July and August. Then no more rain till May. Of course not all years go by the books, last year we had a lot of late rain which almost ruined the wheat crop, and we didn't have quite the number of hot easterlies this summer, but you get the idea.

This leaves a very small window of opportunity to remove my old rusted rainwater tank and replace it before the rains begin. So who am I to let a small matter of a birthday get in the way of a more important event: the impending arrival of a new tank?

Replacing the tank has required a few logistics, like how to remove the old one, WTF to do with the old one, and how do we get the new one in through carports, pergolas, corners, trees etc. No worries: remove half the pergola, cut up the tank, cut down a few trees with the new chainsaw (YES!!), and shovel a lot of sand.

The worst thing about this job was the tank sludge.
 1. realising you have been drinking water from that tank with that stuff in it.
 2. removing it through a hole punched in the bottom so we could move the tank off its pad.

Like bad baby diarrhoea, eeeeeuuuhhh!! Once that dries out I'll shovel it onto the garden. MMMM!

Sally and Sheridan came over and helped for the whole day - best birthday present ever - and removed the pergola and cut up the old tank. Sally particularly enjoyed the sludge job, seriously!!

While I wielded the chainsaw! Is it just me, or are those clothes swimming on me?

After the garden chores were done we repaired to the verandah to watch the sunset and enjoy roast lamb and veg washed down with a lovely 14 year old Shiraz!

Great friends, great food, great wine, what more could I want on my birthday?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Once were warriors

Thought I might take us back to China, 1989. When I last left off we were about to board a plane to Xi'an, home to the only decently intact city walls left in China and a recently excavated burial mound full of terracotta figures. But before we could leave Guilin we needed to bribe the airline officials to get a seat on the plane. Yes we already had a ticket, but we were not going to get to use it that day without greasing palms.

Corruption in China has always been a problem, and back in the 80's when personal incomes were universally poor (the Communist Party still had a stranglehold on all economic enterprises) people abused their positions of power to extort extra money wherever they could. As Western visitors we frequently experienced situations where we were denied access, only to gain access by the payment of an extremely small bribe. As much as we abhorred this situation, and tried not to support a corrupt practice, we really had no choice if we wanted to go where we went and see what we saw within the time frame we had. Meeting true backpackers back in Hong Kong, who'd travelled independently, it was patently obvious that we had only been able to see what we saw because we paid for it. Or perhaps I should say, our guide paid for it. Presumably bribery was part of the budget. Our guide explained the situation and we didn't act ignorant. I'm not supporting corruption per se, but it's a choice we all make, whether we are aware of it or not. We understood the way it worked and chose to comply. Go ahead, shoot me!

So, Xi'an. We were now in the north in early Spring, so it was still a wee bit chilly. And our delay in Guilin had left us with only a day to see the sights, which are quite a few what with White Goose Pagodas, big long walls to walk around and a trip to the countryside to see the warriors.

I'm not going to bang on about the warriors, because you've heard about them, you've seen pictures, and if you haven't, try Google! What we enjoyed about Xi'an was the city walls, the groups of men playing cards in their old Mao suits, and the incredible stele museum. I bought a beautiful stele "rubbing" of the monk Xuanzhuang, the famous monk who travelled to India and back with Buddhist scriptures. Haven't heard of him? How about that hilarious Japanese cartoon Monkey? Same guy. My rubbing these days is mounted on a large board in my yoga/meditation room. Love it!

Next stop Beijing.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A running commentary

Let's backtrack a few years. Maybe four or five, to where I was back then. Unfit, fat, early forties, working hard, drinking a lot, unhappy, burnt out. All very well to look at it from here, but when I was there I didn't realise how poorly I was looking after myself until I literally fell apart. Back then I was windsurfing, sometimes cycling to work (admittedly a 30km round trip) and scuba diving. I knew I was active, but hadn't really contemplated the idea that I was unfit.

After the "hit the wall" moment I decided to do something about it, without resorting to drugs. Being in the medical game I had a pretty good idea of the directions I needed to go, and one such direction was proper physical exercise. Along the way the goal to head off overseas and climb a 3800m volcano got me motivated enough to take the training seriously. It also helped that my friends Sally and Sheridan enjoy a good long walk, so for months on end the three of us, plus Hazel, enjoyed one to two long walks a week, discovering and exploring the countryside around Geraldton.

I also did some dune walking. Seriously, if you want to work your leg muscles, I can highly recommend walking in soft sand. Add a few tall dunes to climb up and down and you've got a genuine thigh burn happening. In altitude challenged Geraldton, you've got to take what you can get, and I thought I did a good job. At no point did I ever consider going for a run.

My attitude to runners is echoed by many non runners:
Have you ever seen a runner enjoying themselves? No! They huff and puff past you, sweating, red in the face with a look of pure torture on their faces. They never smile, never say hello, caught in their own little world. Who'd want to do that hey? It doesn't look fun and even they don't look like they're enjoying themselves. Poor advertisement for the sport I reckon.

Back to the back story. Off I go overseas and climb my first volcano. Not the 3800m one but a smaller 2800m. It almost kills me!! I exaggerate, but with a bit more training and walking at my own pace I do indeed climb the big one, and over the ensuing months I do a number of summit climbs and multi-day treks, and survive! I'm proud of myself. I return to Australia, confident in my new found fitness, return to work and then gradually fail to keep the activity up. In 2010 it bites me in the arse half way down an off-piste slope on the ski fields when my lack of fitness causes me to make a stupid decision, and I break my arm.

I return from that ski trip a changed woman. Not only is my arm in a snazzy red fibreglass cast but I'm now really motivated to get active, fit and strong because I'm determined to conquer that mountain next year! The cast is a bit of a problem though, because at that stage in my life my preferred methods of exercise were swimming and cycling, and walking. So I grit my teeth, join a gym, and even get a personal trainer. Best investment in myself I ever made!

Over the ensuing 12 months I did indeed get fit, and strong. I found books specifically on ski training, learnt to assess and work on my weaknesses and strengths, and had a lot of fun with Sharon (my personal trainer) designing wicked routines for me to do. And my body changed irrevocably. I toned, I lost fat from parts of my body that had remained stubbornly flabby since my teens, and I started to at last like the body I was seeing in the mirror. And when I hit the slopes I was able to ski easily without getting jelly legs, thigh burns, or soreness in the morning.

Once I returned home I needed a new goal to keep me motivated. I kept up the gym till my membership ran out, then gave myself a little break before trying to implement a fitness program without the help of a gym or personal trainer. This is where technology steps in.

I'll go back a few steps, because the technology started a while back, when I began to exercise using a heart rate monitor. The concept of the heart rate monitor is that you exercise within certain zones. Most exercise gets done at 60-70% of your maximal heart rate, but the intense stuff needs to be in the 80-90% range, but only in intervals, or you'll end up stressing your dear little heart and need a pacemaker!! The beauty of using the HR monitor is you get immediate feedback on the intensity of your workout, whether to slow down, or speed up, and also to monitor how fit you get over time. I particularly like using it for running.

Ah yes, running... Remember my old attitude to running? You can perhaps imagine my response the day Sharon put me on the treadmill and increased the pace to a speed that required me to run. "I don't run" I said. "Now you do" she said. Since I was paying her to be my bitch for an hour I had no choice, and well.... the rest is history.

I started on the treadmill, just 10 minutes at a time, and over the months I progressed to 20 minutes or so. Then one day I was away for a long weekend in Perth and needed to do some exercise so I hit the real world and did my first ever proper run. And never stopped. Sharon then taught me to run to my heart rate, to slow down or even walk when my heart rate went above 70% and restart when it hit 60%, and I found myself running further and faster without my heart rate rising so high. Yes I was getting fit.

I discovered Skins, compression tights, that are excellent for wearing when running. Not only do they hold all your flabby bits in, meaning you not only look skinnier but you don't wobble as much also, they help to massively reduce post exercise muscle soreness by reducing lactic acid buildup in the muscles. They were an integral part of my daily ski wear as well. Although expensive, they last ages. I am only now onto my second pair, because my original pair are now too big for me. Because I got skinnier.

Which brings me onto the big motivator for the moment, which is purely narcissistic, and why I believe runners run. OK, some people run for competitive reasons, but most people run because there is no other exercise I know of that has such profound effects on your body as running. Sure there's the buzz from a good workout, but the reality is that you've got to endure a good 5-10 minutes of pain before you hit that nice zone where the muscles are warm, pain free and the endorphins are flowing.

I now have a waist. Seriously, I don't think I've ever had a waist, but the silhouette in the mirror is now decidedly wine glass rather than traditionally tankard, and that stubborn fat on the outside of my thighs is in great danger of disappearing altogether. And my butt is perhaps half the size it used to be, no downward droop on this lady no siree!!

So yeah, I run, maybe 4 times a week. I listen to my iPod, catching up on all the podcasts I never get around to listening to otherwise, and count my kilometres then brag on Facebook to my friends. I set myself goals, use training programs I find online, and use my thinning silhouette to keep me motivated. And when I pass people out on my running route I smile, say hello, sometimes even chat. You won't get bad advertising off of me!!!

Two weeks ago I ran for one hour and forty minutes. Three times around the lake at Albert Park. 15km! No doubt about it, I'm a runner!!