Sleep is a good gift

Betty shares a Saturday morning Pilates class with another teacher, which means that sometimes on a Saturday she teaches four hours or so, and sometimes she has very little on. Ordinarily, when the other teacher is taking the mat class, Betty goes along anyway and participates, which is good for her; today, her plan was to practice with one of the apprentices, work out in the mat class, do some administration for an hour, and then teach her one client at 11.15. However, said client called Betty yesterday to cancel, and the apprentice had a friend to practice with, and Betty worked out for two hours with another apprentice on Monday and Tuesday, and did an advanced mat on Thursday and all the leg springs, and then on Friday she drifted into another plane of existence while watching BSG, and all in all it seemed like the better part of valour to just forgo the studio altogether.

So the upshot of it all was that Betty slept in luxuriously until half past nine. It was awesome. It has been rather a busy time for Betty sleep-wise, since she now starts work at 6.30 or 6.45 or possibly 7.00 every weekday morning, and naturally has to get there earlier to open the windows and renew her outlook, and since she also finishes work at 10.30 two or three nights a week, and (naturally) later if anything interesting goes on at work.

It’s going to be a busy week again, because the Pilates master teacher, whose name is  Cynthia, is coming out on Thursday. She will test two of the apprentices, and teach very many lessons, and then she will teach the Basic Seminar to four new apprentices, and there may be a photo shoot and a dinner. Betty will, however, have an afternoon off the following Friday. Film at eleven.

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Academia: so it begins

This one time, Betty did a master’s degree. In her thesis, she wrote about three Australasian physician-writers, and interviewed some of them to talk about the ways their literary writing affected their medical practice, and, of course, vice-versa. It was lovely fun, and during the two years that she spent writing it, Betty gave a couple of guest lectures on related topics as part of her supervisor’s medical humanities course.

Last year, her supervisor asked Betty to consider coming to the big city and co-teaching the course, as well as giving it a bit of a reboot and adding a creative writing component. Betty considered this for about a quarter of a second before quitting her job and looking for an apartment. (In the interests of full disclosure, Betty must also reference the opportunity to train with the world-class Pilates master teacher, the wonderful studio to train in, and the boy person friend.)

Betty and her supervisor (who is awesome; he was at Oxford) split the teaching 50/50, and the course was a roaring success. That is to say, the students (all third-year medical students, with backgrounds in literature ranging from BA to “haven’t read a book since primary school”) read Chekhov, Kafka, Carlos Williams and Verghese until narrative and metaphor started coming out of their ears, and then they wrote a collection of poetry that made Betty blush with pride, and hope that if she ever drops almost-dead she finds a physician as empathetic, ethically sound, and articulate as they are.

This year Betty and her supervisor arranged to split the teaching 80/20. Betty is very excited. Though she has no desire to become a full-time professor, being a Lecturer: Medical Humanities is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a tantalising and chewy reminder of how much Betty loves academia.

A macadamia.

All this, of course, means that Betty has a bunch of work to do redesigning the course. She plans to improve the section on mental illness by adding some more literature (the current readings are “The Yellow Wallpaper”, a semi-autobiographical story about undifferentiated schizophrenia, and some Plath poems; keen students can also read Alice W Flaherty’s The Midnight Disease), and create a specific section on grief (using CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed, Plutarch’s letter to his wife on the death of their child, and scenes from Truly, Madly, Deeply). Other sections cover topics like traditional medicine, ethics, metaphors of warfare and information systems, and the doctor-patient relationship.

Gentle readers with favourite literary texts that relate even remotely to practising medicine, giving birth, dying, being well, or being sick, should let rip in the comments section — no Lecturer: Medical Humanities is an island. Medium-sized stories or excerpts, or poems, are best, but I can show a few movie clips as well.

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Practically perfect in every way

Betty’s Advanced practical Pilates exam took place on Friday and Saturday. It went smashingly, for the most part: she passed, anyway, which is the important thing, and she additionally found the examination process to be that most wily of creatures, a learning experience. The promise of a learning experience is one of those things that one hears on a daily basis from anybody connected with the process — already-certified instructors, fellow-apprentices, clients, mentors — and it is, pleasingly, quite real.

Betty first had to teach her willing victim a complete Advanced Reformer, including the High Frog and the Star, which are not to be sneezed at; in addition to demonstrating a thorough working knowledge of the correct sequence, counts, cues, apparatus settings, rhythm and dynamics, and hands-on spotting of the exercises, Cynthia (the examiner) asked periodically for comments on the goals of the exercises, and on their suitability for the victim’s body.

Then Cynthia asked Betty to teach a few Advanced mat exercises as if for the first time, showing modifications and spotting for safety; following this, she requested a selection of exercises on some of the other apparatus. This part of the test is mainly designed to indicate that Betty will not drop her clients off the Wunda chair or decapitate them with the Push-Through Bar. Once satisfied on this score, Cynthia directed Betty and her victim to the Wall, where they finished the test with some aplomb.

The following day was the mat portion of the test; the studio’s regular Saturday morning Advanced mat clients gallantly stepped up and performed a flowing mat, arm weights, castanets and standing stretches. The overall effect was a little flat, and Betty was inclined to be unnerved by the fact that while testing requires a flowing sequence, the Saturday clients require a full hour; but it worked out tolerably in the end.

The upshot of all this was that Betty passed her practical, and her certificate is in the mail. Since her first seminar was in late January, the process has been swift and intense: her right ankle, broken just after the first seminar, still hurts; but the key thing is that it is absolutely worth it. Onward and upward!

2009 so far

It’s been rather an, oh, how shall I put this delicately, annus abyssus? A hell of a year. At the end of last year, I threw caution and the dregs of childhood to the winds, quit my job, left home, and moved to one of the swankier suburbs of the big city. Once the wheels were in motion, there was no stopping me: one thing led to another, and in the space of a year, I have

  • Found a flat, or rather, a bedroom and a landlady
  • Found a part-time job, in which I got to use a hoist
  • Broken my right ankle (walking on the beach, slipped on the rocks, rescued by paramedics, tide coming in, hopped up the cliff, true story)
  • Entered a second Pilates training programme, and completed the first two stages of certification
  • Been hit by a car, badly spraining my left ankle
  • Rehabilitated two ankles
  • Crashed someone else’s car, in a very minor manner, but still
  • Found another part-time job, in which I get to drive cars
  • Quit the first part-time job
  • Found a full-time job, teaching Pilates
  • Had another part-time job, lecturing in humanities at medical school; secured same gig for next year
  • Done NaNoWriMo, winning by the skin of my teeth
  • Started a blog, and posted more than five times (see previous blog)
  • Watched Battlestar Galactica
  • Done Balance Control Step Off on the Reformer

In order to round out the year, there are some things I plan to do in the next few weeks:

  • Complete the Pilates certification — practical exam on Friday, mat test on Saturday, updates then.
  • Turn 27.
  • Fix the car.

Stay tuned, gentle readers.

More things I love about my job

  • I get to drive past Random House Books, which has a pleasing sign out the front, viz:

  • The cars have remote locking and flash their lights — simple pleasures, I know
  • When I am early I can get a tiny burger from Burger Fuel
  • Or a Thai meal
  • Though I have never done so
  • There are actual magazines in the staffroom, with covers and actual words, like North & South and Mindfood and so on, rather than tattered stripped copies of Truth
  • Other staff encourage me to leave humorous messages on the whiteboards
  • I get to sing in the car

NaNoWriMo ploughs ahead

The thing about NaNoWriMo is that it is vital not to stop. Industrious bods who write every single day need only bash out 1,667 words a pop in order to reach their 50,000 by the end of the month. Lazy people who get sidetracked, on the other hand, have a harder time of it: their wordcount goal creeps up and up by the day until they write themselves — or, rather, fail to write themselves — into an untenable situation, and are forced to either give up in ignominy or chuck a sickie and do 18,000 words on the last day of November.

Neither of these is an option that Betty will have the liberty of taking, and consequently Betty has been forced to repent of her previous ways and start writing in good earnest. Fortunately, she has one more week of the cushy cable-watching job, which takes care of writing time on Mondays and Tuesdays; Wednesday nights has been free for the past two weeks, due to the rest of the student group having exams, and so Betty has managed to hunker down in the Borders cafe with a sizable array of other November novelists, which is terribly good for the wordcount; Thursdays afford a certain amount of time between leaving the studio and starting at the third job, which also has some free time built into it, hence all the blogging. Fridays are a little tricky. Tomorrow will include a lateish client, which will mean that writing will only start in the middle of the afternoon. The weekend involves the third job, and plenty of time between client visits and non-clinical notes.

For the readers’ amusement, Betty will hereby enclose the official NaNoWriMo graph widget as of this morning. The red bars indicate absolute slothfulness; the green bits are writing; and the grey bits are writing that actually fulfilled the wordcount. Note that the red bits get added to the wordcount goals in the future. Note also, in case any reader is alarmed, that the wordcount at the time of posting is 19,034, which means that the end is in sight: Betty can do it.

Kinda. I hope. Stay tuned.