Monday, 4 November 2019

I spent the week working, making money, doing important things that important adults do. I was tired by the time the weekend came.  And yet, my tasks were not over. I needed to buy groceries,  and wash clothes, and dishes.
Saturday afternoon. Lucy greeted me at the door.
Her determined stance spoke volumes.
'Get in here.  Sit down! You haven't stopped this week."
'Hang on a minute. I know, I know. I just need to hang out the washing '.
"Sit down. Rest!"
She looked at me in her determined manner that is both disarming and infuriating in equal measures.
I hung out the washing.  I was so tired, the lack of sleep, the early morning and the extra exercise meant I was spent. She knew it. I knew it. I wouldn't let her know she was right.
Her insistent yowl tore through the house.
"Sit down! Cuddle me!"
She won me over. Again.
Before I knew it, she had climbed onto my lap, and her blissful purring enveloped me as I slipped into slumber.  Just what we both needed.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The pierced, tattooed and conscious human

I often get told I don't "look" like a doctor.
It's a funny thing. What exactly does a doctor look like? Are they white? Male? Wear expensive clothes? Comfy shoes? High heels? 
If I don't look like a doctor, what do I look like? 
I don't think it's ever said maliciously,  but it does make me wonder about what our society values. 
Would you see a doctor who has tattoos? Grey hair? Green hair? 
Would you see a doctor who wears Jeans? 
Would you see a doctor who lacks compassion and has absolutely no knowledge of medicine? 
See? I got ya! 
That's what it comes down to. And realistically,  how does what I wear, the colour of my hair, or my skin convey my intelligence or experience? The truth is that it doesn't all. I think a lot of people do think it does.
We live in a society where most women become invisible if they are overweight, wear plain clothes or have no make up on. I know, because I have lived it. People comment on how pretty I look whenever any of the above change. No one ever says that I look smarter than I did yesterday or that the book I read on the weekend really shows. 
No one cares. Or maybe I am just around the wrong people all the time.
I am becoming increasingly cynical about human beings and their ability to look past appearance and truly see substance. I think this is also why I have chosen to remain single. In fact, it appears that if I insist on not wearing make up I'm already half way there to ensuring I remain that way for the rest of my life. 
If you disagree, then prove me wrong. 
Restore my faith in humans. 
I am a good doctor. I am compassionate, I take my time and I am thorough. And I think part of what makes me a good doctor is the fact that I ensure my humanity shows.  My patients often get to laugh in my consult room, the children get to play, they walk away with badges and smiles on their faces. And this definitely does not change whether I am wearing Jeans or a second hand skirt. Who cares? 
Let's make a world where people don't decide if they want to see me as a doctor because of what I look like. Or sit next to me on the bus, or approach me at a bar. Let's make a world where we measure a person's worth based on substance.  Please. 

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Election Day

Today we get to vote. The choice of candidates is grim, and people complain in Australia that it is compulsory.
All I can say is, when you have lived in a Dictatorship for most of your life, like my parents did before we came here, voting is a pretty special thing.
I love how orderly it is, there are no machine guns or violence. I like that we get to do it. And both my kids are voting in their first federal election.
Power to the people!!! Long live democracy!!!

Monday, 29 April 2019


When I was 3, I was asked what I wanted to do as a grown up. Easy: "I want to be a vet". The plan was still there when I applied for University. My father said maybe it was unrealistic to expect that my childhood dream could still be what I really wanted to do in life. Plus, we were new arrivals in Australia,  my mum was studying to try to get her degree recognised in Australia and there was no money to send me interstate to study. The vet course was not available in Adelaide at the time.
Then when I finished my medical degree (it seemed like the next best thing at the time); I looked into it again. Would I go to Uni and do a vet course even though I'd spent 6 years as an undergraduate and finished two degrees? At the time, my partner was not keen to move interstate, so instead, I did my intern year and had my first child the following year. My nurturing nature took to motherhood like a duck to water. I had a second child soon after and dedicated all my efforts into making two new humans, with good morals, intelligence, ambition and compassion. We had 17 animals in our household, because I loved them, and they were a fantastic learning tool for children. How to treat people and adapt to their needs: we don't chase cats, we wait for them to come to us. We don't bother the hen when she is sitting on her eggs, we are gentle with the rats because they are little, we don't frighten bunnies, and we must certainly go to time out if we hit the dog, because the dog has a right to feel safe in our home, just like the people.
Then when the kids were a little older and I was deciding where to take my career next, I looked into the new Adelaide course. Could I go back to Uni for another 6 years and become a vet? I put it out of my mind yet again and decided to embark on a career in Emergency medicine, which so far had been the only area of medicine that made me feel enthusiastic. 3 years into the training, my husband decided that he did not love me anymore and that our goals in life were different.  I was angry, sour. I was faced with financial implications and time restrictions which meant my personal goals needed to come second, (third even), to my kids and the mortgage.  I quit Emergency training and went to do General Practice.  My intention was to secure a lifestyle that allowed single parenting, time for kids and income for bills and schooling.
Over the years, the dream of veterinary science became just a dream. Getting the kids through school and catering to their dreams became the priority.
I have now been a doctor for 20 years. I'm good at it, I work hard to be a good doctor. But my passion remains going home to 12 pets. Needy, dirty things that give me more pleasure in a couple of hours before I go to bed than an entire working day does.
My children are now 19 and 18. I have made two humans, and I know that the demands of motherhood do not diminish. The mortgage is still there, and the unhappiness of going to work every day instead of staying home with my animals still remains. Over the last 3 or 4 years I have once again looked at my options when it comes to going back to vet school. It turns out my degree is so old, I don't even have a GPA, as they didn't give you one in the late 90s. My qualification does not guarantee any recognition of prior learning, and the University fees are now triple what they were two decades ago.
The vet course requires 40 plus hours on campus for 6 years, at a campus 1 hour away from home. When on earth would I work? At night? Last year, I decided it was impossible, and decided to leave the dream behind. Accept that you are old, Heidi. The dream is over.
Someone asked me the other day what I liked best about medicine. I answered: "I don't really, the science is fun, but getting up every morning is a struggle".
What do you want to do?, they asked.
"I wanted to be a vet", I replied. "But I can't,  that ship has sailed".
"Because it's a degree with full time contact hours, a 2 hour commute. When would I work? At night?"
They shrugged: "People do it".

People do it.
They do, don't they?
I will never be happy until someone tells me categorically that I cannot do this. I do not want to be a doctor, I never have. I want to be with animals all day. And yes, I can euthanase animals, no, I don't mind that you earn less than a doctor, I am aware that I would be in debt for the rest of my days, and be tired 24/7.
I need to show myself and my kids that I can do anything I put my mind to, they can reach and do.
I will apply, and I will secure night hours in order to finance it.
The thought and the knowledge that I can has filled me with purpose again. I am so excited by the prospect of working with large animals, and learning comparative anatomy. I have the people skills to deal with pet owners, I have the life experience and the determination  to make it happen.
I have even decided that the extra 40kg I am carrying need to go so that I am fit and healthy and strong and more likely to succeed.
I think a childhood dream that has never gone away just needs to be made reality. Screw the mortgage!
It will stay there and slowly diminish, but I am tired of slowly diminishing with it. I need to do this so I can stay alive. Watch this space.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

2 am

My daughter is out on the town with friends for the very first time. She's a bit of a late bloomer, as she will be 20 in 3 months. She is a very sensible young woman. However, I remember being that age, and I remember making stupid decisions that I thought were sensible at the time!

I went to bed, and slept for two hours, went back to sleep and awoke at 1 am. Not home yet. Part of me was celebrating: oh my beautiful girl is growing up and out having fun! Then my mum brain kicked in. I sent a text to ask if she was still ok. There was no answer.

I was proud of myself after that, as instead of ringing every Adelaide Emergency department or the friend she is out with, I simply told myself that she was having fun!!!!
'Stop worrying!'

But of course didn't go back to sleep until her cheery text came in just a few minutes ago.

'She's fine. She's having fun. She's ok.'
I used to think that my parents wanted to control my every move by demanding to know where I was.

I guess I know better now. It's the gut clenching worry of her sensibleness wearing thin under a veil of beer, or some asshole making a stupid decision around her. Maybe one day I'll be able to just go to sleep and trust that all will be well. I guess tonight is not that day.

As I wrote that last sentence, an image flashed in my mind. An image of a tiny baby girl lying on my bed. It was day 3, I had just brought her home and I remember thinking that nothing was ever going to be the same again. The fear overwhelmed my 24 year old self. Self doubt and panic engulfed me, and I cried. Day 3 blues, they call it. I think it was just the realisation that I was a mother. My life was no longer just mine, it was shared. My love would be divided and I feared that I wouldn't be able to do what the job demanded. I think I'm still that overwhelmed 24 year old. Every day.

I better get a couple of hours sleep. I'll pretend to be asleep when she gets home. So she understands that I do trust her. It's what good mothers do.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Will I fight or will I drown?

I have been single on and off for 14 years. I have failed in that time to find a partner who not only was emotionally available but was happy to have the kids around and able to work through difficulties, and willing to do so.

For many years, I decided I would remain single, because I had enough on my plate, I was busy raising children and providing for them, and I just didn’t have the energy for a new relationship as well. And as much as I love my children and my animals and my life, there were times when I would feel sorry for myself. Mostly around Christmas time, when the school concert was on and parents would turn up to watch their children. They would sit together and enjoy what they had created together, bask in the glow of their kids together. I wanted that. Instead, I would be there maybe with my mum, or sometimes alone. The first assembly, parent teacher interviews, the first day at middle school and high school.
It was lonely.

The hard decisions had to made by myself, the hard disciplinary actions when I felt that I was damaging my children. The hurtful teenage “I hate you”, the first period, the first friendship conflict, the first time and second and third time that I stuffed up and had to say sorry. Or the times I simply couldn’t be there because work got in the way.
It was hard. I had to pick myself up all the time.

I had good friends to help, but on my darkest days, it was all too dark even to share. I would just sit in the car on my way to work and cry, or cry myself to sleep after the kids went to bed.

And I would allow myself these days of “feeling sorry for myself”, and then I would tell myself that that was enough. I had had my wallow, what was I going to do about it?
I would pick myself up and instead make a plan.

How was I going to teach my children about divorce? I went to the library and picked up suitable books to read. We developed systems to keep track of things: the library box that contained the library books so that they wouldn’t go missing.

I made lists for the kids to bring things back from their dad’s house so they wouldn’t be left behind and laminated the lists so they could re-use them.

I made decisions on my own activities and made play dates when I was feeling painfully lonely. I strengthened my friendships, I learned to say no, I sacrificed hours working so that I would have the hours I wanted and be able to spend the time with the kids instead and be a good parent.

I got my fellowship of General Practice. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in study as well as the kids and work, so I made the point of studying for just 1 hour every day at bed time for 6 whole months. I committed to it and I did do it, and although some days I would fall asleep reading my textbook, I got through the exams and I got my fellowship.

And I did this just allowing myself the occasional “feeling sorry for myself” day.
About a month ago, I fell in a heap. I was feeling sorry for myself. Every day. Lamenting the fact that I am still single, that I still spend important days alone, that I still have so much weight to lose, that I still have a mortgage and have to work more than I would like because although the kids are grown up, they still need me more than ever.

I lamented the fact that this is not the life I had planned. That this is not where I imagined I would be in my life. I started to look at other people’s lives and feeling all jealous of what they have and what they have been able to achieve and accomplish. I started to tell myself of course they can afford that when there are two people earning money in that household.
And then one morning, on my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed something my sister had posted about 2 years ago. It was an excerpt from something written by the great author Paulo Coelho, and I quote:

As if nothing had changed overnight, the warrior takes another wrong step and dives once again into the abyss. Ghosts provoke, loneliness torments him.

Now that he is more aware of his acts, he did not think this would happen.

But it did. Shrouded by darkness, he talks to his master.

“Master, I fell again into the abyss”, he says, “The waters are deep and dark”.

“Remember something”, responds the master. “It is not the diving that causes the drowning, but the staying underwater”

The warrior uses his remaining strength to get out of the situation he is in”.

It was like a lightning strike, a reminder of everything I have done for the last 14 years. How have I kept from drowning? I have got out of my situation, I have worked towards getting out of that abyss, time and time again.

Now that the children are older, there is no excuse for staying there. I could, and drown.
What exactly is stopping me having exactly the life I want to have?
Nothing, nothing at all. Everything is possible with hard work.
So I told myself it was time to stop wallowing. Enough, I said. Enough!

I got back to the gym. This was always my saving grace: being fit was the only way I could possibly get through the tough days. Everything else seemed easy compared to the gym.
And kept the weight down!

I would love to have a really nice outdoor area to go and sit in.

Guess what? I have an outdoor area. It needs some work and if I get off my arse and start the cat enclosure I have been meaning to make, I can open the entire house and let everyone just roam: cats, dogs, bunnies and people.

The thing is, it is in my power to make my life what I want it to be. I am free to leave the job that is not satisfying, I could make that decision if I wanted to. There are pros and cons of course, and I do have financial responsibilities. But I don’t have to have those either. I could sell my house and take myself on a travel around Australia trip if I really wanted to and spend all of my money on that.

The illusion is being trapped.

I am not trapped.

I am not drowning. Because I won’t allow it. Absolutely not.

I am a warrior.

The being single thing is not something I can change in a hurry, but being lonely is. It is a state of mind to a certain extent. I have so many people in my life, and it is up to me to continue nurturing those people and forget those who just take from me. I have allowed people to take from me without giving in return. Some of those bad relationships have been a choice.

So, 2019 is looking better than ever. I will have energy to build castles, and climb mountains.

Feel sorry for yourself, by all means, but use it to make plans and change your situation. You can. I can.

Mummy guilt

They say that guilt is a useless emotion. It is basically the feeling of having done something we should not have done, or omitted to do som...