Today, I settled into the fourth “home” I’ve had in sixth months.  That’s just the beginning.  This year has been insane.  And unsettling.  Amidst all the traveling, I’ve been sure to always have my knitting with me.  It makes moving a little more complicated, but hey, my life is full of complication.  What’s a little more trouble?  Exactly.  So, the other day (or week, whatever), I got to thinking, “Where has my knitting been?”  Take, for example, the most recent sweater I knit.  This one:

The yarn? Malabrigo Worsted.  From Uruguay.  Bought at Downtown Yarns in New York City.   Knit in various places: Bergen County Regional Medical Center, in Paramus, NJ; Washington Twp, NJ; on New Jersey Transit; on the LIRR; in Atlantic Beach, NY; JFK airport; on a plane from JFK to PHX; PHX airport; on a plane from PHX to ONT; in Alta Loma, CA.

This year has seriously been a whirlwind of adventures, misadventures, events, catastrophes, triumphs, failures, and, above all else: change. Back in the day when I was smaller than I am now, my mom told me that the only constant (and predictable) thing in life is change. That’s basically the motto of my life: for example, the most obvious changes have been in location — the past year, I’ve lived in two countries and four states — but I’m also pretty sure I’m not the same person I was a mere twelve months ago. There are no words to describe or intimate all the ways my life has changed. For better or worse, I don’t know. It’s times like these (which, at the moment, feels like all the time) that I’ve found comfort in knitting. To me, it marks the time between what’s happened and what’s happening. A kind of reminder of where I’ve been and a reassurance that things get better (or at least different).

A summary of events:
(1) I finished my basic sciences portion of medical school.
(2) Passed the USMLE Step 1
(3) Started clinical rotations
(4) Realized I don’t hate Peds as much as I thought I would
(5) Realized I might want to do Peds
(6) Started my Internal Medicine rotation
(7) Realized I might want to do IM
(8) Cancer f***ing sucks x infinity
(9) Realized I might want to do Heme-Onc
(10) Realized some of my family sucks
(11) Realized some of my family is amazing
(12) My brother is growing up
(13) I’m growing up
(14) I have an amazing boyfriend

In the past eight months, I’ve knit 10 pairs of socks (two of which are knee-highs, and three of which are man-socks), 2 hats, 4 pairs of mittens, and one kick-ass sweater.

The run-down: socks edition.

(1) knees and toes II.  These are the Knitty pattern “Garden Gate.”  For a short while I was almost totally obsessed with this pattern.  And for good reason.  They are seriously impressive.  In fact, I have two pairs of them and I wouldn’t mind knitting myself another pair if the color work weren’t so difficult to memorize.

(2) i heart bows.  I was on a knee-high knitting kick this past winter: it was my first winter in two years and I’ve always loved wearing knee highs (and boots).  This pair I designed myself and am pretty damn proud of them.  I bought the Zauberball in Michigan while I lived there and I knit these socks while I was studying for the USMLE Step I.  I later wore these when I actually wrote the exam.

 

(3) like popping an ativan.  These socks I knit during a particularly rough patch this year.  Stress tends to make me edgy and fidgety and antsy.  At least now I have something to show for it.  This pattern is “Firestarter” by Yarnissima (one of my favorite sock designers), and is almost perfect stress-relief knitting: the foot is just complicated enough to be distracting and the leg is completely mindless knitting.  The yarn (Great Adirondack Soxie in Monet) I bought in Michigan during one of my last LYS trips with a good friend of mine.

(4) that’s why they’re called business socks.  There’s this show called Flight of the Conchords IK and I used to watch when we lived in Dominica and in one of the episodes there’s this song called “Business Time” during which one of the characters refers to his socks as business socks (see video below).  Anyways, these are the first socks I ever knit for IK.  He bought me the yarn (Dream in Color Everlasting Sock in Dive) after I told him that it was one of my favoritest yarns I had ever knit with (it’s the pink color in “i heart bows” — the colorway in that one is Poppy).  Pattern is “Aragorn.”

 

(5) starry.  These are the Knitty pattern “Maeva.”  I won this yarn in a photo competition All for Love of Yarn holds every month.  The inspiration for the colorway was a store front in Ann Arbor, MI.  I wanted to incorporate the inspiration for the colorway into the knitted product.  These socks were knit in a little lull between writing Step I and starting rotations.

(6) to disguise my ugly feets.  The pattern is Summer Sliding by Jeannie Cartmel.  I started these during June of this year, while in Connecticut, and finished them  in June when I was living with my aunt and uncle in Illinois.  While there, I had the habit of walking around barefoot — it was summer, after all, and inside the house, it felt nice to walk barefoot.  My uncle happened to be sitting near me during one of my barefoot excursions and he remarked that I have incredibly flat feet (I don’t — I have pretty high arches) and that my feet are exceptionally ugly (personally, I hate feet, but I’ve definitely seen feet much uglier than mine).  Needless to say, my feelings were a little hurt, but at least I had some beautiful socks on the needles.

(7) bedroom socks.  A while back, I jumped on the self-striping yarn bandwagon and bought myself some Vesper Self-striping Yarn by Knitterly Things.  And then I joined a knit-a-long on Ravelry.  I know, pretty knit-nerd-tastic of me, but what can I say?  I’m pretty knit-nerd-tastic.  I bought this yarn way before I realized that the colors match the colors in the bedroom in Illinois I had while growing up.  Hence, bedroom socks.  The pattern is Knitty’s Skew.

(8) in case you decide that gynecology is your calling.  Father’s Day happened while I was living in Illinois with my aunt and uncle (the one who said I had ugly feet), and I felt a little guilty that I didn’t have something to give him — but what do you give a man who insists (and not in a humble kind of way) that he has everything he already wants?  I decided I was going to knit him a pair of socks to one, show him how awesome knit socks are, and two, slay him with some kindness after his comment about my feet.  So, I went to a local yarn shop near the clinic in which I was learning/working — which shall remain unnamed because it was honestly one of the most unenjoyable/unfriendly/abrasive yarn shops I have ever had the poor luck to visit — and picked up some Madeline Tosh Sock yarn in this lovely, manly, tonal green-grey shade.  Perfect, I thought, for man-socks.  I looked at the label, and to my surprise, the colorway is named “Georgia O’Keefe, ” which, to me, at least, is completely synonymous with “vagina.”  Whatever, I thought.  It’s not like the recipient is going to know I’m knitting him socks in “vagina.”  I picked up a pattern from my ever growing Ravelry queue: KawKawesque, by Yarnissima, and started knitting.  I mentioned to my aunt that I was knitting my uncle a pair of socks and she remarked, “Oh, he has SO many socks.”  But, I didn’t think anything of it.  A few days later, I was knitting on the couch and my uncle came by.  I told him, offhandedly, that I was knitting socks for him.  His words?  “I have enough socks.”  And he didn’t even bother to look.  I was crushed.  Maybe I’m too used to people being impressed with my knitting, but still.  Sad.  I wasn’t going to stop knitting these socks, though.  I mean, they’re pretty awesome.  Plus I was more than half-way in on one sock and I had already knit and frogged that portion numerous times.  And I wasn’t about to go back to that awful yarn shop.  My boyfriend is always grateful for another pair of knit socks or anything knitted, so I figured, he’s love them.  And be proud of them.  At the time, he was in the middle of this OB-Gyn rotation, and well, the colorway name just fit.  So these are for him.

(9) this knit is bananas: B-A-N-A-N-A-S.  Monkey socks.  By Cookie A.  They’re kinda famous in sock knitting circles.

(10) silly boy.  These socks are knit in Vesper Yarns Self-striping yarn in Rawhide.  The toes, cuff, and afterthought heel are knit in Vesper Yarns Semi-solids in Chartreuse.  The bedroom socks made me a Vesper Yarns Self-striping convert and I continuously fiend for more.  Seriously good stuff.  The base is so bouncy and springy and soft and the colors are SO VIBRANT.  Not for the faint of heart.  These socks are a gift to IK on our 2.5 year anniversary.  He’s a silly boy and these are some silly socks.  I was told that mustard yellow is the “it” color for next season,  and I’ve already apologized to IK for knitting the heels/toes/cuff in chartreuse instead of mustard yellow, but maybe next next season, chartreuse will be the “it” color of the season.

(1) Had a delicious noodle dinner at Momofuko Noodle Bar with IK, complete with delicious lychee slush which made world peace seem like a definite possibility.

(2) Ended up deep in Fox News country and slept in the same bed I slept in when I was just an itty bitty child (or rather, more itty bitty than I am now).

(3) Ate at an enormous  greasy spoon Greek diner in Milwaukee, which incidentally serves almost every food you could dream of except grits.  Thrice.  There are even wheels on the chairs for people who eat there even more regularly.

(4) Waited in a hospital waiting room for 6 hours straight.

(5) Got lost in said hospital.

(6) Witnessed this scene at said hospital cafeteria:

Lady (to Companion): Hey, can you move that seat out a little so I can get in?

Companion: That’s a lot of food you have there!

Lady: I know!  I have to get as much as I can because I have to stop at midnight!

 

(7) Went nearly 50 hours without changing my clothes or showering.

(8) Slept in an itty bitty hospital cot for two nights.

(9) Got kicked in the head (at 5 am) by a phlebotomist with an Australian accent (maybe I dreamt the accent part, but still).

(10) Woke up every 3 hours for bathroom attendant duties.

(11) Finished knitting a sweater out of hot pink lace weight yarn.

(12) Decided said sweater was ridiculously ugly, impractical, and ill-fitting.

(13) Frogged said ugly, impractical, ill-fitting sweater.

(14) Began knitting mittens (which I don’t need, and don’t know anyone who needs them).  They might be big.

(15) Cried a lot.

(16) Returned to my home sweet home and cried some more.

(17) Attempted to study.

I can’t say for certain that this has been the most difficult time in my life, but it is most definitely up there.  Again, I am reminded that plans are just plans and not promises: things change all the time, and the big guy upstairs has doesn’t really care what our silly little brains have planned — things happen, and they happen for reasons (although they may be unbeknownst to us).

I could complain and mope and whine and wallow — all of which, I am sure, are accepted in my situation — but I feel like that isn’t helping me cope.   And it surely isn’t helping me be strong.  And I need to be strong.

I’m thankful to have my mom.  We’ve had close calls and horrible nights and scary scary weeks, but she’s here.  And she’s still my mom, even though she may need me to take care of her, instead.

I’m thankful for “my people.”  The ones who are there for me, so I can  be there for my mom.

I’m thankful for knitting: the repetitive movements and the creation of something beautiful soothes my anxious mind (and hands).

I’m thankful that I’m in medical school.  Things make a lot more sense when you understand (however poorly) the physiology behind the pain, the medication, the disease.  But, while sense may be had, it doesn’t make the situation any less scary: just less mysterious.

I’m thankful for the internet.  ‘Nuff said.

I’m thankful for good doctors, and I hope one day I can be a great doctor, too.

I’m thankful for my family, no matter how neurotic certain personalities may be.  I love ’em and they love me (albeit in their own special ways).

First day of December, first snow of the season (in this particular part of Michigan). My first real whole winter in two years.

Snow!

And!  New winter knits!  Of which some aren’t entirely new, since I’ve been wearing them since September (but are truly winter wear appropriate) and some of which are not for me (but also fair game, since winter is also gift-giving season).

(1) Glovelies (Kingdom, from Knitty.com)

(2) Boyfriend hat (for the boyfriend, Turn A Square by BrooklynTweed)

(3) Friend hat (for friend, same as above)

(4) Another friend hat (for another friend, same as above)

(5) DNA scarf (pattern here)

(6) Golden (Marlene by Cookie A.)

(7) Knee Socks (as yet, only a single sock; Garden Gate from Knitty.com)

There are stories behind all these knits, as there are stories behind every knit, but that’s a yarn for another day.

My mom used to tell me that the only thing in life that’s certain is change.  She was right about that one, and she made me believe it (and live it) with all the moving and changing and coming and going.  Twenty-five years later, my life hasn’t settled a single bit, and I firmly believe that “stable” and “lifestyle” are never meant to be together.  Since August, I’ve moved from a tropical island in the Caribbean (whose existence I have come to doubt), to my “home,” and then to a weird little place in Michigan.  I’ve come across people I never knew existed and some I wish never had.  And one I wish could stay a little longer.

I’m currently finishing up my M2 year (I’m thisclose to being an M3, I can almost feel it), and for the first time in my life, I’ve found myself in a situation where life and death meet.  My first patient, my first passing.  I don’t remember anyone saying anything to me in my basic science years about how to deal with a patient dying and yet, that’s a large part of the medical profession: dealing with death.  There are no words I can find to describe the storm of feelings and emotions I’m experiencing.  I don’t know how to categorize or sublimate or confine these emotions.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do or not do.  I know that my patient, with her passing, is finally going to be free of pain and free of disease.  I know that her family is grieving and I wonder, what right do I have, if any, to grieve, too?  I’ve only known her for a short nine weeks.

It wasn’t as if this were completely unexpected: I knew from the beginning that she was preparing herself for death. Her disease was progressive and she opted for palliative care.  She was in a lot of pain throughout the time I knew her.  Yet, I didn’t think I would be around to see her slip away.  To see her “condition deteriorate” as it’s put in clinical terms.  I didn’t think I’d have to see her family gather to read the Bible aloud and sing hymns to her.  I didn’t think I’d be part of that.  I didn’t know I could be part of that.  It’s something I hope I never forget.

A part of me feels like I shouldn’t be allowed to cry or to have bonded so closely with my patient.  A part of me wishes I had gotten to know her better.  My whole heart hopes that, in her last few months while I was with her, I didn’t cause her any undue pain or suffering.  I hope with my whole heart that she’s at peace.

Today was a weird day.  Mostly, all I did (all I did, huh) was rummage through old things to see what I could use in the next few months: I am packing old things to use for the future.  I came across a few interesting things: some “what was I thinking?” things and some, “huh, I really really like that” things, and some things like the first actual object I ever knit.  A scarf.  Green, acrylic, faux cable lace, garter stitch edging.  Pretty cool.  But I’d never wear it again.

Behold, my first knit (ever):  

Actually, the past few months have been weird: all filled with uncertainty and doubt and decisions and change.  Kind of like a not-so-tasty jelly donut.  And I left my temporary home in Dominica.  I still don’t know how I feel about that one.  I’ve been “home home” for barely enough time to get used to it again, and now, I’m moving to the most temporary home I’ve had (and possibly ever will have) in a state to which I’ve never been before.  Thinking about it makes my head spin.  All the while, I’ve been (well, I’ve supposed to have been) studying for an exam encompassing the basic science years of medical school, to which I give an emphatic, “????????!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????!!!!???!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”.    Actually that’s what I give to this year.

There’s something wrong with me.  Things like this:

And this:

Just don’t do it for me anymore.  The other night, IK exclaimed, “Oh!  It’s really pretty out right now!” as the sun was setting.  I peeked out and, eh, I really didn’t care.  I wasn’t in a bad mood or anything.  I just didn’t care.

Now,  I’m not a miserable human being who hates puppy dogs and chocolate.  I don’t even hate Dominica.  It’s a beautiful place.  I’m just tired of it.  And I’m ready to go home.

Exam is approaching.  I feel as if my life is consistently circumscribed by exams: they form the walls in my life.  There’s no use fighting it.  I just gotta keep on keeping on.  To keep up on this time around:

Pharmacology: GI, endocrine, and alternative.

Pathology: GI, hepatic, genital, endocrine.

Microbiology: GI and hepatic bugs, sexually transmitted diseases.

Clinical Medicine: clinical imaging and other stuff.

Things I’ve knit between the taking of the last exam and the studying for this coming exam:

-Two hats for one married couple.  I dyed them red (with Kool-Aid!) because the couple is Canadian.  And they’re in love.

One is “Knotty but Nice” from Knitty Winter 2009:

The other is “Dependence” by Eyja Brynjarsdóttir

Undyed:

Dyed:For both hats, I used Paton’s Classic Wool in Sienna, which my aunt gave me after she found it on sale at Michael’s for $1/skein.

-One and a half pairs of Pomatomus socks (from Knitty Winter 2005) in Lion Brand Sock-Ease.  IK gave me the yarn: he ventured into Lion Brand Studio in NYC all by his lonesome.  And rubbed his cheek against the wall.  Because it was soft and covered in yarn, or so he tells me.

I knit the grey ones (colorway = Rock Candy) for myself.  The yellow ones I’m knitting as part of a swap with a lovely lady who sews.  She’s sewing me some bags, and she’s getting a pair of sunny yellow socks (colorway = Lemon Drop).

Things I’d like to learn to do in the near (-ish?) future:

-How to visualize the fundus of the eye using an opthalmascope better.  This is a must.

-How to perform a full physical exam well and in front of examiners.  Without losing my shit.  This, too is a must.

-Dermatomes.  Also a must.

-Sew.  With a sewing machine!  Because I want to make this!  Also because the lady behind this is an inspiration to me.  Other than that, I don’t know why else I’d ever be compelled to learn to sew — I hate seaming my knits and try to avoid it at all costs.  Any and all.

-Suture.  Apparently, knitting is good practice!

-Embroider.  Because it’s pretty.  Duh.

– Get organized.  A must?

-Spin my own yarn.  Oh how I wish I could!

-Make a beaded knit something.  Sparkles!

-How to be an adult.  One day.  Maybe?

Since the beginning of the year, I have knit nearly 3 miles of yarn.  I wish I had kept better track of my knitting since I started knitting —  I would be interested in knowing how much I’ve knit in the past four years.  All I know is that in the past six months, I’ve probably knit more than I ever had ever before — or at the very least, have had more successful finished objects than ever.  It is partly because being in medical school is stressful and I knit more when I’m under a lot of stress, and also because I feel the need to be thrifty with my yarn.  What I have here in Dominica is all I’ll ever have here in Dominica.

Count:

-Eleven socks (five pairs, one singlet; 3 pairs + 1 singlet for me)

-Three hats (one for me)

-Four “Haruni” shawls (one for me)

-One cardigan (for me)

Yesterday, I did not knit.  Instead, I attended my first hospital rotation, during which I followed an anesthesiologist and later interviewed (while being live tele-conferenced to a classroom filled with first semester medical students: weird, scary and really annoying all at the same time) and examined a man who had been hospitalized for foot ulcers.  The anesthesiology rotation was incredible: I had the opportunity to watch four different surgeries and see the practical application of of what I have been learning in the classroom for the past 17 months.  Suddenly it all seems relevant.  Suddenly I realized how stupid I’ve been for thinking the little things aren’t important.  I also realized how important it is to have strong legs and comfortable shoes.  Chairs are in short supply in the operating room (or “theatre,” as they call it in the British-influenced medical circles).

I also realized how treacherous it is to become ill in a country less developed than, say, the United States.  In Dominica, your care, while “free,” depends on the current supply of medications on hand and the staff present.  Drugs are expensive.  Drugs with less side effects are more expensive.  Equipment is expensive.  “One use only” is expensive.   In the end, you’re at the mercy of lady luck and the agility of your doctor.

[Side note: Oddly enough, one of the reasons I began knitting was because I wanted/want to be a surgeon (I feel weird saying that because I fear I’m not smart or good enough to actually be a surgeon).  Well, that and because I have fidgety fingers.  Someone told me knitting increases one’s dexterity (it does), so I tried it.  Then I realized I could make things.  Like scarves.  Sweaters.  Hats.  Socks!   Don’t even get me started on the virtues of knitting.  I think everyone ought to knit.]

A lot of things have changed my perspective of medicine in the past month: my mother’s illness, my progression in medical school, interaction with real patients, finding out that a person’s maximum heart rate is 220 minus their age, or that an epinephrine IV bolus can both kill someone and save someone’s life (true, hands-on experience: luckily the patient was plastic).  I don’t know where I’m going yet, and I don’t know how I’m going to get where I need to be, but I’m soldiering on.  Slowly.  Exam in five days.  Sigh.

past present future

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