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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.

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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.

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.

For the first time, ever, I have a completely wearable, long-sleeve (ish) cardigan.  But, I happen to have very bad luck when it comes to making any knit object larger than a scarf.  It just doesn’t go over very well with me.  I don’t know why.   My last cardigan experience was not the best one, and I still get a little sad when I think about it.

I chalk it all up to learning experiences.

My poor herringbone sweater was a lot of firsts for me (in no particular order):

-First time not following a pattern.

-First time knitting a long-sleeved sweater.

-First time steeking.

-First time knitting picot edgings

I had high hopes for it.  Really high hopes.  Turns out that the sweater was too tight.  I had used a sweater I like to wear as the basis for the measurements and completely disregarded the fact that the template sweater wasn’t made of worsted weight wool (in stranded colorwork) and the sweater I was trying to knit would be.  I tried to save it by steeking (which, by the way, is really really really really really fun), but it just didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to turn out.  I mean, the steeking part was fine — it was the making it up part that wasn’t.  Sad face.

So I learned some things:

(1) The kind of fabric determines how the garment will behave

(2) Stranded colorwork is not stretchy.

(3) If in doubt, go bigger.

(4) How to steek using a crocheted chain.

(5) Some things are fixable.  Others are not.

(6) Lionbrand Fisherman’s Wool is great for steeking.

This newest finished object (original pattern here) for which I harbor high hopes, too, could end very very very very very badly.  The yarn was given to me (and who am I to turn down free yarn?), and the color is revolting.  Or at least, I deem it revolting.  Which is all that really matters because it is MY SWEATER.  And I knit it because I wanted to knit it.  Thing is, I knit when I’m stressed, and this past month has been nothing if not stressful for me.  Stress + me = compulsive knitter.  Sometimes it ends well, sometimes not so much.  I’m not sure about this time around.

Pre-blocking, pre-mischief, it fits!  I grafted the arms together and I sewed up the underarms.  I have yet to weave in the ends, but that’s my least favorite part.  I have socks for which the cast on tail is still dangling about or tucked inside because I loathe weaving in ends almost as much as I loathe washing dishes.  It will get done, promise.

Well, here’s the thing: I don’t like the color and the color doesn’t like me back.  So, I want to dye it.  I lack a permanent residence and I currently live in remote tropical island.  My sweater is 100% wool.  All I have is Kool-Aid and a bucket.  I want to dye it.  Can I?  Should I?  I know dyeing is a fickle creature, but I am a compulsive monster.  The thought both delights me and scares me.  I don’t want to end up sad.

But, even if it does end up poorly, I have consolation in the fact that knitting up this cardigan has taught me a lot of things.  It was a learning experience, after all.  In no particular order, I learned:

(1) Why everyone loves short-rows.
(2) How to do short-rows.
(3) How to make button holes.
(4) How to graft garter stitch.
(5) I don’t have enough buttons.
(6) It is possible to knit an entire garment in a color which one does not like.
(7) How to spit join.
(8) How to do a crocheted provisional cast-on.

past present future

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here and there