Archive for the ‘Mutterings’ Category

Plastic Surgery

In a conversation recently with a friend and psychologist about my last article on plastic surgery and self esteem, she pointed me in the direction of this ancient, slightly disturbing and fascinating research. Dr. Maxwell Maltz worked for many years as a plastic surgeon before becoming interested in the problems of perception and negative self-image that continued to plague his patients following their much anticipated surgery. Here is the link to his disarmingly hoakey webpage http://www.psycho-cybernetics.com/about.html. There are also some interesting clips on youtube.

SUPER HUMAN SUCCESS! aside, it is interesting how far back the understanding that a new nose has no relationship to happiness goes.

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I’m 43 years old, soon to be 44. One year, when work, a child and life in general were overwhelming, I thought I was turning 35 for quite a few months, before realising it was actually 34. A whole year had escaped me.

For the past few years, I have spent more time than I like to admit, thinking about death. Or rather, more honestly, about my own. Sometimes these thoughts are gentle, and sometimes they explode in my chest with a sensation not unlike falling.

The last explosion was triggered by this equation: my daughter is now 15, and those years have gone by almost in fast forward. In another 15 years, going by I imagine just as quickly, I will be nearly 60. This is where I stop breathing. Then breathe in, breathe out.

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In this recent and ongoing dark time in my work life, I’ve been going over some of the different moments in my life when I’ve taken a new direction; wondering where those paths have led me to today, and whether it’s worth a revisit.

I love my therapy work, and it’s a constant in what is now, since leaving a permanent teaching position, an array of part time itinerant and intermittent commitments. Not to mention a PhD I currently have trouble even thinking about, let alone working on. I have some real choices to make about where to go from here, and like all big choices they are difficult to make and come with serious consequences.

The first time I remember making a real effort to find work I loved, rather than aimlessly letting it find me, was when I moved to Sydney over 20 years ago. I couldn’t find work doing any of the myriad things I’d been doing in Montreal, and I found myself at Telstra, in what was then 013, or information services. I had a couple of weeks of training with a frightening tyrant of a woman who was a dark hair and dark eyed beauty masquerading as a crispy blonde with blue contacts. In the call centre,  I regularly sat next to a woman close to retirement, who often hung up on callers after instructing them to ring back when they had learnt how to spell. Needless to say it was a dark time.

I picked up a copy of ‘What Color is Your Parachute?, read it cover to cover and felt more confused than ever. I liked music, enjoyed writing, liked working in radio and doing voice overs…..the list went on. I gave up, worked in a pizza shop and got fired for the first time in my life. Then one day I thought I’d just go through the paper to see if anything caught my eye. I saw an ad for a vet nurse – no experience necessary! This was unbelievable to me coming from a country where you needed formal qualifications to brush hair. I loved animals, had some experience working with them. Why not? I called, I went in, I got the job.

My closest colleague was Dana, about my age and currently existing only on slimfast and apparently carrying on an affair with the vet and owner of the practice, a man in his fifties with a serious alcohol addiction and great difficulty speaking to people and looking them in the eye at the same time. I cleaned cages, fed animals, held them during examination, and began to learn how to monitor the anaesthetic equipment during the endless midday surgeries.

Most of the time Dana was there, and so when the vet was too drunk to work, she took over. But as the weeks went by and it came time for her to return to vet nurse training, I was more and more alone. I remember two incidents clearly from those three months. The first was being asked drunkenly by the vet to vaccinate two cats, as the owner was coming to pick them up soon. He then went into the back room to pass out. I had never vaccinated anyone in my life, so I did the most sensible thing I could think of. I called my mother. She had been a nurse, so surely she could help me. She talked me through how to fill and hold the syringe, and how and where to insert it. I was already quite handy at holding a cat.

The second incident happened in surgery. Halfway through spaying a cat, the vet passed out in his chair, the gentle hum of the equipment and rise and fall of the tiny cat chest making the only sounds in the room. I called my mother again, and she reassured me that things were stable for the cat at the moment. Thankfully, Dana was not long in returning.

I may have only been there a couple of months, and a couple more at the next job (some experience required), but even though vet nursing is not my current occupation, I’m not sure I’ve ever learnt more in my life about what I want to do and what I love. I still love animals, but I know I want to live with them much more than I want to work with them. I found out that sitting with people whose animals were dying was the best part of my work. I learned that my fine motor skills leave a lot to be desired, and that I would never make a truly helpful surgery assistant. I discovered that it wasn’t that I didn’t like working with people, I just didn’t like chatting. I liked to listen and to help understand.

I think I’ve lost the trail somehow, just like I had lost it then. I need to pick a point on the map that speaks to me and make my way there, however strange it seems. Because I would never have found this work I love if I’d never been a vet nurse.

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