Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Fairy Tale Bedroom Dead Zone

Hollywood has done us all a great disservice. I know, that's not really a revelation. We all know that we are a generation of messed-up expectations. We feel all relationships need to involve dramatic plot twists and epics denouements. We are programmed to expect beds sprinkled with rose petals, last minute dashes to airports, pronouncements of undying love after one date and that all breakups (except for the best friend's character) end up with the characters growing, changing and somehow belonging together even more. We've been raised on a diet of old school fairy-tale romance set against a background of insanely affordable New York lofts.

This whole change of expectations, and inevitable slump when we realize that our lives will never involve exposed brick walls, 1400 square feet and the entirety of Tiffany's being rented out for our viewing pleasure is not what I'm talking about. True, we have been programmed this way. But the men in most of our lives are, at the very least, aware that this is going on. I challenge you to find one guy that hasn't been dragged to a chick flick and, upon leaving, had a women demand to know why he's not as romantic as Heathcliff/Mr. Darcy/random male lead. If this hasn't happened recently, it did when he was in high school. So yes, we have unrealistic expectations. But somewhere in the dim recesses of the male brain, in an area normally reserved for the proper order of cutlery when setting a table and what color of socks to wear with black pants, men know this.

What I'm referring to is something else entirely. I don't know if anyone has ever identified it before so, like an explorer in colonial days, I am claiming it and choosing my own name. I shall call it The Fairy Tale Bedroom Dead Zone.

I think that the damage that Hollywood movies have done to us is not that we expect too much. It's a cultural norm now and I think most people are pretty aware of it. In lucid moments I think we are even able to tell ourselves "Hold on, I'm being crazy. This is life, not an episode of Friends." I think our problem is is that our frame of reference begins with coffee shop flirting and ends, abruptly, at the bedroom door.

With the exception of Sex and the City there aren't a lot of rom-coms out there that deal with, well, sex. Sure there's a lot of scenes that involve pre-sex romantic build-up, dimmly lit foreplay and post coital cuddling, but there's not ever really that much guidance in terms of sex and sex based relationships. It's as if we are all following a map that has a big blank in the middle of it labelled "Here Be Dragons." What's a modern day Cinderella to do when faced with the dilemma of when to break off a friends-with-benefits situation when a new romantic relationship bears its head? Is it morally reprehensible to be having casual sex with more than one person, or just difficult to schedule and perilous in terms of staying bladder infection free? Even the previously mentioned SATC (I know, I shortened it, shoot me) offers little guidance. Carrie is always vassilating wildly from one long term relationship to the next, Miranda has a stick up her ass, Charlotte is a prude and really, if Samantha doesn't have an STI by now it's a Christmas miracle. None of them are really role models I want to base myself on.

And really, when you look at it objectively enough, I shouldn't feel the need for a role model of the Hollywood variety. In fact I usually pride myself on NOT using Hollywood as a guide to my life. It's just that, having had this background noise for all other steps in the relationship world, this sudden void seems awkward. Meet guy, fall in love, procreate- covered. Meet guy, meet another guy, have good time until such time as right guy becomes evident or new guy enters scene-? How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days didn't cover this.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Early Morning Conversations: Turning Patients Medical Conditions into Hilarious Jokes

So I just got off a night shift. My eyes are blurring and, since there's no food in my house, a Tim Horton's breakfast sandwich is sitting happily and heavily in my stomach. I don't have to think about work again for 11 glorious hours. However just before I fall into a coma I'd like to share an early morning conversation I had. Is it equally witty if you aren't a massively sleep deprived nurse? Probably not. But that's not my problem.

Anyhow, for the purpose of this story lets just pretend that I had a patient named Smith overnight. And, because this always happens to me, Ms Smith was sane and coherent all day long only to spiral into an abyss of confused, thirsty delirium all night long. A delirium so deep she couldn't figure out how to use the call bell and instead lay in her bed yelling "LISA!! LISAAAAA!!! HELP ME! I'M FALLING! I NEED WATER! HEEEEELP!!!!" every 5 minutes. All. Night. Long. Usually I frown on writing whole sentences in caps lock, but there's no other way to write in Smith-speak.

I was giving report to the day nurse, who had been Smith's nurse while she was sane in the morning while the most adorable doctor ever invented sat behind her at a computer looking at some nasty looking x-rays. Here's how it went:

Day Nurse (DN)- "So she's crazy again?"

Me- "Oh, yah. I taught her how to use the call bell, but it fell of the side of the bed and I just never put it back because it's easier to ignore the person than the bell."

DN- "Right...... I just don't know how she went crazy again. She was so with it before!"

Me- "It's a special thing she does for me . Days go by and she never ONCE tries to climb out of bed to board the skytrain. I come on shift and all of a sudden the walls are waterfalls and she needs her rain slicker. It's a curse."

Enter the Super Cute Doctor (SCD)- "Would you like my clinical diagnosis? The patient is allergic to you and displaying the rare allergic reaction supercrazititis. Alternatively you have developed a horrible case of the Smiths and are imaging that your patients have gone insane. Either way, you should never work with this patient again."

Me- "Would you care to explain your diagnosis to my charge nurse?"

SCD- "I will write you a prescription for a patient load made up entirely of finger amputations and AVM's (easy stuff) until the symptoms clear. Otherwise you'll need surgery, and that would suck."

And that, right there, is why I sometimes love my job.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


My friend recently told me about a game called "Hipster." You walk down a hipster street (for example: Vancouver's vinyl store and plaid infested Main Street) pause and yell "HIPSTER!" at the top of your lungs. Then, while trying to pretend that it wasn't you that just screamed a random word in the middle of the sidewalk, you watch all the hipsters turn around in response to the call and then cringe at the fact that they responded to the term hipster. Cause everyone knows, nothing is as un-hip as calling yourself a hipster.

While I'm sure you'd be pretty successful if you did this in the vicinity of the 5 Points on Main, I really only find it kind of funny. Because, truthfully, a lot of my experiences in the city lead me to rub shoulders with the bearded, bespectacled indie crowd and I always end up feeling massively out of place. Maybe in other cities this would sound like paranoia, but anyone who has been to a show at the Biltmore wearing bootcut jeans and a hoody that isn't skin tight knows exactly what I mean. Vancouver's in-crowd has a way of making you feel so out-of-the-loop you want to apologize for crashing the party.

The funny part of this is that I have lived, and continue to live, what basically amounts to a hipster lifestyle. I may not smoke weed but I listen to CBC Radio Three and love the weekly podcast with a passion. I know indie bands by name and can toss out descriptors like "grunge-y jazz," and "alt-country with a emo vein," and actually know what I'm talking about. I'm an (admittedly new) convert to Canadian hip hop. I know the difference between dub-step and drum and bass thanks to some incredibly cool people in Ottawa and a random bus conversation with a tattooed DJ/ street person. I have art that I spray painted myself on my walls. I hitchhiked across Canada. I have, in the past, worked at a coffee shop. I bike around town, love yoga and wear sandals far, far past when it is seasonally feasible.

But I don't dress like an indie princess. I own plaid, but it is mainly in the form of shirts that hug my curves and make me look polished, in a sort of cowgirl way. My moccasins have made their way back to their original owner and, although I own a pair of mismatched Keds, I never wear them because they are too flat and make my feet hurt. Also, in all honesty, I CAN'T really dress like an indie princess, not without looking incredibly stupid. I have curves and boobs and there aren't too many oversized teeshirts out there that a girl with a chest and hips can layer over floral leggings and birkenstocks without creating the visual of a potato sack on toothpicks. Trust me, I've tried.

It really comes down to this: the indie scene in Vancouver really is a SCENE. These people are supposed to be listening to music that is deeper than the mainstream, caring about topics that are broader than the average young adult and embracing a lifestyle that is open and inclusive. That is the vibe that is supposed to be normal at indie shows everywhere. Really, though, I always feel like people are just eyeing me up to decide why I showed up to their show without an afghan scarf on. But maybe it's just me.

In closing: a word from one of my favorite local artists, who, although he is the king of the hipsters at the moment, has apparantly felt the same way.

"Bus down to the local record store
Buy something to make you like me more
Indie queens and tatty east-side punks
They are listening
Always waiting
Are you watching, are you?"

The Indie Queens are Waiting- Dan Mangan

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Growing Up, Not Throwing Up

For three years my friend Britt and I have been planning a great adventure. During boring nursing classes, while drunk and pretty much every other time we hang out we’ve been hashing out the details of this amazing excursion. The first stop has always been South East Asia; revisiting the land of my heart and introducing Britt to the joys of Mekong Whisky buckets and street Pad Thai. Then it was on to Australia to work part-time as nurses, putting in just enough hours to pay for a semi-nomadic surf bum lifestyle. This plan has had so much love and hope poured into it that it feels like I could leave tomorrow and know exactly what to expect.

Today I killed the plan. Britt and I went for a walk and I took a deep breath and told her I just couldn’t go to Australia in the fall, that things had changed and I needed to stay here awhile longer and get my career on solid footing.

I find myself in constant disbelief that I made this decision. I know, in my gut that:
a) It was the right choice and
b) I want a cookie,
but it has taken a serious amount of introspection to reach this point (not about the cookie though, that’s pretty much a constant). I have, for the first time in my life, made a decision that was not based on my ever present desire to be somewhere else, but rather on sound financial principals and the possibility of creating a sound footing for my future.

I know, right? I never thought I hear those words come out of my mouth. I am the girl that people used to say was “happy with a penny in her pocket, as long as she’s in another country.” What the hell happened to me? I have come to a crazy realization: people ACTUALLY change. I’VE actually changed. I made these travelling plans when I was 20. 20 year old me never thought I’d change. 20 year old Lisa would be appalled that I have chosen debt repayment and further education over a backpack and further liver damage. That Lisa would not understand that it’s not forever, that it’s just a short postponement. She would stomp her sandal-clad feet and scream. But I’m not her anymore.

How weird is that?

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I just published two posts that have been sitting in my little editing que waiting to go out for EVER. I didn't edit them at all, so if they don't make sense....that's why. I just felt bad for them, sitting there, never getting to live up to their full bloggy glory, so I let them free.

I don't, however, know how to change the order they appear in my actual they're down past the one about the big scary world.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hello World, You Terrify Me

I wrote a "History 225: The History of British Columbia" final exam today and, with the completion of a 3 page essay on Japanese Canadians, internment camps and "The Iron Chink" officially finished my four year long Bachelor of Science in Nursing. It seems fitting to me that a program with so very many useless courses should end on such a note.

It all seems a little anticlimactic to me. I've been in school, just out of school or about to head back to school for as long as I can remember. I actually have almost no memories from before I was old enough to be educated, although I do remember trying to get my little sister to eat dirt when I was pretty darn young. It's taken me 5 and a half brutal years to get through this program. I've almost quit so many times that I'm pretty sure my friends got tired of hearing it. I've written so many papers on so many things, from the ethics of force feeding meds (for the record: not ethical unless the person is legitimately crazy) to the leadership styles of Hitler (charismatic) and Obama (transformative) that I think I could actually write papers in my sleep now. I am so used to spending all my time finding ways to not do school work that, now that all my time is my own, I'm a little freaked out.

That freakout, however, is minor in comparison to the one that is coming, very, very soon in my future. Because, as anyone who has seen my bank balance will tell you, I gots to get me a job. Like yesterday. Luckily, I just finished nursing. I could, probably, get a job starting yesterday, even if I didn't apply for another week. Finding work is not my issue. My issue is that once I start working I will be on my own, actually responsible for people's lives. Up to this point I've either been a care aide (fewer ways to immediately kill people) or a student (lots of people watching your every move). Now, according to a program that made me take 4 courses titled "Self and Others" I am a fully grown nurse, raised from my infancy of making hospital corners on beds and interviewing healthy families to a young adult, perhaps with much to learn, but able to function on my own assessing unstable patients and administering blood products.

I don't feel like a young adult. I feel like a gawky teenager. I'm all legs and my decision making capabilities aren't all there yet. I long for independence but, in every tough situation find myself screaming "I need an adult here!" I'm the 13 year-old who's braces have been removed too soon. Sure they were awkward and uncomfortable, but I'm not totally convinced my teeth will stay straight without them. Is that too many mixed metaphors? It makes sense to me.

I'm starting to panic guys. Other careers you get out of school, you take an entry level job and if you fuck up, even massively, it means something like your boss' airline tickets not being booked or a shipment of files going to Tanzania instead of Toronto. You work your way up the scale and, unless Daddy owns the company, earn the right to have any responsibility at all. In nursing they educate us, tell us at the end of the program that we really don't know enough and "all the best learning comes from the real world" and then hand us a patient load of 8 acutely ill post-op hips. I've started to have nightmares where I over medicate all my clients, someone codes (their heart stops, for the non-nurses) and then I sit down to cry only to find out that I've sat myself on a bed of used syringes. This is my life.

I know that it's probably all going to work out. I (sorta) know what I'm doing, and I'm applying to a hospital with a great, supportive mentorship program for new grads. I love the work I did during my preceptorship and I'm applying to work there too, as a casual RN. I only have to work long enough to make the money for an airline ticket and some spending cash and then I can pretend to be irresponsible again. But still, this is too close to the real world for me. I almost miss the bagel store.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Conquering the Mountain

Awhile ago B, her friend A and I did the Grouse Grind. For those of you who don't live in Vancouver the Grouse Grind is like the outdoor stairmaster from hell. It's somewhere between 3 and 5 kilometers depending on whether the person you ask is a tour guide (3) or someone who just finished the hike (5), and it's STRAIGHT UP. Really. No joke. It takes a fit person an hour or so to get to the top.

As you hike up this massive hill, cursing yourself for:

a) deciding this is a good idea

b) getting drunk anytime in the previous 2 weeks and

c) eating anything, ever,

you start to notice something. People are passing you. And not just a few crazy fit people. I'm talking lots of people. Some of them look about 80 but have the calf muscles of Nepalese sherpas. Others RUN past you up the hill, barely breaking a sweat while you begin to seriously contemplate going on all fours just to pull yourself up the next set of stairs. Just as you are beginning to harbour feelings of homicide towards those that can run up this thing you will look up and see the same person that ran past you 15 minutes ago running BACK DOWN THE HILL.

This happened to us as we climbed up the hill. And as the guy who had passed me back at the quarter ("We're not seriously only a quarter of the way up, right?") mark ran back past me at the 1/2 way ("I hate stairs. And nature. And you.") mark I turned to my friends and said "Dont' people like that just make you want to trip them?"

The thing is I kinda miscalculated how far voices travel in cool, damp westcoast air. Also, I may have possibly been breathing too hard to control the tone or volume of my voice. I'm pretty sure that he heard me because as he ran past he looked at me with a shocked expression on his face and gave me a whole lotta space on the stairs.

What DOES make me a bad person is the joy that I got from the looks on the faces of the two old folks that shared our gondola down the mountain afterwards. 40 people, 38 of whom just did the Grind in one gondola car? Those old fogeys didn't stand a chance.