Midmorning

by Jinryu

Midnight:48 — calling the Coordinator

Ring ring.  Ring ring.

“What’s up?” comes [D]’s voice.

“Heya,” I say, looking at the papers.  “There’s an admission that’s supposed to go up– maybe– to 7C, but apparently the night float is coming down to Emergency to see the patient first and figure out if they’re really going to be admitted.  So… I’ve got the papers, but it’s all on hold as far as I’m concerned.  So, could you let me know after the night float is done just so I know if I’m supposed to complete the admission or not?”

After the conversation, I wash my face.  I don’t like anything in the emergency department coming into direct contact with my skin, and using the phone handsfree while in front of the computer and writing necessitates just that.  I guess it’d be pretty cool if I had a headset, but call me old fashioned because for some reason I don’t like looking like a secretary.  And it’s not to say that secretaries are lowly or anything– they’re actually pretty badass when you really consider the kind of shit they can put up with– I don’t know why,  but I just don’t like being dressed up as one.  I’m stupid like that.

This posting is being written in the wee hours of the morning, although the post date may be a bit later.  Internet at my station is blocked off, you see, so I usually type this stuff mobile up and just sync it when I get home.  The actual time the writing of this very sentence is now about 1am.

At 1am, things slow down at work and I’m given the opportunity to pretty much do whatever I want, within limits.  I don’t have nearly as much freedom at the Children’s as I did back at the Chest (like doing walljumps in the bowels of medical archives, or watching Stargate in my office), but I do really like the pace of the night shifts.

It’s a bit unnerving at times to think that there are only two people from the clerical team running the entire emergency room at night– during the day, typically the department is backboned by four ER clerks, two surgical clinic clerks, two admissions officers and two registration clerks.  At night, that all gets rolled into two people.  If I thought it was scary that during the daytime I could majorly fuckup and cause problems, well, at night time there’s even less redundant safeties on because there’s only one other person, and that person mostly exists to cover the other’s breaks.  So essentially, here I am, the second hospital staff you meet after the security guard, sitting here at triage waiting for you to tell me why you’re here at 1am.

It gets increasingly unnerving as the night wears on.  You sorta accept that at around midnight, maybe a parent will bring their kid in because that croup cough (it sounds as if the kid is a dog) is just keeping everyone in the house up.  It’s not really that big a deal.  But when you get to around 3 or 4am, when all the normal kids are asleep, then anyone who comes in through the door I kinda assume is in some bad shape.  By 5am… well seriously, who wants to come into a hospital at 5am?  It must be something serious, and serious things are the things that I’m afraid of.

The only thing that really offsets it is that as the night wears on, your brain gets more and more dull because generally patients coming in are few and far between.  The nice thing about working at triage is that I don’t have to deal with parents who are asking how much longer it is until their kid will be seen (I send them to the main coordinator, down the corridor) so for the most part, the actual stress of my job is really quite low at night.  And because of this, even the hypothetical serious case coming in doesn’t really scare me too much anymore.  With every shift that passes, I get a little more confident that statistics are on my side and that nothing big will happen during my shift.  I mean, I suppose it could– but I’m also learning the ins and outs of the job a little at the time, and that’s giving me the confidence to sit here without sweating it too much.  At least, compared to when I was rank amateur.

-=-=-

4:40 am — Stretching

I’ve been weighing myself pretty regularly lately.

I haven’t been training nearly as much as I used to in the past few weeks, for two reasons.  The first is that I was sick.  Secondly, night shifts.  Night shifts kinda screw me up because in my head, I think I still expect myself to be tired at 4am, so I keep putting off doing the usual routine of cardio and calisthetics because I don’t want to be tired for work.  But really, that’s not such a great excuse because frankly, it’s almost 4am, and I’m not tired at all (maybe just a bit bored).

When I left Montreal in October of 2007, I weighed between 145 and 150 pounds. For the first month of Korea, while I was adapting to the food, I lost weight and weighed in at about 135 to 140 pounds.  That was pretty drastic for me, but to be honest, it was actually pretty good– because the food in SK was a lot less fatty and was more carb based, I was a lot leaner and carrying a lot less non-functional weight.

When I started the taekwondo rejime, I started gaining a lot of muscle mass.  That put me at the heaviest I’d ever been, which was between 150 and 157.

When I came back to Montreal in November of 2008, I’d been off of training for about two months and my eating habits hadn’t yet slowed to my lower activities, and I gained weight, putting me at my heaviest: about 162 max. This is what I call the “Cheesecake Phase” because in the year that I was off, my aunt had taken to baking cheesecakes.  Since I hadn’t had any of her cooking in a year, she made up for it by ensuring that there was always cheesecake in my fridge.  ALWAYS.  But that was significant for me, because I’d gone from 150-157 lean to 156-165 fat.

The realization that I was getting heavier than I’d ever been in my life, and that it wasn’t thanks to any muscle gain, was shocking to me.  I’d always thought that my metabolism was naturally fast enough to just take care of anything I threw down the chute– but nope.  It turns out, I’m human, and that everyone who ever said they wished they had my metabolsim was just wishing for nothing– without exercise and a proper diet, my metabolism is just as slow as the next person’s.  For about two weeks straight I decided that I wasn’t going to have it– I started traning again over the course of three weeks, brought the weight down to 155-160, but it was still a bit flabby.

When we started Numac, and especially when I first went to the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu gym and got my ass handed to me by someone 10 lbs lighter than me, I think that’s where I started actually taking my diet a bit more seriously, and trying to see what my true lean weight would be.

Well, it seemed that my weight hovered around 155-160 for a long time and Terminator was quite pleased, because that meant that we could contend against eachother in almost equal weight classes (he’s in the 165-175 range).

It wasn’t until I got sick a couple of weeks ago that I’ve managed to reach my ‘weight goal,’ which is to be back in the 150-155 range.  Actually, from the scales nowadays, even after meals, I don’t tip 154, so maybe it’s more accurate to say 150-154.  This is what I consider my lean weight.  Now, I’m going for density.

Now, I distinguish between roughly 3 different body states.

There’s the first category, which I alternatively call I fatty, out of shape, or untrained.  This is the category of weight I have assuming that I’m doing almost no physical activity at all and still eating whatever I want.  “Cheesecake state” falls into this category.  In this state, I suppose I may not ‘fat’ by most peoples standards, but it’s a state where I just don’t feel like I could do much with my body.  Usually this happens during ‘vacation mode’ or something.

The second category is what I call lean– this doesn’t necessarily mean I’m strong, but it means that my diet is well matched with my level of activity.  I’ve got a very low percentage of body fat vs muscle in this state, and this state is characterized by semi-regular to regular physical activity.  When I say my diet is matched with my level of activity, it means that I’m eating craploads but I’m exercising enough to burn all those calories.  This is, I suppose, my usual state.  It’s the most balanced and natural of my states, and I spend most of my tie in this zone.  It’s not hard for me to be in this zone.

The third category is what I call “dense”– it’s not just a physiological state in terms of leanness, but it also has to do with a mentally enforced training regime.  The dense state is not really noticible based on weight or fat content alone. I could be 150-155 lean, but I would be physically stronger if I was 150-155 dense.

What dense means to me is that my body is in a state of training and I’m paying specific attention to my diet.  I’m not specifically working to keep my fat levels down, but I am consciously eating less fatty food that processes better into cleaner energy.

I suppose the way of illustrating lean vs dense is that when I’m lean, it just means lack of fat.  Dense, however, means that the meat on me has been trained– dense meat, pound for pound, is exponentially stronger than meat that is only lean.  I suppose you could say that “dense is lean, but lean is not necessarily dense,” if that makes sense.

Density has a lot to do with current weight.  If I start off in the 160 range, that’s probably not dense– that probably means I’m carrying a lot of excess weight and that even if I train hard, it’s going to be hard to shed the excesss pounds without deliberate dieting because, even if I am exercising a lot, I’m taking in a lot of calories and it’d be dangerous to slow down my caloric intake just to get into that fat burn zone.  For most people it’s not dangerous, but considering how many calories I burn and how irregular my eating patterns sometimes, it’s hard for me to burn that ‘fat buffer’ safely.

Right now, I think I’m in a lucky position though– I’m 150-155 lean because I lost a lot of weight during my illness.  This is convenient because during illness, my metabolism naturally slows down a lot, meaning that it’s a much more gradual controlled weight loss.

At 150-155, I’m unlikely to gain too much more muscle weight.  I find that at that range, I can develop a fair amount more raw strength, speed and cardiovascular endurance without actually gaining more muscle mass– I suppose it’s because 150-155 isn’t completely lean, so I’m trading off some fat weight for the muscle gain– but I think that part of what makes the difference between ‘dense’ and ‘lean’ really has to do with the efficiency of the muscles and not just their size.  I’m not a physician, but this is just the impression I get from the stats I’m taking and the feelings I get from my own body.

I suppose this is the blessing of being sick for a couple of weeks– it’s like a jumpstart to get me to get into the dense state.

-=-=-=

Now, I suppose more importantly than all these numbers to most people is “why I care about my weight.”

Well, it’s not that I’m anorhexic or obessesd about the fat content of my body.  But I do like my body to be efficient.  I like it to be functional and in pretty good repair, pound for pound.  I mean, sure, I’ll not be as strong as people bigger than me, but for someone of my size, I expect to be able to do more than people in the same weight class as me.

And I know that in everyday life, there’s no such thing as weight class, nobody really cares.  But to me, it’s important, simply.  I need to be polyvalent in my life.  I need to be able to run after a bus.  I expect to be able to climb a fence.  I need to be able to lift groceries.  I should be capable of biking or running moderate distances nonstop.  I expect myself to be able to take someone down with one sucker punch (or kick). Y’know. Just for practical everyday applications.

It makes a big difference in Numac because a few pounds in trained individuals converts to a lot of power difference, but I don’t really look at my weight specifically because of Numac or related activities.  I just like to be able to be a bit above the average.

Why?

Because I don’t need to outrun the zombies, I just need to outrun *you*.

I won’t be able to run marathons or anything impressive like that, but I do take pride on the ability to stay in touch with my body and know where I stand.  When I put my mind to it, I can change my body type– I’ve gone from a ‘kickboxer’s physique’ to ‘video gamer’s physique’ to ‘badminton physique’ to ‘mma physique.’  There’s big difference between each of these types because they use different muscles (if any, in the case of video gamer’s physique…. ) but I take a secret pride that people hate me for in the fact that I can convert my body from one type to another through willpower and physical disicpline.

It’d be hard for me to go below about 145 lbs (and I don’t want to, for my height, because frankly I’d feel unhealthy), but I think it’s safe to say that if you gave me a couple of months I comfortably go as low as 148 and go as high as 160, lean.

Like I said, right now, I’m at a bit of an advantage because I’ve got a jumpstart due to losing all that weight from the sickness, but I guess I need to really get off my ass and take advantage of it, otherwise I’ll just start wasting it.

Sigh!

If only things just came easily and without work.

-=-=-=-=-

I wish I could speak more languages than I do, and better.

Right now, I can do English. French, well, don’t ever ask me to write anything but I do a fair job of speaking it in a professional setting.  I’m not at a level where I can listen to french music of understand jokes though.  Cantonese and toysan are kinda low on the list– I’ll understand kitchen talk and restaurant talk, because those are the situations that I find myself in with my grandparents, who are essentially the only people I use Chinese with nowadays.  Somewhere off in the distance are a few catchphrases in Korean.  If you gave me a text in Korean I would be able to translate it pretty well if you gave me enough time, and that’s the interesting difference between how much I know of Chinese versus Korean– I can’t write in Chinese and so that dramatically puts a damper on my ability to learn it in my spare time from books.  Korean, on the other hand, I can learn (at least theoretically) a lot easier because I can read and write in it.

I guess I just like having the languages at my disposal because in my line of work, speaking to someone in their own language really goes a long way in making them feel comfortable.  I guess people aren’t really impressed when I speak in English or French at work, but whenever the occasional Cantonese or Korean parents comes in all nervous about their kid’s condition, a few words, even if really botched, go a long way in making them feel comfortable.

I think if ever I had a super power, it’d be in making people feel angry.  It’s really, really easy for me.  I can be so critical of things, or I can be so illogical, that I can just be infuriating, especially because sometimes I just want to pick a fight.

Perhaps that’s why I think it’s such a game to make people feel better, because it’s not easy.

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