Friday, May 27, 2011

Martha on Work

Here's what Martha Beck tells me this morning:

"If your happiness and your work aren't the same thing, you're doing the wrong work, or working the wrong way. Change."


Thursday, May 26, 2011

On the Way Free

It's remarkable how easily I forget that I'm free, you know?  I mean, for a while there, I was really stuck in the grind, and was carrying on as if I had to be stuck in the grind, and in one particular grind specifically.

My friend T. got me a gift certificate for a massage for my birthday, and I just yesterday cashed in on it.  I'd been working a problem over in my head all week, hoping to see the truth, knowing I was in the muck, and that it was a productive muck, but with no idea how it would all be resolved.  And then, as the massage therapist was working out the knots in my back, it all became incredibly clear.  I am free, and can disentangle myself from the other knots--the metaphorical ones--I had got myself caught up in.  And I actually laughed during the massage, and thanked the therapist for getting those darn knots free.

Funny how the entrapments were tied up in my back like that.  Funny how the three extra pounds I'd magically put on this semester and couldn't seem to shake just disappeared after.  Funny how the heaviness in my legs left and I was able to feel gratitude again.


I picked up Nolie at school early the other day, and there were still a few little kids sleeping on their cots, while their classmates and teachers were busily and noisily milling all about, doing their work, playing together.  They were like little oases in a sea of cheerful chaos.

Another useful metaphor.  To be a little island, still, amid the swirling blue.  Entering the chaos upon waking, and returning to peace when necessary.

Forgive the generalizations and allusions.  It's not easy to write about work and my relationship to it in specifics here.  I hope I've made some sort of sense.  The freedom is the main thing, the knowing I wasn't trapped, didn't even realize I had felt so trapped, until the way became clear.

Grace and grace.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Nolie Love

Nolie, sprawled out across my lap:  "Mama, do you love me?"

Me:  "Oh, yes.  I love you just about more than anything.  You, and Addie, and Daddy."

Nolie, sitting up, smiling:  "Well, make sure you give some of that love to yourself!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Far to Push

I think I know the answer to this conundrum, but when I most need answers to problems like this is often when I'm least able to marshall my resources and remember or find them.

The last few weeks have been one long finish classes, to finish grading, to prepare this workshop we're giving today and tomorrow, to redo the bathrooms, on and on.  I've finished everything except for one last paper, not even started, but due in rough draft form to conference reviewers on Tuesday.  It doesn't have to be perfect or even very good.  It just needs to hold my place until the final paper is complete, to be submitted at a later date.  Rough drafts for conferences are often just evidence of good faith efforts.  It's not a big deal.  I should be able to get it done.

Except that every fiber of my being doesn't want to do it.  Once this workshop is done tomorrow, I want to be done, and that's it.  I would like to take next week off before all the conference travel and summer writing begins.  I feel burned out, and grumpy, and am having difficulty expressing myself in useful and kind ways.  I don't want to do anything but lie on the couch.  I can't assess what is happening around me, or determine what is important.

I am worn.  The fuck.  Out.

Or something.

This doesn't seem like a big deal, right?  I should just write the paper, or take the week off, whatever.  But it's symbolic of the larger battles that wage in my head between whining, overwork, self-care, rest, and rejuvenation.

In one corner is the voice that says it is not the end of the world if I don't get this conference paper in.  Conference papers don't count for much in my professional world (though I find they are useful for many things):  publications do.  I can afford a week off and nobody will die.  My career will not die.  I will come back a better writer, a clearer thinker, a more cheerful colleague, a more loving wife and mother.  This focus on over-productivity is a product of globalization, neo-liberalism, and an insane capitalist society that only cares about how much work we can produce.

In the other corner is the voice that says I must keep my commitments to work, above and beyond mental and physical health concerns.  That voice reminds me of colleagues who seem to work much harder than I do and who don't seem to take vacations.  That I'll be letting my co-authors down if I don't get that paper in.  That I am weak.  I'm taking shit from people all week who just assume I have the entire summer off to laze around like some fat-cat professor and it pisses me off and I want to prove them wrong (because they're wrong).  At the same time, there are people in other jobs much harder than mine working much longer hours and under very difficult conditions and who don't complain half as much as I do.  I am a big, spoiled, privileged baby.

Boy, when those two voices battle it out in my head, it's deafening.  It's war of the worlds in there.

But writing them out, here, I just realized that I'm not going to write that paper.  I'll write later this summer, and maybe some of it will be publishable, and it will be good.  But I'm not writing that paper.  I'm taking next week off.

Thank you, dear blog readers, for the free therapy session.

I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Catching Up

The longer you stay away from the blog, the harder it is to come back to it.  But here I am.  I think I got a little burned out for a while there because I was having to keep up with 35 student blogs a week and a class blog during the semester, and then there was the everyday-ness of the joy project, and also I have been really tuned in to writing the artist's pages every morning (and sometimes at night too) and so the blog has been backseat.

And, too, it's hard to figure out what to write about.  I'm in task mode, trying to finish up all the large and small work projects before summer begins.  We're doing a lot of traveling, for fun and for work, and I have deadlines to meet before that, and there is a lot of writing to be done, too.

Addie is finishing up her first grade year, and is trying to figure out how to handle her body.  She's all loves and hugs and kisses, but also elbows you in the nose every five seconds, or headbutts you in the gut, or sleepwalks into your room in the middle of the night, naked as a jaybird and wondering where she is.  Nolie is in regression-land, whiny and fussy and weepy, as we careen toward the end of her preschool years.  I think it's hard for all of us to think about leaving that amazing school where both girls were given so much love and attention and such an amazing start.

E. is working a lot, and pitching in a lot because of my weird-ass schedule.  He has to go back to Switzerland soon, and Sweden.

I'm running again, finding that if I don't pound out a couple of miles everyday I get pretty irritable from the stress of tasking.  Our bathrooms are getting redone, starting tomorrow.  We're holding our faculty workshop--the one we've planned for all year long, on engineering and social justice--at the end of this week.  I have two days to write a conference paper next week.

In the last two months, I've kicked my shopping addiction and sugar addiction, with the help of reams and reams of journal paper and my tuning forks healer.  Those addictions reach as far back as I can remember and are so deeply ingrained in who I am I still walk around in wonder at times that I am free from them.  In the last two weeks, I've edited a thirty minute video for our workshop, reviewed two journal articles and a book prospectus, completed a revise-and-resubmit, finished final grading, planned summer vacations, designed our new bathroom, and purchased about a million and one birthday presents (what is UP with May?).  There have been research interviews and research meetings, retirement parties, graduations, much whining on Facebook, and I've started reading two new novels and a book about climate change.  I painted my nails black for a few days and tomorrow I'm going to get a haircut.

Okay, then.  That should cover it.  I think we're all caught up.  Can I come back now?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Rivers and Roads, or Blisters and Toads?

What a great mother's day weekend.  We got to go see The Head and the Heart in concert in Boulder on Friday night.  Let me tell you, you would be a damned fool not to download their album.  It is so full of goodness and wonder, and we've all been singing this song at the top of our lungs all weekend:

Been talkin' about how things change
My family lives in a different state
If you don't know what to make of this
Then we will not relate...

Saturday we got to rest and hit some daytime party adventures, and then on Sunday we did this:

Rather, E. did that.  See, he went in to fix the girls leaking tub faucet last weekend, but the pipe was corroded and broke, and so then he had to tear the entire 1970s mustard-colored fiberglass bathtub-shower monstrosity out.

We decided that while we're at it, we'll get the master bath redone, too.

Goodbye, summer salary.

While E. was doing that, the girls and I made this:

We call it our "giant pile of crap that we made in the backyard when we decided to begin dismantling our rotting deck which we can't afford to replace this summer because of that pipe that broke in the bathroom."

Happy Mother's Day to me!

Also, there was french toast in my bed yesterday morning.  That's a good thing.  There were homemade gifts, my favorite, and some flowers appeared during the day.  There was also a lovely picnic at the Clear Creek Beach.  Sushi was involved.

All in all, it couldn't have been a more perfect weekend.