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.

1 comment:

  1. The stalking of the wild B word continues. I look forward to unpacking some of this with you on our walk...but this: "In the other corner is the voice that says I must keep my commitments to work, above and beyond mental and physical health concerns."---is surprising and puzzling and, frankly, a place I've witnessed you mired in over and over and over again. What about this view feeds you? There's a plate of self-admonishment before you and you keep eating. When do the comparisons STOP? I say these things with love and such deep, abiding respect for you--Meege