Clearly I should have been expecting it. Things have been too calm lately with planning to lead class next week in the class I'm TAing, tutoring (which right now is a whole lotta nothin' making time go by real slow like), and containing the chaos of job-search confusion. Not even settled into a reliable schedule, I should have realized it had been more than five minutes and thus was time for another dissertation meltdown. This one started with an email from my advisor about the chapter I'd turned in. Sigh.
A dissertating friend of mine put it so well: "I just want someone to say it's okay. I know it's crap. They know it's crap. But let's all agree that it's okay for now."
My advisor didn't say anything too awful -- small stuff that amounts to merely completely rewriting the chapter. In my advisor's mind, the ideas are there enough to be plastic, ready to play with, scrunched into a ball and rolled out a bunch of different ways. But to me, they are a squirmy jiggling pile of goo; in that chapter I carefully spread out the goo, reshaped it, tacked it down. It's still squirmy, not very happy about its new shape, but it's there, parts all splayed out and pinned. But comments about major revisions are a giant magnet held out over my squirmy creature. Up come the metal tacks that were holding the ideas down, and the creature contracts, released from the sensible but overwhelming shape, and turns back into a pile of goo. Then it grows legs and scurries away.
Progress is a myth. The diss has brought me back around to postmodernism.