This time of year always makes me grumbly, as most academics on the semester system are finishing up or done and starting in on their beach reading. I envy you! I'm on the quarter system (grumble, grumble). Graduation, which I have to attend so I'm thinking about it as the end point even though I won't be done with grading by then, isn't for another month. I have stacks and stacks of grading, not summer reading with sand stuck in the binding, not mission impossible research and writing plans scented with the promise of overseas research sites and fusty libraries.
But! After that terrible winter, Spring. Sun. Warmth. Growing things on my balcony. Yes, I put in the peas too late and the chard will probably bolt, but I don't care! Somehow I'm made calm and happy just looking at my seeds coming up, all that new growth. I really think there must be some chemical released into my brain when I see them. Even though the sliding glass door. I could stare at them for hours.
Despite all the busyness, which has been intense and is dying down just as the quarter, after Memorial Day, starts working itself up to fever pitch, I've managed to be really productive in the area of conference proposals, which is something I often fall down on. (Case in point: I've done only 4-5 conferences in the last 5 years. That doesn't seem too shabby written out like that, but I can't tell you how many times I've thought I should propose something for Big Conference in My Field or Smaller Conference in My Field or Neat Small Conference in My Area only to find out that I just missed the deadline by days.) Today I'm having a difficult health day -- I woke up with a migraine -- so it's easy to be negative. (I'm so lucky it was today rather than yesterday, a big day for meetings and helping others, or tomorrow, a day I'm spending with Absurdist Child.) Actually, I've been really productive in many areas, but it never feels like enough, never feels like I've been productive when I have some of the same impossible sticky notes up on my computer day after day, week after week. Of course, some of this is just that long multi-step projects are just like that. And I know that. Some of this is just self-image based. The truth is I'm at the early stages of two incredibly stressful things that everyone in the world knows is incredibly stressful, going up for tenure and buying a house, so I must be kind to myself instead of down on myself when I don't feel good.
To help with getting more organized, I'm listening to David Allen's Getting Things Done in the car and reading Steven Covey's First Things First, incredibly slowly, at home. These, at least at the big-picture level, couldn't be more different. Allen is all about organization of tasks and projects and developing a system for all that, including his five-stage process. He often uses such business-y language that I'd forget all about it except that he talks about "stress-free" and "balanced" productivity. Since I've often used my stress and anxiety as the motivation and energy to get things done -- with not-so-great effects on my overall health -- the idea that I could get things done and not be a stress case about it keeps me listening. He makes it seem as though getting on top of things is possible. I can see how motivational speakers make a living -- just giving people hope that they can handle what's in front of them really is worth something. (Though I'm not sure it's true; do we ever get on top of something? Don't we just find that something new comes to topple us? That what we really need is to learn flexibility and resilience and peace that we're not in control? I don't know.) First Things First is much more my speed, focusing on what makes life worthwhile in a big sense and then, I suspect at some point since I'm not there yet in the book, drilling down to what this means on a daily or weekly basis.
Are you getting the feeling I'm avoiding something? So am I. And so I am. It's that I'm going to a conference. Here's the thing: I hate leaving. I'm always afraid of something terrible happening. (You understand -- I can't say what exactly I'm afraid of partly because I'm superstitious and partly because it's just so so dumb and unreal and unrealistic because the truth is I just don't want to go and am manufacturing reasons to match my feelings, not the other way around. But you know -- the plane.) I just don't like to leave home anymore, which is kind of crazy because I used to love to travel. Maybe I'd like it better if the family came with me. And then there's the usual reason: I hate networking, hate having to try to sound smart, hate thinking on my feet. Luckily, this conference kind of forces me to not hide in my hotel room because they have luncheons and things -- so I end up meeting people which is great. (People used to sort of take pity on me because I was a grad student, but now I'm just a shy faculty member -- will people still be as kind? Probably, I hear a wise part of myself saying: so much of it is just attitude, Earnest. You'll be fine. Meet people. Talk to people. You have interesting things to say. Half the time you won't shut up. Jeez, get a grip!)
Did I mention that I was diagnosed with Tietze Syndrome, which are chest pains and inflammation of the breastbone cartilage? I can tell you it's pretty scary to have chest pains. I keep going in for EKGs and they find nothing nothing! But what I notice now is that sitting here on my bed, the first day I haven't had to go into work in weeks, just being mellow and stress-free and alone. . .no chest pains. Interesting. I have things to do (the laundry is going as I write), but I think I'm going to have a nap. I never get enough sleep.
Wow, this post is all over the place. Just finding my footing. It's more difficult to start blogging again than I thought. I'll get the hang of it again. I hope.