Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Grass *Is* Greener: Counting My Blessings

I've been reading my own blog in small sips.  I know that's pretty self-involved, but from yesterday's reading -- so totally worth it.  I picked a 2010 post at random and ohmygoodness!  I was really pretty miserable!  The entire Absurdist Family was pretty miserable -- okay, mostly Absurdist Partner (we've gotten married since then) and me.  And so many of those issues have been resolved!  Now, I don't like this about myself but I am too often a glass-is-half-empty person.  I am great at noticing the things that, if they could only be fixed, would make things perfect.  Now this is not always such a terrible trait, but on a day by day basis, it can be pretty terrible to always focus on the bit marring the perfect picture, always focusing on "if only."  In fact, I really dislike this trait in others and have a big problem when others are wet blankets, but mostly because I am such a wet blanket myself.  (In fact, I have lost friends and even been pretty awful at times because of my inability to deal with others being wet blankets or depressed.  Lots of regret there, though I'm trying to stop investing so much time in the regret column of my life.  Maybe I should send cards to two people I feel I wronged.  Maybe I should just send them good thoughts a la Eat Pray Love when I think about them and move on.)  But reading that post of misery highlighted how wonderful things are now.  Yes, Spirited is a handful.  Yes, I'd love to be able to take a weekend day and just read.  Yes, I got the new Poets and Writers and wish I could go to a colony or a retreat for a month to write.  But so many things are pretty damn wonderful compared to where we were that I just want to focus on that right now.

House

We saved and scrimped and lived in an apartment for years with all our boxes in our so-called dining room, but we managed and now we own our own house.  No one can tell us when to take down our snowflakes from our windows.  I can put a big old political sign on my property if I want to.  We plant things and in a few months, once we figure out what to do about a fence, will likely get chickens.  Our dreams on this front have come true!  We've come a long way.

Absurdist Husband's Job

Absurdist Husband no longer works at a job he hates.  No more being on call or anything.  Instead, he's got his hands full with Spirited.  That's not an easy job by any means, but it's better than being caught in the crosshairs of stupid corporate contradictions and being called in the middle of the night.

My Job:  Tenured vs. the Tenure Track
 
My job.  Ohmigod!  The post I read was complaining about how I didn't get enough electives to teach.  Now, there were some problems there.  It was unfair.  And the person who did get the electives to teach that year did teach from my syllabus and then critique it to my face.  I actually really like that person.  But what bothers me about reading that post was I was perfectly happy to complain about it and be so miserable that lovely blogreaders were advising that I go on the market but I didn't think about what I could do to change the situation.  As it happened, I should've gone to my mentor about it and asked hir to intervene on my behalf.  In fact, I think that did happen at my annual review.  Life on the tenure-track can be very scary and disempowering, not knowing what you can address and what you better leave alone.  And I have to say:  having tenure is SO MUCH BETTER.  Now, I know I'm privileged.  And I know that many people lucky enough to get tenure enter a post-tenure slump, but I haven't because for me not being tenured was like having a muzzle over my mouth.  How could I enter a slump when I finally had the freedom to say what I thought and do what I want to do?  For me tenure meant putting my money where my muzzled mouth had been.

Now I understand that being tenured with its increased service demands can be hard for people.  But for me it means finally being able to do something about the problems I see!  And I am such a nicer person when I can fight the good fight rather than watching things I hate and not feeling like I can risk doing anything about them or coming out in a specific way about X or Y.  When I feel disempowered (which doesn't depend on being tenure-track -- if administration came down and slammed the things I want to do, I'd feel pretty disempowered), I get angry and bitter and fail to recognize the power I do have.  I don't feel that way anymore.  Later on, years after I wrote that miserable post, I discovered there were some great people willing to speak for me at various times when I felt like I couldn't, and they were happy to protect me because I wasn't yet tenured.  Now it's my job to protect the untenured.  That's not always a pleasant job because I have to risk saying hard things to others, but I'm happy to do it, especially because there are people in my department who think that tenure-track people should not be protected.   (I've recently learned that staff, too, need to be protected.  So while I've been tenured for only a year, in some situations I'm the only tenured person so I have to speak up and risk pissing people off.  It's difficult, but it's the way things should be so I'm glad to do it, happy to get to do it.)   I do a lot of service, but I believe in it, which is great.  Sometimes I pick up things for others not because I think that person particularly deserves help (in fact, there is a case where I picked up the pieces for someone who I think really doesn't do hir job at times) but I do it because I want to live in the kind of world where people do that for one another.

While my job is not ideal, and my core courses are focused in such a way that is not what I'd prefer, I am doing good work, and I get to teach other courses that I value amazingly and am just grateful to get to teach, courses that I'd be hard-pressed to get a crack at if I made a move.  In short, I like and value my job.  I know I can make a difference there.

Family of Origin

I still get mad at my parents for not being as loving and supportive (that is, loving and supportive at all -- they really show very little interest in me or my life -- they're not trying to be mean or anything -- they are just very self-involved -- hmmm, I wonder where I got that from) as I'd like.  (For example, my father is the kind of person who fills up the air with stories usually about his job, often telling the same stories twice or three times, though sometimes about other things, but never asks questions of any one else -- like, how is your job? -- and never listens to others' stories.  In short, he's just inconsiderate.  My mother is different -- she tries to be considerate when it suits her, but often gets it wrong.  The problem with her is that sometimes it suits her to be mean and bitchy, especially if there is something she wants.  She's lied and stolen money in recent years.)  I still invest too much time in the minus column of my life.  I know that I'm supposed to "accept and appreciate my parents as they are," but I can accept and appreciate them best from a distance.  I love them, but they are not good for me.  I've spent too much of my life already seeing things from their point of view and hearing about their troubles and ignoring myself in favor of them.  (That was my childhood but also many different parts of my adulthood as well as my experience of them whenever I see or talk to them.)  The most important thing is that I don't want to be like them.  I can't even imagine not being very interested in Spirited's life when he's an adult.  Instead I'll probably call him all the time until he avoids my calls.  My grandmother was like that -- maybe my parents just don't want to be like her.   It could also be that they don't like me very much (or feel guilty, which is what Absurdist Husband thinks, and they do have things to feel guilty about -- as in things I should've been taken away by Child Protective Services for) and so are not interested in me.  Whatever.  So we don't enjoy each other.  We don't talk much.  It's hard for me to "honor" them as a good Jew should, but there are mitigating circumstances, and I should just resolve to stop feeling guilty about that, stop feeling that I'm doing something wrong by not liking them much or feeling disappointed by them.  I wish I had loving supportive parents, but I'm lucky to have lovely supportive friends and should cultivate those relationships more.  I've built my own family who I love infinitely.  So things are not as I wish they were.  Grow up!  Enough already.

BUT I'm infinitely grateful for my sister, who is my favorite part of my family, and especially the lovely blogreaders who told me NOT to talk with her about presents I didn't like that she sent to Spirited.  (Those toys?  I did give them to Spirited when he was young, and they were always an issue.  He liked them too much.  Then I would hide them and many months later he'd ask where they are.  We keep saying we're going to remove them for good.  I have a good idea who to give them to now.)  Oh!  You all were so right!  Thank you for preventing me from being a total jerk to the person I adore most in my FOO (family of origin)!  I'd have hated damaging that relationship just because I don't feel seen for who I am in my FOO.  This is really an issue between my parents and me.  My sister and her family are lovely.  THANK YOU!

So my life is so much better than it was!  Even with getting older and having health problems and not getting enough sleep or time alone or time with Husband or time writing.  I love this life.

It scares me to click Publish here because I feel like saying my life is good will attract some kind of awfulness to slap me around with.  New mantra:  gratitude is not hubris.  Gratitude is not hubris. See what a mess I am?  Thank you, blogreaders.  My blogfriends past and present have really helped me through some hard times.  I appreciate you amazingly and hope I show it (even if my wordpress problems prevent me from commenting on your blogs -- you know who you are).  

5 comments:

What Now? said...

What a lovely, lovely post! I'm so glad that you published it, and I like your mantra, that gratitude is not hubris. In fact, nothing about this post seemed hubristic to me at all. It's good sometimes to remember the more miserable times and thus be grateful for where one is now.

undine said...

Yes, gratitude is not hubris, and I'm glad all is going well. The blog gives a perspective that other media might not, too.

Maude said...

Yes! It makes my heart happy to hear such happy positiveness from you!

Marianne Kearns said...
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Marianne Kearns said...
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