Thursday, July 7, 2016

Okay, Full Disclosure

So I was thinking about it, and my last couple of posts have this "My Life Is Perfect" rosiness to them that even I find a little loathsome. And it's not entirely accurate. So this is intended as a partial corrective to that...

...because there are definitely days when I'm cranky and sluggish because it's hot and humid and our air conditioner is broken, or my research seems stupid and boring, or my four-year-old's incessant whining is driving me up the wall--seriously, he whines over things that are in no conceivable way problems! He'll be like, "Mamaaaaa, I want to play with my traiiiinnnn," and I'm all, "It's right there--go play with it already. And stop whining." Followed, of course, by an exasperated sigh and maybe a little grumbling. Perfection is pretty well out of the game.

But I'm trying--not for perfection, but for peace and presence. It is an aspiration, after all.

Quiet Aspirations

In yoga, we often do a pose called Aspiring Warrior. (It's also called by various other names, such as Reverse Warrior, Sun Warrior, etc.) In this posture, you stand with your legs wide apart, the toes of (say) your right foot pointing straight ahead and with your left foot turned in, your right knee bent at a 90 degree angle and your left straight. Your hips face forward--wow, okay, describing yoga poses is hard. Here's a picture:


It's a posture in which your legs are very strong--indeed, often very tired--and your upper body leans back and over with, hopefully, a surprising lightness. It's quite a lovely pose and fun to do, I think. Most of the time.

My quick image search revealed that most people call this Reverse Warrior, and that's the name that it had in most of my classes, too. My current teachers call it Aspiring Warrior, however, and I've come to like that; it shifts the focus away from the militant connotations of the Warrior and into the idea of aspiration, of yearning and seeking, that the posture entails.

A few weeks ago, as we were moving into the pose, my teacher asked, "What is your aspiration?" It was a question that she'd asked before, but it struck me differently on that day, six weeks into summer. What is my aspiration? At that moment, it hit me: It wasn't to publish more, or be more, or anything like that. It was to live my life--specifically, my life this summer. To live the summer. To be here, to feel it, experience it, enjoy it. To live more.

So I've done a few things. When I'm not too tired (and this flexibility, in itself, is quite remarkable for me), I get up early and meditate on the deck for half an hour, with the sun already high at 6 am and the birds clattering all over the forest. Then I read until the house wakes up, maybe with a cup of tea in my new birch-bark teacup from the recent craft festival.

The deck, with zafu

My cup. Isn't it pretty?

That's one thing. I'm trying some other stuff, too: spending more time on the deck at all times of day, taking naps when I can, doing fun outdoors things with my son (and sometimes even my husband!). Paying attention. Being there.

I have no illusions, really, about the likelihood of my keeping all of this up come fall. But it would be nice to borrow a few summertime habits during the semester. And maybe, simply by making them habits, I'll be able to do that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Um...a (technical) question

According to Blogger, as of sometime last month, my blog has been receiving over 1000 hits a day. This is up from, you know, 50-75 when I actually post something. (Note that, before Friday, I had last posted about 6 weeks ago.)

I can't imagine that this is accurate. Anyone have any insights into this? Or has Blogger's viewing counter gone haywire?

Friday, June 10, 2016

On my writing goal for the year

In updating (after a long break, as you can see) my Writing Goal 2016! box in the margin over there, I noticed a month-old comment from Flavia asking where I came up with my goal. (I'm trying not to apologize anymore for being such a terrible blogger, but wow, I'm a terrible blogger.)

Flavia asked how I decided on 80 days at 500 words/day or 40,000 words for the year. Those words are all on my book manuscript, by the way, so the gaps don't mean that I haven't been writing--just that I've been writing and working on other things (such the Article That Will Not Go Away And Stay Away, By Which I Mean Get Published).

The answer is not particularly scientific. As of January 1, I had written, I think, about 50,000 words of this manuscript. Many of them are the wrong words, but they are, at least, words.

In my wildest dreams (yes, I'm that crazy!!), I will finish this MS in 2016.

A good length for a monograph is 90,000 words. Hence: 40,000 to go.

As for the 80 days/500 a day? Well, 500 a day seems like a reasonable clip (on average), and not too intimidating. At that rate, it'll be 80 days of writing. Out of 366 (it's a leap year!), 80 is not very many at all--hardly 1 in 5 days. So when you put it that way, I have no excuse for not finishing the book this year--except for all that pesky, you know, reading and research and thinking and stuff that also has to go into it. Also revising. I have had days when I've worked and written a lot and only added 12 words to the word count (or even had it go down)--don't we all?

So that's that. I'm afraid that the answer isn't terribly exciting.

But maybe this is more interesting?: Breaking the book down into words and days is part of an overall project of re-framing how I see academic writing, and just making it into part of my daily work. This past semester, I think that I managed to write--not just read, but write, even if it was only to revise a sentence or two--on all but two work days, from January through early May. I've never even come close to doing that before. And I did it by making the writing work much more concrete: creating endless lists of very specific tasks, keeping track of the time that I spend working, using an accountability check-in website (as well as my own chart and even, to a much lesser extent, this blog), talking to other people about my work. I think that I'm succeeding in making it a thing that I do, rather than a big scary amorphous hovering threat.

Of course, this is the first day that I've managed to do any writing since before Kalamazoo. I was on a week-long research trip, then two weeks of vacation (of sorts) with my husband and son, and we got back late on Wednesday night. So today is my 40th birthday, and one of the things that I asked for was a couple of hours to work...and I got it, and I did! (See sidebox.) Now I think that I'll read something academic and wait for the guys to come home bearing lunch.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


So here it is, the annual writing of the conference paper that I proposed the previous summer and no longer have a great deal of interest in/feel is particularly relevant to my current research/find especially plausible. And then the annual attempting to wedge whatever I really want to write into something that roughly matches my accepted paper title.

When will I get smart about this, and start proposing abstracts for already-written (unpublished) work? Like chapter drafts? I have chapter drafts; I have them in plenty. (Well, I have about three.) What's wrong with me?

That said, I am looking forward to Kalamazoo, which I love, at least when the weather's good.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why hello there! How are you? I'm fine.

Well, this has been a pretty pathetic semester, blogging-wise.

But let's cut to the chase. I'm supposed to have been blogging about the transition from a resource-poor 4/4 SLAC to a public flagship 2/2 R1, yes? So what on earth do I have to say about that, now that the year is (yesssss!) almost done?

Point no. 1, which I think I've made before:
I'm not less busy than I was in my last job, but (for the most part) I'm happier about that with which I am busy.

I go up for tenure (again) in Fall 2017, so these are the years of saying Yes. I'm now on...5? 6? graduate thesis/exam committees, I participated in a very labor-intensive year-long seminar, I gave an hour-long public talk in March, I was a respondent for a graduate student symposium, I'm co-chairing a committee--yes, yes, yes. The good news is that I'm actually interested in most of what I'm saying Yes to. The bad news is that I'm busy, but I'd be busy anyway, so whatever.

Point no. 2:
I feel like I have a professional trajectory again. Truly, changing jobs IS the cure for the post-tenure/mid-life crisis. Except that changing jobs is impossibly hard, but you all know that already.

I'm not sure that I have any more points at the moment. It's Friday. The weather has (finally) been pleasant. I just drank an extra glass of wine (define "extra" as you like) on the deck watching the sun go down through the pines, listening as the evening bird noises gave way to the frogs racketing away in the marsh at the bottom of the hill. There is street noise here--a not-very-busy road in the near distance--but the traffic starts to settle once the sun sets. For the first time in a very long time, it feels like a Friday.

I'm going to enjoy it.

Have a good weekend, and I hope to be back soon.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Words, but no words


The newborn baby of a dear friend died on Friday.

She was born three weeks ago. But her birth was extremely traumatic, resulting in brain damage so severe that her body more or less shut down.

I'm not going to write a lot about this here, at least not right now, but this weekend I was with my friends, her parents, and with the baby's body. I sat with her for much of last night, and she was buried--a green burial, so no casket or embalming--this morning.

It was the first time I'd seen a dead body.

Seeing a dead body is not scary.

At three o'clock this morning I felt it as an honor, to be allowed to sit with her in the stillness of the night. She was very cold. I sat for a while in the early dawn with my hand on her brow, just to make her a little bit warmer.

Her skin darkened and settled visibly in the night.

My friends are not okay, not right now, but they're strong, and they will be.

And I can't stop thinking about my own little boy, and how impossibly hard it would be to say goodbye to him.

Rest in peace and love, little one. Peace, peace to your parents, who are so good. Love to all.

I'm canceling class tomorrow. I need sleep and some time to be still.