Monday, June 30, 2008

Reconstructing/Lessons Learned

I learned a lot last term. Anyone who’s been reading can see that my life fell apart in Week 7 of the term. Craig and I went to Vegas for Nelly and Simon’s wedding (she was radiant, he was dashing and the ceremony was beautiful, I’ll write some about it on the other blog when I get a breather). I turned my grading back a weekend late (June 3, Week 10, not May 29, Week 9). Thursday I gave the kids a three-hour review. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup that night. Saturday of Week 10 we had a lovely brunch at Jamie Mayerfeld, the course’s prof. I was so tired by that point, I didn’t even try to pick up any research that weekend. I slept most of it and helped Craig clean for the rest. The final exam was on Monday, June 9 and grades were due on Monday, June 16. “Ah!” you’re saying. Finally, the galaxy cuts Talal a scheduling break. No comments are needed for final exams and you have a whole week. Even with 68 of them, you ought to be fine.

Well, Monday June 9 was also the arrival date of my mother, my niece and my aunt (the reason we cleaned). I wasn’t done grading until about Thursday. The visit was absolutely wonderful, but a fortnight long. My aunt stayed only ten days, leaving Seattle on Thursday, June 19. Much to our shock, my beloved Auntie Char died in her home that night. There was a fire in her bedroom and she died of asphyxiation. Her body was cremated last week and I am flying to New York on Friday, July 4, to attend the memorial service on Saturday.

Real life, folks. As a multiple sclerotic in graduate school, it’s my biggest allergy. In terms of research progress, I’ve been out of commission for nearly a month. Real life events happen. The universe won’t go on hold just because my life is on hold writing my dissertation. I won’t get any work done over the weekend in Connecticut and New York and the next weekend, I’m grading again (wheee!) for the 26 students in Arab-Israeli. I get one weekend to do real work and then the next weekend, I grade for my other course (Global Ideologies at Antioch). That’s only eight or nine students, but they get rough drafts, so each assignment has full comments, then a grade sheet for the final draft. Certainly this is much less demanding than the 68 student load I had last term. We’ll see if I have learned to be more efficient over the past two terms and can crank these out quickly. Maybe I can squeeze research work in.

Although I’m thinking that I should postpone actual research (again) and work on grant proposals over the summer. I didn’t get that job at the McNair program I applied for, so grading will be a big part of my life next year. If I actually get a grant, I’ll have time to write. And I’ll have money to go to Tel Aviv and get my newspaper sample.

I dunno. Anyway, here’s what the month ahead looks like:

I'm beginning to realize that my previous value set has to be further revised beyond my initial expectations. In my previous life, I organized to achieve efficiency. I now have to accept that efficient work is patently impossible. I now have to organize to improve recovery after regular disruption. My previous standard was not getting derailed. Regular derailment is the new story of my life. I can, perhaps, ameliorate this problem, but I cannot solve it. I must accept that. The most I can achieve now is organizing to recover from regular derailment. Simply put, ordinary life is not going to go away. I'm going to go off track regularly. I need to become good at getting back on the track, with minimum time lost and reduced emotional cost in terms of frustration.

The difficult part is managing the process of acceptance. Working the way I work will simply never be inspiring or exciting. I do enjoy the work itself, but working this way does not offer much motivation and offers ample frustration. I need to figure out the motivation.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fallen off the Wagon

Wow! The past two weeks have been a bad time for this blog as an ordering device. First week of grading, I was feeling under the weather. Aches, pains, slight fever here and there. Sinus headaches, no phlegm or post-nasal drip though. The next weekend Craig and I had to fly to Vegas for Nelly and Simon’s wedding. This weekend, I’ve been grading. Being a low-energy person with weak attention span means that it doesn’t take much to throw me off.

I’m already late returning my grading. I’ve made good progress this weekend, however, and hook or by crook, the papers go back on Tuesday. Then I can start thinking about Lebanon for a little while. My mom is visiting at the end of term, however, then I start Arab-Israeli again.

I’m getting a really clear picture about why my dissertation is going nowhere fast. I need to find a way out of teaching for a while. That’s easier said than done and I miss it when I’m not doing it, though.