Some highs and lows

Life, as always, is a series of highs and lows. Never of great amplitude, but enough to influence how each day feels as it ends…So, some recent highs and lows off the top of my head (in other words, not one of my typical posts that I dither over for days… ;>).


Unexpected acts of love – This one is a bit odd, but, well, I’ve thought about the unexpected little acts of love that show up in my life, two pop up:

  • My ex (yes, ex-spouse) doing research for me on flights to Ireland (!!!) this summer;
  • My mother buying an extra bath rug (not a mat for stepping on out of the shower; rather, a rug for in front of the sink) when she liked the one she had purchased, and sending it to me, as she remembered me talking about how mine is disintegrating and I haven’t done anything about it. 🙂

The upcoming trip to Ireland! Although this is also a serious source of anxiety. Friends, I forgot how complicated planning international travel can be. And, the last time I traveled internationally (um… hm… 2012?) my then-spouse planned most of it. (He is really good at it, hence the assistance with researching flights). I’m currently in the frenzied figure-it-out phase, stymied by the lack of info on conference accommodations for the conference I am attending. I will only have a short time to myself – probably 2+ days in Galway (at the end of the trip) and 4-ish in Dublin (but 3 of those include conference stuff). Any suggestions (ahem, Stephany? Kae? Susanne?) are welcome.

Getting some of my prep work for my looming, stressful annual review completed and off to my guidance committee. And now I wait for the barrage of comments…

Finally – finally – starting a study that has taken forever to get to this phase. It’s been a year since I learned I got the funding, and I am just now about to launch recruitment. Ooof.

Work friends.

Blog friends. <3 (Although, um, I’m still working through early December posts… I just love reading all of your blogs so much, so please excuse the late comments and do NOT feel compelled to respond if you’re a blog-comment-responder.


Said annual review… I am so blinking anxious about this it is not even funny. This is the make-it-or-break-it year in terms of determining when I will go up for tenure. I’ve alluded to this “event” in past posts, but heck, you might as well know what’s hanging over my head. It’s in mid-February, and I am bracing myself for the likely message of “You’re close but not quite ready… take the year extension.” (We were all granted a “COVID extension” thanks to everyone’s favorite coronavirus….)

Funding for that study I mentioned above. It’s a complicated mix of campus and internal funds and there are certain funds that must be spent down before they expire at the end of June. I was up for an hour last night (10:30-11:30) worrying about it. Sigh.

Fretting – unnecessarily – about not yet firming up my goals and plans (personal ones, that is) for the year. Look, I know this isn’t something to worry about, but well, you know me. If it exists, I will worry about it. I’m trying to remember that I worked at breakneck pace right up until Christmas Eve. So it took me a long time to even kind of unwind from that. And now, we only have 2 weeks left before classes start up again. So. Seeing the sand trickling through the hourglass and wondering just how late my “2023 goals” will be.

Mostly the usual kind of stuff, but a better mix of mini-highs than at most times. I’m trying – I really am – to find the good, to remember that each day does have positive moments (or even seconds, if I’m not being picky) and I just need to remember what they are. It helps balance out my worry and stress.

Thank you all for being such positive moments in my days.

We work hard, we enjoy life as we can, we endure. We try to help ourselves and one another. We try to be more present and less petty. Some days go better than others. We look for solace in nature and art and maybe, if we are lucky, the quiet satisfaction of our homes… ~ Anne Lamott

Surfacing…I hope…

…for what seems to be the millionth time. Sigh.

Also, wow. I didn’t expect to be away for a month. Over a month, to be honest. This month turned out to be one of the most challenging yet of my working life. Personally, professionally, spiritually, and physically. As a result, I haven’t shown up here, and that I haven’t shown up for myself. I’ve neglected this blog, and the joy I get out of interacting with those of you who still come to read. I’ve neglected my physical and psychological health, by never taking days off from physical exercise or work. And I’ve neglected my personal growth by not spending time with my own thoughts, journaling, and thinking about bigger ideas. I honestly don’t know the last time I have taken the time to write out my thoughts.

It’s been a long month of juggling endless balls and fretting constantly that one or more will drop.

It’s been a long month of loving the NaBloPoMo posts (yes, I am still working through them), yet not being able to share as many thoughts or comments as I would, otherwise. And thereby losing another connection with a community that means so much to me.

And it’s been a long month of persistent roller-coaster times at work, being buffeted by unexpected challenges that have emerged and taken precedence over what I really want to be doing.

When I came here today, I intended to simply start a new post. And I happened upon this untitled draft, with a quote placeholder. I do this when I know I want to address a particular topic but don’t (sigh) have time to, or (better in a way), don’t know what I want to say, exactly.

The quote in this formerly untitled draft – placed here, as best I can tell, in October – was this one:

It was Seneca reminding his friend Lucilius, “The mind must be given relaxation. It will rise improved and sharper after a good break. Just as rich fields must not be forced…so constant work on the anvil will fracture the force of the mind.”

Well, shoot. There goes my past self, again, anticipating what future me was going to do.

And, it’s not like it’s completely unexpected, after all, I’ve been here before, multiple times. I say I want to show up here more, or engage more with the world, or (pick goal of anything other than work-work-work and stress-stress-stress)…

And I consistently fail at those goals. This tendency of mine – as I say, to talk a good game, but not take the required action(s) – led me to ask my therapist, in our last session, “WHY is it so hard for me to change? Why can I only talk about what I want to do, but not actually do what I want to do?” The resulting discussion was… let’s just say enlightening. 🙂

So I’m not going to promise to show up here everyday. Although maybe that would break me out of my blogging lull and journaling breakdown. But I am going to try to actually do what I need and want to do for my health (all aspects of it, as noted above). I’m going to try, at least for the next few weeks, to give my mind a bit more relaxation, a bit more time on the blog, in my journal, and doing what I find enjoyable (other than work, because despite everything I just said, I still enjoy what I do).

I know most people will be taking time off over the holidays. This will, I hope, give me a bit of time to catch up on blog reading and learn more about what’s going on in your lives now, vs. a month ago. I actually hope to post a bit more frequently about all the things I’ve wanted to share but haven’t taken the time to, you know, actually share.

I also hope to get a bit more sleep, a bit more fun reading time, and a bit less work. Wish me luck on that one, as you’ve all heard that refrain before…

And, to shift the doom-and-gloom nature of this post, sharing something that made me laugh today, which is Boxing Day for certain parts of the world. I read an article by a Canadian (Hi Nicole! Hi Elisabeth!), who asked (logically), why don’t Americans celebrate Boxing Day? This paragraph is at the end of that article:

Not to offend anyone but I’ve always been bewildered that Americans have passed up the chance to add another holiday to the calendar, especially one dedicated to self-indulgence. Maybe Boxing Day is one of those Canadian things, like Coffee Crisp and the Tragically Hip, that seem as if they would work perfectly well in the U.S. but just don’t translate.

This made me laugh primarily because I have a long-standing love for Mars bars, especially, but also for other British and Canadian chocolates. Perhaps the best way to get away from my neverending self-pressure and ever-lengthening to-do list is to emigrate to Canada and not let anyone know where I am… plus, I could indulge in all of the non-American chocolate my little heart desires. 😉

Take care, my friends. I hope, if you celebrate, you had a wonderful Christmas with those you love most. And if you don’t celebrate, I hope you took the chance to enjoy the holiday and spend time doing what you wanted to do. <3

The order of things

Alternative title: Priorities. Are mine in the right order?

It’s been A Month, friends. I knew November was going to kick my rear and it truly has. I think it was the travel out of state, combined with several things at work finally moving forward (and therefore requiring my involvement/participation/presence), that sent me over the edge. I have finally managed to feel like I have a grasp on my time, and my to do list, now. Which, of course, means that we’re heading into the end of the semester and things are going to get bonkers again.

I haven’t been writing (as in, writing in longhand) in my paper journal recently. But I have been doing nightly mini-journaling in the Reflection app. I’ve mentioned this before – it seems similar to the Day One app other bloggers have said they use. It sends reminders to write something about each day, and provides options for tagging (e.g., highlight vs. lowlight), as well as prompts if your mind goes blank.

The other evening, I actually followed the prompt , even though I usually do not. Here’s the prompt:

Busy is a decision … you don’t find the time to do things — you make the time to do things. – Debbie Millman

If you’ve been reading here any length of time, you are right if you suspect that hit me hard. Here is part of my response:

Oh, but I am awful at not being busy. I find things to do. Always. Even when I am sick or injured. Rest just seems anathema to me. I know I should rest more but it’s so hard when you feel time crunched and like you’re never going to get to the finish line.
But is there one? I mean, I could keep going forever and the finish line will just keep receding into the distance.

It was that last sentence that really hit home for me after I wrote it. I know I’ve blathered on about this endlessly here, but for some reason, the word priorities really brought it home. Hopefully once and for all. Because it’s absolutely true. I will honestly never cross the finish line – there will always be another goal to achieve, another grant to write, another study to (try to) conduct. What does it say about me that I prioritize work over taking the time to do the things that bring me joy, outside of work?

My priorities are all wrong. I’ve prioritized work for years now. I haven’t prioritized my relationships (which are important to me, but how would anyone know that, looking at how I spend my time?). I haven’t prioritized making sure that what I am doing in any given moment is what’s best for me in that moment.

Turning, as always, for wisdom and insight from others, I found a few mini-gems in saved essays and quotes:

The Western collective consciousness teaches us that when we get to the end of something, then we will be happy, whole, complete, and successful. When we graduate from high school or college, when we get married, when we have kids, when we get the dream job, then life will really be rolling. We’re constantly chasing a carrot on a stick that’s always just out of reach. When we reach the milestone that we thought was our golden key to happiness, the feeling of satisfaction is fleeting. So we think, “Okay, well I did that, and it didn’t quite bring me the happiness I was thinking it would, so maybe it was just a stepping stone. Maybe when xyz happens, that will make me happy. That will be the real win.” This elusive state of contentment is always around the next corner. We’re racing toward something that will never give us what we’re hoping for. The only way to truly win this race of life is to realize there is no race.” ~Polly Green (via TinyBuddha)

“First, know your priorities. Every time you say “yes” to more work you’re saying “no” to the other aspects of your life that you value. By taking inventory of your list of priorities, and where work lies on that list, you can make decisions that will help you live a more fulfilling life. Second, address the underlying issues. Oftentimes we work to avoid thinking about our insecurities or shortcomings. Or, we think we need to have more money in order to be loved. I’ve been guilty of both of these.” ~Mike Fishbein (also via TinyBuddha)

So, more ideas and questions for me to consider… Why do I think working all the time will make me happy, or will fulfill me? What insecurities do I have that I may be trying not to think about? (Haaa…there are so, so many…) What are my shortcomings? And, perhaps most important, what are my values? What is important to me? Are actions or activities that are important among my priorities? If not (and, spoiler alert, I suspect most will fall into the “not” category…), why not? And how can I change that?

Guess it’s time to pick up that journal again… Thanks, as always, for listening to me ramble on and on, friends. Working through all these cognitive, emotional, and psychological knots is not easy, and knowing you are out there (even if you just read the first paragraph, rolled your eyes, and said, “Again???”) helps a lot.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US. I’ll be celebrating with my ex-spouse and his family. This is 2022. 😉

On expiration dates and doomscrolling

I’m mindful that the road ahead of me is way shorter than the one behind me. ~Maria Shriver, in her Sunday Paper from 11/6/2022)

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. ~Annie Dillard 

April 22, 2022 ~Expiration date on cheese purchased last Thursday (just as a reminder, that was 11/2/2022…)

I’ve been thinking about expiration dates, life behind me and life ahead of me, and doomscrolling recently.

I haven’t been writing here, with the usual excuse of not-enough-time-busy-busy-busy.

I haven’t been journaling in my handwritten journal.

Where I have been mini-journaling is in the Reflections app, a favorite of mine (linked with my Holstee account) that I access through my phone and that I have used nearly every evening for the last year, with the exception of some days around surgery and vacation. And nearly every evening, I lament that I didn’t “have the chance” to reflect, to journal, to write out my thoughts that day.

It’s occurred to me that I may be avoiding something – something that emerges that I am not consciously aware of. But it’s also occurred to me that I may simply be spending my time in meaningless doomscrolling, vs. spending my time on activities that are more likely to feed my soul. Perhaps it’s both. But I think the second option deserves some attention because friends, it is getting bad.

I have always been highly engaged with the news, from childhood breakfasts, when the local paper (um, such that it was) was always on the table, through college, when I would listen to KYW 1060 in Philadelphia, a classic all-news AM (AM!!!) station, and then post-college, when I started accessing the news on the internet. I’ve continued and even escalated that engagement in recent years – digital subscriptions to two major newspapers, subscribing to email newsletters from those publications as well as others, and just generally drowning myself in the news-of-the-day.

Unless you’ve been living under a really large rock, though, you know that the news in the last, oh, 6 years or so has not been, shall we say, overwhelmingly positive. I know I am coming at this with a very VERY partisan lens, but I think it’s true regardless of one’s political leanings. The news is overwhelming. It’s negative. It’s panic-inducing, sometimes (like, well, today). And that is what I have chosen for my primary non-work activity each day.

I listen to or read the news while working out. While brushing my teeth and getting dressed post-shower. In the evening. On my phone, when I’m moving around the apartment during the day. I refresh Google news all. the. time.

And this is where expiration dates come in. (Yes, the cheese I inadvertently purchased on Thursday had expired nearly 7 months ago… and yes, the store manager was appalled when I exchanged it yesterday…) My life has an expiration date. All lives do. Our time on this planet is limited. Do I really want to spend so much of my time doomscrolling and obsessing over the news? Is that what is going to create my best life? I think you know the answer, and I think I do, too.

I spend way too much of my limited time on the news. I know this. Even if I cut back by half, I’d have more time to read, to reflect, to journal, to write here, to catch up on all of your blogs, for the love of Pete. The challenge is actually doing it. I think my next step – anxiety-producing in its own little way – is putting a time limit on my use of the Washington Post app, the one I use most frequently. I need to think about how to operationalize it, but my goal is to do that when I return from my (first post-COVID) conference this weekend. (I’ll note that that is also a very anxiety-provoking ‘thing’ on the near horizon…)

Because, after all…

It’s not how many years in your life, but how much life in your years. ~Edward Stieglitz

Wish me luck.