Note – This is an edited version of the even whinier version I posted briefly on Friday afternoon. I left most of it intact (that’s why it says I wrote it Friday) but modified how detailed I was in my description of my day.

***OK, and further edited to add (10/4) that I recognize my extreme privilege, and this is such a first-world problem. There are people suffering and dying without water, or food, or shelter. There are people dealing with the aftermath of multiple climate disasters. And I’m complaining about a situation I put myself in. I absolutely know that I am lucky. I know I am privileged. I also know that I’m still stressed, and frustrated, and I let that out here. So, if you’d rather not read about first-world problems given all that’s going on in the world today, I completely understand.***

Enough. I’m done. Not with this blog, with how I have been living my life these past four weeks. It’s ridiculous. I’ve pushed myself into the margins of my life. I feel constantly rushed, time-deprived, and unable to keep up with the parts of life that feed my soul, rather than my job and other responsibilities.

I’ll be honest – it has sucked. I have wanted to come back here to write for the last 2.5 weeks. I’m just now ‘making the time’. The reason? It’s a fifth Friday – no standing meetings (Our school-wide “meeting day” is, believe it or not, Friday. And yes, this stinks more than you can imagine.). So I have had a (relatively) productive day and feel like I “can” take the time to write this post.

That’s ridiculous.

I know I don’t tend to share much about my days here, because honestly? they’re boring. But maybe sharing a bit will help you see why I’ve finally reached my limit. Here’s a typical work weekday (M-F; also note that all “holidays” are typically also work days, so, really, this is just a “typical weekday”):

****A quick note before I get to the pathetic part…PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not think I am writing this out in an effort to get sympathy, or to make people feel bad. I put this on myself. This is how I set up my days – it is literally all on me. My colleagues do not have schedules like this – but as one of the few single, childless people on faculty, well, this is what I feel like I have to do.****

  • Work out, shower, and get dressed. This always happens before I start to work. Nonnegotiable. While working out, I also check through work emails that arrived overnight, read the paper online, and listen to sports radio/podcasts. Multitasking at its…worst? Also, yes, this includes my walk, and yes it is dark outside. I know. With the Eliza Fletcher murder, I should probably rethink this, but it is also often the only time that works for me to get outside for more than 5 minutes.
  • I’m usually at my desk with my coffee between 5:55-6:10 (yes, seriously, it’s this narrow of a window), then talk to my parents while also looking at Google news with half an eyeball. I work from about 6:30, sometimes 6:45, to 5ish. This includes a combination of: my own work, work on behalf of others, meetings, teaching, prepping for teaching, etc.). Plus, of course, checking emails, attending webinars for continuing ed, etc. I also, of course, eat, which is when I read blogs. Unless I have meetings, and then I eat during the meeting with my camera off. Each meal is probably 15-20 minutes – I prep my food on weekends so that I can grab it, heat it as needed, and eat. There are days when this gets broken up by appointments, or other one-off things, but for the most part, this is my work day.
  • Post work routine includes cleaning up the kitchen, taking a quick lap of my building outside (I need SOME fresh air during the day!), taking a shower (my signal that the day is really over), PT, reading the paper online, and emailing my parents. Yes, I talk to them on the phone, and email them almost every day. It makes all of us happy, so I do it.
  • Then, dinner, during which I read more blogs, and the evening routine of cleaning up, tea, reading, and dessert. Ice cream. Always. Then I brush my teeth, read in bed, and pretty much fall asleep the minute I turn out light.
  • Repeat.

The only time this changes is on teaching days, Thursday (clean the bathroom and go grocery shopping before I start work, so I tend to start about 45 minutes later than usual), and weekends (do other things first thing in the morning, so I don’t sit down to work until 7:30 or so).

I’m basically working full days, 7 days a week, and this year is particularly bad. I need to hit certain benchmarks so that I can be considered for promotion next year, so the pressure is on. Even though I’m pretty sure this is unsustainable, I struggle with how to change.

This is why I haven’t been here, why my comments on your blogs are even later than usual. I hope to show up more in this space – how many times have I said that? – because I like to write here. I like connecting with you all here. And dammit, somehow, I need to figure out how to feed just a tiny bit of my soul.

From Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes… “Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement.” Yes, it is rare. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Umwelt and “the other”

A long time ago, I wrote a post about the word sonder. Since you all probably don’t need or want to go back and read my random ramblings from 2020, the basic idea is that everyone is living their own lives, separate from yours. And that you will never have the privilege of knowing everything about those lives – only they will know that.

Sonder came back to me when I read Ed Yong’s recent piece on Umwelt in The Atlantic. Umwelt is the concept that each animal (and I would include humans in this) has its own “sliver of reality”, as Yong said. Yong focuses on animals and how their perceptions of the world are so very different from those of humans, thanks to different senses, abilities, color perception, and many, many other things. A tick (to use one of the examples in the article) has a very different perception of the world than I do. Same goes for all other animals.

Extending that to humans, it made me think that I will never know the world in the exactly the same way as other humans. I will never know what it is like to live in their bodies. I won’t know what it feels like for them to move through the world. It’s a humbling thought – we are all the center of our own stories, of our own worlds. But so is everyone else. And no one person’s story is more important than any other person’s. (Granted, some people may think their stories, their lives, are more important than others’, but that’s not a philosophy or worldview that I follow… )

I have seen this in my work life, my personal life, my day-to-day life. I have my own way of seeing the world, and so do my students, and my colleagues, my parents, my friends… It’s immensely valuable to me to try to improve my understanding of how others see the world. Without trying to learn at least a tiny bit about others’ lives, I can’t really know them. This hit home last week when I was learning more about the new students in my seminar class. There are four of them – all have unique histories and experiences and contexts that will influence who they are as students in my class, and who they become as they move through and beyond graduate school. Like all Umwelten, they also have their own limits to how they perceive the world, just as I do. Knowing even the tiniest bit about who they are helps me when I listen to their insights in class, when I grade their assignments, when I challenge them during our discussions.

And then another article came across my feed, this time from Raptitude. The author of that piece makes the case that we are always The Other in everyone else’s life. We come and go in others’ lives, but we’re not the center of their stories. They are.

Another humbling thought. I’m the center of my life, sure. But you are the center of your life – I am a bit player, who wanders through periodically with a new blog post. I’m not even a primary Other in your lives – I suspect I am waaaay down on the list, to be honest, as I’m not even a daily presence in your lives.

But even those minor, or secondary, Others can be so important in our lives. They can offer insights, different ways of seeing a situation, different perspectives.

We may never know what it is like to be living someone else’s life. We may never know what it’s like to live in their body. But we can still learn from them. We can expand our own worlds by learning more about theirs.

There are some people who never want to learn about others’ lives. To them, I guess, it’s more important to focus on their own ways of being in the world. But to me? It’s critical to know more about the worlds the Others in my life inhabit. Otherwise (sorry, couldn’t resist…), how can I expand my knowledge of the world? How can I expand my knowledge of them as a person? If I don’t try, then I’ll just go through life in my own little bubble of reality, blissfully unaware that my life is so very different from others’ lives. It seems a lonely and isolating way to live, if I’m being honest. I can’t even conceive of being so, well, uncurious about others.

What is it about some people that makes them inherently curious about the world and how others see it? And, in contrast, what is it about other people that makes them so focused on their own lives? Questions for another day (as this is getting really long)… but oh, so interesting to contemplate. (And, can people change? Can they go from wanting to know more about others’ lives to being completely uninterested? Seems impossible to me, but.. maybe?)

Calm… and hope

OK, that’s not the most informative blog post title, but… it’s (mostly) what I am feeling as this week draws to a close. The post from earlier this week definitely reflected my state of mind at that time… but it’s always fascinating to me how things can turn on a dime, shifting my frustration and stress and, well, overall angst to a more positive outlook.

Sometimes, the Universe delivers. And when it does, I feel compelled to say thank you. Plus, I feel like my blog has devolved into a whine-fest, and I don’t want it to be that way. Being here, interacting with those of you who still come by, and getting out of my work-brain for a few minutes, at least, helps to feed my soul. And that is a good thing.

What helped? Well, for starters, having a meeting on Tuesday that alleviated a ton of the work-related stress. It was budget related (no further details required, I suspect) and I had managed to talk myself onto a ledge, imagining the worst. Turns out my “worst” was a bit of an overreaction (shocking… or not… :>), and I found out that things are probably going to be okay. There is still a chance that things could go south, but it’s much smaller than I had anticipated.

Then, I took control of my schedule on Wednesday and backed out of a previous commitment. I don’t do this often, but when I do, there is a reason. And hopefully a good one. The result? Wednesday reassured me that all was not lost, that I am making progress (sort of) both physically and mentally, and that I can still do my job. And do it (mostly) well. To have that kind of day led to a 180 in my mental state, and as a result, my physical state.

Yesterday (Thursday) was what finally catapulted me out of the self-pitying doldrums where I found myself earlier this week. I “had” to go in to work to present to a new group of students who will be working with faculty on research projects and grants. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. I got to see three of my favorite people in one place for the first time in, well, years. I got to give a fun and mostly ad-libbed presentation with one of those favorite people, on one of my favorite nerdy topics (um, literature searches and the library… told you it was nerdy!). I got to answer questions from engaged students, and make them laugh.

And I got an unexpected – completely unexpected – raise.

That last point isn’t THE point. The big thing that reminded me of why I do what I do was the presentation to the students. But, on the same day, I was also reminded that the school has invested in me, and that they see me as a “good” investment. It’s a large enough raise to improve my savings cushion more than anticipated. And that relieves some of the financial stress I’ve felt for the last year, as I’ve shifted from being a member of a dual-earner-no-kids couple, to being a middle-aged single divorced woman, with one income. I didn’t realize quite how stressful that had been until a bit of it lifted.

It was huge.

I did get some slightly stressful news later in the day but I am holding out hope that things will turn out in a positive way, and that my worrying and fretting will have been for naught.

For now? I’m going to seize the moment, and enjoy the shift to positive thinking, forward movement in my career, and thinking about bringing a tiny bit of fun into my weekend. (More on that, I hope, in a soon-to-come post…)

So thank you for being here. For being such wonderful supporters, even though I haven’t met any of you in person. For being who you are, and sharing your lives, too, which helps to remind me that my world is not the only world. That there are others out there facing their own challenges, and doing it with smiles on their faces. Just, thank you. <3

Leaving you with this, which just spoke to me today…

When I was young, I believed that life might unfold in an orderly way, according to my hopes and expectations. But now I understand that the Way winds like a river, always changing, ever onward.. My journeys revealed that the Way itself creates the warrior; that every path leads to peace, every choice to wisdom. And that life has always been, and will always be, arising in Mystery.


Emerging, with some difficulty

Yet again, my long break from this blog was not intentional.

At first, it was – I left for vacation with my family at the end of July and knew that I wouldn’t be posting that week. But I assumed I’d be here the week after that, perhaps recapping the trip (it was wonderful) or highlighting what I hoped August would bring.

What August wound up bringing was, well, a bit of chaos. See, when I fractured my arm and had to have surgery, I also had to postpone a bunch of medical appointments and procedures that had been scheduled to try to figure out what’s going on with my whatever-it-is chronic illness. And all of those appointments (save one) had been moved to the two weeks after I returned from vacation.

So it was out of the (cool, very relaxing) vacation frying pan and into the appointment fire.

I was barely keeping it together, let alone feeling like I could post.

And I still feel like life is spinning out of control. I think it’s this feeling I hate most – that my prized control is slipping, and that I am just doing things to get them done and moving on. There’s minimal structure to some of my days – which I typically love – but often I find myself chasing shiny objects, and jumping from thing to thing to thing without focusing on what needs to be done first.

Now, I am trying (desperately) to emerge from that chaos and squirrel mind.

At the same time, work has, um, not been easy (let’s just leave it at that for now) and I had some major unanticipated work-related stressors earlier this week. The kind of stressors that leave you wondering whether you really want to keep doing this. It has been a tough few weeks and I’m hoping (desperately) that I am starting to emerge from it.

I just spent 10 minutes searching for this poem… which seems rather apt in this moment. So I leave you with this, and the promise to be back again soon. And I mean it this time. (If, um, there’s anyone left out there who’s still reading at this point…)

Blessing in the Chaos

To all that is chaotic
in you,
let there come silence.

Let there be
a calming
of the clamoring,
a stilling
of the voices that
have laid their claim
on you,
that have made their
home in you,

that go with you
even to the
holy places
but will not
let you rest,
will not let you
hear your life
with wholeness
or feel the grace
that fashioned you.

Let what distracts you
Let what divides you
Let there come an end
to what diminishes
and demeans,
and let depart
all that keeps you
in its cage.

Let there be
an opening
into the quiet
that lies beneath
the chaos,
where you find
the peace
you did not think
and see what shimmers
within the storm.

-Jan Richardson