June 9, 2011 § 6 Comments
When I’m excited about something, truly excited, I tend to not allow myself to enjoy it. I’m superstitious, you see. I’m afraid of jinxing my source of excitement.
Take graduation for instance. If I get too excited about it, then I might do something to screw it up. How can I know for sure that I’ll graduate when I haven’t graduated yet? How will I know that it will absolutely happen without the power of clairvoyance to tell me so? How can I rest easy when something that I want so terribly bad hasn’t happened yet and still might not?
The trouble with this line of thinking is that it can lead to self-sabotage. If I’m scared I might not graduate, then I might actually sabotage myself so that I don’t. I really struggle with feeling excited when so much hinges on a single factor.
But here’s what I’ve finally landed on.
If I don’t graduate in August, I will be sad and disappointed.
I will be sad and disappointed if I don’t graduate and was excited throughout this summer.
I will be sad and disappointed if I don’t graduate and wasn’t excited throughout this summer.
So if the outcome is the same, then maybe I should just let myself feel excited, right?
I just wish it were that easy. I told my mom that I needed to feel more excitement from everyone about graduation. Up to that point, I had been hearing from many people “if you graduate in August” and “maybe we should push graduation to December” and that sort of thing. It was disheartening…as though I wasn’t getting encouraged to try to graduate in August. But as soon as I told my mom what I needed, she responded in kind! Invitations have been ordered and will be delivered soon. People have made travel arrangements. Hotels have been booked. Restaurant reservations have been made.
And now I’m freaking out.
What if I don’t graduate? What if everyone has made all these plans and I just screw them all up?
The biggest question, of course, is why am I like this? Followed swiftly by “how do I change it?” I want to enjoy this process. I want to feel happy and confident and excited. I don’t want to be on the other side of graduation and look back at these past six months with regret that I didn’t have more confidence in myself.
Rest assured, though, that I will likely not rest assured until the degree is in my hand. And even then….
May 30, 2011 § 8 Comments
On this Memorial Day, I am not sitting by the lake eating a hot dog. Nor am I throwing a frisbee around in the park with my dogs. Nor am I swimming off the coast of a white sandy beach.
No, my friends, on this Memorial Day, I am ensconced in my home office, work work working. I’m not looking for sympathy, really. It’s okay. I’ve observed the “holiday” in my own way. (It’s always bothered me that Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day are referred to as “holidays.” These are not exactly happy occasions. Not to my mind anyway.) I have shed a few tears to some rather poignant Memorial Day commercials, and I perused the ads for some great sales I wish I could indulge on, and I did spend my lunch stuffing my eye sockets with Bravo TV.
But mostly, I’ve spent my day paying tribute to the paragraphs, style choices, and quotes that just didn’t quite make the cut. Maybe they failed to make my point. Maybe they distracted from my goal. Maybe they only afforded me the opportunity to sound like a moron. Whatever the reason for their inadequacy, over the past couple of days, those instances have been meticulously excised from chapter drafts.
So, here’s to you, Personification: instead of using the word “I” and wearing my Big Girl Panties to argue with a critic, I relied upon you, Personification, to do the heavy lifting for me. Well, no more. No more shall I say “my dissertation argues that” and “the point argues against his thesis.” You are hereby banished.
Here’s to you, “Qtd. In”: only a marker for laziness, you lured me with the sweet promise that you would sufficiently cover my ass, and you tempted me away from doing my own research for myself. You are a seductress and a siren. But now I am a Greek soldier. Sing all you want, for I have stuffed cotton into my ears. I will forevermore rely on the original text itself.
Here’s to you, Generalization: when I was ashamed of my lack of knowledge, you whispered in my ear, “just say ‘most’ instead.” Little did either of us know, Generalization, employing the word “most” merely begs the questions “who” and “which.” Much like your twin sister “Qtd. In,” you reassured me that I would not need to do additional research. You have likewise been banished from the text. Most of the time.
Here’s to you, Lexical Errors: you shrink away from my eagle eye when I edit, convincing me with your pound puppy whimpers, “but I know what you meant to say….” Allow me to correct your shy attempt at misapprehension: meaning to say and saying are two very different ideas. I will find you, no matter where you hide. And I will eradicate you with proper sentence structure and concision, in spite of your pitiful pouting.
Hand me my screwdriver. I’m in the business of tightening this project.
May 28, 2011 § 9 Comments
Yesterday, I lowered my sword Steel Will, fatigued and drained. I stared up at the Dragon “I Would But” and croaked, “You win.” I fell to my knees, too exhausted to hold up my own body. “I Would But” spewed black bile of guilt, shame, and humiliation over my head, drenching me until I became invisible.
I met V at our coffee shop for our weekly debriefing meetings. In these meetings, we give each other progress reports, offer support and encouragement when it’s needed (and wag our fingers on occasion). Twice while we talked, I felt close to tears. But we were in public, and I had to gain some control over myself. Today, I don’t remember what brought me to tears. It could only have been utter emotional exhaustion.
V left to meet a friend for lunch, and I called Robert. “I don’t think I can do it today, honey,” I murmured over the phone. The shame I felt giving in overpowered my ability to speak at a normal volume. With nary a negative word, Robert agreed. “You have to listen to your body, Amanda,” he consoled me. I went home to my husband and ate lunch. We went to the movies (Hangover 2, which is a must see if you enjoyed the first). We had dinner and caught up on our TiVo recordings. I forgot to write a post.
Today I will dig my way through the mire of guilt and humiliation. I will draw up Steel Will once more and climb to my feet. I will engage the idle Dragon in battle. And I will win.
May 20, 2011 § 3 Comments
I thrive on being patted on the head. As someone who pats her own back so infrequently and rarely without a derisive back-handed remark, I practically need approval from others in order to breathe.
This began when I was told in kindergarten that I had behaved well enough to earn the prestigious privilege of first-choice when picking my sleeping mat for nap time. “Amanda,” I remember Ms. B saying so sweetly, “I have been very impressed with your good behavior. Today, you get to pick the first sleeping mat.” I popped out of my seat as fast as I could and practically raced the sorry chumps who were much worse behaved than I. Grabbing the most desirable mat (the one that was still a little bit fluffy and had fewer rips), I taunted the rest of the class with my trophy. I was a better student, a better example, a more-favoritest-favorite.
And now I’m 29 years old. And today, folks, today was an “Amanda gets the first mat” kind of day.
I met with my dissertation director this morning, and we discussed the three latest chapters I’ve given her. She said a few times throughout our two-hour meeting that she thought the writing was working, that I was really on track, and that she was impressed with the rate at which I was producing.
I am glowing, my friends! 🙂 Literally glowing. I have been all day long!
Approval from my director means approval from someone whose opinion I hold in extremely high regard. Approval from her means that I have pleased one of the most important people in my life. Approval from her means that it’s okay to give myself approval.
I do know this is backwards…but I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who seeks self-approval from the approval of others.
Today has been a wonderful day. I am making progress; she’s noticing; we’re both happy with the shape the project is taking.
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May 14, 2011 § 3 Comments
My house is a disaster area.
In every square foot of it, something is distinctly out of place.
I feel drained just looking at the piles and messes throughout the house. I can hardly work here. Coupled with my incessant twitchiness from this summer’s flying intruders, I feel high-strung and nervous.
But I have to pack that anxiety away, prioritize, and focus.
Despite my descent into what appears to be summertime madness, I managed to read for the fifth time what can only be the world’s longest and most boring play EVER: Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s The Roaring Girl. A supposedly funny foray into cross-dressing and issues of gender, The Roaring Girl took me no fewer than four hours to complete–much longer than normal running time, I’d assume. The fact of the matter is that it’s a city comedy, which means a great deal of the action occurs on the streets of London (or some other recognizable English place), it contains a plethora of inside jokes and long-forgotten social commentaries, and it requires a fairly confident grasp of early modern English concerns for coherence’s sake.
In other words: ugh.
I’m not a fan of the city comedies. Plain and simple. I often find them boring, slow, and ofttimes difficult to follow. In The Roaring Girl, for instance, I am close to suggesting the entire city scene be excised from the play, in order instead to allow focus on the principal characters. The city scene follows the love triangles and deceitful behavior among married couples to prove each other’s fidelity–these couples are skilled laborers, not aristocrats. This is not to suggest that their side story isn’t itself interesting, but perhaps it deserves its own, separate play.
Ah, well. Too late now. The Roaring Girl was first published as a quarto in 1611. Despite its age and my tardy criticism, I did manage to find some useful portions to include in my next dissertation chapter. The Roaring Girl focuses its principal action on a young man who intends to trick his obstinate father into letting him marry the woman he loves by fooling his father into believing that he is actually in love with the famous cross-dresser and pick-pocket Moll Cutpurse. Moll Cutpurse (fashioned after the real-life Mary Frith) was a “roaring girl,” the female equivalent to the “roaring boys” who caused trouble in local taverns. The real Moll was more than a tomboy–she was truly a transvestite, preferring the wardrobe and liberties that came with maleness. In the play, she is represented as a quick-witted woman who dominates nearly every man she encounters. Her portions of the play are the ones I enjoyed the most…and they came too few in number, for my tastes.
Tomorrow I’ll finish up my reread of plays with my fourth return to Knight of the Burning Pestle. (“Pestle” is pronounced “pezzle” and should remind you of a phallus, rather than a tool with which to grind herbs into dust. …the fact that it’s a “burning” phallus should be a fairly easy joke to crack.)
Next week: I begin work on my last big chapter!
May 12, 2011 § 6 Comments
As I write my dissertation, I have noticed new habits springing to the fore.
1. Writing phrases like “springing to the fore.”
2. Exhibiting evidence of brain damage.
2.a. Example: Last weekend, Robert had to repeat every single thing he said because I had trouble comprehending it.
2.b. Example: Last weekend, I misread the covers of more than one book as well as the heading for a genre section in the bookstore. The misreads were sexualized versions of the titles.
2.c. Example: I ramble incoherently…except when discussing my dissertation.
3. Dropping off the face of the planet, socially speaking, that is.
4. Preferring the greasiness of take-out over the wholesomeness of home-cooked meals.
And the kicker…
5. Having this for lunch on more than one occasion:
Why is that such a big deal? Looks like such a normal lunch, right?
The problem with this equation is that I don’t drink Coke. I don’t drink any sodas. The running joke is that I don’t drink any carbonated beverage, unless there’s alcohol in it. The carbonation actually burns my throat and tongue, making it difficult to swallow the liquid…which then sits in my mouth and continues to burn my throat and tongue. It is not pleasurable to me to drink carbonated beverages…unless there’s alcohol involved. I tend to only drink water. Or chai. But never Coke without rum.
I’ve gone over the deep end, my friends. Help. Me.
May 11, 2011 § 7 Comments
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where A-Ha moments happen every second of the day?
Why, it would take virtually no effort whatsoever to be motivated! Sure, it might be mentally taxing to have an inspirational thought every time you think, but still. At least then, you wouldn’t be faced with the I Don’t Wanna’s.
The I Don’t Wanna’s: a tough little army of reasons, excuses, justifications, and plain ol’ not-wanting-to’s whose prime objective is to keep you from your work. Like facing a moat or a fire-breathing dragon, you (brave knight) must face this barrier in order to rescue your work (sweet princess) from her assured demise.
My I Don’t Wanna’s come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, they are as feeble as a mere “but I just don’t want to.” Easily hammered down and defeated. “But I have to,” comes my battle-axe response. Done. “But I just don’t want to” is no more.
Sometimes they are massive, scaly, venomous dragons with wings that beat deafening thunder. The Dragon “I Would But This Other Thing Takes Priority” buffets me with fiery guilt, shame, and regret. I am pelted by hailstones of “remember how you ignored this friend or that activity,” and I am almost always brought to my knees. Weakened. Humbled. Humiliated.
But, if we really are the brave knights we think we are, if we really do intend to accomplish the goals we ourselves set before us to accomplish, then we have no choice but to take to our feet again. Hoist that shield up. Draw the sword.
Our battle cry changes. “But I have to” becomes a mighty yawp of “I will because I want to!”
We charge the Dragon “I Would But,” raise the sword overhead, and push through until Steel Will slices through fleshy idleness.
We will be victorious.
May 4, 2011 § 7 Comments
Alias: the eureka effect.
You know that moment in older cartoons when the mad scientist would stare contemplatively at his experiment and suddenly holler, “Eureka!” Typically much to the chagrin of a mild-mannered someone or something who inevitably jumps to the ceiling and hangs there by claws or fingernails until such time as the heart rate has been restored to normal.
Dissertation writers (hell, all writers really) experience the “a-ha” moment in fascinating moments.
In the shower.
Something about hot water, steam, and delicious-smelling soap allows seemingly incongruous thoughts to slip and slide inside the brain until: a-ha! They interlock.
Enthralled by television or engaged in a conversation.
Much like Dr. Gregory House, the stuck dissertator will hear that one right phrase uttered innocently by a New Jersey housewife or a dear friend, and all of a sudden: a-ha! The once occluded argument becomes not only clear but obviously so.
Over coffee, tea, or liquor.
The dissertator might whine and bemoan the project, distracted by her own monologue-turned-soliloquy, entirely ignorant of her miserable audience who foolishly asked, “how are you?” And then: a-ha! Twisting in circuitous and disjointed paths, the dissertator discovers her lost little point in the Forest of Angst.
In bed. Asleep…or otherwise.
Finally lulled to a state of ease, comfort, peace, and rest, dissembling barriers disassemble and tumble down to reveal a shimmering truth. Suddenly sitting up (perhaps to the disappointment of her sleeping…or otherwise…spouse), the dissertator exclaims: a-ha! Despite the inconvenience, she conceives the argument in perfect perfection.
Although Oprah, mistress of momentous moments, might pooh-pooh my single-minded construct of the “a-ha” moment, correcting my mistakes and warning me never again to err, perhaps she’s the limited one. Could an “a-ha” moment stretch beyond the sphere of self-actualizing psychological development? I believe so, yes. You see, friends, the dissertator’s “a-ha” moment is a precious commodity; infrequent, sparse, and rare, it lives at the threshold of insecurity and pride. Seek it too doggedly, and it will shrink into fear and doubt, the best cloaks of invisibility this side of Hogwarts. But ignore it, heed it no mind, hell even forget about it, and it will crash into you at full force.
I had an “a-ha” moment yesterday morning while reading, again, Twelfth Night. And, for fear of frightening it, I have only shared the revelation with a few trusted friends. I will attempt to “raise it,” as one of my committee members put it today at lunch. For, she told me, nobody else will do it for me.
In the meantime, if you and I are in a conversation, please disregard any future exclamations of “eureka!” that may issue forth from my entire being. Revel in them with me, won’t you?