Solstice reflections

Emotional management, Floristry, Grief

I wish I knew how to live well. By well, I mean with enthusiasm. I am always tired and lacking energy, and I don’t know if that’s a symptom or a cause.
I wish I could see what other people see when they appear so enthusiastic about life, about their families, and their jobs and their every dayness. I know that’s not a word because it comes up with a spell checker line under it but I like it as a word. It conveys what I mean. Dayness meaning waking up and thinking ‘how am I going to get through this one?’
Objectively there is no difference in my day and anyone else’s day. It’s the 21st of December and its going to be the longest day of the year, and some people will be celebrating it in lieu of Christmas which is now only four days away. Temperatures will start to climb again. Holiday catch ups, taking kids swimming, walking the dog.
I wake and think of how I am going to fill the emptiness.
Following my recent flirtation with suicide, this is mostly how I feel. I can, and do, fill the emptiness with a lot of shopping which is why I am busting out the seams of this house. Just this week I have probably spent a thousand dollars on books. This is, even for me, excessive.
They are mostly gardening and art books, although I did buy two much more academic books. They felt like duty purchases. Not quite. I was excited about the one called The Language of Plants but then I started to read it and the academic language made my heart sink.
I keep thinking of ways to represent my emotions around the PhD and academia in paper. That last sentence gave me an idea. A heart chained to an anchor. I really want to do the PhD acronym, permanent head destruction. A model of my head and shoulders in paper mache but with the top not filled in and out of that comes tendrils of shredded paper. I want to do my wrist and the knife.
God my body hurts today. Physio and massage yesterday to help my hip. But I feel like I have been mashed up. I spent most of the last few days on the verge of crying because I was in pain physically and in pain from the pain. I realized that if I feel like this so frequently then the idea of a rural farm based life is a bit ridiculous. I can’t bend well, I can’t really dig. It’s ridiculous to assume that I can farm flowers with these two basic problems. Plus I can’t expose myself to that much sun. So unless there’s a miracle partner out there, business or otherwise, I am sunk.
Oh yeah, that’s right. His name was John.
So this chronic back pain which has been going on now since 2008 kills a long held dream. I can’t have the big country garden and farm that I have wanted all my adult life and I can’t do my fall back position, floristry, either because I can’t stand for great lengths of time. Thank you PhD.
I have been trying to tell people that I have lost a cherished dream and everyone just brushes over it, even those who are usually quite aware and sensitive. I do not seem able to convey to them in a way that they understand just how devastating this is emotionally. How much I feel as if I have been struck by a natural disaster, a cyclone perhaps, or a wildfire. No one perceives this about me though. In an actual cyclone it’s easy to see the trees uprooted and the roofs torn away exposing the delicacy of people’s lives, and as a community we respond. But I look well and healthy and my words do not get through to the few I trust.

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Publishing and the (weight of the) past

employment, PhD, Publishing, Uncategorized

Last week I got a welcome email. It was from a publisher, saying that they would like to take my manuscript, my thesis, to the next stage of assessment.  Part of me was elated.  Part of me was prosaic, reasoning that it was my exalted referee’s name that got me to stage two.  Partly I felt dread.

Dread. Yes.  What’s going on with that?  Doesn’t every author aspire to be published?  Well, yes but…

Let me clarify that this is not fiction writing which I do for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m talking about work.  It’s all about the economics.  My boss returned from an OS jaunt recently with a story of how for one job in my discipline at a UK university they received a thousand applicants.  The only people who made it into ‘being vaguely considered’ pile had two books on their CV, in addition to their PhD.  It really is publish or perish in this game.  Basically I’ll be forever lurching from one insecure contract to the next at the lowest pay scale (which is quite low given how long it takes to get a PhD) unless I can get published.

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so gloomy at the thought of revising my PhD if I had found it anything other than what it was. Doing a PhD is like that proverb of putting a frog in a pot of water and bringing it slowly to the boil.  The cool water of the first year is quite pleasant.  You get to spend an whole year just reading and exploring.  There’s possibly no other institution on the plant that offers this luxury.  At the end of first year, the heat goes on.  By the end, which may be anywhere between three and seven years, you are boiled to a sodden mush.

Let’s not forget either that life on the outside goes on, and can be equally challenging. In my case, multiple deaths, including my own vitality and sense of meaning about anything, including and most especially work.

Reworking my thesis into a book takes me back into that deep gloom. I feel like I’ve only just escaped with my life.  Now that I may (I need to whisper this quietly so I don’t tempt fate) have gotten my mojo back after years of deep depression and grief, now I may have to go back to the that time.  It wont make any difference if it is this publisher or someone else. I am going to have to find a way to face this with creativity and intelligence.  At the moment I can think of nothing that would help me with the process.  I know I’m going to absolutely resent giving up my gardening/sewing/embroidery time on the weekends.  Maybe an end vision might help.

I survived this mind-altering-body-changing-soul-mangling process of a PhD and burying two parents, two grandparents, two friends and my cat, and I still managed to produce this book out of it all. Any you know what?  It’s a good book.  Not publishing it would make going through all that pain worthless.