A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Alka Seltzer Metaphor

As preoccupied as I have been with political issues, I have decided that it is now time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming: a day in the life of a graduate student.

Update on my sedentary, book-consumed life? I have reached a glass ceiling. No, a wall. Okay, I'll admit it--I'm still searching for the right metaphor, and I'm not coming up with much. What can you call it when you've literally spent almost every moment of every day, from getting up at 8 a.m. to falling asleep around 10 p.m., reading and writing and reading and writing and reading some more... and all the sudden everything just makes you feel like crying?

The technical term, now that I think about it, is "burn out." It's more like a slow, pathetic fizzing-out, though... like an Alka-Seltzer tablet dissolving slowly in water, wearing away until all that's left is a murky, chalky-tasting water. Hmmm, I wanted a metaphor, but that is particularly depressing.

I've have awakened two nights in a row from dreams (not nightmares, mind you) that have made me sob loud enough to disturb my husband. I went to two different birthday parties last night and attempted to set aside any anxiety over unfinished work... but although I didn't panic about taking a break when I probably shouldn't have, I didn't seem to enjoy myself a whole lot, either. I feel kind of like a walking zombie; I'm not quite awake, yet I'm never able to sleep deeply and restfully. Hence the comparison to murky water: I definitely feel as hazy as that glass of sodium bicarbonate mixture.

I got up this morning with a lump in my throat that I cannot explain, and everything from the memory of my dreams to "Your Weekly Address from the President-elect" on Youtube has made me want to cry. I shed a few tears over my simmering pot of Rice-A-Roni, and I can't think of any particular reason. Of course, the weather has been depressingly overcast the past few days, and though I've attempted to combat the encroaching grayness with hot cocoa and Salman Rushdie, that tactic apparently hasn't been very successful. It's been dark at 2:45 in the afternoon, though--who can fight off the depression from that? (I suddenly sympathize with Sarah Palin/Tina Fey's declaration that she's not going back to Alaska...)

The real truth, though, is that I just want to be able to STOP for a minute. Every waking moment, if I'm not reading something or writing something, I'm working with my own students and clients to help them understand their reading and write their assignments. My idea of a break has been cooking (enough to last me the whole week, usually) and folding laundry. The most space I have for my own thoughts is usually during my commute, when I can turn on some music in the car and zone out for a minute--except I have to pay at least minimal attention to the traffic. Add it all up, and suddenly even birthday parties with good friends seem less like relaxing and more like something to check off the to-do list. (Next weekend, the schedule includes a tail-gate party with my husband's friends--even more effort than talking to my own friends.)

I think what I really need, in order to get rid of this lump in my throat, is to lay in bed, wrapped up in blankets, staring at the ceiling and listening to my husband breathe deeply. Then, I need to be able to get up and watch movies. Play Mario-Kart and Wii bowling. Ignore the outside world for a while. Choose what book I want to read. A comfortable, relaxing hibernation, in other words... not just being locked up in my apartment with tons of work to do.

If only I had time for such luxuries...


Tara S. said...

A few ideas for my quickly dissolving friend-tablet:

Switch up the scenery. If you HAVE to be working, try finding some interesting new spots around town to work in. Just make sure the chairs are comfortable.

If you're apartment-bound, take lots of little breaks (like 10 minute ones) to do something nice for yourself. Make a quick batch of chocolate chip cookies, paint your toenails, play 10 minutes of Wii, whatever small distraction makes you happy THAT DOES NOT INVOLVE WRITING, BLOGGING, OR COMPUTERING OF ANY KIND :)

Remind yourself daily that you are suffering for a reason. If it helps, make a list: "Reasons I'm Getting this Degree." List should bulleted, one page and displayed prominently on the fridge or taped to your desk. When you feel like crying, read it.

Oh yeah. And be willing to cancel the occasional outing if you'd rather lie in a dark room for hours on end. Jeremy will understand, and so will your friends.

I hope that helps. I know you can do this, Lauren. Think of Michelle Obama getting through law school!

Love you.

april said...

hi lau

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