Many of my posts lately have been about exhaustion, the pressures of life pulling my body in multiple directions, the crazy expectations I place on myself, my inability to say NO effectively, and well, just being plain tired. Well, this post is no different, except it includes some thoughts on a rainy, cloudy and cold Thursday afternoon, sitting in my dining room among the trees of Pelham.
I have come to realize that I do not value my own time. I have come to realize that I often put the needs of others before my own. I have come to realize that despite my appearance of strength, I am tired, in pain, and struggling physically, mentally and spiritually inside. I know this as plain as the nose of my face. I get wake up calls every now and again by way of getting sick so I have no choice but to slow down; pushed to the point where I have to ask other people in my life for help, because I physically cannot be at multiple sites at the same time; allow myself to trust that the people around me can handle anything with the same force and passion that I think I possess (because they can – especially my partner for life – Trevor!). However, my ability to show up is becoming harder and harder to do. And it is translating into just being there is not enough, I have to be able to function while there.
A moment: I was in class the other day, going over our reading assignment to my Intro to Anthropology course. I was breaking down the main themes of the chapter; plugging through key concepts that I wanted them to take away from the reading; impressed that they were actually responding and had done the reading and I realized that nearly every word I tried to write on the board was not coming together correctly. I could not spell a single word correctly (plus my eyes were a little blurred). This is in part because I am overtired, but also because I have not had the time that to follow up on my recent eye exam and get real glasses (damn, that is bad). It has also become obvious to me that running around doing things and showing up to do other things has become more important than going to the doctor, the dentist, the therapist, the gym? Well, I am partially in denial, but the evidence is clear. I have not figured out when to do these things. When in my 24 hour day are these things supposed to happen? How? How in that 24 hour day do I make it happen?
Let someone else do it: Well, the issue with that is that there are not many of me. There are not many in my field that look and write and create the projects that I have started, so, I get asked to show up to many places and speak for the invisible people (that aren’t really invisible, just not at the meeting) – and I guess that is what diversity often looks like. But, what is the toll on the physical and mental well-being of the Black academic? Who at times needs (or feels the need) to point out what should be obvious, but is never talked about; bring attention to the gaps in institutional structures, department policies; or issues of hiring, retention and support for the future of a University, program or department. And then there are those phone calls and follow ups that I have not made to community groups and stakeholders, which is usually a bad thing.
Another moment: I had to write an email last night to my graduate students, telling them that I could not come in today. My children have a half day; I have a conference paper to write like yesterday; an NSF draft due date at month’s end; a book review for a major journal due next month; corrections to my Annual Faculty Report, also due yesterday; advising undergraduates for registration next week – which is now; prepping for a brand new large lecture class next semester; and oh, yeah, I have no idea what I am making for dinner.
I think I will start the search for who I really am, or who I thought I was before becoming this person I am. I think I lost her somewhere between cooking dinner, putting the laundry away and spending time getting to know all the complexities that are my children and how they are growing and changing and learning.
And a few last things: Those three journal articles that I cannot seem to finish…I am not doing them today or tomorrow. I still need to go to the doctor, the therapist, the dentist and the gym. And the funny thing is that on my way to this week, my phone hit the concrete hard and broke, completely dysfunctional. I have not been swamped with all that is my mobile-centered life for a few days. I wonder, if the phone hitting the floor and breaking was the beginning of my becoming whole?