serenity now

i’m not a very religious person, so instead of the serenity prayer some people may be familiar with, i offer here the serenity doctrine that better reflects my current state of mind

hoochie mama! hoochie mama! 

When the inner crazy peeks out

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa

It’s one thing for your internal, often NSFW (no, not in that way) proclivities to have made a safe and comfortable home inside the recesses of your mind. I am referring here to those bits of yourself you save only for yourself and, on occasion, “lucky” family members, ie communicating while hungry (read: impatient and unabashed snapping tendencies); disliking an idea without a good, sound reason (read: there’s no way I’m working with __________) — and I’ll stop here, lest all my secrets be revealed…!

But it’s an altogether other and problematic thing when these once-hidden proclivities (read: just plain bad behavior) begin to make an appearance in the form of verbal and physical expressions that others in your orbit do not associate with their sense of you, nor you with your own sense of self.

So, the dilemma: When does preservation of one’s sanity, in which some of the crazy peeks out, trump maintenance of one’s known persona?
(and the real question: Why and how is it that some people are endlessly able to get away with behavior so egregious, it borders on pathological?)

In popular culture terms:

  • Twerk queen Miley Cyrus — sure, she’s gotten a good amount of flack, but her “youth” seems to buy her free pass after free pass, in large part because covering her flaws keeps many people employed.
  • Anne Hathaway is mercilessly eschewed in the mainstream press for being too aloof (and perhaps for not twerking enough…). Her great transgression: a reputation as a bit of a diva and not giving the press too much attention. Egad! {eye-roll}

At the precipice of the aforementioned storm is where I find myself, and the tumble downward into a frenzy of activity seems daunting and unavoidable; my natural inclination is to avoid all such madness at all costs, but I do not have that luxury at the moment. And so for the next fortnight, I will ride what I will imagine in my mind’s eye as a benevolent incarnation of Hokusai’s Great Wave — if I make it out alive, I’ll report back from other side.

Mad dash (or, the Storm before the Calm before the Storm)

Yesterday, I awoke with a start — what day was it? Where was I? What time of which day was it?

And then, a calming thought: it was only Saturday. Despite two previous days free from meetings and human conversation — a kind of bliss that only few people can truly appreciate — it was just the start of the weekend. I was newly thankful for the holiday long weekend, into which breathing space was inserted into the days before the usually panicked-laced Sunday.

I have never fully appreciated the Thanksgiving break before — the holiday arrives at an awkward time for those who live by the academic calendar: much too late in the semester to provide the respite usually sought in the middle of October and too close to the winter break to feel like anything but a burdensome obligation to be a human being in the presence of family, many of whom cannot understand why you’d rather be sitting quietly, listening to Bach’s Cello Suites in the dark than engaging in human interaction of any type (ok, that might just be me). And, in another version of this solitude seeking, that we might relish time to attend to the many mundane items that linger, patiently awaiting proper attention (anything from writing letters of recommendation, completing revisions to articles, reading drafts of students’ dissertation chapters, to returning emails that have been languishing in your inbox).

It’s not that we solitude-seeking academic types (with newly acquired administrative responsibilities) would rather be doing any of those things, but we recognize that whole days free from meetings are like found time, blissful pockets of unscheduled time where wandering thoughts intersect with the ever-present and ever-growing todo lists, creating space for some much-needed self care — in my case, largely in the form of sleep and at least one meandering walk — within which to address these aforementioned mundane todos.

And so the mad dash of semester-end frenzy begins. December 1st. December 1st.

As the storm/calm/storm sets sail, my mind floats back a couple of weeks to the memorial service that was held in honor of a colleague who passed away this summer. Words were spoken in honor of this colleague, words that nearly brought back to life his intellectual heft and generosity, and, perhaps most importantly, his tremendous humanity. (Nearly.) How many storms and calms did he witness? Did he cause? Did he navigate? What came through most loudly — in stories, in memories, in photographs, poems, quotations, and artifacts — were the many ways this robust man embraced all contours of life. When does one learn to do this? When does one cultivate the practice of keeping the forest and the trees in perspective?

And then, this past week, a small victory. A glimpse of possibility. A hint that days, weeks, months of seeming triviality were laying the foundation for… something. And like this, a hint of humanity is restored (my cryptic recollections, notwithstanding).

So let the storms come. It must mean that there’s a calm ahead.

and enjoy the Cello Suites