Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random bullets...

are all I can manage...

- Diamond has been quite unwell, and I've taken her in to the vet twice. She has blood tests going right now. The vet thinks she has arthritis beginning, and possibly had a skin infection, which she is being treated for antibiotically. But I think there's more than that going on. I honestly can't even face anything terrible after everything else, so I'm largely not going there, mentally - I'm just giving her lots of love and hoping that it's going to be okay. But she really doesn't seem very happy.
- I am so tired of working 12-hour days every day and feeling like I'm running around breathless for most of that time. I am having fantasies about quitting. All of the incidents of last week aren't helping.
- I'm doing another round of the Academic Writing Club and it's working the wrong way on me. Quite the opposite of my success with it last time. It's only making me feel inadequate. Because I just cannot seem to get to my research. There is just a staggering amount of other things to do. People are horrified at how much service I do as someone so junior. How did I get myself into this mess?
- I have finished my SSHRC grant application, though - I completely overhauled it - and had overwhelmingly positive feedback on it from a mock review committee at my uni. Which was wonderful. It's disheartening knowing that my chances are still so low, though.
- I heart my physiotherapist. I first went to him two weeks ago. He's a sports physiotherapist, and an incredibly knowledgeable and competent one. I told him from the get-go, "I am here because I want to be able to run again." Well, the work he has me doing is sooooo intense, sooooo hard, soooooo exhausting - and I love it for being all these things!! It's so different from the couple of other experiences I've had with physio over the years, where I just feel like I'm doing useless exercises. Today when I went in, he had me doing mind-numbingly tough things, and I felt as if my athletic body, the possibility (and actuality?) of my being a strong body, was truly engaged. I was challenged to extremes I wouldn't have imagined at this stage. It restores me to myself, after feeling so weakened and physically vulnerable. I could just kiss him for that.
- He is thrilled with me for the extensive cycling I do, and says that is the best possible thing I could be doing for my leg. He thinks I will be able to try running in another 2-3 weeks from now. That feels a little ambitious to me, but if I stick with this program of incredibly challenging exercises for the next couple of weeks, maybe it'll be okay...
- If only all of this didn't take up so much damn time. Time I could be using for writing or relaxing. But obviously it's worth it in the long run.
- Ugh - I'm annoyed that it's almost 10pm, I have to get up at 5:30am, and yet I still have work to do...and it includes grading a paper called "Society as a Social Construction." Nummy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get ready for it

I am going to be spending the next few days evaluating graduate students' SSHRC (national social sciences and humanities funding body) fellowship applications. I just opened the files for a first quick glance. Each has two letters of reference. For one poor female PhD student, would you like to know what information was included in her reference letter from her male professor? That she was "a knock-out" and "the best looking woman in the department." This was conveyed in an anecdote about her getting all dressed up for a party.

That "I need blood" energy that I thought was dissipating? It's returned. On my list? This guy, obviously. And the stupid fucking students sitting across from me on the bus the other day cruelly ridiculing a friend of theirs for taking Women's Studies because "that was over in the 80s." Fuck you all. And this fucking profession.

A blogthing, a placeholder

A placeholder for a post on the way my job makes me into somebody I don't like very much...too busy to write that post right now...Hmmm, do you see how these things might be related? Gawd.

Anyway. I like these socks. Overall, apparently I'm a far less fabulous human being than most of you (which about matches how I feel right now).

(I don't know how to fix what's wrong with this - sorry.)

What Your Socks Say About You
You are:

- Quite glamorous
- Somewhat reserved
- A little bit greedy
- Known as attractive

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My fury only grows

Yeah, you know that "harassment" situation from last week? Well, no one has responded to anything, and students have been told the most outrageous things. This is profoundly affecting them. It is sick. They need an advocate, and yet I - their natural advocate - have no recourse due to the harassment accusation. Thankfully my Chair has been willing to take it up, but still. He doesn't think it will have an effect.

I haven't been this angry in a long, long time. And now resentful of being consumed by this anger. But I can't let it go because the situation hasn't been resolved and the students don't have what they need. I suspect, in fact, that the students may be being used as pawns in an attempt to sabotage me. It has got to stop. I have to figure out a way to take this up with someone who can do something about it - something like firing people.

Last night I had to phone someone to talk it out with me and offer me alternatives to defacing a certain part of campus or going into the place in question looking for a physical fight. As you might guess from this blog, I'm a pretty damn peaceful person - and one who always gives people the benefit of the doubt, tolerates mistakes, etc. I have been told, in fact, that I do this far too much - my faith in humanity was an issue between R and I. Not so, anymore, apparently.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

City allergy

Recently a friend here quietly said to me that she wondered if the ridiculous chain of bad things that have happened over the last year was trying to tell me something. About the wrongness of this place for me. I admitted to having thought the same thing myself...idly, mostly scoffing at myself. Because I don't believe in that kind of fateful energy. But it's true, I do wonder sometimes. If I should be fleeing because this place and me, we just don't mix.

I thought it as I cycled home from the farmers' market this morning. Two things happened. First, I encountered a ragtag band of NDPers holding signs for the local candidate. (Americans, we are having a federal election here right now, too, though it is much less exciting - even to many of us - than yours.) I dinged my bell in support several times as I passed them, and they let up a pathetic cheer. Somehow it made me tear up to see this sad, because ultimately pointless, spectacle in this place that is so tightly sewn up by the Conservatives, one can't breathe. Then I continued my ride, and was cut off by someone making a left turn...I, who had the right of way, was forced to brake quickly to avoid being hit. The person in the passenger seat laughed at me as they drove by. These two events were linked in my mind...as symbols of an unsustainable, misanthropic place.

I know it doesn't help to think in these terms, and I try my best to avoid getting sucked into negativity about this place. I'm always going on about how beautiful it is, and I do take advantage of the area, I do. I try and try. But damn, do I ever wonder if we're just allergic to each other, me and Scary City.

This would be less disheartening if I could actually see a single job to apply for. There's not one. Last year there were, I think, a mere two that I could conceivably have applied for, had I been on the market. This year, I have the job letter all ready to go (with help from a lovely blogger!) and it's quite possible that it's just going to sit there, unprinted, forever.

It does all make me feel a little trapped, sometimes.

But this week I was given promise of a reprieve from entrapment. My favourite aunt was here for a whirlwind 36 hours, and she and I had a delightful time. She also, while she was here, booked me a ticket to Home City with her air miles, for over Thanksgiving weekend. (She is like some kind of miracle-worker! I love you, F!! For so many reasons!) A mere three weeks from now, an unexpected visit there! For five and a half days. I shall walk and walk and drink it in.

(BTW, the update on the "harassment" situation is that my Chair intervened on my behalf, going to the person's manager (who I had also cc'd on my original, "harassing" email). Neither Chair nor I have heard back, after three full work days. What a place I work at. No wonder I want out.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

S/he's very clever, is the person who says s/he's going to charge me with harassment. I was making a legitimate complaint and inquiry about the status of something that is incredibly urgent, and is impairing my ability to do my job, and the students' ability to do theirs. In saying s/he's going to charge me with harassment and go to my Dean, s/he knows s/he's going to scare me off. S/he doesn't have to provide me with an answer or explanation of why this job is not getting done. S/he has effectively silenced me.

The more I think about this, the more I seethe. Now I want to go to my Dean to make a complaint about this person, who is damaging the educational experience for some students with this nonsense.

And really, I also seethe because I have enough fucking stress right now as it is and I don't need to take on the shit of people who are too fucking lazy to do their jobs and rely on tactics like this because they can't own up to their own fuck-ups. Pardon my language.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Holy hell

I am being accused of harassment. The accuser says s/he is taking the case to my Dean.

I am horrified. Horrified.

The issue in question is an email I sent last night to a staff member. It was an email of complaint. I think you can imagine that my idea of a complaint is not exactly a nasty screed. I even apologized for adding to the chorus of complaints I know this person is currently facing. I just felt a situation had carried on far too long, and it was unacceptable, and I wanted to register my dismay at the situation.

I should add that this staff person is not an administrative assistant nor in any kind of subordinate role relative to me.

Now the staff person has sent me a reply saying this constitutes harassment and s/he is getting the Dean involved.

I'm so freaked out I don't know what to do. I don't know whether to reply, or to just sit tight, or to contact my union. I guess replying is not a good thing to do, though my instinct is to send an email explaining that I intended a complaint, not harassment.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Bike rides

Today I tried riding to work for the first time since my accident - I've been going for shorter rides to do errands, etc. Nothing more than about 20-25 minutes round trip. So today, it was hard. It's always been a good workout, since it takes me nearly 40 minutes and most of that is uphill. But this time I was more winded than I used to be, and it took me nearly 10 minutes longer to get there. Sigh. I should have expected this, of course - it's been 2 1/2 months since I've had any real cardio exercise and the muscles especially on the one leg are weak. But still, it made me sad. And I had to ice my knee - it's sore.

Riding home, though - coasting downhill at 3:30, so different from my ride up the hill at 7am - was a treat. I saw the horses again, out playing in the sun. I was surprised - happily surprised, as I often am - by the landscape I live in, unfurling ahead of me. I remembered how, last fall, the ride home was the one consistent bit of happiness in the general overwhelm and dislocation of my new job. I think it will be this year, too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I think this is the longest break I've taken from blogging since I began, with the exception of times when I've been away. Truthfully, I haven't known what to say. I've been having a hard time - too hard to blog unself-consciously about - since writing that last Post of Hope. I suppose this is to be expected, in wake of breakup and all the health problems. It was premature, ten days ago, to think all was changing for the better. It's a slower process than that. And I'm just tired. Tired already.

That's not to say I haven't had some good times. I've made a new friend in the last couple of weeks, who is turning out to be that elusive friend, the wine drinker extraordinaire. We hang out for, like, 15 hours at a time. This is good. He is great. Except that it sometimes involves too much wine.

But yes, otherwise, things feel overwhelming. I still feel like my blood pressure doubles every time I walk into the university. My dark office continues to be a site of stress.

And then there is my work in single-handedly keeping the helping professions afloat in this province. Let's see...in one week I will have seen OB/GYN (about the ovarian thing that refuses to go away, meaning we are tentatively planning invasive surgery for April), regular doctor, physiotherapist, and new therapist, and been referred to neurologist. I feel ridiculously broken. You'd think I was eighty-five.

And I'm not sleeping well. Haven't since I arrived back from Home City. I'm not a troubled sleeper, normally. But I have slept through the night only once in the last three weeks. Today I look like I have a black eye, actually. And I have to go to a department party with my black eye.

Still, there are small victories, small bright spots:

- My department has come out overwhelmingly in support of me and my one-person program. Overhwelmingly, jaw-droppingly, and even passionately in support. I will - as long as the Dean approves it - get to hire a colleague.
- My 8am class, the one I fretted about last spring, so worried was I about potential lateness problems? Well, I have had not a single late arrival since it began!! Plus, they all arrive bright-eyed and ready to talk. (Part of this is because it is my upper-year, 18-person class, rather than a 100-person first-year lecture, as I had originally thought it would be.)
- I went to a concert the other night, of a band I love and have seen several times in Home City. I went with my friend L, who takes care of Diamond when I go away. This was a reserved-seating show. What happened when I got there? All of my favourite people in Scary City (whom I didn't even know would be attending the concert, with the exception of one couple), were not only in attendance, but were either in our row - right next to us - or the one behind it. In a 400-person hall. This felt like some kind of cosmic alignment, I must say. I felt temporarily grounded in Home City, surrounded by all these folks I like so much.
- I have visitors right now - an ex-student from Dream Uni who is on a cross-continental odyssey, is here with her travel partner. She graduated in spring of 2007. She'd gotten in touch to ask if I could suggest some places to see in this area, and see if we could have lunch, and I invited her to stay. It's nice to see her/them.
- And I have Favourite Aunt whirling in for two days next week.

So there's enough to buoy me, in theory. I'll get there.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bullets of back to school

- So I was grieving in a major way, and I took what I was thinking was too much time off work. But, you know, I can see my way to feeling better now. School has started and - unexpectedly - I feel the potential for lifting up, though I also feel that it will be a slow process. It's as if, at least, I can imagine it, where I couldn't for a couple of weeks there. And I think that time off was important. I was talking about my lack of work with someone today, and she said that she had been told by someone, when she had her own loss a couple of years ago, "grieving's work." I hadn't thought of it in quite those terms. But it's true. I was working while I wasn't working on my "work."

- Certainly I'm lifting out of the exhaustion that was killing me. That week of ER every night, two weeks of antibiotics, followed by last week - of being, unusually for me, unable to sleep - took their toll. Such a toll that I felt something was really wrong. But today seems to mark a turning point, and I feel more energized than I have for a while (which isn't saying much).

- My classes are fine, I think. Very, very smiley. Very excited about content, judging from nodding and engagement. Very, in the upper-level class, responsive to my talking about the necessity of cultivating patience and openness with difficult material. And damn, do they ever like certain kinds of gently self-deprecating humour. I'd forgotten that.

- Grad-student-o-rama for me, this term.

- In fact, my friend S and I have decided to plan a little cocktail hour thingy - well, a cinq-à-sept - for grad students who study X, later in the month. So they can meet each other and combat their isolation. We'll have it at S's house. (Don't we wish we lived lives where we had cinq-à-septs all the time, before we swanned off for dinner and more drinks, somehow non-drunkenly?)

- Wore fabulous new skirt - one of a kind, ordered on Etsy - today. I might need to marry fabulous new skirt.

- But administrative duties are going to be the death of me. People, never be a very junior-ranking department of one who is also charged with single-handedly growing it into a high-performing behemoth.

- Good/weird: I may get to make a hire; I may get a colleague - will know in next couple of weeks. (Yay!) Would then be chairing hiring commmittee. While also looking for a new job myself?! Ugh - can you say awkward? Am not sure what to do about this.

- A very sour note: I'm pissed. At a healthcare system that a) never referred me to or even said anything about physio either during two months of incapacitation or after crutches came off (I found someone on my own), and b) let me walk away from the hospital last week with absolutely no guidance. Nothing about what to expect, what to do, what not do. No benchmarks for progress, no idea of what to look out for. Even when I asked, just basically shrugged and said, "you're fine." Well, it sure as hell doesn't feel fine, and I can't stop worrying. And maybe everything is okay, but I don't know, do I, because I've been told NOTHING. Grrr.

- Tonight had spur-of-the-moment socializing. My friend S drove me home, and I suggested she come in for dinner. I made pasta sauce while she did a salad, and it was easy and she was home by 8. Why not more of this? I love this. If I had me some more impromptu socializing, I'd be a happier hilaire. I would not feel as if everyone I know here is thoroughly brutalized by their jobs. In the wake of break-up, spur-of-the-moments feel particularly important, taking the place of that mundanity lived with a partner, even from far away.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Supervision philosophies

So. Let's hear about your philosophies for dealing with the graduate students you supervise. (Or "advise," in the US.)

I ask because I am a first-time supervisor, this year. This MA student is, I think - by all accounts - fabulous. We have met a few times, she and I and my friend S, who's co-supervising. But her super-engagement and nerves are going to be my issue. Weekly. Almost daily.

I'm doing a Directed Studies course with her. I suggested that we meet about this every two weeks (what I did in every one of the many directed studies courses I took), and she wrote back that she would really like, if that's okay, to meet every week, because she learns better when she can talk through ideas with someone. She also emailed, over the weekend, to tell S and I about her extreme nerves about starting this process. I knew she was looking for advice, reassurance. So she's going to be high-maintenance. In a mostly good way. But still. I'm aware of a kind of added psychic burden, now that she's in my life. And I'd love to hear the philosophies you bring to your graduate supervision, those of you who do it...