Friday, March 31, 2006

No Fury Like a Woman Rescheduled

I had an appointment to get my hair cut this morning at 10:00. (Finally, finally, finally. I haven't had a haircut since September.) But while I was doing yoga, my phone rang. Since I rarely get phone calls at 7:30 in the morning, I jumped up to answer it, in case it was some kind of family emergency. But I didn't recognize the number--it didn't even look like a local number--so I didn't answer it. I did mean to check my voicemail before getting in the shower, but I forgot. So after showering (I didn't wash my hair, since I knew the stylist would do it in a couple of hours) and getting dressed, I finally remembered to check my phone.

And then I threw a mild temper tantrum. Because the woman who was supposed to cut my hair did have a family emergency, and the beauty school is booked solid today and can't squeeze me in. So I'll get my hair cut on Monday. But now I have to get back in the shower and wash my hair. I have to practically start my morning over. And--I think this is why I'm actually upset--my self-confidence needs this haircut. I've been feeling so busy for so many months that I haven't taken the time to take care of myself, and I'm starting to feel pretty unkempt. I was looking forward to that fresh haircut feeling, to thinking (if only for one day), "Damn, I look good." Now that feeling has to wait for Monday. I could really use it today.

Blah. Back to the shower.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Nature's Strip-Tease

This morning, a few patches of bright green grass are showing along the edges of the receding mini-glaciers in the yard, and a tiny sparkling stream of water runs along the curb on the opposite side of the street. The more work I finish for my Master's degree, the more I get this wide-open, at-ease, almost-summer feeling. It's nice to see nature corroborating my state of mind.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Too much brandy. Now this is my inspirational music. I listened to their version of this band's song, "Laid," about five times in a row and gave myself the giggles because one of the visualization features on Windows Media Player is called "dance of the freaky circles" and indeed, those dancing circles are freaky. Pretty soon, I'll write my comp exam. Dr. G will be so impressed.

Tools of the Trade

Chopin Concerto. Brandy on the rocks. Work will get done.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hoop Jumping

I started off this morning by meeting with the director of composition about my class, which he observed on Wednesday. While it wasn't all bad, he did pick up on a weakness in my teaching that I'm aware of and self-conscious about but don't know how to fix: I have trouble telling my students that they're wrong, and I try to downplay my displeasure when one of them fails to do whatever they were supposed to do. The problem is that I'm really sensitive to embarrassing situations, so I avoid putting my students in them--sometimes at the expense of my own authority. Assertiveness: not a strength of mine. On the inside (and sometimes on the outside), I am possibly the shyest person I've ever known. (Read: In high school, avoided like death being the one to call and order the pizza. Wrote and rehearsed scripts for all non-routine phone conversations, which sometimes looked like this: "Hi. How late are you open tonight?" Seriously shy.) The fact that I get up in front of 25 people three times a week and talk and make lame jokes and give instructions for 50 minutes without having seizures amazes me. So I think wielding my authority with confidence is sort of the next step. But it still makes me sad to have someone actually notice and draw attention to this problem.

Now, I'm supposed to be reading and making notes in preparation to write my second comp exam tomorrow, but the only thing I've managed to finish in the past three hours was a too-long nap. I also ate a whole cookie. But tonight, I can't seem to wrap my head around the disparity between the real and the ideal in Romantic poetry, even though I prefer Romantic poetry (especially Keats) over most other poetry. My poor tired brain might actually be demanding a break now, instead of just asking nicely. It might even be on strike.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tee Hee

You Are Japanese Food

Strange yet delicious.
Contrary to popular belief, you're not always eaten raw.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Delayed Reaction

Why can't newly-finished writing ever feel finished? I'd really like to experience a profound sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment right about now, since I just polished off the 45th (and final) page of my thesis. But I can't make it happen.

On second thought, maybe the profound sense of hunger I've been ignoring for the past four hours is getting in the way. I think I should make some food.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I just broke onto page 40 of the academic half of my thesis, and what I'm writing now is the beginning of the end: a brief section discussing a common aspect of several of the novels I just wrote about. After this, I only need to write a few pages of conclusion to wrap up the essay and create a bridge between the essay and my own short story. But I'm so excited about the prospect of finally being done (either tonight or tomorrow), I can hardly focus on writing.


Tonight I exposed my worst bad side to strangers and friends. (Bitch.) Cheeseburgers. Tears. A plastic mastodon. Some assembly required.

Afterward, I raced a train home and wished I could sit inside, watching my own reflection as it makes motionless progress toward Somewhere. Sucking sound: vacuum sealed door. Trapped, but free. Pulled irresistably, swaying, through utter dark.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Too Many Words

Usually, when I go back to something I've written, I can see the magic in it. Most of the time, when I'm working on a long piece of writing, reading the last thing I wrote inspires me to begin again. But after spending all of yesterday and the first few hours of today writing a comp exam, and after almost a month of working nearly every day on my thesis, I can't look at my own writing without the feeling that I'm just pulling on this string I've been holding, dragging my brain farther along a gravel road. The rest of today is for my thesis, but my mind is worn down to a nubbin, and I'm having trouble grasping it firmly enough to write.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Last night I awoke just before 3:00 with moonlight in my eyes; it knifed its way into the room between the slats in the blinds. When I slept again, I dreamed that I was standing in a house at the edge of the ocean, reading the only poster on a white wall. The poster sported a big U of M logo, and explained that applicants who were denied admission to the graduate school should contact the department because several places had unexpectedly become available. I felt conflicted and guilty, obligated to take advantage of this second chance, but not sure I wanted to. I wondered, Do I want to go to a school that rejected me so flippantly? Do I want to go to any school at all next year?

I think rejection was a good thing, this time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mini Vacation Heaven

For two and a half days and two nights, I put work and responsibility out of my mind. On Monday afternoon--as we drove along the North Shore and I looked out the window at snow-flocked beauty and crashing waves--I suddenly realized that I had gone most of a day without even thinking the word "thesis." Instead...

...I relaxed, in a room in a lodge with a king size bed, a two-person jacuzzi, a fireplace, and a DVD player.

This was our view:

...I ate. First, I had a wild rice burger and Starfire Pale Ale (citrusy--yum) at Fitger's Brewhouse in Duluth:

Later, I had an omelet with hashbrowns and pancakes; fried fish with mashed potatoes and cornbread, and a slice of black forest cheesecake; and Norwegian crepes with raspberry and blueberry filling/topping, which were delicious and gorgeous. Have I mentioned that I'm obsessed with food?

...and I went on a hiking/skiing adventure through blustery winds and stinging snow. It was fun. We went to Split Rock Lighthouse and skied around the lake a little:

We were the only ones there (the only other person we saw was an employee), because no one else was silly enough to go out on that unbelievably cold and windy rock without getting paid for it.

We also hiked around Gooseberry Falls:

Sometimes, in Bemidji, it's easy to forget how big things can be.

Friday, March 10, 2006

tact n. small metal object with one pointed end, used for sticking things to walls

This afternoon, I bumped into a fellow GA in the Union on my way to my car. We talked a little, and he mentioned that he's showing a movie to his class today. Then he pulled Sin City out of his back pocket and held it up. With no warning, my mouth started to move, and I heard this come out: "You're making them watch that horrible piece of shit?" He looked--understandably I think--taken aback, so I tried to explain. After seeing the movie in the theater last year, Eric and I had at least an hour-long discussion (almost a fight) about whether it was antifeminist or not. The constant damsel-in-distress motif irritated me to distraction, and even the "strong" female characters were unconsoling, since they're all either hookers or strippers (feminist or not? not in this context, I think.) and their "strength" (lord knows, the only way to be strong is to be violent, like a man.) is offset considerably by clothing that turns them into sexual eye candy. On the other hand, the cinematography is wonderful, and I said that a few times as I fumbled to take back my unheeded overstatement. He offered to loan me the comics, insisting that those treat men and women more equally; I agreed to look at them but my reaction probably seemed lukewarm at best. As we finally turned and walked in separate directions, I offered lamely, "I hope your class likes it." And since then, my conscience has been gnawing holes in my stomach. I hate it when I'm insulting.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nina Helps

While I was reading this morning, Bean lay down next to me on the couch. Then she inched her way across my lap. Finally, she did this and covered half the paragraph I was reading. (Coincidence? Doubt it.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

An Explanatory Supplement... my last, monstrously self-pitying post.

When I received the little envelope in the mail today, I went through Kubler-Ross's five stages of dying very quickly. In fact, by the time I finished reading the five lines of form letter they so graciously sent me (As someone who grades papers, I value constructive criticism. Please take three seconds to tell me why I wasn't good enough.), I had pretty much dispensed with denial (This is the first time I've been rejected; ergo, it can't possibly be happening.), anger (What the hell else did they want from me? Who gave them a more impressive application?), and bargaining (If I called them and found out WHY I wasn't good enough, maybe I could fix it.). Then I went through those three again - a little more slowly - before I sat down on the kitchen floor and started crying (depression). Still crying, I explained indignantly to Eric that in the year I'm about to take off from school, I will write a bestseller and not need a stupid Ph.D. anyway. He laughed. I laughed. Because that's probably not true. But that signaled my entrance into the acceptance stage. I promised myself that if I didn't get into this one school I applied to, I would be okay with taking a year off. The only hitch is that I didn't really believe at the time that I wouldn't be admitted.

Now that the inconceivable has happened, I am actually kind of okay. I'm irritated that getting my Ph.D. will be delayed by at least a year. I'm still grappling with the feeling that the rejection letter must be kidding on some cosmic level. And I'm starting to second-guess myself, remembering seemingly inconsequential ambiguities in the application that I may have dealt with inappropriately. Or maybe it was the email I sent to the president of graduate studies to ask whether my creative master's thesis would affect my chances of being accepted there; he never responded, but maybe he recorded my name and waited villainously to reject on sight the person goofy enough to ask that question.

But my world is gradually starting to stabilize on its axis, and I'm catching glimpses of something like relief and opportunity. After all, this is my chance to stop saying, every time someone asks what I want to do with my life, "I want to write fiction." This year, I can fucking do it.

Silly Me

Silly, conceited, presumptuous, spoiled little me.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Don't Move a Muscle

I've been on edge, distracted, all day. But I think an appointment with my doctor, 28 pages of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and a cleansing hour-long nap were exactly what I needed. For the first time today, I feel equipped (if not quite enthused) to sit down with a late dinner and expound on Plainsong's qualities as small-town literature.

(But I hesitate to begin, for fear that I will upset the delicate equilibrium I've achieved.)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mind, Unraveled

I've never been good at splitting a single day's attention among more than one or two complicated tasks, and I'm even worse at dispersing work for a single task across more than one day. But I've been doing both relentlessly over the past week - since I started actually writing my thesis - and the result, I'm finally realizing, is not good. I'm just not getting things done. If I'd been able to sit down for five or six days in a row with nothing to do but write my thesis, I'd be done by now. I would've been impossible to be around for those five or six days, but at least I would be done. As it is, I've been trying to balance my work on my thesis with work for the class I teach, work for the class I'm taking, preparation for my comprehensive exams, and my actual life (that thing that would be so easy to forget I have if I didn't force myself to come out of my academic haze once in a while to cook and clean and make love and go to friends' houses to watch fantastically erotic movies). And trying to balance all of those things has led to this: I write an average of two or three measly pages a day on my thesis, I haven't done any of the reading for tomorrow night's class except the section on Nietzsche (and I read that only because I have to present on it), I haven't graded the writing exercises or the five revised papers I need to hand back tomorrow, I haven't thorougly organized my thoughts on the movie my class will be discussing tomorrow, I've barely thought about the questions I need to devise for my rhetorical theory comp, and my house is grossing me out.

This afternoon I had an hour or so of brilliant clarity, and none of this bothered me. I was certain that all of these things would fall naturally into place in the next few days, and I was looking forward to the transcendent feeling of accomplishment when that happened. Then I finished reading Nietzsche, and the clarity devolved into muddled despair. Because, it turns out, the last parts of Nietzsche's theory of tragedy confuse the hell out of me and I think preparing my presentation will take up much more time and brain juice than I had planned. If only I could sit down and focus for a while on grading those papers, I think the clarity might return. But I feel panicky now, and I'm afraid to try focusing on anything because I dread the feeling of disappointment that's so familiar to me lately.

But I will try. Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Instead of Self-Criticism

This afternoon while I worked in my office, the mound of snow that rode all the way to school on top of my car began to melt and slid down my front windshield, finally settling in a pile above the wipers. When I brushed the snow away, I revealed the amorphous peek-a-boo pattern of condensation beneath it. And even though it obstructed my vision, it was beautiful.