Friday, June 29, 2007

All-American Evening

Eric is away tonight, at a party where several men are celebrating the fact that someone they know (a woman, incidentally) owns and will allow them to play with a Nintendo Wii. So I'm here alone, eating macaroni and cheese with ketchup and drinking beer. And listening to Bryan Adams. Who is technically Canadian, though I can think of few things more American (or consoling, after the day I've had) than a guy singing in a gravelly voice about his lost youth.


I started teaching this week. And there are stories about that, stories those of you closest to me have already heard, involving American Sign Language interpretors and insubordination and serious language barriers. I understand why teaching this class has fallen to an adjunct instructor. I understand why none of the full-time faculty cared to take it on.

But today I'm less concerned about the innate challenges presented by the course than I am about the fact that I allowed myself to walk into that classroom on Monday, and again on Wednesday, shamefully unprepared. Practically until the moment the class started, I worked full-time at the bookstore, and that kept me from preparing properly, because I let it. Because I'm lazy these days. Because I've adjusted my worldview to permit laziness. I've decided that life without ample time to watch movies and read books and sit on the front porch with a beer is a life poorly lived.

And those things are important. I still believe that. I believe one of the problems with our culture is that so many of us refuse to rest. It's a culture of extremes and of competition, so we can never have enough money or enough friends, and if we know someone who spends more hours at work every week than we do, we aren't working hard enough. All of these contests we enter ourselves in leave us too little time for relationships with the people who mean the most to us, and far too little time to be alone.

But this year I've given myself down-time so excessively that I feel almost physically unbalanced. Almost physically unable to stay organized and keep up with daily tasks and errands, let alone be productive in meaningful ways. And when I'm productive, when I'm writing and teaching and I have a purpose beyond just getting through this next thing, is when I'm happiest, even if it is when I'm busiest. When I have so much on my plate that I can only choose to move through it systematically and laboriously, is when I feel the most organized and when the scattered little pieces of life find a place most easily.

Because I was intentionally keeping almost nothing on my plate when this teaching job fell onto it over a month ago, I couldn't find a place for it and kept just shoving it around, occasionally nibbling at it halfheartedly. When I could have been reading about theory and pedagogy and planning classes, I was thinking vaguely about what I would do the first couple of days of class, figuring that would be enough. With that, I would survive the first week.

Then I walked into class and it was exactly like the time when I was four years old and I walked into a dropoff in the lake. Instead of the surface of the water, I was suddenly looking at sand and seaweed and my own feet. And I couldn't breathe.

I discovered that I had been anticipating cardboard students who were less intelligent and intuitive than the three-dimensional people who sat down in the chairs on that first day. Almost immediately, I felt like a fraud, and I was pretty sure they knew all about it. I was relying on the textbook to direct my daily lessons, and I discovered that the textbook gives me next to nothing to work with. I can't spend six hours a week lecturing over four pages of text and doing interminable practice exercises. I discovered, suddenly, standing in front of ten strangers, that I had never actually been invested in this class. I was steeling myself to go through the motions, to somehow talk my way through eight weeks of class while doing a minimum of planning and self-education.

I should have been reading books about this for the past month. Now I have to throw my whole being into making up for the fact that I didn't. So today I'm going to take her thoughts about routine to heart, and go get a library card and some books. And maybe if I can do that, I can eventually get some writing done and clean the house and return Season One, Disc Two of Deadwood to Blockbuster.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Addicted to Zen

A few weeks ago my morning yoga tape, after three years of almost daily viewing, wore out. Actually wore out and for a week or so, got stuck in the VCR pretty much every time I tried to use it. I finally gave up and threw it away, but I'm busy during the day and I refuse to do my PM yoga tape after dusk on account of the centipedes. Also, I don't feel like exerting myself so much as to do yoga without someone telling me what to do and when to do it. As a result, I haven't done any yoga for at least a week, and now I'm so full of aches and twinges and tension, I can hardly walk. Or stand. Or lie down comfortably. So I think I'll do yoga now.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


This morning, despite an aching neck and an aching back and a groggy feeling pounding against the insides of my eyelids, I stayed in bed an hour and a half longer than I intended. Not sleeping so much as hiding. Today I have plenty of the normal stuff to get done, like buying conditioner and groceries and cleaning and taking out the recycling. But today is also the day that I've set aside for driving up to the college where I'll be teaching as of Monday, so I can use the floppy drive in the "adjunct workstation" to read through the entirety of the helpful information I've been given, and so I can make copies and transparencies for the first day of class, and so I can find out where to pick up keys and how to get a copy of my class list, since I can't print one myself until Human Resources finishes processing the paperwork I gave them three weeks ago.

Add to those Unfamiliar Important Things the fact that we found and applied for a really great apartment over a week ago and still haven't heard whether we're approved for it because if we are approved, they'll simply sign and mail us the lease we've already signed. And yes, she said to assume we were "in the clear" if we didn't hear from them, and we haven't heard from them, but we are both committed realists (pessimists), and I want so badly to just know where we stand on this that I dreamed last night we got the lease in the mail, and we moved in. And today, because it wasn't real and because so many other uncertainties are, I feel as if a crowd of tiny people is bracing its feet against my brain and pushing with its hands against the inside of my forehead.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sad, Scary, Disappointing

Today I read in a newspaper that less than half of American adults read even one novel, play, or short story per year that is not assigned to them by a teacher or employer. Literacy is a privilege--maybe the privilege--and most of the people in this, the most privileged country on earth, practically scoff at it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Scared to Death

Today I gave myself an assignment: write a syllabus. I start teaching in just over two weeks, and I remember the Dean saying that he wanted to see the course syllabus before the class began. So today I've sat down a few times to begin working on it, and I've always ended up doing something else. Have a bowl of ice cream. Do a load of laundry. Read. Blog.

Because every time I sit down, I immediately run into something intimidating or scary or difficult to work with. Oh no, I don't remember where anything is in the school. Oh no, I haven't decided what kind of work I'll be assigning, or for how many points. Oh no, I've agreed to work full-time at the bookstore until the day before I start teaching, and I won't have enough time to prepare. Oh no, I don't know for sure how many chapter tests there will be, and since my computer doesn't seem aware that it has a floppy drive, I can't find out by checking the discs the instructor gave me. Oh no, grading involves math. Oh no.

I'm fully cognizant that the best thing for me to do right now is flex my nuts, write a syllabus with a few blanks in it where the so-far-unresolved stuff will go, and work on the hard parts after I've earned a sense of accomplishment. And I think I'm almost to a point where I can handle that, emotionally. But first I need to put on some music (because music is good, and because the landlord's kid has been jumping/stomping/bludgeoning baby bunnies upstairs for literally two hours and I'll have to poke out my own eyes if I don't drown out the thumping soon). And fold some laundry. And make a quesadilla. And then I will be brave enough to write a syllabus.



Monday, June 04, 2007

Two Big Cities, Too Many Apartments

Today, Eric and I spent about four hours driving and walking around a few areas we're interested in moving to. We came home with enough phone numbers to cover four pages of a notepad. Then I called those numbers. So now I'm exhausted and overwhelmed and frustrated. Frustrated by rude/snotty/apathetic property managers, by the dearth of apartments available when our lease is up (in just two months), by outrageous rent and pet fees, by the fact that balconies are usually only available in expensive or boring or sketchy buildings, and by our own lack of freedom and time to go and look at places we find interesting.

And I hate to have such negative feelings about this process, since it's really kind of exciting. But so far, the process is kind of letting me down. Lots of effort, and only a couple of decent leads. Blah. I'm gonna go clean something.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Post-Work Dilemma

I'm tired and hungry, which at 6:30 p.m. means I should do yoga and exercise and clean the bathroom and wait to eat anything until Eric gets home around 8:00. But I really want to read and nap and have a snack.

For the past couple of weeks, the angel on my shoulder has won a lot of these fights. I might throw the devil a bone today.