This week, the Interrupting PITA interrupted my class yet again, despite a locked door, to pass back papers. I stopped the class cold and stood by, patiently watching. The students clued in to what was happening and some started to giggle. Finally, Interrupting PITA caught the snap. She didn't apologize, but before the next class meeting she told me that there would be no more interruptions. Let's see how long this lasts. Also, I've found that if I arrive just as her portion of the class ends, she clears out sooner. Score two for passive aggression!
The Diva has yet again demonstrated a propensity for last-minute planning and notification. Since the dean has my back, my new tactic is "poor planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on mine."
I very much worry about what they think of me, and how they will talk about me and evaluate me. I suspect that Interrupting PITA does not respect my teaching style, and I absolutely do not trust the Diva's jovial and friendly demeanor. I'm southern, I know how that can be. Plus, last year's experience. Still, I have this deep urge to be liked and needed and all of that bullshit, which I have also learned leads to all sorts of hell.
The Gentleman Caller, however, has taught me a great word to use in these instances: Irrelevant. "She doesn't respect my teaching," I whine. "Irrelevant," he said. "She will say bad things about me," I moan. "Irrelevant," he says. So, yes, certain things are utterly irrelevant when someone else is misbehaving.
I took Ubab's description of the ancient Hindus using mediation and drugs to achieve euphoria as licence to meditate while under the influence of rum. That worked! The ability of alcohol to lower inhibition (and judgement) and to allow you to feel all tingly in every part of your body combined with meditation's concentration on every sensation as it happens led to an epiphany that took me a step further away from my constitutional anger. Imagine that! This was the reason my analyst told me to try meditation. Of course, we were also discussing ways to achieve these sorts of realizations without chemical aid. One step at a time.
I confess that this semester I have only 4 classes, down from the usual 5. This small miracle came about because my role as the women's studies whatever comes with the same credit as teaching a class. That means that last semester, with both the whatever and my usual five classes, I was technically doing the work of 6. I can use that extra class to either earn overtime pay in the spring, or to buy myself out of a class in spring. While the money would be nice, I am still fortunate enough to place a greater value on time and sanity. (That hasn't always been the case, and my colleagues with children, especially if they are single parents, don't have that luxury.) So, I bought myself out of a class. That means that, while I am technically doing the work of 5 classes, only 4 are actual classes (although two are online, which is kind of the work of two classes each, but that's another story).
The whole point of this is to say that the reduction of teaching by one class had made all the difference so far. I feel this blessed little space open up in which I can actually breathe and don't feel so pecked at by the students. In fact, I can start to see them more as a collection of individuals rather than a gigantic, famished, descending flock. Granted, we haven't had any really major assignments due, so check in around spring break to see if I'm still feeling less burned-out; but right now, I find myself shocked at the end of the day to realize that - oh! wow! -- I am not forgetting one class, or don't have that many more students to worry about and that -- wonder of wonders! -- I can write! Thus far, my only ire has been toward the PITAs -- at least at work, don't get me started on the workings of this nation.
I've discovered a new method to go about organizing my thoughts in my research. I was asked to give a paper on one of the women in my study, and ended up writing a mini-biography of her. In doing so, I realized that the process of writing the paper was a way to manage the project as a whole. When the whole book looms ahead and above you, like a gigantic Everest of a mountain to climb, you can be overwhelmed. Focusing on each chapter, makes the mountain into a series of hills, which is less overwhelming. This is nothing new to anyone who has done this.
Still, since I have several women's lives to reconstruct and interpret, and many of those lives intersect with one another, and several of them appear and reappear, I felt like I had this huge knot to untangle. So, focusing on one thread, and reconstructing it all the way through on its own, seeing where the intersections will come in so that I can develop them in those chapters, and ensuring that I have something like a consistent grasp on this woman's arc really helped push the project forward. When I have several of these plotted out, I can then begin to braid them together. In fact, the braid starts to form even as I focus on the single woman.
How many more metaphors do you think I can bring to this description?
Anyway, the end result was that I had pushed forward more than one chapter at the same time. Also, I think I have stumbled upon something that no one else has even considered, and if they had they wouldn't apply a gendered analysis to it. Every now and then, I get this feeling that I may actually be doing something fresh and original. It's quite exhilarating!
So much for the warm-up for the day. Now on to the real writing!