On Monday night last week as we’re getting into bed, Spousal Unit says, “So, Stewgad, how much did you do on your dissertation today and how much time did you waste not working on your dissertation?” (or something along those lines — it’s been a whole week, so my memory is a little unreliable.)
Needless to say, this was not a happy thing to say to Stewgad as she’s crawling into bed after a morning of dissertation writing and an afternoon of intensive house project work with her dad in the 90-something degree heat. AND, since it was the second night in a row that S.U. attacked me with a serious issue as he was already in bed and I was stumbling toward it, I was starting to feel ambushed in my own bedroom.
I cried, and yelled (in a whisper since Dad was asleep on the Aerobed** in the study next door), and told him it was none of his damn business and to butt out and that he didn’t get to patrol my work, it wasn’t his job. He replied yes, ok, but that he didn’t think I was demonstrating sufficient gravitas about the dire situation I was in with my dissertation. So, then, I let him see exactly how worried I was about my dissertation. That shut him up right and proper. Yup, sufficient gravitas there.
But, after we both talked it through, we realized what was going on. He didn’t want to know how many words I had written or pages I had typed, but he wanted to know how I was FEELING about my dissertation. This led to a bit of a relationship breakthrough — my dissertation isn’t his to worry about, but my feelings are fair game. It was good.
Since then, we’ve developed a Buffy Derived System, where he asks me how I’m feeling about the dissertation and I give him a number. (For the total geeks like me out there: (Season 5 – “Intervention”) Buffy is talking to Giles about feeling dead inside and incapable of love, and wants to go on a vision quest. Giles asks her how serious she is. Buffy replies: “Ten. Serious to the amount of ten.” ) I like the arbitrariness of assigning a numerical value to something that has absolutely no quantifiable qualities.
So today, after a week of short-spurt writing periods (which were actually really pretty productive) and visiting with my Dad, I sat down to write the “why my dissertation will change the world” section of my new intro. Boy, does that suck. Because I know without any doubt that my dissertation will not change the world, it isn’t important, and certainly won’t change my academic field because of its brilliance. How do you fake your way through this “significance”? I don’t know, and so today was just frustrated and unhappy and miserable and couldn’t do it at all.
When Spousal Unit came home he asked, “so, how do you feel about your dissertation today?” I said “Three.” He sagely nodded. I asked him how he felt about his work. He frowned, “one.” “Oh, boy, that’s bad. Let’s take a walk.” So we went to a beautiful nature area nearby that we had only vaguely known about. We walked and talked for half an hour, saw a lost baby fawn, a great blue heron, and indigo bunting, two belted kingfishers, and the outline of a green heron as it flew over the treeline. Then we went to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant for noodles. We always have great conversations there because the tables are so small you can really get into it with each other. I started talking about my Significance section and ideas started flowing. I wrote them down with SU’s pen on the split open paper chopstick wrappers. As we left, SU told me that he’s just been stuck at the same place with this paper he is writing, but now has to do some more programming before he can analyze data for the paper, so he was frustrated and unhappy.
I don’t know if it will go any better tomorrow, but at least I’ve got some garlicky illegible notes to draw from, and Spousal Unit is currently working on his programming, so maybe tomorrow I we can both be worried to the amount of zero and happy to the amount of ten. Oh, hell, I’d settle for a five and a half.
** Thank you all for weighing in on the mattress question. (AND, to the one person who voted to rearrange the furniture, I SO know it was you, Spousal Unit, nice try.) We decided to buy a mattress. So, I went to the skeevy chain mattress store, found the bed that I liked, and while I was hanging out on it to see if it was really the eight-hundred dollar petroleum-based fibers, foams, and set of steel springs for me, in comes a dude complaining that the mattress he was promised three weeks ago still hadn’t arrived. Hm, I thought, not a good sign for our chances of receiving one by Friday. Then, I went to a local furniture store, found another one I liked, but they didn’t have any in stock, so it would be weeks to get one. Finally, I drove 20 minutes to yet another local furniture store, decided on a third utterly incomparable mattress, and found out the only one I could get immediately would be the only slightly battered floor model. The nice older woman who owned the company for 30 years has to wait until she has sufficient numbers of mattresses purchased to put in an order with the company. So, yes, again, weeks to wait. At this point, I had invested something like 3 days of my damned time, and it was something like Wednesday, and I was totally freaked out. That night at home S.U. and I were trying to decide how to rearrange, when a dear friend dropped in to bring us a cake. (How cool was that?) As we were talking, I mentioned my mattress hell, and he said, “hey, why don’t you just borrow our Aerobed?” It was, of course, one of the first things I had thought of before I remembered that it had a leak and so didn’t work. He informed me that they had a SECOND Aerobed that someone had given them just the week before that was fully intact. I burst into tears. Both he and Spousal Unit were a little taken aback. I think they hadn’t realized how stressed I was about this. Anyway, Cake Bearer dropped the bed off the next day, it fit perfectly in the upstairs study, and Dad claimed he slept great the whole week. All’s well that ends well. I didn’t have to arrange the furniture, and Spousal Unit didn’t have to spend money. Everybody was happy!