Whew. Well we’re back. Bet you didn’t know we’d gone anywhere, but the radio silence on this end of things probably clued you in. Spousal Unit, the Gadlet, and Yours Truly took a two week tour of the middle section of the country, which I lovingly called our “Hicksville USA Tour, 07-08.” Oh, and FYI, driving across the country with an almost-four-month old isn’t exactly the most RELAXING way to spend your holiday season. Combine the visits with hundreds of relatives, the, ahem, interesting midwestern cuisine (ah, how I haven’t missed Jello salad since leaving…), the screaming child who doesn’t understand why we wouldn’t take her out of the car seat THAT INSTANT even though the car was moving, the grouchy husband who had to drive the whole time because Somebody Who Shall Remain Nameless has let her driver’s license expire (and it turned out to be a VERY Good Thing that he drove since we got stopped in Hicksville town #6 about an hour from home for speeding. Fortunately, the nice cop took one look at our exhausted faces, the screaming baby and the Subaru stuffed to the hilt with Christmas bounty and let us off with a warning which I’m sure he wouldn’t have done if it had been me forking over that license that expired in July…), and the cold the Gadlet picked up somewhere along the way and it all adds up to the fact that I’m totally exhausted. It probably doesn’t help that the Gadlet decided that on the trip the only way she would sleep would be in the bed with us, and so for the past three nights that we’ve been home, we’ve spent them “sleep training” trying to get her to spend ANY time sleeping in the co-sleeper instead if in my armpit. So far, the training is working very well. She is training us very aptly to let her sleep in our bed. Seriously, I think the only stretch of sleep I got last night that lasted more than 30 minutes was between 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. when I caved and let her sleep with me. It is like we’re back to newborn stage. This lack of sleep is making me stupid. Yesterday, the Gadlet was grousing a bit and I just watched her do it for 10 minutes trying to figure out how a kid with a clean diaper, lots of toys, being held by her mama could be unhappy. Then it hit me — I needed to FEED her. Oh, right. That. Seriously, in my dazed state I had totally forgotten that that was what she needed. Oops! What is really great about this whole sleep strike she is on is that my maternity leave ends in two weeks and it will be back to the academic salt mines for me. So right now is the perfect time for me to not be sleeping because I don’t have anything else that I’m trying to do like prep for classes, get back to my own work, and get the house in shape for the semester, and feel like I can actually handle raising a child and working and having a life.
Wow, this sounds like I’m just totally complaining. What a gripe I am. So, let’s hear the positives. On our trip we did some really neat things, like touring a small-batch bourbon distillery in Lexington and visiting my hometown and discovering that it is a Hicksville no more — they got a Starbucks. Either that or Starbucks is really reaching into the back-end nooks and crannies of America. Which is, I suspect, the case. Anyway we spent some wonderful time with all of the Gadlet’s Grandparents, and got to see my dad’s mother again. The Sleepless One also got to meet my mother’s mother, her Great-Grandmother, who gave her a little Catholic Medallion of the Virgin Mary that her Great-Grandmother had given her. So this thing has survived for eight generations in my family! Although none of us are Catholic or have had Catholic family in eons, it is really cool for the Gadlet to have something so old. (And like Innana says, Mary is a wonderful representation of the Goddess). If my kid can hold on to it long enough to give to her Great-Granddaughter it will have survived 12 generations. Neat, huh? (And Like Innana says, she’s a Virgo, so she’ll definitely hold on to it.)
Here’s my favorite photo from the trip:
And now back to griping. In the interest of full disclosure, which is the point of this blog, I haven’t looked at my dissertation stuff in some time. What is worse, I even packed it all up and lugged it with us across the country “just in case” I got some time to work on it while there were many hands to hold the Gadlet. I think I opened that bag once, read one paragraph or so before I fell asleep. If I think about it, I don’t think I’ve left home in the last decade without lugging a bag of dissertation shit. Did I ever get much (or anything) done while I was away? Nope. So why do I do it? Why can’t I leave it behind when I travel? Or, hell, why can’t I leave it behind period? Maybe as a dissertator I just can’t set aside my emotional baggage about this project and so am physically manifesting it by perpetually toting this backpack full of research and computers and drafts and books around wherever I go. I guess I could read this as a negative — something strange and pathetic. I’d like to feel that it is hopeful instead of desperate, but really it is probably just anxious.
And speaking of hope, I’m really really really hoping that this will be the Year of the Dissertation. But I thought it was going to be last year — that last year I’d finish, have a baby, and then settle into my job. In that order of course. What really happened was that I got pregnant, got really sick, had a baby, and promptly and happily forgot about the dissertation and job. Ok, not really, but both have absolutely moved to second (or third or 245th…) place in my world. Now that I’m facing the return to work, it is all rushing back in and I’m feeling more stressed than I have in a very long time. Which makes me very anxious.
I’ve also realized that the only way this thing is going to get done is if I start pushing myself a lot harder than I ever have. Not only intellectually — which will feel very strange since my brain feels a lot like it has been sitting on a shelf getting dusty for the past four months (8 months? Year?) — but also physically. I’ve decided that the only way I’m going to get writing work done is if I get up every morning 2 hours before the Gadlet and write. The old Virginia Woolf aphorism that a woman needs a room of her own in order to write has felt less true to me than that I need some time of my own. But, until I can get more than one hour of sleep together at a time at night I don’t know that waking up at 5:30 a.m. is all that possible. At least it hasn’t been for the past two days. Which is, of course, making me very anxious.
One thing that I think will help is to return to this space as a clock-watcher. From here on out, I’ll post a check-in post first thing in the morning when I get up to do the work and that way I can document how I’m doing with this new schedule and plan. And I can report on how I did the day before. And then maybe, just maybe, I can eek out some space and time for myself and this Damned Dreaded Dissertation and ultimately get it off of my back.