Friday, November 20, 2015

Of Tasks And Elephants



Well, I do not want to advocate the eating of elephants, but the old question about how one eats an elephant does make sense. About a month ago, I started using Google Tasks and a related app for my phone and IPad to organize my tasks. Every day, I triage what must be done or what I would like to do. So far, this has kept my anxiety at bay and kept me on schedule with all of my responsibilities.

Now that I am in the time of year where it's a rush to get everything finished, I can feel those familiar pangs of anxiety creeping up on me. Everything is due, stuff for the PhD, grading stuff that my students must submit, submission deadlines for presentations, keeping up with my running schedule, and home responsibilities. I am not going to get into the holiday heinousness. Needless to say, I have several large elephants. In the past, I would just dive in and eating up one major task at a time while ignoring the others. This would cause my stress level to go through the roof, because I was so focused on the one task and now I have this new large task to tackle. Ultimately, I would end up having a major meltdown that would lead to depression. Of course, I would push through the depression, complete everything on my plate, and knock everything out of the park. But, I would be so exhausted in the end that I would feel useless and resentful.

Gorging oneself on on thing is not very healthy. It doesn't give you any energy to tackle the other major tasks. One must exercise portion control, something that I learned during my weight loss journey. Same thing for running a race. You can't use up all your energy at the start. Otherwise, you will have nothing left in the tank for the last kick to the finish line. 

Since no students ever show up for office hours, I took out a legal pad and wrote down all the things I must complete by December 11th. I made columns for each area and put the due date next to each item. I added all the information to my Google Tasks. This morning, I looked at my paper list and my electronic list, picked a task from each column, and set up my tasks in the "Today" colum. I worked on the methodology section of my qualitative methods paper, completed a portion of my program evaluation theory portfolio, graded one assignment from my students, and took Junior for a walk. Somehow, I managed to do some laundry too. I will read a chapter from a book that I am reading for program evaluation tonight. I felt very pleased with the progress and was even more pleased that I was able to keep my anxiety in check. I am not exhausted from my tasks, either mentally or physically.

I'm hoping I can keep this up for the next few weeks, because I really do not want to gorge on elephants.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


One of my favorite songs is "Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot. In it, there is a lyric that really resonates with me.

Sometimes I think it's a shame
When I get feeling better when I'm feeling no pain,

This lyric makes me think about how with my RA remission, I have little to no pain in my joints. This is thanks to the medications that I take, losing 53 pounds (less impact on the joints), and exercising on a regular basis.  I am by no means cured. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis.

When I feel well, no pain or fatigue, I often forget that my body is attacking my joints and my organs all day, every day. I am running for the first time in a decade and a half.  I never thought I would do that again in my lifetime. My RA doc says that I am her poster child for doing well with the disease.

The thing is, I don't want to forget that I have this disease, even when I am feeling well. It serves as a reminder of how far I have come with the disease. It reminds me to not take my remission for granted. It reminds me that I can do everything I am supposed to do to stay healthy and I can still get a flare. I want to remember that there is no rhyme or reason with this disease. It is what it is, pain or no pain.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Gun Shy

I spent this morning writing the long post about my issues with the course I am teaching. With all the cheating and subtle arm twisting from my chair and the dean not to give them an "F"for the course and kick them out of class, but let them continue in the class and keep failing them each time they cheat (which is a  violation of policy), I've been battling this dilemma of should I stay or should I go. I wrote about how I've been advised to just walk and tell them to fuck-off to coming up with a respectful exit strategy.

After I wrote the post, I didn't immediately publish it. Instead, I went for a run. Over the years, running has helped me think through stuff. As I trudged through the neighborhood with Junior in tow, I kept thinking about the situation. The truth is, what is going on is wrong, just plain wrong. One can spin it any way they want to, but the truth is that in my view of the world, and the view that I try to share with my students is that one holds themselves to a high standard of integrity. Clearly, that does not exist here, not with these students or with the administration. I don't even want to "fight the system", as the system is very broken at this university. At the end of my run, I realized the I know what I need to do.

So, why am I struggling to pull the trigger?