Blogging thanks to insomnia

There is so much I’ve wanted to put on here, but I just haven’t had time to post. I’m trying to work really efficiently when in the library (although I’m still checking e-mail too often) and then when I get home I want to spend time with E. Bedtime is a mess right now (more on that below), so I often don’t have a lot of spare time in the evenings once Q. and I finish our translation discussion (more on that below). All of this adds up to a lot of thinking about the blog but not much posting. I’m also not great with comments right now although I am trying to keep up on my reader (and why must it go away? Stupid Go.ogle).

Today, however, I woke up at 3:15 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep (for the first time in ages), so I’ll take a moment to get a few things down, even if only in bullet points. It was nice to watch the sun rise (our back garden faces east). A bit crazy that said sun was rising at 4:30 a.m. (the birds woke up at 4:00) when we’re still a month out from the longest day, but still nice.

So. Highlights from chez Turia:

  • E’s sleep patterns have completely changed. The only saving grace is some of his birth club buddies are doing similar things, so I don’t think it’s entirely related to travelling/time change/absent Mummy/separation anxiety. It’s probably partly the longer days and partly developmental- E’s speaking in sentences a lot more than he was two weeks ago, and is using ever-increasingly complex vocabulary. But the sleep thing, in a word, sucks. Getting him to go to sleep independently is hugely problematic. Admittedly this hasn’t been perfect for almost two months now since I took him to San Francisco, but right now we’re in a phase of having to keep the door partly open, and pop back in several times to check on him, and respond to him whenever he calls out. Yesterday at nap time Q. also had to sit in the room for about ten minutes after E. worked himself up into a right state when first put down. It’s harder and harder to get him down for a nap. This week he skipped it two days in a row (and was manic and insanely over-tired by 7:30 as a result). Yesterday he didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 even though he’d looked tired from noon onwards. If he does nap, he doesn’t fall asleep until 9:30 or later. We still put him in the crib at 8:30 (and even that is an HOUR later than the latest bedtime he had at home), but he’ll talk to himself or shout at us or screech and cry and call out for us for an hour or more. And we cannot leave him to cry. It is just not an option- he is a tension-increaser (and I owe Ask Moxie more thanks than I can express for coming up with this theory) and he will just continue to work himself up the longer he’s left. If he doesn’t nap, he will be asleep by 8 p.m., but manic and silly and over-tired beforehand. I think we’re moving towards dropping the nap, which makes me very sad (and worried about how Q. will cope over the summer). A month ago this child was napping two-three hours during the day, going to bed at 7:30 p.m. and waking up at 7 a.m. He did used to talk to himself for a while in his crib, so he probably wasn’t going to sleep until 8 or so. And admittedly now he is sleeping a bit later in the mornings (but we wake him if he’s still asleep at 8 a.m., which we haven’t had to do for a few days), but the end result is he seems to have dropped two hours of total sleep literally overnight starting around his second birthday. Sigh.
  • I have to pass four translation exams (two modern languages and two ancient) for my PhD. I passed three of them when 36 weeks pregnant with E. The fourth is my bugbear. Q. and I are translating passages and discussing them every night for the entire summer (he has no problem with this language) because if we don’t, I will almost certainly fail the exam in the fall. I have never really learned this language properly. I never studied it as an undergrad. I learned it, but not properly during my Master’s degree, then never used it again until the PhD, and have been piecemeal with translating/practicing ever since. I understand how all the grammar works, it’s the vocabulary and especially the irregular verbs that are the problems. I am freaking out about this exam. The irony is that I was freaking out about a translation exam IN THE SAME LANGUAGE during my Master’s degree…NINE years ago. I passed that exam by memorizing the entire English translation of more than one full ancient work (I am not proud of this, but I did what I had to do to survive, and there were a lot of other issues going on at the time, not least my first (and to date only) bout with clinical depression). It boggles my mind that I am now in a situation where once again I am worried that my degree progress will be stalled/delayed by virtue of that stupid translation exam. I wish I had just learned it properly in the first place. It is not yet keeping me up at night, but I’m sure that’s only a matter of time.
  • I am giving a paper at a conference in July. It’s a conference that is directly related to my dissertation, held at this university (it was unbelievably brilliant timing that it is happening while I’m here). It is a smallish conference (two days, eight sessions (two at a time), twenty-four speakers) and interdisciplinary, which in practice means there are quite a lot of people speaking who work in time periods not at all related to my field. But there are a couple of other ancient historians, and two of them in particular are BIG names. It is by far the most prestigious conference I’ve presented at. I’ve given a paper at my national conference, and at a themed conference that happens every five years or so, but never at something so small and selective. It is a big opportunity. I’m totally freaking out about it.
  • I really like working in the faculty library. It is a serious place full of serious students (even, mostly, the undergrads). They only allow laptops along one row of desks (on the south wall) so the purists can work without the tapping of keys. I feel weird checking my e-mail because when you walk through the library to get a book you can see that everyone with laptops is actually working, 99% of the time. It has almost all the books I need. They’re on the shelves when you look for them. They’re well organized. It’s a real joy to be in such a good space.
  • I really hate working in the library. I hate leaving E. in the morning, even though he’s so cheerful and happy to wave goodbye as he eats breakfast. He always tells me to “Wear heh-met!” (he’s very safety conscious when it comes to bikes and helmets). I hate getting home after a long day of using my brain and getting E. when he’s hyped up and over-tired because he hasn’t napped. I hate sitting at my desk and looking outside when it is gloriously sunny (admittedly not often) and thinking about what I am missing with my little guy.
  • I’m really really torn. This last month (because I’ve almost been here a full month- crazy!) has really brought home to me just how good my dissertation could have been if I had worked on it full-time for the last two years. It’s strengthened a lot of the anxieties I feel about it- how I haven’t read deeply enough, or widely enough. How I haven’t really thought through aspects of the project. And some of these feelings are natural feelings for a PhD student within a year of finishing with the bulk of the thesis drafted. But there is no denying that my dissertation would look much different had I been able to give it single-minded focus. Obviously I’d rather have E., and with him even the distraction that was infertility and treatments, which definitely set my reading back even before I was pregnant (when I basically decided to do nothing for the entire academic year except pass my language exams and build my database of evidence because carrying that baby was the most important thing I was doing, and I didn’t want to stress myself. I still got a lot done, but not as much as I could have had I spent less time reading books for fun or doing nothing). But I am a perfectionist by nature and it is hard to look at something (admittedly still unfinished) and see all the flaws. It’s very easy for me to be very hard on myself, and self-criticism isn’t great in academia because you get so much of it from other people. In a lot of ways you need to be your own best advocate. You need to think your research is important and of a high quality and well written because lots of people will find ways to tell you it isn’t, and you need to be able to take rejection and criticism and turn it into something useful that pushes you to improve, rather than wallow in it and take it to heart and have it stop you from writing or reading or thinking or, especially, publishing/trying to publish.  Yeah. Not sure how I’m going to go with that.
  • I have days where I think everything is completely backwards, because I have a miserable day in the library where I can’t see the point of my dissertation or my research or even (on a really bad day) my entire field, and all I want to do is be home with E., and then I get home and Q. is tired and his nerves are frayed because he really would prefer not to be home all day with E., and I know he would be so happy to work in that environment with the quiet and the books and the atmosphere that tells you that here is a place where research is truly valued. I appreciate every.single.day the sacrifice he is making for me by taking on the bulk of E’s care. It makes me feel extra guilty on the days where I really hate my research and wonder why I’m doing this in the first place.
  • But then I have other days where I feel like I make good progress and my writing flows and I find something interesting and I find myself adding bits and pieces to the file on my laptop called “future research” and I can think about ideas for publications and post-docs and I think I’m doing the right thing. I’m home one day a week with E. and I try to really enjoy and value that time with him. It’s not enough. It never feels like enough.
  • I really think something part-time would be ideal for me. But there is no “part-time” in academia. There’s the tenure track, and there’s the life of the adjunct/contract lecturer, cobbling together bits and pieces and paid a pittance for each course. I could make a very very part-time wage as a contract lecturer, but have a teaching load equivalent to a tenure-stream professor’s full-time load. But I’m not yet ready to see past academia. I’ve been in school my whole life- either as a student or a teacher (sometimes both simultaneously). I love the rhythms of it. I love that I’m in the same field as Q. and we can talk about our research. I love that he was able to come with me this summer because we do the same thing- we could never have done this if one of us had an office job. I have ideas about fellowships I could try to get when Q.’s next sabbatical comes around to enable us to go overseas again. Our plan is to see what happens and where we’re at five years after I finish. Then we’ll assess. Maybe then I’ll need to retrain/rethink/reset. Right now I need to finish. Fretting about the future is self-sabotage and not helpful in achieving that goal.
  • Much like my love/hate relationship with the library, I have a love/hate relationship with cycling. On a good day my trip in is about 22 minutes and the ride home (more uphill) is 24 or 25. In the morning, for the last third of the route I’m faster than the cars because I go in when the rush hour has started (such as it is here, but when you only have one lane in each direction and traffic lights, it’s easy to get snarled), which is fun. On good days it’s sunny and there’s no wind and the countryside is idyllic and I find myself laughing out loud with the joy of it all. On bad days I struggle home against a 20 mph head wind in steady rain. Strangely my bad days in the library often end with a wet cycle home. It’s like my mood brings the clouds.

And that’s all the time I’m getting. E.’s woken up, much earlier than normal. I’m hoping it wasn’t my tapping away at the keyboard, but fear that it was- it’s a small flat and noise carries.

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Filed under Adventures across the pond, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), PhD, Sleep

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