Category Archives: Blogging

Blank Space

I am not quite sure what to do with this blog.

Regular readers (if there are still any) will have noticed that I haven’t posted regularly since very early in the year and haven’t posted at all since April.

It’s a result of a combination of several different factors:

1. I’ve been working really hard on my book revisions which ate up all my mental bandwidth to the point that any more time in front of a screen was exhausting, even if I was going to be writing for fun. I did get Q. to read it when I had planned, after which I finished most of the revisions, then got mired for a while until I gave up and spent two days rereading favourite books, at which point my brain was clear enough to resume work. I’m now at the ‘so few things left to do it’s like pulling teeth and soooo painful’ stage and I am going to get it sent back to the press by the end of September. There. I put it in writing. It will be so.

2. I’m not sure what this blog is for any longer. The older E. gets the less I feel I can write about him (he starts SECOND GRADE next week- HOW did that happen??!!). I wish I hadn’t been as lazy with recording P.’s second year, as this is a lovely memory box for E’s toddlerhood. But I feel like my training wheels are off as a parent. I know my strengths and my weaknesses and I’m better at taking the long view and I don’t need to hash as much out on here as I used to. At the same time, it would feel weird to end it- I’ve been in this space for over ten years now.

3. I want to write more under my own name and I don’t think this blog is the place for me to do it.

4. I have so much less free time and I’ve continued to prioritize reading over anything else. I’ve read lots of good books this year (and a few great ones) and reread some favourites (I haven’t reread a book since 2015).

But since writing, like everything, is easier when it’s a habit, I’ve been aware that I’ve been neglecting writing (or writing that isn’t book-related). I’m hoping now that the revisions really are close to being finished I’ll be able to carve out a bit more time and space to sit with my words here while I think about next steps.

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Filed under Blogging, Books, Life after the PhD, Writing

NaBloPoMo (ish) 2017

I’m in a rut with my non-research related writing (in that I’m not doing any of it).

I have a Google Doc called “Future Blog Posts” that keeps getting longer because I add new ideas to it but never actually write any of the old ones.

So I’ve decided to shamelessly adopt Ana’s idea to post 30 times in November. Not a true NaBloPoMo because I’m not going to post every day (not least because today is the 2nd and I didn’t write anything yesterday), but a similar end result if I stick with it.

It’s a tall order, but we’ll see how we go.

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Filed under Blogging, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Writing

Inadequate gratitude

I have not done well over the last couple of months with responding to, or even acknowledging, comments. It seems to be all I can manage to get the words out. But I wanted to say just how much I have appreciated every comment and message of support and offer of further support via email. I do know I am not alone.

I am still trying to get assigned to a counselor with the reproductive mental health program I’m now registered with. But I have a second appointment with the psychiatrist on Monday. I know I need help. I know I cannot carry this alone. I am reaching out and asking for the help I need.

But in the meantime, I am so very glad I can come here, spill out my heart, and know that you are reading.

Thank you.

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Filed under Blogging, Friends, Grief, Loss

Support shout-out

Goodness, it has been a while since I posted. E. and I just got back from a lovely week-long visit with the grandparents- we travelled by train and it was just delightful.

But in lieu of a proper post from me, please go and send some love to a trio of special ladies:

Marianne just did a ‘last chance’ round of IVF while living in the middle east and now finds herself pregnant with twins!

My very dear labmonkey is about to have her egg retrieval for her first (and hopefully last) round of IVF.

And Egg has survived the first anniversary of the devastating second trimester loss of her second son.

They are special to me, and all of these things are hard for different reasons. Please go and sit with them for a while.

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Filed under Blogging, Friends

Burn Me to Ashes

I am a bad writer.

Not,  I hasten to add, when it comes to getting words down on paper or, as is more likely to be the case, the screen. Sometimes I even put them down in combinations that look elegant and clever. My supervisor has always praised the clarity of my writing (an all too rare thing in academia).

No, I am a bad writer because the thing I hate to do, more than almost anything else in the world, is edit my own work.

When Q. writes, he is water on stone. He isn’t fast, and he isn’t pretty, but he is inexorable, unyielding, merciless. If Q. has an hour free in his day, he will go and write 150 painstaking, thoughtful, deliberate words. Q. quite likes the editing process. He writes and rewrites and fiddles until at last he is satisfied. When I edit his work (for I edit all of his work), there is always evidence of this tinkering, sentences where Q. thought about two ways to construct his idea and didn’t quite manage to erase all traces of the one he chose not to do. Q. misses those errors when he proof reads his own work because his eye sees the sentence he decided to write and skips over the remnants of the one he discarded.

When I write, I am fire.

An idea will simmer and slowly burn within, like hot coals. I will mull on it, chew on it, dream on it, until at last it explodes inside me, a roaring conflagration that demands I put my fingers to the keyboard (usually because the deadline for when the piece of work is due has drawn so near I can no longer ignore it). When I write, I burn. I hollow myself out. On a good day I write 1000 words in an hour. When I was writing the first draft of each chapter of the dissertation, once I actually started writing (and wasn’t just thinking about writing) I set myself the goal of 1500 words each day. Usually I’d reach that goal by 10 or so in the morning and I’d either keep writing if I was in the middle of something or I’d stop and go back to reading and researching. Some days I wrote 3500 or 4000 words- good words, quality words, words that are still there in my thesis.

I write blog posts (the only thing I’ve written in the last six years that wasn’t coursework essays or conference presentations or scholarship applications or dissertation chapters) in much the same way. An idea will float around in my head for a week or two (or more). When I finally sit down at the computer, I usually produce it in one sitting because I’ve already written almost all of it in my head. I read it over, tinker a little bit, and hit publish. I have never sat on a draft of a post for weeks at a time. I have never rewritten one over and over again. I either write the post, or I don’t.

When I am writing well, it feels like flying.

And when the draft is finished, and I have to turn back to the beginning, I fall to earth.

When I was doing my Master’s degree, at a university in the UK with enormous snob appeal, I did a course in my first term where the professor had me write a 2500-3000 word essay every week. Every week he’d give me a reading list of around 30 books, and every week I’d read as much as I could and then cry in my room until I had no time left and I HAD to sit down at the computer and write. And every week I’d write it, and then I would drop it off in his mailbox and go and have fun that night because I was free of it, and then two days later we’d meet in his office for a couple of hours and he would tell me everything that was wrong with it and then give me a new topic and a new reading list and I would go back to my room and cry for a while and then I would go back to the library and get the books on the new reading list and start again.

Every week.

It was absolute torture and a terrible blow to my self-esteem (because I had been the darling of my undergraduate department and I had won this huge scholarship to go to this fancy university and now I felt like I was being told how stupid I was on a weekly basis), but it had an unexpected benefit.

That professor taught me to do it right the first time.

In my undergraduate days, I was a tinkerer. I would finish essays two weeks before they were due, just so I could leave them alone for a week and then look at them again.

I didn’t have that luxury with him.

That course made me a better writer. It made me more decisive. It taught me to cut to the heart of a matter. It taught me to write clear, faultless prose the first time out.

Most of all, it taught me not to be afraid of dumping words, hundreds of words, onto the blank screen. The way I wrote those essays- a sharp, concentrated burst of writing- was largely the way I then wrote my Master’s thesis a year later and the way I have written my doctoral dissertation, just on a much, much larger scale.

It’s not that I don’t edit my work. Of course I do. The first draft of every single one of my chapters of my dissertation was filled with notes in bold to myself. I revised every chapter before I sent it to my supervisor. I revised the entire thesis before I sent him the full draft. I revised the thesis again in light of his comments before I sent it to the committee, and I am revising it yet again right now before it is sent to the external examiner.

I have added content, clarified the argument, made reference to more scholarship, updated translations. I have moved large sections of text from one chapter to another as the thesis drew closer to completion and the order of the argument became more apparent.

I have only very rarely touched the prose.

Vast, vast swathes of the thesis stand pretty much exactly as they looked when I frantically hurled them onto the screen while composing that first, very rough draft.

Every time I wrote a first draft I thought it was garbage.

It’s not garbage, though. It never is.

And now I really am in the endgame, and I’m at the point where I can and should edit the thesis not for content, but for style and presentation and order of argument. One of my committee members is not in my field and she has made some very detailed and helpful suggestions for changes I could make that would make the thesis more accessible to historians who don’t specialize in my era.

They are very good suggestions.

They would require me to read the thesis, in its entirety, very carefully.

I would rather do anything right now than do that.

The problem with fire is it burns out.

Every time I reach the final stage of the writing process, the point where I should take a good hard look at my prose and take the time to make changes and rewrite sentences, I find I am so heartily sick of reading it that I just can’t be bothered. I read it one last time to make sure I haven’t missed any glaring grammatical errors, and then I hand it in.

I am unbelievably sick of my dissertation right now. I hadn’t touched it since I sent it to the committee in mid-June, and as soon as I picked it up again last week all the loathing and frustration and boredom sprang back up as though they had never left. Reading it makes me physically ill.

I am done with it. SO done with it. I want nothing more than to do the last few content suggestions my committee members have given me and call it finished.

But if I want to call myself a writer, if I want to really be a writer, if I am serious about tackling one of the books that is in my head during this year at home, I have to learn how to edit my work.

I have to make those changes suggested to me by the committee member outside my field.

I have to find a way to not burn out.

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Filed under Blogging, Life after the PhD, PhD, Writing

Please send some love

If you read me, please go over and give some love and support to my very dear friend at Good Egg Hatched. She has just suffered a devastating loss, at almost 18 weeks. It’s her eighth loss; her fifth since she started trying to give her son a sibling. They did IVF with genetic screening. This was a healthy embryo.

This was supposed to work.

This universe is just so unbelievably fucking unfair sometimes.

My heart is breaking for her. Please show her she is not alone.

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Filed under Blogging, Friends, Loss

(Not) Feeling Groovy

All my blog posts right now are about the emotional side of things. I thought I should jot down some bullet points on where I’m at physically (although the emotional stuff will creep in again. It always does.):

  • 17 days after the D&C, and I’m STILL spotting. My clinic told me to call them if I was still bleeding after 12. I haven’t called yet, but am starting to think maybe I should. The spotting has stopped at least three times for a day or so, and then it starts up again. The longest gap was actually right after the D&C where I had a fair amount of bleeding the day after, then spotting, then nothing for three days, and then, just when I thought I was in the clear, it started up. It’s not heavy, but there are days where I probably should have gone for a pad rather than just a panty liner. Sometimes I get cramps or a deep ache. Mainly it is just depressing to be constantly seeing blood on the toilet paper, in the ‘loo, on the panty liner.
  • My clinic told me not to have sex until the bleeding had stopped. I just want to be able to feel close with my husband again. The last time I thought it had stopped for good, I told Q. that this meant we’d be cleared for resuming marital relations. “Do you think we’ll remember how?” asked Q., only half joking. My f/s only gave us the all clear for sex at the eight week appointment. The last time before that week had been before the retrieval in mid-December. I’m so tired of our intimacy being controlled by my clinic.
  • My face is breaking out again. In retrospect it started to get bad around the nine week mark, which now makes me wonder if that was a sign that things were no longer going well. Clearly pregnancy hormones were helping to fix my face, and now I can’t rely on them anymore. It’s bad enough that I had to get my youngest sister to teach me how to use foundation so I won’t feel like a leper when I leave the house. I know in the grand scheme of things this is meaningless, but I am struggling with it. I used to have such beautiful skin. Seriously- I got to 34 and a 1/2 before I had to learn about foundation. I hate wearing makeup every day, but I hate how my skin looks if I go out without it even more.
  • I am sleeping ok. It is the one blessing- I have retained my ability to fall back asleep. I started (while pregnant) following my mother’s own rule, which was she simply won’t get out of bed before 6 a.m. She won’t read either- she just lies there. Eventually she managed to retrain her body to fall back asleep. I think I’m making progress on this count. I’ve only been up in the very early morning once since it happened. I still wake up at 4, or 4:30, or 5, nearly every morning, but I’m fighting through it and refusing to get out of bed and eventually my body just gives up and goes back to sleep. And then I have really weird, frightening dreams.
  • I feel disgusting. I am ten pounds heavier than I would like to be (despite ceasing my burrito and poutine diet I appear to have gained more weight in the last two weeks than I did while pregnant). I want, I NEED to start running again, to start (again, sigh) the Couch to 5K program, but I have enough sense to recognize that this simply isn’t going to happen while this ridiculous winter continues. I never used to run when it was below -15 when I was running half-marathons. I’m hardly going to start running in those conditions now. Maybe we’ll catch a break in a couple of weeks. I’d like to get the Couch to 5K over and done with in enough time before we go to Oz to actually feel like I have some momentum to continue while we’re away. But in the meantime I feel fat and ugly and soft and gross and I need to stop eating my feelings, especially when nothing tastes as good as I need it to.
  • Yesterday we went out to lunch with friends and I realized that I don’t want to spend time with other people who don’t know, and whom we’re not planning to tell. They are all childless academic couples, and I don’t want to talk about my dissertation right now because if you ask me about it I freak out and cry (which has been the state of things since July of last year). I felt like I had nothing to say to them if I couldn’t talk about my work. I couldn’t sit there and make small talk and natter on about random things or current events when the whole time all I wanted to say was “My baby DIED and my heart is shattered.” But they weren’t good enough friends for that. So most of the time I said nothing, and the rest of the time I talked to E.
  • I am SO angry. I am angry pretty much all the time. I don’t know if I am angry at myself, or at the universe, or at the baby for not being a good baby after all. But I am just filled with cold, quiet, rage. It occasionally boils over, especially when E. is pushing my buttons. It is exhausting, being this angry, but at least it means I don’t have any energy to feel anything else.
  • I have reread every single Guy Gavriel Kay book I own, and when I finished the last one I went online and used up a gift certificate from my birthday buying the three books he’s written that I don’t already own (technically I do own one of them, but it’s the first book in a two-part series, and I hate having books in a series with covers that don’t match, so I felt it was worth spending another $12 for symmetry). When they arrive, I’ll read them. Then I’ll have to think of something else. I’m not yet capable of working in the evenings, so I do one of three things: I read, I obsess over E.’s room, and I write here. Or I cry, of course. It turns out playing “Into the West” from the LOTR: Return of the King soundtrack over and over and over again just tends to lead to more tears. Given the song used to make me cry on a good day, I probably should have anticipated that.
  • In the moments where I am not angry, I am so very sad. The sadness, the grief, catches me off guard, like a deep, cold wave from the ocean that rears up and slaps salt water hard into my face. Then I push it away again, and the surface reverts to stillness, and I can be grey again. I feel transitory, ephemeral, like I am only gliding through the world, like I am not of it. It feels like an out-of-body experience, except I am always very much present in my body, even when I would most like not to be. But it is as if this reality is so alien, so unexpected, that I can’t quite center myself in it, as if I keep finding myself tucked around sharp corners, blinking through mirrors at my reflection, only to raise an eyebrow in surprise each time at the sight of who is looking back. Is this really me?

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Anxiety Overload, Blogging, Grief, Loss, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), My addled brain, PhD, Running, Sleep