November 16, 2014
Halfway complete! I do not even know what my total and very rambling word count is on this whole business but I am proud that I have (mostly) stuck it out and written and proved good on my desire to pound out the words no matter how half baked or unresolved or just plain casual they manage to be. Writing really has seemed to beget writing and when I needed the words for the big stuff (or rather the big stuff that is graded and academic) I do think the words came a bit easier than in the past when I have not been quite so writing prolific and reflective.
Does writing a lot of nothing help you in writing a specific something? I am sure there are studies and research and lots of many syllable words to illuminate the subject from an official manner but from my own view, I would say it does indeed. From my own view, I would say that as in almost anything there is brilliance and there is inspiration and there are all those romantic and life affirming flashes but even more there is lots of mundane work and daily decidedly non romantic stuff that makes the bulk of life….that makes the foundation of what might be genius. And so I am glad I stumbled into this very real way to turn my good intentions into a rhythm and into an every few days habit because I think it will indeed pay dividends. This feels like exercise to me and like all good exercise, I am hoping that the phase when you first realize how totally out of shape you managed to get is passing and the phase when you realize you are not going to die and you may even be getting stronger is beginning.
And in the words of the great academics words of Monty Python….for something completely different.
This week we lost another cohort member. Well, we did not actually lose a member which would be particularly hard to do given that we are geographically dispersed and do not in fact really know where anyone ever is at any given time but rather we had a member decide to withdraw and defer course work until a later date, essentially leaving the cohort.
We have had this happen three times in the past year (and even before we had our first official orientation another person decided to leave) so the concept of losing a member is not new to me but…this member was one of my original small group orientation team members and thus felt a bit like one of the pillars of my own doctoral journey. She was an always positive, always professional, always freakishly organized force of good in my life and also in the whole way the cohort functioned. With the others who left, I was sad because in my head I knew that it was appropriate to be sad at the idea that someone was leaving but for this latest loss…my head knew enough to get out of the way because my heart was having all the feels from anger to sadness to betrayal to finally a somewhat shaky acceptance and resolution.
It is, I think, one of the great mysteries of humans that we can bond so strong and so tight even across great divides, cultures, and even customs. It is pretty dazzling that the desire to connect and to know and be known is stronger than distance. I know that there is indeed lots of things being studied and researched about how these bonds occur and how environments and structures can nurture them. I think that is fabulous and I hope that we can unlock some part of the code and yet I also think that there may be a whole mystical element to it that all the qualitative and quantitative research in the world will not be able to unravel….and that is even more fabulous. You know when you have been in one of these somewhat sacred seasons when for whatever reason it ends. Which is an irony in itself because when you are in the midst of it, it is easy to say that of course this is how things always are….of course this is business as usual and you overlook the brilliance because daily life happens. It is only in the ending and the sudden emptiness that you realize how extraordinary it was to begin with. And then of course it is too late and all you feel is a hollow pain for awhile.
So we lost another cohort member this week. Though I now have enough distance to speak of it a tad more reflectively and a tad more poetically, that was far from my first reaction. My first reaction was shock followed quickly by anger and then resentment. I hate to admit it, but I was so angry that they could not stick it out…that the rest of life (and some legit very very very good reasons) had caused a reshuffling of time and priorities and there just was n0t reasonable room for continuing on in the program at this time. As I am a DIY guru of the importance of rest and balance and listening to your schedule and curating it so that you do what you do best, hearing that someone I care for was doing the smart thing rather than running themselves ragged should have been music to my ears. But…not so much. Hearing that someone I care for was doing the smart thing felt like betrayal. When I began to feel these things and probe slightly into my own reactions, I began to wonder if a lot of what I had been couching in “caring deeply” may have been thinly veiled “caring deeply for you not because you’re a valid human but because you serve me well in my own journey.” In the first scenario, I am sad because I know it was so hard for you to navigate and wrestle with. In the second scenario, I am sad because you were a useful part of my own plan and now that you are gone, I feel like things might not be so easy for me….which makes me angry.
Being reminded of your own dark and selfish soul is never easy but the good news is that coming to this choice bit of awareness was enough to jolt me from anger into empathy…from sitting and pitying my own loss to seeing the world from a bit of a larger perspective where maybe, just maybe, I was not the center of the universe rather one part of a wonderfully diverse interconnected web.
So we lost another cohort member this week. I still wish it was not so…that just as Thanksgiving in Canada happens super early, so too might April Fool’s Day and this business will all be forgotten and life will be back to normal and we all just placidly complain about 803.
But…I know that is not what the future holds so in the meantime, I am trying to do my best to keep on moving along. I am trying to do my best to love my remaining cohort members as best I can and yet do so with a much more open hand rather than a grasped fist….pull them along if they need the help but also let them go too when it is their time just as (and I totally hope this never happens) they would do with me should I need it.
I hate dealing with feelings. My natural setting is “find numb as quick as possible whenever the feels begin to happen and camp out in numb until the storm passes.” Which is, I know, stupid and growth inhibiting but still…life is so much easier to handle when one can skim along the surface and never enter into the dark murkiness of true wisdom. The true genius of this program has been (so far…maybe in 804 everything changes. We shall see!) that you learn a boatload of things about learning theories and how people know stuff and how you actually should do research but even more, as you go about the experience of learning a boatload of things, you find all the little chinks and cracks and thin places in yourself and constantly have to choose just you are going to do with that new found knowledge…if you are going to sure up what has been revealed or just re-wall paper and hope that the winds aren’t too strong or the temperatures too cold. In this process you see what kind of an academic you want to be when it is all over but even more you see what kind of a person you want to be when it is all going on. Deep stuff indeed. And totally nothing anyone tells you when you first get it into your head that it would be really cool to be able to sign your name “Dr.” and thus apply to a graduate program.
So, it is back to the daily, mundane, not so romantic stuff for me. Back to putting in the words and the hours and the base so that I will be strong when the time comes. And it is glorious too in the mundane. Because this season, for all its daily business, is also a gift if I have eyes to see it.