How to Balance

Over our decades, my body and I have had many long conversations about our perceived shortcomings, and in particular about my resentment around my inability to balance on one foot. I’m the yoga practitioner who goes over to the wall and still manages to tip over whenever we try to hold a one-legged pose for a few seconds. Since this has been going on for four decades, I’m pretty convinced that I have no balance.

Here’s what happened at the gym last month. My trainer looked at me and said, “You always fall the same way.” I agreed. I already knew that my feet supinate–they roll outward at the edges–the insides of my soles don’t touch the earth much. He then said, “Why don’t you overcompensate by putting more weight on the inside of your foot?” I did. Voila! Balance. I can balance.

The Culprits

The Culprits

Four decades on these feet. For at least thirty years I knew that my feet leaned out. For thirty years I tipped outward and fell over exactly the same way, over and over again. One thirty-second conversation later and I could solve my own problem. It seems so obvious now, it’s totally infuriating.

It turns out, even when you are conscious of the solution, miracles are exceedingly demanding. If I want to stay balanced on one leg and do my warmup exercises, I systematically do the following every single step of the way:

1. Concentrate, but just enough. Too much concentration will doom me to failure.
2. Keep abs tight.
2. Bend knee slightly.
3. Think about my stance: Try to keep weight evenly distributed between inside and outside of my foot.
4. Have my planted leg more or less in the middle below me.
5. If balance is compromised, over-adjust toward the inner edge of foot, but not too much (because now I’m having the entirely novel experience of tipping the other way and falling inward).
6. Repeat.

Addendum: Keep trying despite typical start-of-exercise hopeless flailing. Get to the middle point of reps–from 1/8 done to 6/8 done and maintain good form. For 7/8 and 8/8 done, manage exhaustion and track form.

There are lithe and balanced gym ladies and men running around doing amazing tricks while jumping and twisting on one leg. I’m just beginning to understand the standing one leg part. I’m so proud (and so very tired of concentrating).

Back to (Creative) Writing

I started writing this post last week, and then abandoned it as my doubt made it too hard to move forward with such a smug tone. I’m back at it again today, pondering life, writing, and, most important, finding good writing habits that lead to being published.

Last week’s beginning: I edited two stories today.  It came naturally. It felt really good. After months and months of guilty hiatus, using my creative writing brain was glorious.

So good in fact that I felt like I had special x-ray glasses on–I could see what bones were missing from my story’s skeleton. Looking at my story’s body, I could see what needed thinning down and what needed plumping up. I tend to repeat myself, so I cut a bunch of those redundancies out. I clarified. I threshed. I wove in a new layer. I reconnected beginning and end in more concrete ways.

This week’s conclusions: Last week, after having one beautifully productive day followed by a day of submitting one completed manuscript out, I’m back in my non-writing, non-editing slump. I am perpetually struggling with making time to write. I keep saying to myself, just 15 minutes a day will get you a book by the year’s end. It sounds plausible. Those 15 minutes don’t (yet) exist in my life. I’m just not that consistent. In search of motivation, determination, and a steely resolve, I go to other writers’ advice to try to find a model I can live with. The inspiration is useful for a good 10 minutes–Kurt Vonnegut had a great routine I can’t duplicate. Still, reading how others organized themselves, I feel invigorated and purposeful for a moment, and then the daily worries set in–I should spend my time trying to earn an income. I need to focus on this or that class project or reading. My drawers need reorganizing. I should call my grandma. The list is endless.

The other major battle raging is between writing new stories and finishing long lingering pieces that need to be edited and reworked. Part of me wants closure, part of me wants evasion into brand new skies, wants to see what’s under my creative hood–what will my mind seize upon today? And so here I am blogging instead of editing. Another momentary soother of my itch to write. Suggestions are welcome.

Softness

So one of the more surprising side effects of my current lifestyle is my need for a very specific brand of physical comfort: softness. As much as possible, I want to be encased in fuzziness. I have never so craved warm, pliable, downy, generous fabrics–and so find me here at 10:30 on a Saturday night, in polka dot heaven. Needless to say, lovely boyfriend isn’t totally thrilled with this new fad of mine, but at the end of daylight’s wanderings, if fabric makes the difference between peace of mind as I try to sleep and a harsh spirit as I go into dreams, I think it’s all right to give myself permission to embrace my fuchsia longing and go the distance in black polka dot apparel of exceptional softness. Tactile satisfaction. The fabric way. Yes this is me, in early middle age, in jammies. Amen.

(Recently, a fashion derelict of the highest order–my other crimes include fuzzy plush purple socks, assorted large wool wraps and velour jogging pants–if this is the worst manifestation of my needs, everything is going to be all right. )

The Death of Procrastination

I have finally killed procrastination for good. Allow me to qualify this statement by adding some specificity.

I have finally mastered a student’s enemy: schoolwork-related procrastination. I’m still quite the procrastinator when it comes to several other important life arenas (cleaning, you know who you are and i curse you), but I feel that as a student, I’m making rapid headway.

Here’s my trick. I love being done with assignments ahead of schedule and not having to worry anymore far more than I love goofing off until the last possible second. I rather be calm. I rather feel a bit smug and have a cool summery beverage. I rather watch TV with lovely boyfriend in state of relaxed joy and indulgence.

It’s kind of amazing how different I am as an adult student compared to how I was as an undergrad. I think this is due to several factors. The most important factor being: I know exactly what I’m giving up in order to pursue my studies: All that time with friends and family. All that time at the movies. All those Center City Sips outings I’m not going on. All those story slams I can’t participate in. All the Free Library author events I can’t attend. They have a price. So I’m going to be as responsible to myself as I can be, and I’m going to try to reduce the stress on myself and all those I love as best I can by getting ahead whenever I can. Plus, it’s kind of fun. Yes, I also happen to be a total nerd.

Keep Breathing

It’s been an action packed week. It feels like I should have learned something. I don’t think I learned anything new, but I did reconnect with ye olde life lessons (nothing earth shattering but always humbling in constructive ways.)

  1. Monday: The endless battle. Nothing is good enough for my writing group. This is probably a good thing. They keep pushing me past my own boundaries. If I think something is good or interesting, they demand I make it better.
  2. Tuesday: Suck it up, there’s a lot of week left.
  3. Wednesday: Breathing (+). When I’m going through minor though significant discomfort, I should focus on my breathing. When I’m done breathing, it’s okay to have a margarita (salt, rocks please.)
  4. Wednesday: Acknowledge others. People in my doctor’s office really appreciate it when I tell them they’re doing a good job (when they’re doing a good job.)
  5. Wednesday. Art–time consuming but mentally refreshing. Maybe Neil LaBute is finally softening up. I saw the play Reasons to Be Pretty. I’m pretty sure the moral of the story is don’t be beautiful and keep reading.
  6. Wednesday. Grace. Lovely boyfriend remains amazingly thoughtful.
  7. Thursday: Let go. Sometimes, despite my compulsion to do homework, it’s okay if it didn’t happen.
  8. All week: When agitated, I ought to get up and take a short walk down the hallway, and go compliment someone, reconnect with humanity.

Publish and Prison

I’ve had both excellent news and one devastating experience this week. Maybe this is the shape life is supposed to take: part dream, part nightmare. Anyway, the good news is easy, I heard another piece of mine will be published–three times published makes me feel legitimate. Three times sounds like a streak, like it wasn’t an aberration or mistake. This is comforting. The devastation has to do with prisons. What should be a relatively low key experience–a class visit to a prison museum, screwed me up.

I hate the idea of prisons. I hate the fact of prisons. I hate prison architecture. I hate the notion of retribution. I hate punitive measures. I hate cages. I hate life in cages. I must have been a zoo animal in former life.

At any rate, I refused to visit Alcatraz when I lived in San Francisco, and here in Philadelphia I have refused to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary (except for once giving in to the Halloween fest activity they have there, where you’re too busy dodging made up ghouls to reflect on the nature of imprisonment.)

Being given a clear eyed, highly informative account of the life of the prisoners of Eastern State did nothing to improve my sense of dread. I learned a lot. But I was filled with grief. I was filled with grief at the way ideas seize imaginative people, and how they then make reality bend to the idea, regardless of the shape of life. In this case, well intentioned Quakers thought the prisoners needed more reflection–while I typically respect the desire to encourage self reflection and insight, it seems obvious that imposing close to total human isolation is a bad idea. And yet, the idea was pursued, despite the consequences. Humanity’s ability to creepily adhere to ideas, regardless of evidence, is what terrifies me the most.

Anyway, I’ve been carrying around a grief stretched heart since my visit. The flowering trees are helping reverse my grief, but not the grief of those who are currently incarcerated.

The Appeal of Pessimism

I was sitting in a lecture last Thursday with the Dean of Penn’s School of Public Policy and Practice, and he was telling us about the US’s dismal record when it comes to child mortality due to abuse. The number of children dying from neglect and abuse has remained constant since the 1970s, despite the application of money, care, time, policy and staff.

These are the sorts of encouraging statistics and lectures one frequently encounters in social work school. The first year has been one of exceeding pessimism. Teachers and Deans are at great pains to describe the exact scope and hopelessness of the situation(s) and ask what exactly you think you can do as a lone practitioner in this big ugly world with its big ugly systems that replicate problems, stigma and power structures, or create new ones, while trying to alleviate suffering.

The Dean went on to explain in Kafkaesque detail, how bureaucracies, like all other malignant life forms, exist only to thrive and grow [not to solve problems efficiently].

{I’ll mention right now that he did wrap up the downbeat lecture on a note of possibility–that it takes coalitions and the right timing to instigate change, that the right policy at the right time can have a significant, positive effect, and he mentioned Social Security as changing the status of the elderly and dragging them out of poverty, and the GI Bill for creating the middle class in the 1950 and 1960s.}

But the reason I’m writing this post is to reflect on the lure, the allure, the temptation to listen to the litany of oft-repeated mistakes (the deadly mix of good intentions, poor policy design, restrictive benefit measures, and assorted gate-keeping and citizen shaming) and think of social ills as totally intractable. To think that having a miserable set of underclasses is part of the natural order, that no matter what we do, x% is going to be addicted, homeless, mentally ill, beaten and abused, illiterate etc.

It’s very tempting, after a couple centuries of good intentions and poor results, to think that nothing can be done. You have to be realistic.

well…

When I get in one of those dark corners of the mind, I give myself a stern talking to. I go back to home base. I question any offering of “norms”. This is the way it is and will remain is not a good enough answer. There wouldn’t be different national rates of, say, child mortality at birth, if there weren’t more or less effective approaches to dealing with pregnancy and child delivery. These national approaches to health, welfare and problem solving are societally and sociologically driven. There are structural forces at work. They have to be evaluated, confronted, mitigated, and ultimately dismantled.

I’m not calling for a revolution, I’m calling for an evidence based approach–nothing new my dear, luckily I’ve become a social worker in the age of empiricism and sound qualitative research methodologies–intelligent incrementalism, and the marriage of bottom up community work and top down policy work. There’s a lot of work to be done, but at least we have a pretty good idea of what has and has not worked to build upon.

A little freedom goes a long way

It’s spring break. What does my spring break look like, you wonder? Will I travel to Cancun and try to make out with college age peoples? Will there be moonlight skinny dipping? No. I work full time. This is grad school; my life isn’t some booze-fueled pleasure tour.

This week I get two nights back, without classes, and only half the reading to do, because I need to prep my group project. I feel like I’m playing hooky. I feel unburdened, fancy free, and kind of … lost. I’ve spent an hour and a half researching my streaming movie options on amazon and netflix, and now that I’m a bit too close to bedtime to start Mullholand Drive, I’ve decided that I shouldn’t watch a movie, I should read. I have a new kindle; I’ve loaded it with fun books; and I finally have a bit of guilt-free time on my hands. For god’s sake, I should be embracing the moment, eating bonbons while I sip fruity cocktails and curl my hair.
What did I do with my free night? I killed it researching, yes doing comparative research, on the ways I could spend my time if I had time to spend enjoying myself. Maybe the reason I’m cool on the prospect of reading has everything to do with the fact that I spend every free freaking minute I have reading. There’s a difference between required and elective reading, but my god, I don’t want to read.

Let’s recap. I’ve got free time and no attention span left. Maybe it’s time for an installment of the Daily Show.

Becoming the Other: Mind and Speech Training in Academia

So here’s the fundamental problem, I’m loving my graduate studies, I think they are enriching me intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I’m becoming a more critical thinker, a better writer, a kinder citizen of the world–ok, none of these are the problem–BUT (heavy and bookish but) I feel like I’m definitely getting reprogrammed, and I’m being shown the Matrix, our societal matrix of power and power reproduction, and I’m being immersed in left wing critical theory and two years from now, I’m afraid no one will be able to speak to me, because I’ll have that wide-eyed look, and I’ll run around going “don’t you see?!”

What’s nice about my intellectual training is that it answers deep questions that have bothered me for a long time. It’s the academic equivalent of my experience of reading Guns, Germs and Steel in the 1990s. I knew there had to be deeper underlying structural reasons for the political shape of the world, and that book provided me with answers that made sense to me and took me away from racist notions of cultural hierarchies. Tonight I’m reading two chapters of Bourgois’ thrilling Righteous Dopefiend and it’s combining theory and reality in a really evocative potent mix. This is good theory. I was trying to slog through more pure theoretical texts that were doing nothing for me, and now I’m reading thoughtful applied photo-journalistic ethnographic work and yes, I’m back on home ground. A place of thoughtful reflection on the meaning of the current social order. A sensitive portrayal of life among homeless heroin addicts in San Francisco. This kind of stuff takes me down the academic rabbit hole of critical re-examination of taken-for-granted knowledge

So as I’m enjoying my reading, “at last!”, I’m also slightly dreading the emerging new me. I’m worried I’ll totally lose the ability to talk to people who haven’t drunk this type of Kool-Aid. Back in Matrix metaphor mode, I’m taking the red pill. I’m taking the red pill and I don’t know how deep the rabbit hole goes. I guess the good news (and the bad news) is that the rabbit hole is me. It only goes as deep as I’m willing to go. Meanwhile my new vocabulary includes exciting new words and concepts with a very small audience. I’ll draw comfort from the fact that I know plenty of PhDs and they can still have normal conversations with me.

We must put a safety protocol in place. A safe phrase so to speak. If you ever hear me spouting multi syllable nonsense in a way that is totally un-relatable, just take my hand and say, “Take a hold of yourself red pill swallower.”

The last five minutes

One of my greatest weaknesses is my chronic, professional grade, Impatience. It’s a family illness, I think. For me, the very hardest part of any journey is the last five minutes I have to spend on the plane, after we’ve landed and pulled up to the gate, while I wait for all the slow moving parties to deplane in the typical inefficient procession. By the time I get off the plane and out the gate, I basically run through the terminal to the nearest taxi, because the journey’s not done until I’m in my home snacking on something delicious.

I feel this exact way in the last five minute, or last 10% of any given effort, before I reach my goal.

This is my least favorite place to be emotionally and mentally–trapped in my labyrinth of eagerness/anxiety/excitement/nausea. I will name it The Corridor of Impatience. Unfortunately for my constitution, I spend a lot of time roaming the length and breadth of the Corridor.

And that’s where I am right now, in The Corridor of Impatience, until 6:45pm Thursday night, when my final paper of the semester will be due. By 9pm that night, I will be released back to civilian status until the second week in January. Oh how I long for the end of this particular journey. I’m the only one deplane-ing, but it’s still an inefficient procession, as I crawl through the final paper writing process. Wish me luck.

(P.S. Meanwhile, blogging is my release valve: forgive the narrow subject area this week.)

Refreshed!

A week’s worth of procrastination, it turns out, can have a blessed effect on my productivity. Witness my ability to crank out a paper in four 40 minute chunks over three days—that’s the direct result of serious resentment and goofing off last week. I gave myself time off–I thought it was just because I was lazy, angry, and unmotivated, but in fact, it was catharsis–I didn’t even know there could be a turnaround in my mindset, but yes, after my week in revolt, I was able to move beyond my dangerously bad attitude. It’s nice knowing that sometimes waiting and distracting yourself and being inactive and unproductive can have great results. Magical goofing off.

Sure I can procrastinate, it’s Christmas

In addition to my cornucopia of typical procrastinating techniques, the holiday season adds a veritable arsenal of intriguing options for goofing off and Not Writing my last two academic papers. (Aside: How much time is there between Thursday night and Tuesday night? Lots, right?)

Anyway, I’m enjoying one of my very favorite end of year rituals, the thorough scouring of best of the year album lists, which means spending hours zipping through sonic samples on amazon, picking just the right new additions to my MP3 library to make me feel aurally spanking fresh in the new year.

Earlier tonight, I decorated our Charlie Brown-sized Christmas tree. Decorating Christmas trees makes me all perky and makes me sing Christmas songs to myself. Where does the joy come from?

I like giving presents, but I have a rocky prior relationship with Christmas. The Holiday Trees, however, escape my seasonal wrath. I just love that I get to take a very big plant form that has no business spending time in my living room, and I force it to spend at least two weeks with me indoors, and I make it up like a Barbie doll or an aging rock star–it’s swathed in light reflecting glittery things.

Or maybe it’s about the miniatures–I love artfully arranging the shiny miniature ornaments I buy at the German store in the Christmas Village on the tree.

Maybe my moments of seasonal magic are tied to my memories of getting up in the middle of the night in high school and going down to the couch in the living room where I would doze off to the blinking Christmas lights, so faery magic pretty.

I also enjoy the less classic holiday songs including, Elvis’s Blue Christmas and All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth, and Zat You, Santa Claus?

Other easy seasonal distractions:
1. Watching holiday comedies
2. Going to holiday parties
3. Deciding I haven’t been reading enough fiction lately and researching those “best of” lists (can you tell I’m a sucker for a best of?)
4. Shopping for gifts I have not budgeted for, but excusing the indulgence for the sake of those I love
5. Writing Christmas cards to people far and wide
6. Listening to and singing holiday songs
7. Planning my birthday outings
8. Planning my spring vacations
9. Writing holiday letters to myself on futureme.org
10. Finding new humor websites like theoatmeal.com
11. Holiday themed status updates on facebook
12. Going to visit relatives not exactly for the holidays, but within earshot of the holidays
13. Seriously pondering committing to a December cleaning spree, so I can face the New Year with pride and less clutter

Merry, merry, everyone.

Reality Smackdown

It’s getting to be that time when I get antsy at not writing anything more creative than student papers–student papers, as far as I can tell, require sourcing good information and then organizing and explaining that information coherently. It’s a skill set for sure, but it doesn’t give me a buzz. Okay, it does give me a buzz, but it’s not a creative buzz, it’s a “look at how well I can follow guidelines” buzz. Reasonable Girl thrives in the academic setting, she’s so reasonable it’s amazing. But Reasonable Girl secretly craves the ultra-rare big sexy rush of creative writing.

Meanwhile, I hear some gurgling in the background, and it’s not my tummy digesting cake (at least not today)–my creative wellspring is gurgling. It’s not an angry gurgle yet, but it could be, soon! The spring is telling me I have a whole backlog of weird half lived fantasies and notions that need some kind of funneling, or my dreams are going to keep getting weirder, and I’m not even taking anti malaria drugs anymore.

I’m doing the multi-identity juggling again. The worker, student, girlfriend, wannabe author smack down is in full force, plus there’s the added pressure of the holidays: I have to be a good family member in a variety of settings as well. In the next 30 days, I’ll hang out with a 5 month old. I’ll also hang out with a 91 and 90 year old. I will be flexible; I will be kind; I will be tired.

The good news is that I only have two more school papers to go. I’ve got pretty much all the pieces I need to complete my generative, academic oeuvres. And then, one blessed month from now, I will have one blessed month to goof off. That month of will be chock full of a ridiculous lack of things to do at night. I will unveil my other superhero identity yet again, the one with the small cape, the writer person who right now has been closet-ted and ignored for a bit too long. Yay small cape. I see you hanging. You’ll be dusted off in no time.

The Business of Writing: A New Hope

I’ve been quite the bee tonight. I sent off my query letter and memoir excerpt to several agents. I also finished a short, 12-page, book proposal to accompany my query, should an agent require this.

I’m expecting a flurry of thanks but no thanks, which is as it should be. But I have to start somewhere, and I’m starting to look for that place tonight.

I should be a) reading about the New Deal for class, or b) packing for my one week work trip to New Delhi, but instead I am c) blogging, while what I really wish I were doing is d) watching a new episode of the BBC’s Sherlock.

No wonder I feel so tired.

PS: yes, the Star Wars reference in my title is totally deliberate. My geek credentials are Platinum.

PPS: Reasonable Girl demands that I get my act together and read. While Grad School doesn’t worry about me, I must worry a bit about Grad School.

The Rebalancing Act

I’m here to tell you how much I love working on my memoir manuscript. It engages a whole other part of my mind in a truly delightful, relaxing way. Okay, I may be lying about the relaxing part. Editing my memoir fills me with teeth grinding fear and hopeful gases. Yes, editing has physiological effects.

At any rate, I reread, in a state of pleasant surprise, my latest iteration of Bed Stories, which goes through various romantic and family anecdotes that are linked to the presence of beds. It’s always been my sweet, slightly broken darling, but I think it may have finally found its rhythm. Because writing is about finding, varying, and sustaining rhythm. (Did you know the word Rhythm had so many Hs? I did not.) But yes, this story is cooked. It is done. It smells like, well it smells like the vapors of Michter’s bourbon in my empty glass, which is a slightly smokey, slightly sweet, very boozy aroma.

This evening of delighted discovery of finished products in the rubble of my ever unfinished memoir is brought to you by the letter S. S for Surrender and Serendipity. Surrender because it seems that, like me, the students in my classes have basically given up on the readings. I have come to terms with drastic skimming. Serendipity because tonight I figured out that the deadlines for my next research papers weren’t quite as dire as I expected. So I came home and, instead of plunging into research, I got to plunge into my very own personal writing project. My personal writing project makes me feel at home in the way the best vacation I have ever had made me feel at home in a strange place. There’s sun, there’s discovery, and there’s a sweet satisfaction experienced between swims and naps. I don’t get to nap when I edit, but I do get to swim in my mind’s flow.

I’ve vowed to myself that I will rebalance my time> more time writing, less time reading homework/researching. I want to do it all, but doing it all must include my writing. There. I said it.

Prayers Answered

Life is very exciting in these parts. I just tackled my second memoir chapter rewrite, and it felt downright successful. That’s two pleasurable chapter rewrites in a row. Inconceivable. (“Are you sure that word means what you think it means?”). Miraculous.

The experience is good because I can read feedback on particular chapters that tell me I’m currently failing and take the critique in stride, and when I re-read the chapters, my X-ray editor/writer vision is in full force. I can see when this empress has no clothes. And I have the gumption to make my own cloak and fix the problem. This is a very empowering process. I can be pointed to a problem, and I can tackle it. Oh sweet rewrite siren, how sweetly you sing.

Tonight, I also rewrote my intro to my book using language that I first plunked here. It’s been tweaked, but it’s still good and evocative (thanks Blog!). I also started re-organizing the order of the memoir chapters. The memoir order is not exactly chronological, but it’s now more thematic. Kind of.

I have to do homework, so i have to leave well enough alone for now, but I may have found a new technique: I get an hour (on nights when I have five hour homework stretches in front of me) to work on my memoir (timer and everything) and then I have to attend to homework. This creates a positive kind of force. I am compelled to face my fears, write, and be efficient, because my precious minutes are tick-tocking away. Oh the precious!

And with that. Good night.

The best surrender

I (triumphantly) snuck in some writing tonight because I realized that strictly speaking I didn’t have to do my assigned reading because class was a general assembly lecture. It felt naughty. It felt good. Writing soothes a part of my soul that nothing else can get to. Also, it felt really good to give up on something mandated and grab something else more important (and alluring) to me.

I watched the Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement speech last night, as a memorial, and he discussed his philosophy of looking in the mirror each morning and trying to assess the day in the lens of “what if this were my last day?” If this were my last day, I would definitely want to spend part of it writing. I’m going to have to get more creative about finding time.

Also, it felt great to try to tackle some pointed feedback I had gotten about going with more emotion in my writing, and trying to cover less ground. I was scared, but I opened up my document, printed it, edited, and I started expanding my favorite sections. My rewrite process felt good. I felt focused and lucid, I could clearly see and cut the fat. And I’m proud of the final product. My piece about Frenchness is finally starting to work. Huzzah.

One Hour of Reading Explains Two Years of Writing

Tonight, I’ve been reading about (big words coming, so don’t freak out and abandon me here) Applied Symbolic Interactionism. It’s a social work theory formulated from 1890 to 1910 (stay with me…) and it freaking answers every question that drove the writing of my memoir. Okay, I’m exaggerating. It only answers or speaks to half the chapters. The chapter where I write in the second person, and my story about Frenchness and Identity–this theory can handle these questions. This theoretical framework specifically deals with multiple identities–internal and external, past and future, and across multiple clubs (e.g., France/America). Holy shit. That’s what my memoir is about: The imaginary, and the differences between the labels you inherit or are given and those you select for yourself. It’s deeply weird to have my narrative, story-based pieces explained in a structured theoretical framework. In one hour of reading what took me two years to write was explained. Can you guess how weird I feel right now?

Maybe I should be relieved that practitioners have been refining the theory for 120+ years. Does the existence of an explanatory theory nuke the need for a storytelling work? I don’t think so. But it’s a little bit like living in colonial Philadelphia with some back pain and being handed an x-ray of my spine. Several social work theorists can explain in elegant symbolic grammar what my brain has been toying with. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

It does confirm my decision to undertake these studies–I’m studying the right field which asks exactly the kinds of questions my brain likes to toy with. That’s a terrifyingly sexy turn of events. I have been enjoying the intellectual, moral and emotional stimulation of my schooling. But tonight I feel a little bit like Moses reading up on Exodus in the King James Bible.

I’m not sure what to with all this, or how it will impact my revision process, but I’m pretty freaking psyched and amazed, and with that, I’ll go read some more.

Tonight’s reward

Tonight I get to read. What I want: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
I figure I don’t have to be perfectly structured and achieving at all times. (Right?) I’ve got homework covered for the week. I’ve updated my blog site. I’ve submitted memoir chapters to nine literary venues in two days. I’ve done laundry and dishes. I’ve attended class. I’ve napped and tried to take it easy so I can return to work. Tonight, I made miso soup so I could finally drink something other than tea and juice. I’m coughing pretty badly, and feeling sorry for my sick self. So I get to read. There. More interesting blogs to follow in the ripeness of time.
(PS: I’m trying to be Reasonable Girl, because I don’t have a choice. I sound like an old smoker when I hack and cough. I’m all mucus and viscous across multiple facial orifices. It’s pity party and distraction time.)

It’s hard to be witty when you’re all snotty

I’m engaged in hand to hand combat with a cold. The cold is currently pressing its fist against my face and forcing a cough and a lot of mouth breathing. Amidst my unfortunate nasal fluid releases, I have nonetheless read three academic articles, of varying interest. I’ve noticed that my feet are being forcefully plunged in cold theoretical waters, and I’m begrudging, but I guess social work will serve as my gateway to the arctic theoretical lands. It’s a one way journey. I fear that on the other end of this frozen analytical road, my language will become cluttered and ugly, and I will no longer be able to express myself simply. I fear that reverie and poetry will be eliminated for the sake of precision. Let’s hope not, dear readers. I guess this is the time to make a pledge to myself–I am definitely going to be forged, like molten steel, into a new psychic/intellectual and emotional shape by my training, but I also want to cling to my playfulness. I need to leave room for goofing off, exploration, inefficient uses of time, and my devotion to napping. Keeping these sacrosanct may help me try to protect my art side from my academy side.
Which reminds me, my readers have had my memoir manuscript for three weeks. Should I remind them that comments are soon due?