Thursday, December 15, 2011

There will be enough

Since the advent of the new budget, I have had to learn to use things up, make do with things I have, and do without things I otherwise might have bought. Not a bad lesson to learn, certainly. I have been learning that I resist using things or using them up because I worry that there will not be enough—that I will be caught unprepared. 

I have been learning to tell myself that there will be enough. It is okay to use the last box of broth because there can be more (whether I make or buy it). It is okay to open the last bag of pasta because I can get more. I don't need to buy a new bar of shampoo until this one is mostly gone; there will be more. 

And sometimes things work out in spite of my planning or lack thereof. A friend sent lovely handmade soaps and now I have enough. The sub shop down the street unexpectedly brought a box full of mini subs for the office and now I have lunch. 

I tend to worry more than I ought. Reminding myself that there will be enough and finding that it is indeed the case that there will be enough might become a strong antidote to fear and worry and rumination.

Monday, November 28, 2011

showing kindness to myself

Every morning, as soon as I (finally) climb out of my warm bed, I head to the kitchen and put water on to boil. There isn't much to do while the water is boiling, so I put on my rubber gloves and do all the dishes left in the sink from the night before. This may be the best idea I have ever had. I do the dishes every morning while still half asleep. By the time I start feeling alert, the dishes are nearly clean and my water is about to boil and it feels almost like someone else has done the dishes for me: later on, after I've returned from the office, I come home to a clean kitchen and very little memory of having cleaned it. It feels like a favor I do for myself almost every day. 

Lately I've taken a similar approach to cooking. On an ideal Sunday, I get enough groceries for the week and make one big meal--usually some kind of stew. This will be my lunches for the week (works better for me than sandwiches do) and, if I am very good, my dinners, too. I enjoy my lunches, but my gratitude for dinner is even greater. This evening, for example, I heated up a hearty portion of a Moroccan-spiced chicken and chickpea stew and poured myself a (small) glass of wine and a (large) glass of water. My dinner was tasty, emotionally satisfying, and I have the entire evening ahead of me to write (ahem). It feels almost like someone else cooked for me (and cleaned up) and all I have to do is pour a little more wine, write, and enjoy these homey comforts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

conjunction of the mind and opposition of the stars

The philosophotarian has a lovely new coat. The wool is very soft and the collar slopes and drapes. The cut is asymmetrical and the coat falls in flattering folds.
My coat is a cheery red armor against dark winter and despair. Passers by treat you differently when you wear a red coat. They talk to you in tones reserved for friendship. They offer you cookies from a freshly opened box and commiserate with you over the difficulty of writing.

It is difficult to feel perfectly despondent when one dresses well. In tailored skirts and cashmere, new boots and a daring red coat, I am well contained. No external threads are loose. No stains show. Nothing visible torn or ripped. 

When wearing bright colors, one can protest, disagree, insist one is not hiding. Hiding? In brilliant red? Hardly. Of course I am making an effort. Of course I am putting myself out there. I am hardly invisible. In a sea of bare heads and fedoras, I stand out in my buckled cloche. So distinctive it could be a costume. 

True, even a red coat--and such a red coat!--will not, cannot call back an absent or an unwilling lover. Cannot make him want to tell you about his day. Did he arrive safely? Did he? Coats are not prophets, either. 

And neither tailored clothes nor strange, invisible perfumes can guard against loneliness or heartsickness. The stepsisters were beautifully turned out and Cinderella was already worthy.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Basically, I have been avoiding my blog because I am not sure I like my therapist. If I start writing here or in my journal I'll have to think about it (the therapist; why I don't think I like her; my life in general; the crazy awesome momentum I seem to have right now that I don't want to think about because I am afraid I will jinx it; evil; money; family thanksgiving; peoples' lives being really, really hard; etc), and that is too exhausting. So I'm writing my dissertation instead. Back soon though. I won't hide forever. 


the philosophotarian

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Courage and Silence

I have a new reason for avoiding my dissertation and it is one I am loathe to confess. A few years ago I was delighted by the silence constructed and maintained by the Ramsays in To the Lighthouse. I marveled then at their proficiency in circumlocution. I still see the love there and I am not entirely disenchanted. Or, if I am disenchanted, then it is in the best of possible ways: I see how Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay are not magical; they are, insofar as fictional characters can be, terribly, wonderfully human and they fail and succeed as other humans do.

When I last read the pre-prandial conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, I found myself wishing they’d said more, that they’d challenged themselves and each other more. Specifically, I wish Mr. Ramsay had said to her—

Then, he wanted to tell her that when he was wakling on the terrace just now—here he became uncomfortable, as if he wer breaking into that solitude, that aloofness, that remoteness of hers. . . . But she pressed him. What had he wanted to tell her, she asked, thinking it was about going to the Lighthouse; that he was sorry that he had said “Damn you.” But no. He did not like to see her look so sad, he said. Only wool gathering, she protested, flushing a little. They both felt uncomfortable, as if they did not know whether to go on or go back. She had been reading fairy tales to James, she said. No, they could not share that; they could not say that.

I see now, as I did not see before, that this is a failure in the silent communication between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay. Intimacy requires a willingness to brave discomfort for the other. The other things Mr.and Mrs. Ramsay resist mentioning—the bill for the greenhouse roof, the possibility that Mr. Ramsay would have written better books had he not married, and the things they do discuss instead—Andrew’s future, Prue’s beauty, the flowers—are part of a shared conversation they’ve built over time. The bit quoted above shows a spot of tenderness, something that resists even a careful eye or a gentle finger. They have no conversation to cover over this tender spot, this bruise in their union. Now, a few years after my first readings of To the Lighthouse, I find I wish Mr. Ramsay had been brave and forged ahead, had told Mrs. Ramsay how he felt about her solitude, about that fundamental remoteness from which he could never protect her; I find I wish Mrs. Ramsay had been strong and acknowledged her thoughts; had told her husband that she thought, first, that “there was no treachery too base for the world to commit, that “no happiness lasted.” That she  thought, shortly thereafter, watching the light, that “she had known happiness, exquisite happiness, intense happiness,” and ended in an ecstasy of “It is enough! It is enough!”

Had she known how it pained him to feel their fundamental separateness, would she have seen his concern differntly? Had he known that in her separateness she was capable of holding nadirs and zeniths, would he have seen her protectiveness differently?

I am being made to see that I needed the Ramsays’ silences to justify my own. Moreover, now that I am finding that explicit speech is sometimes required, I am newly critical of the Ramsays. I had not realized that my dissertation was an attempt to affirm my own proclivities, and now I see that, at least in part, it has been so. This makes me more than a little uncomfortable and I am uncertain how to move forward.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Mind of One's Own

Perhaps one of the greatest obstacles to writing a dissertation, particularly a dissertation in the humanities (or so it feels to the one writing such a dissertation), is the absolute triviality of it all. No life will be saved if I complete my dissertation. No cancer cured nor heartbreak mended. The world will continue spinning and the universe will continue expanding whether or not I finish and no word I write will make the world spin any faster or the universe achieve its doom any sooner.

My life, generally speaking, is much the same. Some people feel stress because they are pulled in too many directions and bear too many responsibilities. Others feel stress because they are pulled only ever inwardly and bear no responsibilities to others. No more that is, than the very thin responsibility to not be an asshole, or the the very vague responsibility to commit to justice and things for everyone. No one depends upon me for anything. If I do not earn a living, no stomach will suffer but my own. If I do not make something of myself, no person's pride will suffer but my own. If I decide to hide myself in the deepest solitude, no one will be affected. If I ruin myself with hard living, no one stands to be disappointed. In this way I am very, very free. I am entirely free to mean and be nothing. This is, I find, a very burdensome freedom.

My response to such freedom has been indulgent self-pity--yes, I am free to wallow, as well. Instead, I might take a cue from artists, as described by Virginia Woolf.
Further, accentuating all these difficulties [those that attend the creation of a work of genius] and making them harder to bear is the world's notorious indifference. It does not ask people to write poems and novels and histories; it does not need them. It does not care whether Flaubert finds the right word or whether Carlyle scrupulously verifies this or that fact. Naturally, it will not pay for what it does not want.
 But I care that Flaubert has found his word, my mind cried out. The world is a poorer, dimmer place if he has not! And that is precisely why and how I and my dissertation can matter. Not in a splashy and important way. We are not, after all, relativity, or a categorical imperative, or the enthymeme. But in a very small way (because I am, myself, very small) I can matter in ways parallel to those in which Flaubert's word matters. No belly goes empty whether Flaubert finds or does not find his word. No cancer cured. I am free to live a life of genius, a life full of moral beauty. No one's needs stand in my way and others can only help, not hinder, my project. The world is indifferent, yes. The world will not pay for the life I want to create. I need to remember that I don't need it to do so. The world will not pay for a line of Flaubert, either, but I wouldn't want to live in a world made up only of things that achieved value in this way.

There is another world. A secret world. An invisible world filled to bursting with invisible value. In this world, empires topple when the right word is not found. There are cancers of the soul for which only the only cure is some expression of aesthetic genius. I am wretchedly free in this art-indifferent world and must learn to bear my responsibilities elsewhere.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Aye, aye, Starbuck, 'tis sweet to lean sometimes"

I had a glass of wine with M on Friday. I told her I was reasonably certain I had decided upon a therapist to see.
"But k," she said, "you hate shrinks."

"Not true—I never knew any." 
She asked why I had decided to see a Shrink Lady, and I told her how difficult it is to be truly close to someone. It's not so much that I hate intimacy, I said, I just don't see the point. M laughed very hard at this.

Relying upon others is very difficult. Be that as it may, even Captain Ahab could not avoid it. At the end of Moby-Dick, the Pequod chases the white whale for three days before meeting its final doom. The whale has chewed through another ship and has destroyed Ahab's leg for a second time. Ahab, finding it difficult to stand on his splintered ivory leg, relies upon Starbuck, first mate, moral hero, and only member of the crew willing to question Ahab's judgment. 
But when he was helped to the deck, all eyes were fastened upon him; as instead of standing by himself he still half-hung upon the shoulder of Starbuck, who had thus far been the foremost to assist him. His ivory leg had been snapped off, leaving but one short sharp splinter.

"Aye, aye, Starbuck, 'tis sweet to lean sometimes, be the leaner who he will; and would old Ahab had leaned oftener than he has."
Had old Ahab learned to lean, he might have unwoven the curse that overhung his head.

It is, naturally, untrue to say that Ahab depended upon no one. He needed his crew, for example. Had they mutinied, he could not have carried out his monomaniacal plan. He needed the owners of the ship to recognize his ability and entrust the ship and crew to his leadership. Etc. etc. Needing others is not the same as leaning on them. When Ahab leans on Starbuck, he—without asking—shifts the burden of his weight onto Starbucks's shoulder so that, temporarily, Starbuck bears his own weight and that of Ahab.

As he rests upon Starbuck's shoulder, Ahab seems to recognize how very different he might have been—more like Starbuck, perhaps—had he leaned oftener on others. Had he shared his burdens with friends or with his wife; had he married sooner; had he chased after human company instead of a whale that cared nothing for him: had he been otherwise, perhaps all else would have been otherwise. Ahab seems to see this and forbids Starbuck from chasing Moby Dick. If only Starbuck can be kept safe, sent back to his loving family, then perhaps Ahab can be redeemed. In the end of course, Starbuck is forever separated from his beloved Mary, and it is indeed Ahab's fault. 

So this is why I am seeing the Shrink Lady. I want to learn to lean on others before it is too late. Who knows how many others I might hurt by refusing to depend upon anyone?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book I have finally read*


*one does not finish Moby-Dick; one may read every word and still find it unfinished. 

what is accomplishment?

The number one obstacle to my writing here is the fact that I have not yet finished reading Moby-Dick. I am at chapter 127, about fifty pages from the end of the book, and I have not yet finished reading it. 

I haven't read Moby-Dick for weeks. Reading this book has taken me the better part of a year, and not because the book is long. I read a bit and then spend weeks or months away from it, away from the catalogs and lists and asides and reflections; away from the doomed pursuit of that awful whale. 

For months I have been imagining the blog post I will write after having finished the book: Book I have finally finished will be the title. The content: Moby-Dick. That will be the entirety of the post. Nothing to it, but the thought of writing it gives me such satisfaction. 

I both long for and dread the completion of this book. I want to have read it, to be able to say "I have read Moby-Dick." A check next to the title and I can move on to some other beautiful piece of literature. Still, I know I have not yet finished this book for the same reason I can't bring myself to read Titus Andronicus, Timon of Athens, and the rest of the sonnets--I don't ever want Moby-Dick, or the corpus of Shakespeare's writings to be complete. I want to sail in the unmolested Pequod forever, always in search of that legendary whale, my days filled with hard work alternating with peace and unparalleled beauty. I don't want to have to think of the next stage of my life off of that ship, beyond the ship, in a world in which the ship no longer even exists.

Imagine an Ahab for whom possession and dominion were not paramount. Unimaginable, I suppose. I know that, having read Moby-Dick once, I will not have possessed the book, will not have cracked it open and forced its secrets from it, will not have unwoven the rainbow and pinned its every miracle to some eternal mounting board. In a world with so many books I have not yet read, how can I avoid behaving as though this were the case? Who has the time to absorb through unpossessive rereadings and many meditations the miracles of even one book? Of even one poem, ever? 

The Pequod in which I am sailing cannot be eternal. The best I can do is to follow Ishmael and continue to re-visit the tale of Moby-Dick. Future rereadings (which I already anticipate) will never have the quality of that first voyage. The memory of that first voyage will color every future visit, adding layers of experience and sentiment and meaning. I will do well to look forward to this; I must keep Ishmael in mind: if I do not leave the Pequod, I will die thereupon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

480 tampons later...

So, I guess I'm going to see a therapist. The first thing I did when I got home after my meeting today? Naturally I went straight to Amazon to buy tampons in bulk--organic, pesticide and bleach-free lady products. And then if you subscribe, you save even more money. So I'll have two years worth of tampons in about 6 months. Deal, right? And then I'll cancel the subscription for a year. Because I'm smart. 

What is still a little fuzzy is the relationship between ladyproducts and therapy. It isn't as though the price of a bi-monthly box of tampons is enough to pay for my bi-weekly time with the therapist. I think my thought process was something like this: if I don't have to budget for ladyproducts, I can put that money into a different envelope and every bit helps, right? I won't even have to think about buying them, so that frees up the cash to pay for, say, laundry soap or cat litter or coffee filters, so I don't have to buy both in any one month...

Okay, so it doesn't exactly make tons of sense. But I'm clearly taking measures for my health and in a variety of arenas, so that's a good thing, right? And I'll probably be able to spot you a tampon if you need one, so there's that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

a small measure of success

The philosophotarian kept to her budget this month. One down, forever to go...!

I have been desperately desiring a new tube of lipstick. The intensity of this desire is a little embarrassing, really. I have visited countless times, filling my online shopping basket and then closing the window just before purchasing. 

This month, I have been throwing away all catalogs as I receive them, not even allowing myself to look. I have unsubscribed to every email shopping alert I've received. I've planned out all my cash, stuck to my budget, turned down fun, cancelled plans for which I had no funds; I've seriously downgraded my coffee, made pantry stew (rather tasty), and cashed in gift cards. 

And I have been dying for a new lipstick. Ideally, it would be something swanky in lovely packaging--a Tom Ford or a Dolce and Gabbana piece of art. I broke down yesterday. I took my "beauty/grooming" envelope and headed to the CVS, where I spent a little bit of the money I had already set aside for the haircut I'll need at the end of the month. After much looking and comparing, I found one. A drugstore lipstick. I haven't had one of those in ages. But this seems to be exactly what I wanted: not too shiny; no pearl or metallic element; not matte, either; just a bit more than the natural color of my lips and it doesn't smell too bad. And it was under ten dollars. 

I shouldn't get quite so much pleasure out of something so frivolous. I know this. It does make me feel more confident and hopeful about this budget as I prepare for month 2.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Poor Lamia

Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold psychology?
That is the line, right? 

I will not develop an emotional relationship to the sun. The sun is a dull common thing for all its brightness—it simply is and I can do no more about it than I can about the oxygen content of the air I breathe or about the color of my eyes.

Given a world in which the sun, or the air, or my unimaginable future, or my inability to X or Y are simply the case, how shall I be? That is the far more interesting question. It doesn't matter at all how I feel about these things. Feelings are fleeting and unauthoritative. Shall I leave my job because I am irked with the clerk next door? Shall I tell So-and-so what I really think about her management skills? Of course not. I shall be mistress of my feelings and not vice versa.

That I feel something is not very interesting, and why I feel something only slightly more so. I am not, I confess, very interested in exploring either. If feelings masquerade as beliefs, then that is more interesting and worth exploring. If such beliefs present themselves as the kinds of facts recorded in the "dull catalogue of common things," then that is still more interesting and more worthy of exploration. 

How shall I live and keep the rainbow whole and the air full and haunted?

Friday, September 30, 2011

friday and in the office

There is a woman in my office who eats microwavable meals every day. The recycling container is usually filled with discarded Lean Cuisine boxes. She is also sour and looks hostile. I wonder if these are related?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

things I haven't bought since I redid my budget

(I redid—no,*did*—my budget just a few weeks ago)

Body oil: $30
Hair goo: $22
Tights (I could use about 3 pair): $24
Perfume: $75
Room spray: $8
Gray cardigan: $24___
Total: $183

I can't even say I've saved almost $200, as this is money I never even had. I am currently paying off my consumer debt so I can live on only my paycheck. This is a lot harder than I imagined it would be. I haven't lived this way since college (and I had fewer and cheaper wants/needs then). In college, my rent was just about 25% of my take-home pay. Now, my rent is nearly half of my take-home pay. So there are differences.

I just read an article in which a woman who gave up shopping for a year tallied the dollar (well, pound) totals of all the things she didn't buy for that year. She saved over £5000 that year. I won't be saving any money, but I will be going deeper into debt more slowly (that doesn't sound very good, does it?)

Why am I fussing over this? If I can't (won't) be disciplined with the dissertation, I may as well develop other kinds of discipline in the meantime. Retraining my habits in ways that feel unrelated to the dissertation should help "trick" me into greater productivity and discipline in other areas of my life. Already the ways in which I waste time have been changing. Etsy who?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

when i grow up

When I was small(er) I wanted to be many things. I was going to be a writer, a singer, a lawyer, a missionary, and maybe a doctor. All together. By the time I got to high school, my employment goal was to become a pastor's wife and have babies and sing in the choir and lead women's ministries and maybe homeschool my kids. In college I had no clue what to be when I grew up and decided to become a grad student instead, and so I have been for the past eight years. 

I have just begun to think that perhaps my ten year old self had a clue. Lately my ideal employment arrangement includes freelance work, adjunct or part time teaching, writing, and possibly some additional part time employment. Some have asked, "What about health insurance?" I'm not too concerned. So I'll have to buy some sort of health insurance or just pay out of pocket for my health care. I'm okay with that. Next they ask about retirement. Yeah, eventually I'll set something up (after I'm out of school; it's out of the question now). 

When I think of my future in this way, it stops feeling so oppressive. When I think of my future employment plan as a patchwork of several things I enjoy, the things I am doing now feel like preparation for my future. For the first time since I was about ten, I sense a feeling that might be the beginning of excitement about my life as a grownup. This is encouraging. This might help me to write the dissertation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Suits of armor and doubting doubt

I remember reading women’s magazines at the end of high school and after I started college so I could learn about clothes. Until the very end of high school, I refused to notice clothing or fashion. I wanted only to cover my body—the more covered the better. I wore loose jeans and oversized t-shirts and grandpa sweaters. I hadn’t yet heard of the term “body conscious” but I certainly wouldn’t have been interested, either. My standards in high-school were modest and utilitarian. The image I wanted to present (insofar as I was even aware that I was presenting an image) was that of someone who couldn’t be bothered to care about something so trivial (and sensual, and sinful) as apparel.
            Just before I went off to college, I decided I didn’t want anyone to know I was poor. I don’t think I was motivated by embarrassment so much as by pride: I wanted to be ambiguous; I wanted it to be clear that I wanted for nothing even though I was not wealthy. I bought my first pair of pants that actually fit me and this was somewhat momentous.
            Currently, I buy a little above my means. The clothing I want is just a little nicer than it needs to be. There is an image I want to present and it is important to me that others see or sense the image I want to project. I want to look Put Together. I want to be All Set. I want to look Appropriate.

It makes sense to me that I want, for myself, to be Put Together, All Set, and Appropriate. What is less clear is why it matters that anyone/everyone else see this as well. Do I really imagine that people will notice me and think to themselves, or tell their partners over dinner “I saw a woman on the street today who was very Appropriately dressed,” and that somehow I will earn credit for that acknowledgment?

Certainly what I want is approval. I do want credit. I want a grade. I like grades: they have usually been quite good and report cards full of As and +s are so gratifying. I want to be gratified. I want to feel as though I am making progress and succeeding.

This makes relationships hard. I don’t know what success looks like. I don’t know how to earn As and +s. I don’t know how to graduate from kindergarten to first grade, let alone from college to grad school. I do not know which skills to learn or how to learn them. In school, one starts at the very beginning with the alphabet and numbers and things. Amazingly difficult and complex concepts presented as though they were elementary. I suppose they are, but they are also worthy of abstruse disquisitions. But what is the equivalent to the alphabet here? Have I got the hang of the alphabet, though, and am I actually already ready to start writing words and doing simple addition? How do I know?

This feels even more difficult because I know I am not an easy person. I tend toward nervousness. I overthink everything. I make people uncomfortable. I am a little too intense. I am awkward and aloof and introspective but I am also bossy and opinionated and a know-it-all. I don’t pay attention or want to get involved, but I have a real salesperson/missionary personality. I can sell myself, but I don’t know how to give myself. Once I’ve convinced someone I am just the thing they need, I am surprised that they’ve bought my sales pitch and…I can’t deliver on the product. The pitch is the product and there’s nothing left to do but run away and try the pitch on someone else.

I have been hoping, without acknowledging that I have been hoping, that my future job will make good on my sales pitch. That I will have some Self to offer to others when I have a job. When I am self-supporting, I will be Real and will be able to back up my pitch.

It isn’t true, is it? Just like I learned over three years ago that I had to choose to be happy before I would be happy, and that no boy, friendship, doctoral position, job, book, dress, etc. would magically push me over the mental fence that demarcated where happiness was and was not; could and could not be. I had to move myself to “happy” first and then expect different boys, friends, jobs, etc. to come. And they did come. And I am happy about that.

I have a hard time believing myself to be likable because I don’t even believe that there is any “me” to like. At the same time, I want very, very much to be likable, and I feel strongly that others should make the effort. But when they do, I am not sure how to believe them: I know that they just bought a lousy sales pitch. How can I trust their judgment? That is precisely what I need to do: trust their judgment. There are some people who claim to want to spend time with me. I need to believe them. And so other peoples’ opinions can and do and should matter to me. Not about the dresses I wear, but about the reality of my existence.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Seeking Failure

This is my next goal: I want to fail. A lot. Frequently. To challenge, court, invite, and risk failure.

When one exercises one's muscles with heavy weights, one learns to work to failure to test how far the body can go to learn how to become stronger. Failure is the inability to do even one more repetition, even if offered a million dollars as a reward. When you know where failure is, you have a sense of where to begin and where your goals lie—how progress can and should be measured.

I hate failing. I avoid failure. I avoid doing anything I cannot do extremely well. I avoid anything that I know makes me look imperfect (and I worry over all the things that make me look imperfect that I do not see).

Still, I know that avoiding failure is itself failure. I avoid doing things I do not do well so that other people will think more highly of me. By avoiding these things, I make it impossible for other people to connect with me in any but the most superficial ways and so I fail in worse ways than I had feared.

So I am going to hunt down failure. I am going to learn to delight in failure. I already hate failure. I will develop a taste for it, as though it were a particularly fine cheese, or a strongly flavored liquor. I will become drunk with the success of failure. And then it will take more failure and more failure before I can fail. And I will grow stronger, and failure will become strength.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

books I have read recently

The Subversive Copyeditor
Listening Below the Noise
I Don't Know How She Does it
What Alice Forgot
A selection of Seneca's letters
The Rule of St. Benedict
The Blue Fairy Book

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I was wrong

In Shakespeare's telling, Cressida is false. I still don't find Troilus particularly true, but Cressida is indeed false.

Monday, July 25, 2011

notes taken in day three of advanced editing class

poetry, poetry translations

coding for poetry: how to make clear for typesetter
in the eg: code for poem same whether in spanish or english: The Other = the first poem (poem title one). same code for the spanish original and for the english translation. [coding doesn't come out in blog post. weird. < PoT1 > the other < / PoT1 > (maybe spaces will help)]
leave notes for the typesetter about facing pages, line numbering, coding conventions
look up the Mistral poems: mad women.
work on grammar etc.
diagram sentences. maybe 1-2 hours/week? [if i get virgin: 35/mo and then I can maybe get voice lessons, too...; structure week; make new syllabi]
go through logic book. Perhaps: spend 2-3 hrs/week on logic and sentence diagramming.
can I get my chalkboard hung on the wall? would sam hang it for me?
move desk?
get rid of couch?
file fafsa!
pay sprint bill
sign up for indexing course. advertise among faculty!

start taking editing tests
make a checklist of all the tasks I have to do for each conferral period
find and save my thank you emails from students. build a portfolio so that I can make a case for making my assistantship a staff position; outline the advantages of making my position long-term staff (half-3/4 time)
--do this 1 hr each day in office until finished; metropolis with iced tea for an afternoon.
look into starting in magazines. [still, how/where?]
book production--easier to find a job in a publishing house; good for someone who is organized
work on foreign languages; also, consider reading lists as job prep for editing (not just catch-up reading for my own edification): the more culturally informed I am, the better editor I can be (consider my responses to MUW)
study parts of book, stages of book production; vocab, names
teach: editing and teaching are very similar. teaching adjunct will help with editing; editing might help me to get teaching gigs
talk to erich about building a website

get heavier weights. just do it.
build a new blog: offer to edit, index, and advise on all and sundry matters; link to facebook
offer samples of work. try to find lady's webpage (the woman to whom I sent editing assignments in class) janine/jeanine
see if I can really get a job at ben's company: freelance or part time edit from home.

resume: simple. no bells and whistles. too fancy: looks like they have lots of money and time; looks like all fluff, no substance. should look sleek and professional but not fancy (how would mine look?). No typo anywhere. Majority have them. Majority have at least one. Recheck mine. Change typeface. When applying for editing jobs: sense of proportion. Don't make it look like editing is my fallback from academia.

write to Real Simple about their etiquette person. I should have an advice column.
learn how to use spreadsheets (does maria know? maybe she can help?)

Formatting presentations: tell students to google their questions. Remind them that what they need to do is doable and easy to find. 

one must not wait to be inspired to work (at office; freelancing; on dissertation; working out--everything)

just get a watch. go to fossil store today?

can email instructor for whole ms: how long does it take me to complete a whole manuscript? do this. goal: 100k word book in 75–100 hours.

definitely do voice lessons for well-being. so go with virgin.  t-mobile.

these classes are very stimulating. should consider taking (cheap!) classes frequently just for the change of pace, new thoughts, increased drive, creative thoughts re: whole life.

do I really need a kitchen table?

If I am going to freelance/ adjunct/ part-time--must stay very healthy so I can work for a very long time: I don't have any retirement funds! More reasons to exercise very regularly, get heavier weights, exercycle, stretch, do pushups, and walk.

nov 17–19: editing electronically. then I'll be done.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Thanks, Anne Lamott

And we are put on earth a little space.
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.

Monday, June 6, 2011


still searching for megalopsychia but right now the search requires silence.

Monday, May 16, 2011

halfway through the month

And I have used my credit card on eight out of fifteen days. Wow! So much for "no credit card" month!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


It is very difficult for me to keep track of all the decisions I make. I have started my style sheet for my dissertation. It includes rules like these:
  • no contractions
  • .3 inch tab
  • indent first lines of footnotes
  • level 1 subheads: bold type, centered, sentence-style caps
  • ragged right margin
  • dictionary: Merriam Webster 11th ed.
  • check punctuation for correct usage (en and em dashes and colons); serial comma.
  • check footnotes: terminal period? full citations at the beginnings of chapters?
  • call out promises and recollections: do I fulfill the promise to come back to item A? Do my vide supras match up?
  • check verb tenses. All match?
I should make a style sheet for my life, too:
  • no sugar before noon or after five
  • may not skip exercising for two consecutive days
  • may not use cell phone if I have consumed more than 1.5 alcoholic drinks
  • may not eat barley for more than three consecutive days
  • may not eat beans for more than two consecutive days
  • clothing must cover knees
  • monthly clothing budget may not exceed half of monthly rent amount
  • must pay bills before they are due
  • must be out of bed before 8 am
  • must eat vegetables every day
My rules are solid. What I need is an editor who will impose deadlines.

Friday, May 6, 2011

changing my environment

Last weekend I had a spring cleaning kind of weekend. I did a lot of housework, all of which was necessary and satisfying. The best part of the weekend was cleaning around and behind the oven and the refrigerator. I unplugged the fridge, pulled it away from the wall, and cleaned it all up. I vacuumed the floor, sucking up years of dust, a pile (?!) of cat food, and several cat toys. I found two corks from forgotten bottles of wine (were they even mine?). I vacuumed the back of the refrigerator which had grown fuzzy with dust, cat hair and cooking grease. I scrubbed the floor beneath the refrigerator.

I moved the oven away from the wall and swept first, discovering charred kale, a burnt mushroom, layers of borax, and a wooden spoon. Then I vacuumed, and then I scrubbed.

I've been avoiding just these tasks for some years. I've been afraid of them, worried that what I would find around the oven and behind the refrigerator would be disgusting, possibly even frightening. It wasn't. It was only mildly embarrassing--I waited so long, and for what?

Now my kitchen is wonderfully clean. It is a pleasure to stand in front of the stove. I have not dreaded getting out of bed so much these past mornings. I feel more relaxed at home, even in other rooms.

The relief I feel in having a clean kitchen has had an effect elsewhere. I am prepared to overhaul my outline for chapter three, for example. I am prepared to let go of Northanger Abbey and, just maybe, to take up Antony and Cleopatra instead. I'm sailing the Pequod to Egypt. I don't think I could have done so if my kitchen hadn't been clean.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

the dubious pleasures of self-knowledge

One of the memoirs I read just after Christmas (the first book I bought for my kindle) was Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. I liked it a lot and check up on her blog every now and again. On Wednesdays her blog posts offer tips or a quiz.

There is one quiz I keep taking, hoping for a different result. The result is always the same. The quiz is "do you make other people unhappy?" and my result is always "yes."

I've given Sara Maitland's memoir about silence a lot of credit for my increased solitude this year. That book did indeed help me to acknowledge my own need for solitude, silence, and reflection. However, I should credit Rubin's quiz for this solitude as well.

It isn't that I don't enjoy being around people. I do. And things are much more comfortable when I spend time with people one at a time, or in very small groups--I come much closer to earning a negative answer (a positive result) when I spend time with people in that way. This quiz has given me a way to interpret something I had sensed but had a difficult time understanding or discussing, and this increased awareness makes me more reluctant to spend time with others. I may be able to see that I have a negative effect on group dynamics but I don't know what to do about it. If I can't provide the antidote to my own poison (a somewhat harsh metaphor, but work with me), then it seems that the kindest action is to withhold the poison in the first place.

I think this realization still smarts a little. I know in my head that any one person cannot be everything or have every good attribute. Eventually I might be able to accept the necessity of this solitude and perhaps even to enjoy it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

lean with seeing others eat

my neighbor's part time position has been just changed to a full-time one. I know this because that is the subject of the conversation all around me. I am not a part of these conversations.

I would like myself better if I were the kind of person to be happy that his part-time staff position has been upgraded to full-time. I am not that kind of person.

But what about me? He is very relieved to be able to give up his other part-time job, to have health benefits and tuition benefits (after a period of time).

But what about me? I have no security in the world. I have no job. I have nothing waiting for me and nothing to fall back upon.

(yes, of course this is my own doing. I should have remained satisfied with my assistant manager position at Discount Retail Store X and not reached out for things beyond my station. I understand this.)

I am not a part of this office. No one asks if I'd like to join them in lunch or on walks. No one says "hey, we're ordering X--want in?" Mostly I don't mind. I am not unhappy to be left alone. And certainly it doesn't make sense to befriend a mere graduate student who will be gone in another year.

On the other hand, not fitting in doesn't help me professionally. No one here would go out of their way to help me out in future endeavors. Not many (if any) would help if it were "in their way."

This would be fine if I were otherwise secure--I'd learn to freelance and (somehow) to write so that I could work alone and on my own time. I prefer that anyway (and that is one of the best thing about my current position--I am a solitary worker, no one checks up on me, and I have a lot of freedom in the way I structure my time.)

But I am not secure. I have no reason to believe that I will ever have a job once I graduate. I have no reason to believe that I will not be homeless within three years.

Usually I can shove such thoughts aside. Today my envy overwhelms me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

things the magazines won't tell you

you don't need a microwave to pop popcorn.
(no, you don't need a lumberjack to pour your milk, either.)
suggesting that overweight women/women struggling with weight issues might consider switching from "regular" microwave popcorn to "reduced fat" microwave popcorn is just sneaky marketing.
telling fellow readers that just such a switch  helped to turn you into a weight-loss success story is revealing and sad: giving up one food product for another is not a success.

How to Make Popcorn:
Pour about 1 tablespoon of oil (grapeseed, corn, safflower, or peanut would be good; olive works but you'll have more unpopped seeds) into a 2-4 qt saucepan. Make sure this pan has a lid. Add 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernals. I like white, blue, or red ones. Yellow ones are tasteless and less crispy.

Place pan on a burner on the stove and turn the burner on. Medium heat.

Keep the pan on the burner until the popping slows down considerably. Shake popcorn into a bowl. Salt. Eat.

Homemade Microwave Popcorn (if the thought of popping on the stove is too terrifying for words):
Place popcorn kernels into a paper bag. Fold the bag shut (tiny folds: you want as much space as possible). Microwave 2-5 minutes. 

Cheap. No "butter flavor." No added coloring. No preservatives. No artificial sweeteners. No TBHQ or partially hydrogenated anything. Less packaging. Less waste. More flavor.

If popcorn is the one thing standing between you and your skinny jeans, you might want to rethink things in general though.

I, on the other hand, am the one so irritated by the magazine copy that I have devoted an entire blog post to it. So I might need to rethink some things too...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Okay May, I have a Project for you

May will be (as much as can be possible) the month of paying only with cash for everything.

Exceptions to be paid by check: rent; electric bill.

Exception to be paid by credit card: phone bill.

Everything else will be paid for in cash. Not with a debit card even. Only cash.

Monday, April 11, 2011

more books I have read lately

A Girl of the Limberlost
The Secret Garden
The Kind Diet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Gifts of Imperfection
Jane Eyre
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
A Study in Scarlet
The Hound of the Baskervilles
A Book of Silence
Listening Below the Noise
In Pursuit of Silence
Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life

monthly projects are hard

The Month of Xtreme Thr!ft was great. I ended the month feeling happy and well balanced and in control of my wallet. I learned more about my spending habits and spending style and, even if I did spend a lot in March, I am very confident in nearly all of my purchases. yay.

The Month of No Complaining was horrible. I did learn a lot. I learned that I complain a lot. I learned I complain most to those I love the most. So not cool.

In exchange for not complaining, I offered myself treats--lots of cookies! Very bad idea.

For the past three weeks or so, I've felt very off balance. After I turned in the first draft of dissertation chapter two (March 16, not that I noticed) I read several memoirs about silence and the search for silence. One of these books (A Book of Silence by Sara Maitland) was wonderful. I look forward to reading it again and I am worried to read it again--what if it doesn't live up to the feeling I currently have for it? I digress. Reading Maitland's book, I had a two-pronged "aha" moment--first, I require a lot of alone time and second, I don't like to multitask when it comes to sound.

I enjoy my time with others much more when I have had enough quality solitary time. I knew already that I am and can be quite satisfied with my own company. I hadn't quite realized that I need solitary time of a certain kind (or of certain kinds) in order to relax and behave around others. Wasting/wasted time is not quality alone time. Sitting on the couch wondering what to do next, wandering from kitchen to office putting off chores, lying in bed when I am no longer sleepy are not restorative for me. Time spent reading fashion magazines or trashy novels is not restorative. Watching movies can be mildly restorative or neutral.

Following a routine with my chores and keeping up on them is restorative. I vacuum on the weekends. I do dishes morning and evening. I do laundry once every week. I sweep every other day. When I am not overwhelmed by mess, maintaining my space is relaxing.

Time spent reading lovely books is restorative. Time spent walking along the lake is restorative. Time spent exercycling--as long as I make it at least 20 minutes--is restorative. Time spent in the Art Institute and reading certain blogs is restorative.

I seem to require an aesthetically positive and/or productive element in order to feel whole, balanced, and prepared to engage with others.

I don't like music when I take care of housework or when I read or when I write. I find it very distracting. I would rather do nothing else if I am listening to music. When I perform chores, I would rather focus upon them as chores.

Learning this was and continues to be very helpful.

Perhaps the fact of new or heightened awareness about my needs has left me a little sensitive, and perhaps this contributes to my sense of imbalance. Certainly learning how frequently I complain, feel sorry for myself, and make excuses for myself has been a disappointment.

I'm sure things will right themselves soon. But I am sensitive and then I am critical and snappish and then I am aware of my criticism and snappishness and become even more sensitive and even more disappointed. I need to sit down before I tumble into despair.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Letter to the Sartorialist and his readers

(it's a short letter)

I am a curvy size 0-2.

I am very small. But I have some lovely curves. Really.

Thank you very much.

The Philosophotarian

Monday, March 28, 2011


The question was whether it is better to have unrealistically high expectations or to have lowered expectations. I think the question is unclear and asked whether the question was whether it was better to have unrealistically high expectations or unrealistically low expectations, or whether the question was whether it was better to have unrealistically high expectations or lower, more realistic expecations. That clarifying question was not answered.

The next question, which I didn’t ask, is whether we are talking about a natural predisposition, or whether we are debating which kind of expecting one should cultivate. Is it better to tend toward having unrealistically high expectations or is it better to cultivate unrealistically high expectations are two different questions, both leading to very different discussions.

Given the original poster’s response, that unrealistically high expectations might be a useful coping tool, I am going to assume that we are debating the cultivation of expectations.

There is one woman who feels very strongly that lower expectations (whether lower than high and therefore more realistic, or lower than realistic was not made clear) are preferable. She claims that the person with lowered expectations will be pleasantly surprised when something better happens, but that the person with high expectations will never be satisfied.

It may be that she is thinking of her own life when she makes this claim, even as I am thinking of my own life when I take the opposite position, and so I hope to be kind and gentle. To both of us.

This woman further stipulated that one should have high expectations for oneself and low expectations of others. I don’t recall if she mentioned events or situations.

That sounds like a lot of work to think meanly of others and highly of myself. It sounds, I’ll say it, elitist: others simply cannot live up to my standards and quality and I shouldn’t expect it of them.

When I expect my colleagues to say racist things, to be unprofessional, to be petty and uncharitable, I usually find that these expectations turn out to have been very realistic. When I expect them to be interesting, well-informed, creative, and kind, I am sometimes surprised to find that these expectations were also realistic. Sometimes, at least, the expectations I cultivate reveal much more about the things to which I am paying attention, and about my attitudes and judgments about others, than they do about ‘the real nature of things.’ This isn’t to say that the racism isn’t there to be seen, but that the racism and the pettiness are not the whole story. The ways in which I frame my expectations of others can determine the kinds of story I tell about the world. They make the world more manageable by eliminating (or ameliorating) surprise: though I may be surprised when my racist colleague says something enlightened, by calling him or her (in my head) The Racist, I learn to forget to look for other parts in his or her personality. I make the world smaller instead of letting my idea of the world grow larger.

When I expect very little from my boyfriend by the way of conversation, time spent together, the desire to communicate with me and not just the me in his head, I find that I am even less satisfied with what I get. Instead of enjoying the time we have together and delighting in his company and conversation, I realize that I have been consumed with measuring that time and company and conversation. Measuring is not delightful. Lowering and lowering my expectations in this case requires constant measuring: are my expectations lower than they were yesterday? Good. Measuring and perhaps a little air of martyrdom.

When I expect very little from myself or from my life, I find that I push people away, I fall back upon rehearsed performances of anxiety, I grow envious and self pitying. No, I will never get a job. I’ll have to go into Exile. How many times have I said this? Worse, how many times have I said this when others have congratulated me for having made progress on my dissertation? How many times have I so responded when others, who have more faith in me than I do with myself, have tried very gently to remind me that the future I picture may not be accurate?

These are three things: framing the world, measurement and evaluation, and faithfulness. The expectations I have or choose to have tell a story about how I interpret and move through the world. They reveal the ways in which and the extent to which I thrust measurement and evaluation between myself and the people and situations that make up my world. They are themselves a measure of the faith or faithlessness—better, unfaithfulness—that makes up my attitude toward people and events and situations—the world.

When I expect little from others and from myself, I tell a story about all of us that turns us into the kind of people from whom little (or little good, anyway) can be expected. I tell a story about essences and about worth.

When I measure my interactions with others and when I try to scrupulously measure my own responses and beliefs, I substitute my measurements for people and events and situations and even, sometimes for myself. I don’t respond to a friend as my friend, but as a quantity of experiences which I then judge. I become my friends’ and lover’s judge and set myself up as arbitor of reality and of goodness.

I am unfaithful to my colleagues, acquaintances, family and friends when I expect very little out of them. I am unfaithful to my boyfriend when I expect very little from him. I am unfaithful to myself when I expect very little from myself now or in the future.

Given this, I am lead to believe that I must carefully craft my expectations based upon the love I wish to bear. Not even upon the love I do currently bear, because that love is tainted with the ghosts of previous determinations and judgments and infidelities and despair. The love I wish to bear is free from these things. It is upon this love that I will build my expectations.