Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Calm Before the Storm

Over the years, I’ve learned that the best way to handle the glooms that arrive in January is to sink into the quiet and find ways to enjoy the small pleasure of life. The glooms always arrive now, between the darkness, the sad anniversaries and the after-effects of the exertions of the holidays. After a damp and foggy weekend, this afternoon has become a bright and clear; the sunshine always lifts my spirits.

Classes start Tuesday, though since my teaching in the first half of the semester is all on Mondays, I have an extra bit of respite before being sucked into the activity machine. There are always last-minute things to do, no matter how much planning you do in advance--emails from students, setting up rosters and gradebooks, and such. I’m trying to make my classes less paper-intensive, which means using the current course management system the university has adopted. It’s maddening. A lot. Really.

Instead of ranting about it, which would be easy and ultimately serve little constructive purpose, I’ve been alternating messing with it and cleaning up my hard drives. It’s satisfying to empty the trash and see space reappearing, as well as rationalizing where things are, and, I hope, saving me time later in the semester. I’ve archived all of last semester’s classes while keeping the grades and info about students I’ll need for writing letters of recommendation, made sure I have all (and only) current copies of this semester’s assignments, readings, etc., and pitched wholesale student submissions from previous semesters. It’s the perfect quiet-time activity. It’s got no particular deadline--anything I do is an advance for the good of the order--it has visible rewards, and it’s entirely under my own control. What could be better than that?

Other of life’s little pleasures worth appreciating: Clementine tangerines, the sunshine, my heated footrest under my desk (thank you, Michael), and the great comforter we indulged in this fall. Now that I’m learning to manage my energy better, I’m back trying to exercise every day. One of the things I’d forgotten is how dramatically that improves the quality of my sleep. Deep sleep is wonderful and worth appreciating. On top of all that, Shea completed her travel back to school safely. We’ll miss her, and we also savor the quiet. We had a wonderful visit with her, including a great family expedition to the Lincoln Museum and the Dana Thomas House in Springfield, laying down memories. Now, she’s back to exploring who she’s going to become, which is also a good thing and a joy to observe.

That’s a lot to savor. Cheers.

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