Saturday, February 20, 2010

Integrating Experience over Time

To preserve the best-quality sleep, even when a great thought or the perfect way to express it occurs to me in the night, mostly I don’t wake up enough to record it. It’s always a close call, and often regretted when the lovely wording or observation has completely vanished come morning. Those that are recorded in the night--always at the cost of restful sleep--are almost always useful and valuable, so it’s a constant battle of values to decide whether to wake up enough to save them or to take the risk of the inspiration evaporating. Over the last years, I’ve tried repeating the ideas out loud, telling them to Michael and asking for his help in remembering them (useless; I might as well have asked the bedside table to hold a thought), repeating a key word over and over... anything short of waking up enough to record the thought. This is a long way of saying that last night brought a great insight about my progress to date, and the process of integrating this experience into my life, that today is gone.

For whatever reason, I’m back grappling with this whole strangeness of what it means to have had a large brain tumor at midlife and the good fortune of mostly being able to resume my regular life with some adjustments. It’s all strange. At the same time, it’s odd to have had this experience, and odd to have escaped from it so relatively unscathed given the alternatives.

In thinking about the arc of this experience, and trying to attain some perspective, I’ve also come to realize that one of the things about my recent working years is how un-moored they’ve been. Once I left the provost’s office and took up my life with multiple masters in my new appointments divided across units and colleges, there’s no one person or place where anyone really sees the whole of my activities. Instead, everything I do is divided into discrete pockets, where each person who receives information is happy enough with what I do, but never sees how it fits into the big picture. While I suppose this is good practice for retirement (coming ever closer), it’s been an odd finish to a long working relationship with one organization. In a strange way, it brings its own sadness, which for whatever reasons of self-delusion and denial, I’m really only now coming to recognize.

After several weeks of flat-out activity, I’m tired. Things are not going to improve much until I submit grades in mid-May, I’m afraid. Each of the next two weeks brings travel, then a week of “respite” right before the sprint of an 8-week intensive course for professional students starts, and then the simultaneous end-of-semester tasks for three courses at once. This weekend, I’m going to rest. I’ve got stuff to do, of course, and this June conference I got roped into helping with may yet turn out to be the straw that makes it all collapse, but I’m moderately optimistic that with enough planning ahead and pacing, I can yet pull this off. As Dr. Donnie would say, we’ll know more next week.

In the meantime, as the eighteen-month mark approaches, it does feel like the prediction that there would be a major turning point someplace between there and two years may yet come true. Things are both improving and I’m getting better at reconciling to some of the deficits that look to be permanent. My attitude about it all is better, and certainly, my jokes about some of the problems are becoming polished enough that they get a laugh just about every time. That’s all progress. And, never forgetting the Urbana weather report, we’re expecting more snow this weekend, which will make it a grand time to be snuggling up indoors, resting and working in turn. Happy weekend to all.

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