Sources of inspiration

Grumbles and procrastination clearing; forecast offers a chance of further improvement.

A lot of my grumpiness has to do with facing a very old R&R. I want to be done with it. I wish my past self had just done it right away. But when the reviews came in, my past self was struggling with the MMP, and then the series editors put both feet down about the Huge Honking Translation, and what with one thing and another, including my promotion application last year, years have passed. Not without efforts toward the R&R, but now this is one of the contributing factors: I have layers of notes and outlines to review as I try to figure out what the plan was, and the mass of material is daunting.

Since I finally spent an hour re-reading these, I’m feeling more like tackling the thing and getting it over with.

I’m also looking over my shoulder, suspecting that making the effort will (by Sod’s Law) bring down the Translation Editors or some other type of interference with the work.

Yesterday when I was procrastinating/looking for inspiration, I found a couple of helpful posts. One is from a gardener. The advice sounds a lot like any planning process, but it’s useful to see that people in other areas have the same problems and solutions. Here’s what Jen in Frome says at https://doingtheplan.com/2017/04/21/planning-and-doing-the-plan/

  1. Do Stuff. Take small steps frequently to get more good things thriving . . . . Lots of little things done each day adds up to a lot done over the month.
  2. Review. Note down what was done and when, and keep observing and thinking about what’s working out and what’s what’s not.
  3. Plan. Check what’s done so far against what’s hoped for in future, and set out a few next steps to get a bit closer to your goal.

Another is Kameron Hurley on working through fear and writing fatigue, here: https://www.kameronhurley.com/lets-talk-creativity-fear-losing-magic/ Hurley says, “Much of the time I feel I’m spending “writing” is actually time I spend feeling guilty because I can’t write, or because I feel that what I’m writing is utter shit. That’s not “writing” time. It’s my time with The Fear. So much of my writing time has been taken up talking with The Fear that I couldn’t figure out why shit wasn’t getting done. It certainly felt, emotionally, like I was working REALLY HARD. But arguing with your fear isn’t working. Feeling bad for not working isn’t working. Being angry about not working isn’t working.”

Yes, and no. Arguing, feeling bad, and being angry are certainly a lot of emotional labor. Doing them doesn’t necessarily “work,” as in, make it possible to get back to work. But it doesn’t help to pretend The Fear isn’t happening, either. I wound up negotiating with mine. I put on the music I usually use for grading, spread print-outs all over my desk (so I had to see them), and set a timer for ten minutes. That was all I needed to get into the task. When the timer went off, I was annoyed and immediately re-set it for 25 minutes, and made a lot of progress in that time. I needed the short time to start, though, because 25 seemed like way too much time for demon-fighting.

Am I embarrassed about having this sort of work problem, still, again, at my stage of career? Hell yeah. I also hope that admitting to it, publicly if pseudonymously, may help some other people who might be having the same problem. You can get past it. Sometimes you can go years without The Fear. But it’s also a thing that comes back with the right triggers, the right combination of factors, the wrong encounter with someone who pushes certain buttons. The only way I’ve ever found to deal with it is Virginia Valian’s: make the task smaller. As small as you need to. Ten minutes. Five. And be kind to yourself, because the piece of work is not really the problem. It’s all the emotions that have got tangled up with that piece of work. They might be big things that need therapy, or they might be ghosts of something you cleared up long ago, or they might just be bad habits.

If it’s not a good day, if The Fear is happening to you, if you’re procrastinating, give it five minutes, write down what you did in that time, and come back to the thing tomorrow. That’s all. Five minutes, and a note about what you did in the time.

Mustn’t grumble. Mustn’t . . . oh, hell, why not?

Definitely in the category of First-World problems, I do realize.

All my e-mail programs are now doing two-factor authentication, which I hate. I don’t even have a smartphone, but I still get annoyed when the dumb phone buzzes. I do not want to be messing with the frigging phone when I’m trying to work on my desktop computer.

I shut down my computer over the weekend, including shutting 18 tabs in Firefox (I don’t know, it just happens) and when I hit “restore previous session” I got six back. One-third is not very good restoration, Firefox! I remembered a few that I wanted to have back, such as the drill for principle parts of ancient Greek verbs, and located a few more through my browsing history, which I am very lazy about clearing out. But I’d had some of them hanging around for long enough that I’m not really sure what was there, just that I wanted to be able to click over to look at them for inspiration sometimes.

Inspiration. I not haz. Motivation neither. I slept badly because I woke up both hot and with my wonky hip hurting (and though I know it’s muscular, in the middle of the night I always start wondering if I need a hip replacement already and how that might have happened), and I have a headache because of allergies and not sleeping well, so I’m late to start on anything this morning. And that just strengthens the “why haven’t I done this already it must be because I suck” buzzy-bugge voices.

I will just sit with the grumpiness for awhile. I have jasmine tea, two snoozing cats in my study, and a leafy green view. Eventually those may take effect! I’m not sure I even have the attention span to keep up a good head of Grumble all day long.

Memoria

Memoria, in Latin, is feminine. It declines as follows:

Singular nominative (subject case): memoria                    plural: memoriae

Singular genitive (possessive): memoriae                           plural: memoriarum

Singular dative (indirect object): memoriae                       plural: memoriis

Singular accusative (direct object): memoriam                  plural: memorias

Singular ablative (object of prepositions such as with, by, from): memoriā          plural: memoriis

Thus, in the well-known phrase in memoriam, you need an a, not a u. There is no such word as *memorius in Latin. If you can’t get your genders and cases right, stick to plain English: in memory of, or just in memory if you aren’t going to add a person’s name, is clear and elegant.

In memoriAm.

A week of spring

But how is it already a week since I posted?

Spring is moseying along thinking about whether it really wants to show up or would rather just turn back, go home, and put its fleecy pjs back on for a Netflix binge. There are more birds. They perch on the roof next door and taunt Reina, who chitters at them. There are snowdrops and crocuses in other people’s yards, not mine. Some other bulb flowers have stuck leaves above ground, in my yard, but that’s all. I considered raking up the leaves/mulch from last year, but we’re still supposed to have some below-freezing nights in the next week, so I think I will wait.

One of my classes is still awesome. The other, well. I had them sign up for conferences about their third paper, and lectured them a bit about making the most of the opportunity by doing a little work beforehand, like at least decide which option they want to write on. And check the instructions for the paper, because I am not giving them instructions just to make them jump through hoops, I am telling them how to do well on this paper and exactly what I am looking for if they will just read the instructions.

I mean, I can explain it to you again but I can’t understand it for you.

I once had a massage therapist who told me that in Chinese thinking, spring is the angry season. Works for me. Of course, then I need some excuse for my mood during the other seasons.

Sometimes I look at spring clothing online or in the catalogs that still show up in the mail, and consider this dress or that shirt, and then realize I don’t want to buy anything new, I want it to be warm enough to wear the spring clothing I have.

Lots of the bloggers I read post recipes they have tried or devised, or about meals they have enjoyed. Sometimes I enjoy these vicariously but more often lately I get cranky because I can’t eat that, can’t eat that, can’t eat the other thing either. It seems like some people travel to eat. I travel to look at things, because architecture, paintings, and scenery don’t make me sick.

I am making progress on some of the things I need to work on rather than having feeeelings about (mainly guilt) but now my feeeeeling is omg there is so much of this no wonder I didn’t want to do it because this is going to take so long. That is, I absolutely should have started sooner, but now the only thing to do is keep slogging along because It Is Not Going To Get Any Earlier, and the best I can do now is Don’t Make It Worse.

Usually this is the sort of thing I say to myself in February. Hey, April, are you going to be bringing warm days and a burst of energy? Come on, girl, we could use you over here. Take off the pjs and put on a flowered dress, you’ll have a good time once you get there.

Grumpy and grumpy, with a side order of grumpy

Could I have some with not so much grumpy in it?

I have lost a stripy scarf I’m fond of. There is a great deal of snow on the ground. The house has settled a bit more so there are more cracks in the ceiling (we were hoping to sell it before any more settling happened). Sir John has had an infection that could have been serious (fortunately he is responding to antibiotics and all is well, hence I am merely grumpy about this and not freaking out). We’re a little under-equipped for being snowed in, due to his illness and me not getting the right things at the store, which happened because I was distracted by the first week of classes and having to finish off final edits to the revised introduction to the Big Honking Translation (okay, yay that that’s done). Lady Maud’s father has entered hospice care, which is sad though he has had a good life and people are rallying around because he is a wonderful, loving and beloved man (a great contrast to my father, the old grouch). The son of a friend of Sir John’s has been diagnosed with cancer. This child is still in single digits. I feel guilty feeling grumpy about my scarf (let’s just say I’m displacing my distress) when 2019 is already sucking very hard for a couple of sets of friends.

The nicest thing this week was reading The Dalemark Quartet, which I got for Christmas and finally broke out. But the downside to that is that now there is no more Diana Wynne Jones that I have not read. I put off Dalemark for years, so that there would still be something. I’m trying to persuade myself to do some work rather than getting out Rotherweird, which I got in London, intending it for the plane, but then our over-seat lights didn’t work so I spent the flight working on my laptop (and got quite a bit of useful course prep done as well as saving the book, so ill winds etc).

Bah!

Humbug.

The great thing about Christmas is that once the 25th rolls around, the hoopla is over and normal life can resume. I could use some normal life. I went and visited my family for nearly a week, as soon as exams were over, so I was still grading, and I managed to do a little writing each day as well. Sometimes only a sentence, but I did something.

Then I came home and stopped writing for nearly another week. I don’t know how that happened. A dab of jet lag, getting up later in the morning so I didn’t have my preferred early morning writing slot; determination to re-establish a gym habit; assorted small distractions that really are no excuse. Really I think what happened was that I needed to recover from the family visit. I spent a lot of time reading novels, doing crosswords, and working on a jigsaw puzzle, all prime self-soothing activities. I wrote six single-spaced pages about my father and the one brother I saw during my visit. I saw him for an hour, total: can one person be that irritating in one hour? If it’s my Brother Less Reasonable, why yes, yes he can. I keep reminding myself that I have had far more therapy than he has, that I can understand what is going on and feel compassion, that I need to keep in mind my goal (our father’s care) and not get distracted by petty complaints about our father’s character.

Unfortunately, doing all that emotional labor tends to exhaust my store of patience for dealing with Other People, so that I get snappish with people at the gym, and impatient with my mother-in-law’s political discourse. (Seriously, what is it with people who can’t stand the current president and yet talk about him all.the.time? Anything, anything else would be preferable. Explain the rules of football to me [again]. Talk about the Kardashians. Your favorite television shows. The iniquities of handymen and plumbers. Anything!)

Today there will be no Other People. That is, my gym will be open for another couple of hours, so if I get my act together I could go work out and hope not to run into anyone annoying. But I could just spend the whole day at home and not see anyone except Sir John and the cats. Since I’ve finished La Belle Sauvage (A, looking forward to next one), Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children (B: okay but will not go on with the series), and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (not so satisfying as I remember; question: to teach or not to teach?), I can go on to Pedro I El Cruel y Enrique de Trastámara, which was supposed to be my winter break project (research plus language maintenance). I could give up and look up the answers for the crossword puzzle I’m stuck on (far too many names of TV and sports figures) so I can fill it in and go on to another. At some point after Sir John wakes up, we will exchange presents, and then maybe go back to the jigsaw. I cooked yesterday so we will eat leftovers. As usual when writing has been not-happening, I feel like I ought to Write All The Things, but let’s set the bar low: one sentence on the Overdue Thing, and some polishing of an abstract for a conference submission, and then I’ll have re-started.

If you are celebrating today, then I hope you’re enjoying yourself and don’t feel like murdering your relatives. If you’re not celebrating, then I hope you’re having a peaceful and productive day.

Ask a stupid question

I just had to update my account with an airline. This meant selecting and providing answers for a list of security questions.

WTF. Who makes up these questions? And how old are they? The list included “favorite ice cream flavor” and “favorite pizza topping.” I cannot eat either ice cream or pizza. If I make something up, I’ll have to write it down somewhere, because I’ll never remember. I think I made my attitude about “favorite” this and that clear seven years ago: https://dameeleanorhull.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/book-meme/  I have not changed my mind since then!

The answers are also to be selected from a list. I’ll give them credit for this much: there were some pretty creative answers for “favorite musical instrument,” including “didgeridoo,” but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have “crumhorn.”

Others included “month of your best friend’s birthday”: I don’t have a best friend. “Month you met your significant other.” For that, I’d have to ask Sir John; he’s the one who keeps track of such things. Besides, what about people who have gone through an SO or two since the time they provided answers? Do people have to work back through a process like “okay, I think I was dating Dave then, or was it Eric, and I remember when we broke up, but did we meet in summer or late spring? Maybe it was May because I think we went to that picnic for Memorial Day . . . or was it Mike at that picnic?” Are Kids These Days more inclined to stick to one person, or am I the only old broad who went around the block a few times before settling down with my most excellent and well-beloved husband who remembers the actual date we met and not just the season?

Favorite subject in school. Favorite winter activity. Favorite vacation.

I think my favorite winter activity is Ranting About Stupid Shit I Hate Because I Have SAD And Hate Everything.

That was not an option.

How about “Favorite child”? Wouldn’t that cause a few family rumbles when someone’s trying to help Mom update her account! Hey, how about “Favorite Significant Other” or “Best F^*k”? Or something I have an actual opinion about, like Favorite Toilet Paper, Your Usual Shampoo Brand, Preferred Brand of Chocolate, Your Pet’s Preferred Food/Brand, or Your Toothpaste? I’m in favor of a question that would make people learn something: Most Distressing Plague in History, Worst Civil War, Favorite English Monarch, Favorite Roman Deity, Favorite Ruined Temple. The answers could show pictures or link to Wikipedia.

What’s your least favorite security question?

Saturday morning

  • Wake at 0640 because Basement Cat feels yowly; pull on clothes, go down with BC, let him lick out Glendower’s bowl because Glendower finished his food last night. Make tea.
  • Observe that it is snowing. I had thought I might sweep up some leaves today. Never mind.
  • Sit in front of light box working through Dead Languages, then reading a chunk of a less-dead chronicle.
  • Feed cats.
  • Start cooking my favorite breakfast. We’re out of spinach, but have leftover cooked chard. Cut that up and heat it in the microwave, add the rice, beat two eggs and pour the liquid over the rice and chard. This looks odd. Oh! I should have just broken the eggs into the pan. Did chopping the chard remind me of cutting up potatoes, so I thought I was making a tortilla española? Well, it’s a frittata now. MORE TEA.
  • Cut up cotton gauze for brushing cats’ teeth. Brush cat teeth.
  • Head back to study with tea, to tackle the day’s thrashing exercise. Write-grade-plan/book travel-pay bills-write-grade etc. If I Write First, then I can at least try to soothe the deadlinedeadlinedeadline voices with assurances that I’m working on it.
  • So, as exercise in procrastination, write blog post. It’s a good thing I didn’t commit to daily blogging during November. Still, I’m doing more than I usually do, so let that be a lesson in not letting the best be the enemy of the good.
  • More internet procrastination: read the winter weather prediction, for a colder-than-normal winter here.
  • Draw curtains and turn light box back on. La la la not listening to anyone but my friends the iguanas. It’s always the same weather inside this nice iguana tank.

Heidegger is a boozy beggar

On a good day, when I am adequately rested and caffeinated and the brain is properly in gear, I can just about cope with some of the French philosophizers and theorists: Bourdieu, Saussure, even Derrida.

I don’t so much get on with the Germans.

Someone among my colleagues, presumably whoever has taught the theory class in recent years, seems to be playing for the German team in that famous soccer football match (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur5fGSBsfq8). So my graduate students keep coming up with references to Habermas, Hegel, and Heidegger, and I give them blank looks and ask them to go back to the primary (medieval) texts, and to look, literally just look at a manuscript page and tell me what they see there besides words: describe the layout and the paratextual elements such as headers. They look at me. I look brightly and expectantly back.

It’s nice to be old enough that I really don’t care about the things I don’t know. That is, not that I’m done learning things, but I don’t get the panicked feeling that I really ought to know about Hegel and if I don’t I’m a big fraud and will never get tenure. I know what I know. If the grads are deliberately trying to impress me, well, that’s not the way to go; and if they’re trying to show that they know something I don’t, I’m sure there are loads of things they know that I don’t but my job is to teach them my stuff (and leave someone else to teach them to tell the Germans from the Greeks). If they’re trying to hand-wave their way out of being able to explain an idea, I’m absolutely the wrong audience. Explain it to me in words of one or two syllables, without reference to jargon, and we’ll see how well you understand it.

Basement Cat strikes again

I know They don’t like Me to do it, but I can’t help Myself: I need to chew on plastic. Those covers on magazines, mmm, I perforate them all the way around if I can. Plastic bags. Bubble wrap. Anything, really. It’s just this thing I do. This morning I discovered that They didn’t take off the strip of plastic that binds a bunch of bananas together (disgusting things, bananas, fruit in general, really, hoo-mans will eat the strangest things) so I chewed it off for Them. I got a bit of it caught in My throat so I threw up. Of course it was on the table! That’s where I was! I mean, if I’d already been on the floor, obviously I would have chosen the rug, but why would I jump down just to throw up? That doesn’t make sense. I gather that She was not pleased when she found My puke all over the table, but that’s what She gets if She’s going to sleep late. She should get up when I do, and feed Me, instead of removing Glendower’s leftovers and going back to sleep. It’s not like She needs twenty hours a day. (He seems to need more than She does, but He is clearly part Cat, since He has a furry face.)