Mundane Monday

I might be getting the hang of this early-rising thing. I woke up not too long after sunrise today, partly because I was hot. I think it’s time to remove the comforter and replace it with a couple of blankets that can be peeled off in layers, as necessary.

The day started with a medical appointment, so it mostly got better from there. I’ve been catching up on deferred maintenance, and with luck this will be the last appointment for awhile. Deferred not only because of the pandemic, but because during it first my primary-care doctor changed practices and then retired, and after going through the hassle of transferring records once, I wasn’t eager to do it again. But usually I’m reasonably conscientious about doing the medical things you’re supposed to do, and I have (am supposed to have) good insurance*, so I finally got around to all this.

*Am supposed to have: when eventually I got around to finding a new doc near the new house, I duly phoned and talked to someone at the insurance company who dated my coverage with the new doc and location to 1 March. Then I made and attended appointments in March. I started getting bills from the new doc. I called the insurance and found that my new coverage, though yes, supposed to start 1 March, wasn’t processed till 6 April. I foresee more phone calls in the near future, convincing the medical practice to put the insurance charges back through instead of dunning me.


After that I got to go to a committee meeting about teaching evaluations, which was fairly contentious. (The stakes are so low . . . )

Class went well, meeting with a graduate student went well, and I had a pleasant evening walk around the more attractive side of my campus.

Steady Saturday

A day of chipping away at things.

I knocked off all the graduate applications that turned up in the past week or so.

I finally finished color-coding a research-related spreadsheet. This is a task started some long time ago, and I believed I had finished it until in January (I think) I consulted it, and found it was not fully colorized, nor had I found all the relevant page numbers in the new, now standard, edition. So I started working on this project in place of writing. Now I’ll be able to get back to writing, since now I can easily find relevant passages.

I also finished reading a medieval text I’ve been working through for awhile.

And I booked tickets to go to my youngest nephew’s wedding, a trip back to Familyland. Let’s see how family visits go without any aged parents involved.

The day wasn’t all taken up with necessary tasks. I went for a walk. I finished John Cleese’s autobiography (memoir?), and read some short stories by Jane Yolen, though both were in the end unsatisfying. Cleese’s book could be described as a portrait of the artist as a young man, with an extra chapter about the Python reunion. Yolen’s stories are fine one at a time, but en masse they cloy.

Functional Friday

The plumbers did their job well, so now we can run water again, do laundry, wash vegetables and ourselves. Yay! It was quite novel to have breakfast before 9:00. Maybe I’ll get the hang of getting up early again.

Other things I have done today:

  • read for my grad class
  • corrected proofs for a book review
  • walked about 2 miles
  • met with a student
  • met with dead language group
  • cooked greens
  • processed two loads of laundry
  • bought groceries (there will be more cooking)
  • went thrifting, and scored an Eileen Fisher velvet top for $7

Thwarted on Thursday

I had plans for today, mostly about work I was going to polish off: research, service tasks, some stray things to grade.

But we have a clogged pipe in the basement, which I spent awhile trying to unplug myself, before I determined that I lack the right tools and we needed a professional. While doing this, I forgot all about a scheduled online student conference.* Oops!

Called the plumber, got voicemail, left a message. The cleaners came; I told them not to do any laundry and to take it easy on running water in the kitchen.

Called the plumber back, got a person who can send someone tomorrow (good), in the first morning slot, 8-10.

Back in the days when I regularly left the house before 7:00, I wouldn’t have minded this, but these days it’s noteworthy if I’m out of bed before 9:00. Sir John, as I frequently note, is a vampire. We do want to get our pipes seen to before the weekend, but this is going to be a little painful.

Well, yes, first-world problems.

In the end, I did manage to do some work on a spreadsheet, some edits on an accepted article that needed a little titivating, and my dead-language prep for tomorrow. And take a walk.

*Student hadn’t done the reading and was glad to re-schedule.

Ten things I did today

      1. Slept till 9:15
      2. Went for the longest walk I’ve taken since I got sick
      3. Read some of what I’ll be teaching in this week’s grad class
      4. Cooked brunch for the two of us
      5. Worked on a research-related spreadsheet
      6. From primary sources, answered an obscure question for a friend working on a related project
      7. Granted a student an extension on a paper coming due
      8. Took a shower to warm up
      9. Took a nap
      10. Set mousetraps

      Thanks to Ganching for the format.

      Ending one silence

      It has been a very, very long time since I’ve had any contact with my first boyfriend. We dated for four years, but it was an often-stormy relationship that ended badly. Some years back, I stopped thinking ill of him, and also got a better perspective on what a self-absorbed drama queen I was in my teens (“unlike every other teenager,” Sir John said, kindly).

      After some web-stalking and dithering, I sent him a brief note to say hi. He was pleased to hear from me, and wrote me the nicest note about my dad, really the best one I have received. I wish I could have told my father what he’d done for my boyfriend (I guess I need a pseudonym for him, although of course in my generation every man is named Michael, David, or John, so the real one wouldn’t give much away). If my dad remembered David (we’ll say), of course; in the last year, he seemed not to remember much about my youth. He knew perfectly well who I was, but I had the impression that along with being me, I sort of stood in, as well, for my mother and his mother, that I was an amalgam of every comforting feminine presence in his life.

      But my dad’s death was one of the prompts for initiating contact, along with memories of my mother, in her last years, worrying over someone she had dated, or been friends with, when she was young.* Somehow, she knew where this man was, or had been, and that his wife was still alive, and maybe he was. My mother worried and dithered over whether to get in touch, or if that would be unwelcome, and on and on, rather tediously. She never wanted to take the step, and that seemed sad to me. If there had been no response, or if she had been rebuffed, then at least she’d know; and maybe it would have been nice for them all to reminisce about the days of their youth. The passage of enough time can shift people’s perspectives remarkably.

      So I decided I’d take the risk with David, taking the advice I tried to give my mother. It seems like we’re in the same place as far as feeling that having been young together trumps any unhappy memories. It’s early days, but I’m happy that we can reconnect.

      At the same time, I think I needed the long break. If we’d always been connected through the Book of Face (which I have never been on), or had heard about each other through friends, that would make the situation feel very different. Probably a constant irritant, TBH.

      *I never was sure I had the whole thing straight; she tended to speak allusively, to forget that she was talking to someone who didn’t know the story, who hadn’t been there. But I think the story was that he was a college classmate, young but already married, with whom she had coffee a time or two. When he telephoned her house to make some arrangements (about a church-group gathering? again, not sure), my grandmother made a scene about her “seeing a married man.” But the wife was also a friend . . . I don’t know. It was very muddled. If you have a lurid mind, it could sound bad, but my mother was immensely innocent as a young woman, and probably thought it was the height of sophistication to have a cup of coffee with a married man.

      More silence

      Along with being able to silence my phone, it has occurred to me that when my Brother Less Reasonable sends me e-mail, I can . . . . . . . just . . . . . . . . . . not . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . answer.

      Even if I do the thing he wants me to do, I don’t have to tell him about it.

      I don’t need to placate him or humor him or argue with him.

      My Brother More Reasonable observes normal conventions of human interaction, like asking how Sir John and I are doing, and provides explanations/rationales when there are things he would like me to do. So he gets responses. I even enjoy interacting with him.

      Just Stay Silent. It’s an amazing pleasure.

      Conversational styles

      Maybe I belonged to the Society of Friends in a past life. I like to have some spaces in conversation.

      At the same time, I want some back-and-forth. One of my brothers doesn’t really converse; he monologues. He’s happy to take turns: once he’s told his story, he’ll listen to someone else’s. But by the time he has finished, I’ve checked out and am just murmuring “Hum” and “Go to,” without feeling the slightest impulse to contribute.* I have a friend** from another walk of life who is prone to unloading for an hour or so, which I find exhausting, maybe because I don’t check out and feel a need to provide proper responses.

      My idea of a proper conversation goes something like this: someone makes an observation about the weather or other neutral topic, such as “Nice to have some sun” or “Sure looks wet out there.” All present agree that the weather is weathering and contemplate the weather for a bit. Anyone not up for talking now closes eyes and falls asleep in the sun, or goes to take a nap, or declares a need to run errands and offers to bring back anything desired from wherever they’re going.

      Anyone remaining has tacitly declared that they are up for conversation. Someone asks a question like “How’s it going with X?” or maybe “I was thinking about what you said [last time/ in e-mail/ to someone else] and I wondered [if you would elaborate / how that might apply to Other Thing / if you had thought about Approach].” The topic might be personal, with friends like Queen Joan or Lady Maud, or it might be a more general topic like kitchen renovation, books, or gardening.

      The addressee is allowed time to think about an answer, to develop it a bit, but does not monologue. A few sentences, maybe, perhaps finishing with a question about the original questioner’s experience with contractors, or at book group, or with invasive species. Or maybe all present contemplate this answer and the sun / rain / snow / wind before someone relates the answer back to her house hunt and refusal even to contemplate a house with a kitchen that someone else had already renovated.

      This model works best for long, lazy, in-person visits, as it were house parties with Queen Joan and Lady Maud. I’m willing to speed things up and allow for more wit and repartee at, say, a dinner party, where there are more people and probably less time. OTOH, when you have more people, there can be performers and audience; there is space for some people to sit out and contemplate the main conversation. I do think the performers need to shut up sometimes and let the quiet ones have a chance to get a word in edgewise.

      I know families where the model is “everyone talks constantly at full volume about whatever is on their minds and no one listens to anything said by anyone else.” They make me homesick for my monologuing brother.

      *I think this brother thinks I am naturally the quiet type and love to listen to him, or maybe that I am just boring and have no stories to relate. “No stories” is probably true. I don’t organize my life in anecdotes.

      **At this point maybe I am more a friend to her than she to me, but (a) I think she does need someone to unload to, and (b) some time ago her willingness to listen to me unloading saved my sanity during a particularly awful family visit, so yes, a friend even if sometimes a tiring one.

      Another month

      Time flies. Fruit flies.

      I seem to be having an asymptotic recovery, curving ever closer to normal, but never quite arriving. Maybe in another month or so. Certainly I do better in warmer weather, which I am only privileged to notice because this has been a very mild winter. That is, mostly mild, with some cold days when I try not to go out.

      Sometime in the last month, a friend in Pacific Standard Time was sending texts rather later than I wanted to receive them. It dawned on me that I could silence my phone.

      For at least fifteen years, maybe all this century, unless I was in a shut-off-your-cell phone situation such as being on a plane, I’ve had my phone on and by me at all times, in case of That Call.

      As it worked out, Those Calls generally came in the afternoon, and I never had to get the first plane out in the morning. Although my mother might have believed I could break the laws of physics, my siblings are rational people and were always able to make plans to cover the situation until I could reasonably turn up. In December, I’d just been to visit; they knew I was sick; there was no reason to do anything but keep me informed, at reasonable hours, of what was happening. But it took me another month to silence my phone at night, because it was such a habit.

      On the occasions that Sir John goes out at night without me, then I’d have it on. But I don’t think there’s anyone else who couldn’t wait till morning to tell me whatever the news is.

      Schedules and sleep

      For years I’ve been moaning about having to teach night classes followed within 48 hours by an early morning class or meeting. By nature I’m a morning person (though not an extreme one), and the only time I ever coped well with night classes was back in the last century, when I was able to stack all my obligations in the afternoons and evenings, thus allowing me to sleep from roughly midnight to 8:00 a.m. on a regular basis.

      For the first time in the twenty-first century, thanks in part to Zoom and also to some retirements, I have that schedule again.

      And yet after my first night class of the semester, I was up till 2:00 a.m. and still didn’t sleep well. Too much stimulation: a day full of new people! a different classroom! also an unhappy colleague to talk off a ledge, and staying late to scan some things that need to go on the V(i)LE site, and finally lying awake thinking (more with pleasurable excitement than with anxiety, but still, awake) about things I needed to do. I hope I get used to the new people and classroom. I never realized the extent to which sheer physical exhaustion used to help me sleep after I got all keyed up to stay awake for class and the drive home.

      At any rate, I’m now regularly doing work after dinner, to replace the now-missing mornings. It’s interesting! It feels like re-connecting with my grad-student self. Like early mornings, evenings are peaceful: incoming e-mail is rare, and there’s a feeling that “normal” people are doing other things, not demanding my attention.

      Actually my morning-person leanings have been in trouble since last summer, when for various reasons I kept being unable to sleep till very late, and then either sleeping late the next day or taking naps. But basically I was tired all summer. The fall term put me back on a closer-to-normal schedule, but I was still tired a lot of the time.

      Then when I had Covid I sort of turned into a cat, no circadian rhythms at all. I couldn’t sleep for more than a couple of hours at a stretch, because I’d wake up congested and coughing, or otherwise uncomfortable. I drank a lot of hot liquids to soothe my throat, so my bladder also woke me up regularly. But all those liquids lacked caffeine, and I haven’t restarted my very modest caffeine habit (usually a single serving of green tea in the morning). I’m sure I would have recovered faster if I’d been able to sleep more, or at least more hours in a row, but it just wasn’t happening. Naps round the clock were the best I could do.

      Once I was able to breathe better, I’ve been in bed for eight or nine hours most nights, sometimes even ten, and asleep for most though not all of it (I often wake up for awhile in the middle of the night). I miss the flavor of my fancy green tea, and the alert feeling when the caffeine kicked in, but on the other hand, I don’t seem so generally draggy in the morning. Or maybe I’m a little bit draggy all the time, but not especially so when I first get up.

      Though the semester has started, I still have a lot of teaching prep to do, the kind of stuff I like to have done before classes begin. The syllabus for that night class is very rough, and the V(i)LE sites are much less populated than I’d like them to be. But that work is just going to have to get done in the awake hours that I have. Though I keep thinking I’m mostly back to normal, every time I push myself a little the body pushes back and tells me no, you aren’t really. Long nights, short walks, and gentle yoga are where I’m at right now, physically. The brain seems to be in decent shape, for which I am grateful. That means I’m able to do the work that needs to be done, that I want to do, am excited about. But I can only do so much of it.

      I’m not complaining. Mostly I’m just noticing differences. It’s like when I was ill in November 2015 and time stretched out so hugely because I wasn’t doing anything. Last semester seems like at least a year ago, and in other ways as well I feel insecurely anchored in time (see above re graduate-student self). Probably the demands of the semester will take over and anchor me again, soon. For now I’m somewhere between dragging and floating, and immensely grateful that I’m able to keep to a consistent sleep schedule this term, even if it’s not what I would have said was my preferred schedule. I don’t think I could cope with one of those 33-hour turn-arounds I used to have.