Monday, June 28, 2010
As you can see from my e-blog there has been a noticeable break in electronic posts since my last post 25th June. It is not that I haven't written anything. It is the exact opposite, I have written so much and all of it has been crap! I have focused on getting into the Exegesis (post last supervision) and it has been disasterous. I am still angry and unable to gather up my positive creative juices. I have written huge tracts of tirade in my book journal (the real hard copy one beside my bed). That at least has allowed me to offload my stress and manage some few half hours of restless tossing and turning which passes as sleep these days.
To fend off depression there is only one sure way...force myself into the sunshine and force myself to exercise. The exercise had to be aerobic and weight bearing, not just stretching and breathing (yoga) and not for relaxation (meditation and hypnotherapy). The exercise drives the body to produce adrenaline, which in turn boosts metabolic rate, and the result is general feeling of wellbeing. Couple this with the (literally) healing power of the suns rays, which contributes endorphins and balances seratonin and melatonin levels, and I am on the way to wellness. Given my mood states have been verging on -2 and paralyisis this last fortnight, it has demanded crucial wellness intervention.
Lucky for me my frequent flyer points (which I take as hotel stays) is offering an end of financial year bonus of 50% off and double points at Mercure hotels, hence the wonderful venue pictured.
Whilst I am having a whinge, though... I hate how more often than not I rearrange my life to fit in with social arrangements only to find that the others involves cancel. I know it is not a fault situation, things do come up, but when one is totally broke and budgets tightly for special occasions, it does feel like a smack in the face. With hotel bookings there are cancellation fees so it always hurts my pocket if I cancel my planned social activity. This one weekend it was not going to happen... my mental health demanded more inner strength from me.
Over a month ago a group of us had decided to attend the Yarra Valley's Shortest Lunch celebration of the winter solstice weekend. Progressively, over the lead up weeks one by one they cancelled. One due to finances (boy I hear you girl), another because husband was unwell, another a wedding, another more family commitments and one had a scheduled interstate trip that had not even been discussed in the rush of optimism whilst promising to attend. It was the wave of positive energy that convinced me to save for this little adventure in the first place. I remain glad I followed through with my plans.
This time I would do what I used to do.
Go on my own.
What propelled this decision was the fact that the wineries that were opening their doors for this event were many of the small family wineries who had been sponsors of my last Uni social evening. I felt obliged to attend in recognition of the difficult times they had survived after the bushfires of black saturday, and the general business and tourism decline which beset the valley over the past year or more. A successful event like this would be a morale booster for the whole region; vignerons, providores, musicians, hospitality staff, tour bus companies, basically everybody in the Valley would reap rewards. Even the CFA were set to benefit from $2 per tasting glass.
Saying that the Valley needed a huge success is a perfect summation. It definitely was and an event I am marking down on my calendar in RED INK annually. It was so much nicer than the Mornington Peninsula Pinot weekend. I'm unsure if that is because of the pretentioousness of some MP vignerons, or the often lacklustre blends produced yet still marketted at top commercial prices.
This event had the feeling of community that the MP winter weekend just can't get a handle on. I loved the shuttle buses to ensure non-drink driving, as did TAC breath analysers. (Well organised G... you are my designated driver next year, agreed?)
How to describe the day(s). I intended to ndo just one day, the Saturday. This was the day when the sun shone brightest and fought off every onslaught of ponderous grey clouds. I adored many of the musicians (this is when I felt lacking in companionship, where I could sit over a bottle, alongside the fires, just relaxing and listening). But then again if I had been with people I would have missed the opportunity to meet one guitarist who actually lives on the MP and plays Saturday nights at La Baracca Trattoria at T'Gallant winery in Red Hill, or the wonderful Barbara Jeffreys on her Celtic/Patagonian harp.
Yep, that's correct, both Patagonian and Celtic and much more easily transported than a traditional Baroque harp ( which she also owns and plays). This marvellous instrument sits only five feet high, and is single stringed, yet the melodious tone transported me back to the 'old country'. Her voice is a clear mezzo so well suited to the traditional Irish folk melodies. I met Barbara over lunch in the cellar at Graeme Millers Winery, and what an accoustic space. An old man requested Danny Boy and I can honestly say the moment she performed this 'tear-jerker' I was mesmerized. So much so, I bought her CD. That's the least creatives can do is support one another.
Barbara is a teacher on extended leave hoping that music can generate enough income to not return to the classroom. In between gigs in the Valley she is touring with the Ten Sopranos... (OMG... can you imagine ten divas and their egos, although she assures me the egotists have been weeded out). She is also a colleague of my co-PhDer Mark Carthew, and they both share a mentor in the ex-Swinburne University lecturer Barbara Van Ernst.
How wonderful to be a 'colony' of artists all living in such a picturesque place and able to know each other. That is exactly what I like about living in a smaller community, only where I live is small but has not 'arts-based' centre. There are artists, predominantly visual artists but unless one is in a couple and associated directly with the other artists, the society is not open to 'solos'. Like most small communities a single woman is often 'locked out', so I can only fantasize about being a part of such a cohort of creatives.
This sense of being 'partnerless' in a world of couples is what drives the popularity of chick lit novels, with the single career women socialising after work with a group of single companions. These city groups spend their recreation time together doing things just like the 'shortest lunch'.
What does this mean for my future choices? City-based where income is the determinant of social inclusivity? Or rural and isolated but where the beauty fills every sense and keeps me well? Is there no happy medium?
Much to ponder when I finally get back into writing my novel. What do women do in this situation? Is it any wonder so many remain married trapped within unhappy relationships, as the alternatives remain less attractive. How sad that our society tries to make the nuclear family the site of normalcy. So much grief, saddness, and loneliness hidden within a veneer of happy-family and secure-partnership?
Friday, June 25, 2010
You may be wondering why I have been silent for over a fortnight. (I have been jotting things in my physical journal but not onto the blog site).
It is that time of the PhD candidature. The last roll of the dice. The final write up before returning to the novel.
My latest supervision session was another twist in the plot of the scholarship narrative. All throgh my candidature I have assumed that I actually had a defined path, a clear way ahead.
There were of course moments when I have felt completely lost within the maze of pathways and data trails tand at other times I have found myself lost in the academic language of the 'big theorists' of the C20th. At times I have felt that writing the novel is problematic, both in practice and actual performance, for a novice fiction writer particularly in the realms ethics of storytelling and story ownership.
Then of course I have been lost in the structure. How do I use and control the data I have gathered? The reading notes, journal entries, personal reflections on the frustrations wrought by writing within an academy, the Conference presentations, mind maps and diagrams. How to pull it into a co-hesive whole? And how to merge the disparate voices and styles? Indeed do they have to merged into one, or can they all exist within the one piece of text? If so, how will this work? Add to this the tension, for one about to be tested, examined, put on display and found wanting.
A sense of stability and equilibrium is not often the dominant emotion within the three years or more.
These last two weeks have perfectly illustrated the worst swings between confidence and despair. Having pulled out all my academic and exgestical writing from the previous three and a half years I began to feel confident that the research data was virtually at my fingertips on my HDD. It seemed to me that from this 75,000 was the very kernel of the exgesis and I needed only to re-frame and construct the 30,000 word piece. With great care I referred back my 'safety net'. My supervisor had provided all candidates with her model for the construction of the exegesis. I have used this document since 2007 and all the key questions have been driving my reading. All my notes from the articles and texts have been chosen with a subconscious eye on these key questions.
Thus by laying these questions out as the 'bones' for the final draft, I began feeling at once relieved and energised; confident that I have the academic capacity to bring it all together.
Well that was great up until my last fateful PhD supervision meeting.... 10th June.
This date is now etched in blood red ink on my calendar. With one simple phone conversation suddenly everything was now chaos. My supervisor queried my central 'question', my thesis statement if you prefer the academic term. Logically all hypotheses and points drawn to answer my original question now seemed so far off track as to be totally useless.
There is also an issue of cross-cultural communication. My supervisor, although brilliant, writes with English as a second language. Forma academic writing presents no problems but informal colloquial speech becomes problematic with degrees of misunderstanding arising from subtleties of nuance. What she often intends as positive feedback is inevitably received as destructive. Even after ensuring that I write down her words verbatim, feed back the core concept as I am hearing it, and gaining what appears to be agreeance on shared meanings. As a validity test, I show my written notes to a trusted colleague and friend and am reassured that my interpretation of the actual words is correct.
This meant that I was way off track, and seemingly have been for a number of years. Two key academic terms were foregrounded in our discussion. Notions of mediation and mediatization of text. I suddenly felt 'at sea'. I needed to be sure that I understood these concepts and theories as obviously what I had believed I had been writing did not answer these challenges and concepts.
Next I felt that i was being pushed right back into my supervisor's core area of expertise, psychoanalyisis and postmodern literary theory.
How can I be needing to read again at this late stage?
How can it be a productive use of my time?
But above all, how can I have missed any central theorizing?
Just to compound my despair, I realised that she had in mind a core concern for the reader's 'safe space' for interacting with what she described as 'confronting' material in my novel!
Confronting? For the reader? Come on.... these are the same readers who watch real crime and Underbelly on free-to-air-TV and buy every Twilight instalment from KMart.
I was also under the impression (now misconception) that my research and practice was to investigate the development of a 'safe writing space', a place where the real life events and tragedies can be harnessed and reconceptualised as fictional plot decisions.
As an author writing about women with degrees of mental instability, who herself is similarly afflicted on a daily basis, I am using the writing practice as both therapy and research. I am in need of the 'safe space' not the reader.
Obviously the result of this supervision session was a toppling down the mood scale towards severe depression. I managed to stay afloat by becoming very angry.
Adrenaline was my saviour this time.
I was/am angry that my work is supposed to meet my supervisors perception of what is important in my research and practice and not what is important to me, the scholar and writer; the very energy that has driven me through the ups and downs of the candidature. It is my work. I want to own it... and that looks like I will need to defend this position in my formal submission. It is as if I am now faced with countering the dominant theorizing of the late C20th.
My instinct tells me that, a colleague and playwright from the UK, Mike Harris is correct when he states that in Europe, the theory debates have moved on from the "French Theorists". I am now seeking to find what exactly is this new thinking. I hate the term post-post-modernism (or even post-post-post) yet this is currently the discourse that suits my work. I want a to find a sort of neo-humanism, one that acknowledges that in storytelling at least, there are indeed 'meta-narratives' and 'universal truths' and that these are based upon a 'universal aesthetic' and 'core humanity with moral and ethical clarity', rather than post-modern uncertainties and truth claims.
How can I possibly argue this point sucessfully? Especially at this stage of the candidature with only two weeks to go?
I am still angry. At least this anger, has stopped my fall into the paws of the black dog. It will drive me on, even if I am throwing up, gnawing on finger nails, not sleeping and feeling strung out and despairing. I will conquer this task... and I will attempt to avoid the inevitable crisis point and hospitalisation.
I will not go there because of this one conversation. Read my cyncicism.... I am so pleased she has had a pleasant an generative holiday in Paris over these last days. I definitely have not.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I guess after the blog about the man and dog, many of you are saying "yep, she is crazy". Too emotional a reaction to such everyday experiences.
Others will be saying, "Oh no the whole yoga thing and suddenly she's turning to Buddhism!"
It is neither. It is part of MY Bipolarity. I react strongly to everything both light and dark, but the dark is the one I must be careful of. I feel intensely connected to the entire world. I cry easily over disasters. I empathise and despair in equal quantities when reading about or seeing the human condition in all its misery. I feel it personally. It is as if I am caught in an emotional tractor-beam between 'out there' and 'inside me'.
So perhaps this is the very definition of crazy! If that's true then I am happily crazy, as this same intensity gives me the intense colours of the autumn leaves, winter sky blue, multi-hued stormy seas, vivid green grasses and highlytextured surfaces everywhere (tree bark, Fed Squre, the wrought iron, bluestone bridge foundations... all images I associate with my home town, Melbourne. Add to this the tram squeels on tracks, the occasional electrical spark from the old W classes, the thunderous echo of the trains on the Spencer Street overpasses along with the smells of the nut factory in Windsor (the once, sweet and potent smell of the brewery that was in ictoria Street).
These are the things that remind me I am alive. They are at times joyous and uplifting and at other times, dark, brooding and oppressive.
Well, hey that's just me.
How can I describe the intensity, the vivacity, the luminosity of my world. It is different to how most people perceive things and it is this 'over-the-top' reactivity that make me, who I am. It is why the tears flow so easily, both for grief and elation.
And these responses are when I am adequately medicated and in my NORMAL range (-3 to +3).
Imagine the despair and ecstasy when outside this 'safe' band?
It is why I am on Facebook, and Eblogger. It is how I share what it is to be me, and to allow you to know why I care so deeply about so many things.
This self-revelation is how I am beginning to understand myself, and to accept myself.
It is how I am able to claim with confidence that I will not act out any futures suicide ideations, as I now know that I must maintain the external perspective on my own thinking.
To recognise the danger signs and ensure that I have the confidence that it is temporary and worth struggling through to come out the other side and into the light again.
It is also why today I feel drawn to make links with the people on the "voices for Death Row inmates" and try to find how I can set this pc to fax mode , to add my voice to the group petitioning the Governor of Texas for clemancy for David Lee Powell.
It is also which drew me to decide to post the image which leads this blog (the old journalistic truism... "if it bleeds, it leads"). And unlike many people who use the Internet for propaganda I do let the truth get in the way of a good story, as this image of Alan Lee Davis was not from December 2009 (as one 'voice' posted) but is from July 1988.
It shows an act of pure barbarism by the State of Florida. One can only say that this man's torture did effect change. His death means that the electric chair is seldom used for execution in the US today, but the preference for lethal injection is also fraught. Many executees have suffered under this practice also, more often due to the fact that veins collapse and the lethal medication cannot be injected after many, many, abortive attempts, and prolonged delays (even days).
This is still horrendous barbarism.
The story of Alan Lee Davis
July 8, 1999. Florida. Allen Lee Davis. Electrocution. "Before he was pronounced dead ... the blood from his mouth had poured onto the collar of his white shirt, and the blood on his chest had spread to about the size of a dinner plate, even oozing through the buckle holes on the leather chest strap holding him to the chair." His execution was the first in Florida's new electric chair, built especially so it could accommodate a man Davis's size (approximately 350 pounds). Later, when another Florida death row inmate challenged the constitutionality of the electric chair, Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander Shaw commented that "the color photos of Davis depict a man who -- for all appearances -- was brutally tortured to death by the citizens of Florida." Justice Shaw also described the botched executions of Jesse Tafero and Pedro Medina (q.v.), calling the three executions "barbaric spectacles" and "acts more befitting a violent murderer than a civilized state." Justice Shaw included pictures of Davis's dead body in his opinion. The execution was witnessed by a Florida State Senator, Ginny Brown-Waite, who at first was "shocked" to see the blood, until she realized that the blood was forming the shape of a cross and that it was a message from God saying he supported the execution.
Oh really? Who's God? Not one I am familiar with.
My last blog listed the wonderful escape I treat myself to on the odd occasion.
Yet, like everything in life it is not all sparkle and light. There is always the dark underside to these special times and experiences.
For me I always notice the light and shade, and Melbourne, like every city, has both.
One minute I am marvelling at the wonderful trees in Collins Street (Paris-end of course), which have survived the drought, and then feeling anxious as the possums scurry around the Treasury Gardens in the dark. I remember when these creatures were so safe in the city at night, and I fear it is no longer so. There are far more people around the streets at night than during my youth when we were on speaking terms with the street cleaner in the Bourke Street Mall, and were able to coax a smile from the young police on duty on the stairs of Parliament House.
I now shiver with fear as I walk the streets at night. There are so many drunk young women falling off their heels or carrying them slung from hands. The young men look similarly dishevelled and not in that 'sharp' fashionista-style; more like a buck's party run amok. Any sign of happiness is fleeting with the sudden shift towards verbal abuse and crass language. The young people look ready to throw punches at the least provocation - male and female alike!
Then, there are the ones off their faces on so-called 'party drugs'. If they are party drugs, from where does that aggression and anger emanate? It is a horrid place at night. There is no joy just desperation and alienation. There is a difference to the late-night walking we used to do in the seventies after the dance clubs closed. We were more likely to be singing and teaching perfect strangers how to do the nutbush or the hustle in the few late night eateries, than prancing around shouting obscentities and looking for fights. I fear for the gentle creatures of our city parks. If humans are not safe, how can these defenceless creatures be so?
Ah, and then there is the man and his dog.
Earlier in the day as I walked to Parliament station during peak hour trying to wind my way past the commuters streaming into the CBD, as I tried to tackle the stairs down to the station against this human tide.
There he was, at the top of Spring Street, hunched against the wall (of my old dentist's building... yes for those in the know; the 'tooth fairy'). He is youngish (hard to discern as he is obviously 'down on his luck'. He is quiet. His concession to comfort is an old blanket; for his dog. The dog sits alonside his master curled towards his body for warmth. As the fog hasn't risen the man and dog shelter together. Even the dog's water bowl looks as if it will not be used today, as the mist is so thick and the drizzle beginning to drench every surface. So few people seem to see them as they hurry past on their way to work.
They notice the buskers playing their instruments on the curbside opposite the station exit and some even find a few seconds to pause, smile then continue to work. Yet, they do not even risk locking eyes with the man and dog. I feel terrible. Here is a man with a story. Something has brought him here. What happened that brought him to the Melbourne streets. I give silent thanks for his dog. I'm sure this companion means at night he would be turned away from shelters. He chooses his dog over minimal shelter. I could almost cry.
Here I am pretending to be on holiday in my discounted motel, with only two day's public transport fare money in my pocket.
What a hypocrit.
I want to give to the man but if I do I cannot get to my job interview or home again tomorrow.
I feel like shit.
I feel the tears welling at the corners of my eyes.
Head held high, I like the commuters put thoughts of the man and dog out of my conscious mind as I disappear into the safety of the station underpass where they are out of sight.
The day is great. The sun is shining and the rain no longer looming. Even at the University in Hawthorn there are autumn leaves on the few trees remaining on the Campus grounds. The train back to the city is again an experience of extremes.
I adore the old buildings and Victorian architecture of Glenferrie Road. Even the station is one of those Melbourne inner suburban stations bejewelled with wrought iron lacework. Yet on the platform itself a small group of drunken young people, again hurling abuse at each other and the passengers embarking.
One decidely unpleasant young man is shirtless ( yep in winter, as the mercury is sitting under ten degrees celsius). He is drunk. He drops a bottle on the platform then kicks the glass shards onto the tracks. He swears and takes a swig from another open bottle that had previously been in the hands of a mate. There is a slight altercation over who owns the 'grog'.
Then as if to smell the scent of prey, the two men and their female accomplice, turn, see their targets, and shout abuse at a group of students, with obvious non- Anglo-saxen appearance. Where are the Metro security staff? No-where to be seen, and the station is busy with the night classes dispersing their students in all directions. I feel afraid, not for myslef but for the students.
Luckily the train pulls in, we all board and the drunken yobbos remain drinking on the platform whilst hurling abuse at the closing doors, as the train gathers speed leaving the platform.
I can relax for a few stations until I reach Parliament. As I climb the stairs, I remember the man and his dog. And they are still there. Only this time the dog is on it's feet barking and snarling at a young man passing by with his dog on a leash. It is one of those aggressive looking cross-breads that I am sure should be muzzled. This powerful canine is straining at the leash to attack the man's dog.
(Why do men seem to feel the need to own such dogs? Are they that insecure of their own masculinity that they have to hide beside their attack-dogs?)
I am so relieved when the owner of the chunky fighter dog finally takes control and drags the snarling beast away. The Spring Street man's dog is protecting his owner. He is standing with his back to his owner, prepared to retaliate to protect their 'safe' space. What a change from the docile black bitzer that I had seen this morning. The dog was visibly shaken as his owner tucks him back onto his blanket and sits himself alongside again.
There are a few dollars in the man's hat now. Please, please can you go somewhere safer? I do not want them there all night. I want their to be some place that they can call home, no matter where. Somewhere with running water and at least a toilet. How can this be my home City?
I know we have homeless people. The agencies say they turn away many (including families with small children) every night of the week for lack of accommodation. How has 'the lucky country' become like this. Where are the communities that used to embrace the 'down on their luck' and the 'ill'?
What am I actually doing in my life for these people?
I can try to put the man and his dog out of my mind by telling myself that he has chosen to spend the night on the street because he chooses to have his dog, rather than sleep in the homeless men shelters. But hey, if it were me, wouldn't I rather take my chances on the street with my faithful companion, than risk dozing and being robbed inside a shelter by another desperate human?
Despite the business people volunteering to sleep rough for one night at the docklands stadium, nothing will be enough to eradicate the homelessness. It has to be a major social offensive, with EVERYBODY involved.
Politicians, religious organisations, welfare agencies, corporate leaders, workers and all people better off. We must all unite and do something. We are all lesser people whilst such disenfranchisement is allowed to flourish under our noses in our home towns.
Any ideas how I can feel empowered to do something that will be effective and useful?
What can I do for the man and his dog?
Rest assured I will not forget them in a hurry.
Yep that's right, I am saying that a hotel room can be heaven. It is not as salacious as that first seems.
Just imagine that you have spent the last twenty years caring for your child's needs every hour of every day. Your entire emaotional state is concerned with ensuring that your child fels secure, loved, and valued. You are the emotional sounding board, in sync with the child's fluctuating moods. When he is happy, you are happy. When anxious you feel pressure to 'make things better'. After all it is 'your responsibility'... or at least somewhere you have taken this imperative as true. The whole living through your child (called emeshing) is a psychological aberration yet when speaking to mothers, I have been privileged to share these revelations. They too feel the same. I am not a pathological weirdo damaging my child by over-investing emotionally. I am just like everybody else.
Not that this is a healthy thing. Indeed I can testify that this is actually draining and emotionally damaging to yourself. You lose yourself as your self-perception is that of [the child's] mother, and your needs and wishes become subsumed by guilt... guilt that you SHOULD not put your needs ahead of your child's.
It makes no sense at all, I know, but it is a powerful 'should'.
We know what should happen to 'shoulds' and 'musts'...
But we are fallible and living in s disconnected society where mothers often feel isolated and unsure of what is the 'right' way to behave as a mother.
There are also very strong calls that "by making time for yourself you are able to be more relaxed, less unfuilfilled and able to be there for your child in a more effective and happier parent-child relationship."
Well this is all very well if your economic circumstances do not require balancing needs between family and self.
Mothers seem 'hard-wired' to put everybody else first.
Since my child has reached adulthood I now feel I am permitted to attend to my own needs and not feel selfish. Meeting my needs is supposed to be part of my wellness routine, and by being well I can feel better about myself.
I can forge an identity of my self that stands apart from my socially constructed identity as mother, sole-parent, welfare mum, dole bludger, perennial student, lazy wastrel, etc... This identity can be 'mature woman'.
As a mature woman, I deserve and need privacy. It is about time that my bedroom and my bathroom (and indeed my study) are my sacred places, not thoroughfares where my son can corner me to gain exclusive attention.
I mean, even the household cats corner me in the toilet assuming that is the perfect place for feline attention! As for putting on make-up, forget it... I almost always jump sky high when either son or cat suddenly enters the bathroom.
I guess that is all my fault by having that '70's attitude that the human body should not be hidden and people should not feel ashamed of their natural body... yeah great call Carol! Especially since I have been ashamed of my body now for over 20 years and avoid mirrors at all costs. How did this lapse of privacy continue through this period?
Not only does my son not recognise doors and doorways into my living zones, to a lesser degree neither does his aged father. At least my bathroom is off limits, and the bedroom MOSTLY.
The excuse to over-ride my need for privacy seems to be a 'need' to pet the cats. If they happen to be on my bed (even if I am in it at the time)... it is supposed to be okay to enter and pat the cat/s!! Since when is this acceptable? Also when a cat is comfy and curled into the armchair asleep behind me in my study whilst I type away, it seems that this is another signal that 'cat patting is allowed'.
Am I being unreasonable here, when I feel that a man who has had no part in my life since conceiving THE CHILD can now assume , just because we share a house
(a large one with three separate living zones), that privacy and Carol's spaces are 'open all hours' when a cat is present?
And why is it that I have that special magnetism over the bloody cats? I didn't go and collect them to give them a home. I said 'no'. I was over-ruled by the two adult males, yet the cats come after me for affection and companionship.
It is all so cliched. Lonely single woman with pet cats as companions. Perhaps because there is truth in the connection between cats and single women. Hey even that spunky beautiful thirtyish blonde detective in Cold Case has a cat living with her in her apartment.... so it should not be seen as a stigmatising symbol of ageing womanhood.
Is that connection with witches and their familiars the problem here? Are older women dangerous in their liberation and raw female power?
Okay then, I am proud to be a cat owner! I am mobilising a subversive identity... but this particular 'witch' cannot summon up enough power to defend her own private space... Ah I only I had a broomstick I would regularly fly off to be alone...
The nearest I can do, is to lash out every so often, when the hotel rewards schemes are offering bonus points, or double point offers, or as was the case last week a $60 plus points night in a 4 star hotel.
I could not wait to book.
Some would say hotels are tacky, featureless, and devoid of any saving graces. But for me, they symbolise privacy and freedom. I am free to not worry about cleaningbathrooms, laundering linen and making beds. I can make coffee without leaving the widescreen TV. Room service is tempting with bottles of wine and snacks. I can drink a bottle of wine and fall into a spacious bed without worrying about keeping my alcohol level to under 0.5. I can avoid driving by being in the city centre.
I can look at the city lights from my window, the reflections of those fireballs in the darkened surface of the Yarra. I can stroll across and buy chocolates, Chinese, French, Italian, strong coffees and delectable cakes and Danishes... anything that takes my fancy any time I desire it.
I can even ignore it all but still feel free because I have the option to do what I want, without needed to justify it or explain to anybody!
And what's more I can concentrate on writing and using the hotel WIFI, the business centre, or doing laps of the outside heated pool (which nobody uses in winter), and the gym. I can use the yoga mats, the wonderful machines that I adore (without the fear of meeting lycra-clad gym junkies).
I can pretend. I can pretend I am on holiday. I can pretend I am here just for the mid year sales or the theatre, or concerts, galleries or any of the wonders Melbourne offers in winter.
I can just be me. No explanations, no justifications, no demands, just freedom (and no kids or cats).
They become my special places. I am my one and only priority... for at least one night.
I leave feeling recharged.
Yep, those tacky chain hotels are my heavens... at least while the dollars are in my debit card account!
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Am I the only person who looks on the beginning of a new week with dread? Yet, again after a seemingly stable week and quiet weekend attending to domestic duties and my own headspace (reading papers, watching my beloved Magpies play AFL football, one chick flick movie in the evening when alone in the house), I do not want to rise from bed and greet the new day.
Today I have begun with a leisurely lie-in which I justified by reading a hard back on Wikinomics. Yep, it is interesting in a dry academic way but it was not really a priority task. Next procrastination was my own and my son's washing (yep, he could do it himself after TAFE) but why waste all these sunny daylight hours? Then on to that wonderfully riveting household duty bathroom cleaning. Yep, even that appears better than sitting at the keyboard embarking on my final write up of my PhD.
Oh, look lunchtime. Now I MUST prepare yoghurt, hummus and vegetarian lasagne for dinner.
Next the email sort through and on to this blog.
Funny how the hours are rapidly dwindling and I have achieved NOTHING of substance.
If I stop and reflect, and am honest with myself I really do know why I feel this way each Monday.
By the end of June the Exegesis must be completed so that means only three more weeks to go. I have the material I need. I have all the reading completed, to read more is just going to make it all less 'controllale". I have written the Preface structural summary and main points. I have drafted the Chapter structural layout with thesis argument and hypothesis development through to outcomes.
So why won't I write it?
I have been trying very hard to distance myself from my candidature and look towards life after the PhD, knwoing it is common for people to face a void. For me I fear that void. My self-perception for so many years now has been that I am a PhD candidate and trainee academic.
When the Exegesis is done and dusted the Artefact remains, and I have never been comfortable identifying as a writer. I am not. I am simply a writing craftsperson on a journey of discovery, playing with the 'real writing', a novel.
And I am scared.
I am scared I cannot do it, no matterhow much research and analysis I have done into the process and practice of professional authors.
The big question remains do I have that ability to commune with the Muse? To reach out and grasp that very essence of creation?
Also to do this, mobilise my creative desires and abilities, how safe am I going to be?
Now I have worked my way down to the crux of the matter.
Do I really want to embark on that marvellous, addictive manic phase I need to be generative and productive?
Having spent so many weeks trying to consolidate my wellness routines, and stabilise my moods, am I ready to (or willing to) put it all 'on the line' just to achieve at my highest level of creativity?
It's what I have grieved for that beautific state for over twenty-one years.
I have been atempting to control it via medication ever since I accepted the need to be medicated for life. It had to be fought for my role as mother, but what about now?
Surely, as an author, I must go there.
I cannot see how to do it without mania. Is it any wonder, I put it off.
I just wish my supervisor could realise how much I am thinking of sacrificing for this last foray into my artistic self.
I am scared.
Come, hold my hand Calliope.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
A very interesting discussion is occurring on the Australian Association of Writing Program's postgraduate website the Writingnetwork.edu.au.
As part of many PhDs in Creative Writing the scholars must keep a writer's journal which is reflective of the process of scholarship and creative production of the Artefact. From this personal journey material emerges a record of research practice which is interrelated to the actual creative writing component. Each is expected to feed off each other thus generating an intellectual conversation between art and craft.
On the website the current Editor of the Month, a friend and co-scholar, Di, has posed the question; what is the difference between a journal and a blog?
I thought that addressing this question belonged in my Blog. I am using this blog as my writer's reflective journal.
Because an electronically archived series of entries and prinatble documents are able to be searched by tagged keywords and themes.
This allows me to also search in my bibliographic software program, Endnote for similar keywords and themes that I have listed in my fields. I am expecting that I will be able to draw together my own thoughts on the writing process with those of academics and professional writers on each key theme as it emerges.
I foresee that my exegesis will contain many styles of written text and voice, the academic voice; formal and refined, the colloquial (mine and authors from podcasts and audio files or interview transcripts), and my informal reflections from my blogs.
There is however, one very BIG difference between a blog and a journal.
The writer's journal is for all intents and purposes a private series of written entries. It is conceived of as a private space. Only certain things will be shared with the examiners, supervisors and fellow academic scholars. Thus anything can be written about without fear of self-disclosure.
The blog on the other hand is for the public domain. The author consciously decides what is posted to the blogosphere. The reason for this restraint and self-censorship was very well described by Mia Freeman in her weekend column of the Age weekend glossy magazine last weekend.
She speaks of how as an employer she was able to eliminate three candidates from her shortlist of potential employees just by checking their FB and Twitter accounts. In the same way we are judged by our appearance, voice, clothes etc, we are also judged by our cyberspace persona.
She describes de-selecting these job applicants because one thought her best public persona was that of a binge drinker getting 'wasted' each weekend. Another was very indiscreet and bitchy about her current employer... not a good sign for a prospective employer to read.
Why on earth did these women think their cyberspace persona (with or without avatar) is disconnected from their real selves?
In my blog I am always aware of moral and ethical perspectives on what I write. How will/does my entries impact on those who have experienced what I am blogging about? How do the people I blog about feel about 'their story' and their 'selves' being placed on display for public consumption? Am I being respectful and not mining their emotions for material?
Of course how I perceive someone or something is not the definitive truth, it is my 'take' on things on this given day at this particular moment at the keyboard. The guiding rule is how does this text show me in the public domain?
Okay, so why have I chosen a public domain for my writer's journal? Many reasons.
- I want it electronic.
- I want it tagged and searchable.
- I want it public.
- I want readers to gain an insight into Bipolarity.
- Bipolarity and madness is the theme of my novel and a key theme in the exegesis.
- Madness and creativity is another key theme in my exegesis.
- Gender and stereotyping is a further key theme in my exehesis.
- These key themes are being explored for academic and public consumption.
- I aim to raise awareness of Creative Writing doctorates and practice.
- My exegesis is conceived as publishable in academic texts and public forums thus my blog needs to be public for readers to find their own way into my story as writer and woman.
Don't even ask me how I integrate my 'inspiration wall', my post-it notes, clippings, photos and general source material for my writing. Perhaps this is my archive?
I am sure that the panelists also use the same speeches at many events, and they will be readily available somewhere, perhaps at the Wheeler Centre sessions?
The book launch was good in that I met some new and interesting people, especially those from the outside world. Hello Ann! I admire people with the confidence to work in the private sector assured that their skills are marketable to demanding employers. I have never felt I had marketable skills for the world outside education or the public service sector. On so many occasions my lower middle-class background colours my sense of place in this world, no matter how many qualifications I accumulate.
It is as if I believe that my fate is to never be economically secure as I have rebelled against my 'station in life' so must be penalised.
How irrational is that?
After having left the launch I travelled back to my new, cheaper hotel. This time my pockets were empty and I had only enough for the train fare home. No room service for me, no lesiurely breakky or trips to the sales again. The only good thing was that I had some white wine left from the bottle my friend brought to my previous hotel room. I could pretend my life is comfortable and filled with wine, perfume, concerts, theatre, restaurants and companions...
Watch what you wish for!
Just when the night was ending and a lonely hotel bed is calling, one of my new friends arrives to share a nightcap. Luckily common sense comes into play as she is tired and we have drunk the whole bottle, plus the remainder of first bottle and some sparkling at the book launch. There is no way she should drive... so would you believe I share my hotel bed with a female friend, which I haven't done for over twenty-five years.
No lonely hotel room tonight, just two older mates being sensible after sharing honest and reafirming conversation, genial friendship and partying a bit, if a book launch counts as partying?
I would say in the age demographic 50s it does!
After such a connected evening, I cannot face Friday alone.
Again a female friend comes to my aid. I 'train it' to her home and we actually spend hours working and brainstorming our PhD exegeses.
It was such a successful afternoon that we celebrate with the almost mandatory bottle of wine.
And yes dear 'new' friend (male) you owe both of us those promised bottles of Sauv Blanc watching the sunset over the water from her patio!
This being sensible is becoming a habit.
I have to phone home and get picked up by car. Somehow I have managed the entire week without succumbing to the black dog that was threatening earlier, and I have been able to do some straight thinking for my PhD. Is this that mich yearned for work-life balance?
Yoga, excercise, sanity, wining, dining, laughter, friendship, intellectual stimulation, job prospects, and writing!
What more could one ask for?
Oh yeah, don't go back there today.
Must not watch too many Hollywood movies.
Pity I am writing this too late after having a quiet n ight in watching my beloved Meryl Streep in It's complicated.
I left off yesterday's blog feeling very Bea Arthur.
Perhaps I should see myself as more Vera Charles than Dorothy Zbornak!
Again my thoughts dwell on friendships. Thinking of Bea Arthur draws my mind back to my wonderful friend Dizzy and to the days when we would sing Bosom Buddies and promise each other we would play Mame and Vera when we were old enough... well my darling Diz, I am now old enough and you have left me forever. I miss you so much. You areone of the reasons I began my PhD. I need to capture our special times and experiences forever. They will never come again so they can live on in my novel and finally allow me to finish grieving... perhaps I may be able to go on and become Blanche Du Bois, after I've reconciled my loss of dearest Michelle also. I would love to be as light hearted and open to romance as this famous TV character.
Ah, it always had to become a blog about sex, eventually!
My new friends from work are showing me alternate female gender roles. It is amazingjust how many of the professional women academics have a very traditional domestic family arrangement.
Yet, when I first began lecturing so many years ago my colleagues were predominantly gay women and singles. Why has there been a change or is it simply that the location and type of higher education institution explains this change? Does outer suburbia lend itself to convenient employment for qualified married women, and allow the time to combine motherhood and career responsibilities. I can't see the same family friendly work practices being overtly available at the big research G8s, where career and the University must come first, for academic survival.
It is so good that at least one of my new friends and colleagues is a post-second wave woman, sexually liberated, very much in the mould of SATC. If she had a higher academic salary those would be Manolos on her feet, and not for her a Big, but toy boys and sexual freedom. I am so jealous... I sometimes fantasize that the way forward for me one day will be a toy boy, where I can be the older wise experienced woman... but it is just that; a fantasy.
Even with my anticipated weight loss and avowal to be a cougar, it is not likey to happen. If I have to be honest with myself I really would like a realtionship with an intellectual equal. Yeah, that's likely to happen. Most of my solid male friends are gay. So much for intellectual stimulation within coupledom... just not gonna happen.
This also brings me to male friendships. I watch another new friend who idolises his wife. They too share the traditional gender roles within their marriage whilst he is also free to explore his snagdom. But that is an external image he cultivates. In reality, he needs all the emotional maintenance from his partner as most married straight men I have met.
Next is a very very new friend. I am getting quite worried about him. Whereas when we first became friends he was very open and forthcoming about his dreams and hopes. He was excitedly embarking on a new set of life challenges and was confident that everything would fall into place. Now suddenly he has become more reticent and less likely to socialise and confide. I notice a distinct saddness and feeling of disappointment. This new adventure was never going to be easy but I had hoped for him it would be rewarding.
He is no longer glowing. He seems tired and a tad disconnected from his new friends and colleagues. I miss our frank conversations and cameraderie of last summer. I am wondering what happened and whether it is wise for him to be so self-contained if there are issues he needs to resolve.
I also fear that when he learned that I had BMD he is so frightened to speak openly, as my response cannot be assured as he fears he 'might set me off' or trigger my madness in some way. Since I told him I had BMD he has distanced himself as a friend. I am grieving for this. My illness is suddenly the elephant in the room, the unspoken thing. Yet, I joke as usual about it, because that's the only way to live with it and not allow it to be damaging to myself and others.
Why is it that my new female friends and colleagues are prepared to understand my illness, as part and parcel of me, yet my two new straight male friends and colleagues are less prepared to get to know me further. I hate feeling like I have a communicable disease.
I guess that's why I feel I will always be alone, if that's how educated men my age respond, what hope is there to meet someone (of the male gender) who reacts differently and isn't gay?
I adore my gay friends but hey enough is enough... your domestic bliss becomes too much for a single white female to cope with as my loneness is spotlighted!
Yep, another recap... sorry.
After spending some time on the PhD (yep that's right... I worked on it at last), and attending a hypnotherapy session with Dr Caroline, I had to change hotels. I had decided to stay in Melbourne on Thursday night after attending either (or both) the Alumni Chancellors lecture and/or a colleague, Geoff's book launch.
I was able to rest my feet as the new shoes I purchased in the sales killed me and gave me the usual new-shoe blisters. I had decided that I would do more than window shop and that new boots would be great when I met my two 'oldest friends' fo dinner at the Casino on Wednesday night.
I had hoped to eat at a trendy celebrity chef restaurant there or at Southbank and had justified it by saying we could use a pre-dinner special of two courses and wine, so that we would eat at reasonable prices. It was good in theory, until I forgot to do my research and arrived at the Casino without any clear directions.
One friend saw a sign advertising half a kilo of prawns for $19.50.
We decided that if our other friend wanted seafood we would dine at "The Pub", a horrid American style chain version of a British Pub.
Yep, you got it... and absolute horror in my eyes.
It used to be where Planet Hollywood once was and even that was bad enough but this one had cheap and nasty oozing from every hard wood surface! I scanned the menu... not a great option for a post lap-bander despite listing around 50 mains! Horrid old-style pub stodge. What's the bet that everything came with "fries" and the soup de jour would be seafood based or bad pumpkin? Panic set in. Our friendship has only just blossomed in all its former glory in the last twelve months and honesty is still an issue... as are budget concerns for two of us. The third has less of a problem with dollars but here common sense and practicality rule out impulsive spending like we used to indulge as younger women.
Suddenly, my mind remembered that Crown had two Buffet's and from my memory of taking my son there as a fussy eating pre-teen we always found suitable cuisine for both him and I, and at what I remembered were reasonable prices. We could at least check that out first before succumbing to The Pub.
So I had finally conquered my own impulsivity and thought through the options and decided the celeb chef bistros (Maze grill, GA&S, Nobu, Phillipe Mouchel's Brasseries or even Tutto Bene in Southbank, or MaHa Bar and Grill were off the list of options. Bugger!)
Hate this thing called common sense.
Anyway things turned out fine. The bloody buffet, Sante had the same prawn deal but with full buffet also included. Thus my dear friends could share 1.5 kilos of prawns courtesy of my share, and I could search amongst the traditional fare. ( I found mushroom soup, an old favourite, and some rice with tofu, salad and an Indian curry puff... so I was okay). The roasts and fried foods looked horrendously over-cooked and mass produced, but what sealed the deal, apart from the prawns was the dessert station... a girl's heaven. My friends had two large dinner plate assietes of mixed desserts before I had even risen for my main. Even the wine was reasonable, a $15 Sauv Blanc... just what two drivers and one hotel guest required.
A mandatory visit to the chocolate box, and one friend's ciggy break rounded off a great evening.
The conversation was again thought provoking after the fact.
Where both women friends were in sms contact with respective daughters, I too had a very brief call to my son, which was strange. I am usually totally footloose and detached from my domestic life when I am in the City. Son and I were actually discussing the fact that he could meet up with arranged service people and I could stay another night in town, given that I had not blown a fortune on alcohol and fine dining (or boots for that matter).
My feet would be so grateful for a comfy bed and a chance to get blister pads on Thursday morning.
Once back in my hotel room, I realised how very far our lives have travelled. One friend is widowed and working very hard but slowly building a solid wealth base for retirement once she has been able to stop supporting her two adult kids. The other is in pain. She actually needs us together now like no other time in the past.
Just in this one year, she has lost her mother, thus embarking on that frightening life stage as the adult orphaned 'child'. After dealing with Estate matters and family war zones over the will and inheritances, her former familial ties have unravelled. Add to this a final move to end her unhappy marriage and a tempting possible affair with an old first love (who won't leave his marriage), she has come to see that her life is suddenly very different. She has to face being on her own as her adult kids grow up and eventually fly the nest. And in a totally C20-21st century dilemma her mind is turning to her oldest daughters forthcoming wedding. The loneliness of the parents of the bride table, is the stuff of Hollwod B grade comedy movies. She beseeched us both to be with her on this fraught day.
So you get the picture, one widow, one divorcee and a bitter and twisted old feminist sharing this "joyous occasion" (yeah sure)... with the ex-husband from hell. Please let this next stage in our friendship be as fruitful as I am already imagining it to be... an Australian version of the Golden Girls rather than Sex and the City!
ASIDE: Vale, Rue McLanahan!
What a performance and six marriages... wow, move over Liz Taylor, why can't American women learn from their mistakes??
So Thursday was to be another Melbourne night... more material for booktwo or screenplay, and more chance at deep friendships with new colleagues.
The only whinge about Thursday was that I had to move hotels. Mine was fully booked and there had been no cancellation when I had returned from Crown. So whilst surfing and looking for the best last minute deals that would fit my remaining budget, I was drawn to the firey spectacle refelcted in the calm black Yarra waters.
I am alone and wishing I had someone to share this beauty with, and a good bottle of red whilst snuggled in fluffy white towelling robes I contemplate what the future would bring for me as a single woman. Would I become a career woman in the near future? Would I ever meet a companion who could look beyond my mental illness or my physical attributes and age?
Do I really have to become Bea Arthur?
Again the lift out of the dark zone was brought about by the need to dredge up adrenaline and positive 'public face'.
On Tuesday I finally received an email offering me a job interview.
In the same e-post was the rejection from my earlier application. This did not hurt as much as it had a few days ago, as they had said no-one would be advised if not on the short-list. By this arrival, I can assume I must have been on the brink of the shortlist, at least considered seriously enough to warrant a "thanks but no thanks email." One has to see that objectively as a step in the right direction.... after all when I first read the duty statement I felt they would be pushing it to appoint at the lower level (under Post-Doc). What had excited me was that often if a suitable applicant comes along with all the experience the employees do indeed hire at the lowest pay scale able to get the job done, and that most assuredly would have been me. I am assuming that they actually hired an experienced and well connected (research grant-wise) Post Doc. or someone with a stronger Politics core units of specialisation. So that's cool. The job has gone to the best person, even when it is not me!
The other interview seemed more laid back as it was to be a half hour by phone. I am not a fan of this type of interview as I like to assess the potential employer as much as they wish to assess my suitability. I have learned the hard way in the last two years that by being financially dependent upon a employment contract removes autonomy and the strength to speak out when the job is not working out.
I have had two experiences where despite the utmost admiration for my direct line managers, and a personal affection for them, I have been placed in untenable work positions with unrealistic expectations based upon their lack of technical knowledge and adequate administrative focus. The two ocassions saw my stress levels explode to the detriment of my self-esteem and mental health. When things were tough or my skill level was questioned, my loyalty made me work harder and longer than the actual hours employed, just to prove I could produce outcomes that were basically untenable in the circumstances.
Of course being me, my mood state swung to the lowest blackest state and I ended up in hospital rebuilding my self-esteem and mental stamina. I will not fall prey to this syndrome again. As they say, to repeat a mistake is bad enough but to do it twice is just stupidity (in my case born out of financial stress and insecurity).
My health is now far more important than keeping cars and houses! As long as I stay well I can achieve in my studies and writing. The rest should fall into place if I stay well. I refuse to catastrophise and fall into an anxiety state that renders me vocationally and personally incompetent.
I am a stronger woman at last.
I am not my illness.
I have skills and abilities that are often undervalued by me and the broader workforce.... well, their loss really!
So many academics are poor people managers despite being brilliant scholars. That is how the academy so easily fell into the hands of the also-ran bureaucrats!
Getting back on track... that's why on Wednesday I had to put my mini-break down on hold.
I had to function at my professional best. I think I did.
And I had a good strong rapport with my potential employer and the tasks were clearly defined and timelined. The salary again is exploitative but that's par for the course for researchers in Universities (as opposed to the Private Sector).
It makes sense at this stage to suck it up, one more time, if it is offered as the context for the research is a new and developing knowledge area and an area where I have a personal and professional curiosity and interest.
So fingers crossed.
Things seemed to have gone well. A less formal interview spanning over an hour of conversation, discussion and job-related briefings. Well I will know early next week. In celebration I used one of my loyalty hotel vouchers and stayed in town at my favourite mid priced hotel, just to treat myself.
I revelled in the relaxation and freedom, swimming in the pool, excercise in the fitness centre and concentration in the business centre as well as a great window shopping experience in the End of Fin Year Sales at the big stores.
Good girly fun.
A definite mood stabiliser!
Positive 3 again.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I am so sick and tired of being sore and in pain I thought yoga could not make it any worse, and I definitely needed the relaxation excercises. Driving up to Mornington I began gnawing at my fingernails.
My anxiety levels are out of control.
Walking in to the hospital I did not feel my usual relief at arriving at my safe place. Sitting in the admission booth I felt nervy and uncomfortable. Of course the computer would go haywire and make the admission process tedious and sluggish. The printer refused to print my labels for my wrist band.
I began to feel that it wasn't meant to happen and that I should just turn around and go home, which made me angry that I had just spent my last twenty dollars on petrol for the return trip.
After trying to reassure the agitated booking clerk that I was okay with the delay, when I actually wasn't. I had to smile politely and head directly to the staircase to go towards the yoga session after the recalcitrant printer had spewed out enough labels for a seven week stay.
They were expecting me, thanks to the hurried phone call and had left one door ajar. The session had not begun and Felicity was arranging chairs, mats and blue cubes and straps. My curiousity was piqued. We had never used this equipment before. Felicity explained that today we would be working on lower backs and she hoped that it wouldn't be a problem for me. Again she reinforced that if any of us felt discomfort or pain she would adapt the stretches and poses.
My day began to look up after I realised that any discomfort was only temporary and after the breathing and relaxation had taken hold I suddenly had no pain! How good it felt to work the lower back and spine, loosening all the previously throbbing hurt places. I began to smile and my face totally relaxed.
It was a fantastic start to the day.
Add to this that two of the younger in-patients were women I had shared the ward with earlier this year, I felt instantly at ease. We enjoyed catching up and felt a solidarity that can only be experienced by women who know intuitively what it is like to be struggling to stay well. We then sat together with one of the nurse counsellors, Brigit, and had a long de-brief session, particularly about wellness in the outside world. I really miss these sessions on the days when I have to attend Lilydale for work meetings.
The contradiction that I feel is quite curious.
On the one hand I need to feel connected to my old workplace and alma mater, but on the other I am drawn to being with people who have 'walked in my shoes'. We are apart from the people in the outside world yet together we feel that we are the normal ones. I miss this sense of empathy and understanding, but I know I cannot rely on living in an artificial world where the 'real world' is held at bay and problems left outside.
It is just that I am tired of fighting for every moment of quietude, sanity, logic and stability. I am tired of some important and influential people thinking that over my three and a half years of PhD candidature I have been slack. Every 'normal' worker gets four weeks annual leave and a similar amount of sick leave. Do I? Have I?
In the last three years I have used only one week of my holidays for that purpose; the week I booked in 2007 for a brief stay in Portugal after my Madrid conference presentation. Yep, a holiday. The very one that was put on hold because I fell down the marble steps at the Conference venue.
That same holiday which had me attending the Hospital Principessa in Madrid, having xrays, and my archilles tendons encased in bandages and moon boots whilst I reclined on the bed in the Holiday Inn, drugged with anti-inflamatories and pain killers.
Hmm relaxing hoiliday, that's fore sure.
So the following two years worth of annual leave?
These weeks were spent hopsitalised battling clinical depression.
Yep, great holidays those, also.
I guess I did have one week off last July after lap-banding surgery... or was that only four days in Ballarat, in winter with me checking emails morning and night to ensure my boss had what she needed whilst attending a Conference in Paris.
Then again this year another hospitalisation, for the same reason, clinical depression. A great time of relaxation with me accessing the internet everyday formatting a difficult thesis for a colleague and friend, much to the cost of my own recovery.
Another one of my famous 'holidays'.
- When do all these medical certificates be seen as legitimate interruptions to my PhD candidature?
- Am I being delusional counting these times/weeks/months as normal candidature times?
- Am I mistaken to count them as annual leave?
The other mistake I have made and paid (am paying) a substantial price for doing, is thinking that any Conferences I have attended are actually holidays!
Yep, the single days before or after the Conferences that allowed me to see the beautiful and exciting cities that was hosting these events, may not actually constitute holidays.
I always underestimate the intensity of focus required for actively listening to presentations and papers for three or four days consecutively and ensuring that my notes are summarised clearly at night, just to ensure I have everything in a useful form, for use on my return and ongoing study.
What on earth made me think that simply going out to dinner with other delegrates meant that these were holidays?
Every dinner held times for spontaneity and laughter, but also insightful intellectual discussions. They are no different to workplace conversations and brainstorming... part of work!
Yep, again these were definitely holidays weren't they?
Is it any wonder I am mentally exhausted? I need a break.
Why should I be made feel guilty for not pushing myslef to complete my candidature by June, just because if I apply to extend my candudature period, I might end up hospitalised in November (because the Xmas period is often emotionally stressful and I am often at risk of mania in November)? Perhaps, I might fall into mania only because people in my workplace have bullied me so attrociously and emotionally drained me, used me and undervalued my skills throughout the year leading up to November?
So many people (academics) underestimate the time certain tasks take to do, and when paid in hourly rates the pressure is on me to finish these tasks no matter how long they take, rather than have me be paid for the hours expended.
The result is unrealistic expectations, undervaluing the actual work being done, lack of knowledge of professional dtp rather than typing,limitations of available software for the tasks, and many more constraints which sees me working many, many unpaid hours.
Of course I break down under the stress.
Could it possibly be that by allowing myself a bit of slack, to focus on my wellbeing, I just might be able to avoid hospitalisation?
- Am I also not permitted to be like a normal person?
- Who says I need less of a holiday with quiet relaxation for myself than another worker who needs to spend quality time with partner and family when it suits their family timeframes?
- Why are my individual wellness needs of less importance than other people's holidays, people who do not battle chronic illness?
- Are ill/disabled workers less entitled to holidays because they have different needs?
- Should my productivity be gauged by how much time I have off (hospital or not) or should it be judged upon the abilities and competencies I demonstrate at work?
- Since when do workplaces have the legislative right to discriminate based upon a worker's mental illness?
This form of unreasonable reaction and lack of understanding and empathy ensures that as a worker I will fall victim to stress-related breakdowns.
This is an incidious form of workplace bullying.
I am tired of fighting for my rights.
I guess I need a holiday!