I had a bad day Saturday. I can’t say I have a lot of bad days, but I was downright cranky Saturday, angry, irritable, discontent as the saying goes. What’s more I couldn’t put a finger on it, what was making me so pissy. At first, that made me even angrier. I couldn’t figure it out. Then I realized it was a culmination of things, not just one thing that led to a bad mood.
In the past, that revelation wasn’t good enough. I needed to know the THING that did it. There had to be a reason, a definable moment or circumstance that made the present situation. No wonder that made me even crazier. The cumulative effect of multiple things is a pretty powerful thing, enough to make me snap at my wife, ban my daughter from television and leave the house, not quite stomping, but eager to get away just the same. I also fully realize that the things building up, piling on demanding my attention is a very high class problem to have. I’ve got my health (which I’m reminded of every day at work as my coworker battles breast cancer) my kids are healthy and good, and I’ve got a job that I love. So what’s my fucking problem?
Well, it’s an odd problem, to say the least. At first I figured I could just repost this, and be done with it. My “annual” bout with loneliness, however, isn’t at the root of what’s going on, a little too easy of an answer. I think what’s exacerbating the feeling of loneliness is that I’ve made it a part of my Lenten practice to get out of shell a little more, going to lunch with someone new every week. It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s also acted as a reminder to me that cultivating friendship and connection is a bit of a chore. To all those that I’ve been out with thus far by the way, it’s me not you. When I’m with a friend, it’s great. It’s just the actual arranging of it, the part of the equation that involves me being proactive that makes it difficult. The other part of the whole process is the impending sense of loss I feel with some folks. I think it’s impossible not to get close to at least a couple of people along the way, but the older I get the more I think about how hard it is watching that friendship fade away. I know that the phone rings both ways that I’m not responsible for maintaining my relationships, that we all move on and life changes. Even so, I get close to few people, make a real connection and it can be so fleeting as to make me not want to even try.
There’s more to it though. I’m feeling pressure from a lot of positives in my life. I want to write more, read more, in fact just DO more since I finished the Ph. D. I feel pulled in a hundred different directions, all from things I want, in theory, to do. I want to write more on this blog; I have another blog devoted to the White Sox; I’m in the middle of about three books and the list goes on. There are things I want to do from an academic perspective, which is a bit of a surprise, but welcome. There are also things I want to research and do within the parameters of my current job too, things that I genuinely find interesting. I think one of the unseen benefits of writing a dissertation is the clarity of purpose it offers. That is what is A1 the big kahuna, the top priority. Everything is relegated to distraction; writing on the blog, distraction; reading comic books, distraction; watching TV, distraction; working on another research project, distraction. Now, what is the distraction? What get’s the A1 treatment? One answer is the dissertation and the drive to get it published. I’m familiar with it like an old pair of shoes. I think that’s why so many new Ph. D.’s put so much into getting the dissertation ready for publication it gives them the next project, the next goal. Unfortunately for me, I’m so done with my topic at the moment. Also, I’m not pining for the holy grail of tenure-track. It’d be nice, but every move of my particular chess board isn’t set on that goal. I understand why it is for so many of my peers, I’m just not there anymore.
There is even more working on me these days, even more “high class” problems. I have things I need to do. Work, family, teaching, house stuff, exercise and many other important things need my attention. More than that though, these things are all things I enjoy too. I love spending time with my wife and kids; I love working around the house and yard; I love teaching; I love running; I love my job. At the end of the day, however, more and more I feel like there is so much more to do; did I fix the door? Did I look at my son’s homework? Did I forget to make a phone call or two? Somehow I feel like I’m constantly playing catch up with my responsibilities and not taking the time to truly enjoy any number of things.
At first glance it seems like a simply case of just being overwhelmed. If that’s what it is, then I’m much healthier than I have ever been. In the past, drunk or sober, the feeling of being overwhelmed, out matched by life has often resulted in a feeling of helplessness. Though I haven’t found myself lying in bed, saying out loud, “I’m losing it, I’m losing it.” I’ve been in that neighborhood from time to time. By that standard, I’m not overwhelmed. That’s a pretty rough standard though, so maybe that’s part of it too. I think what it comes down to is a matter of planning, setting a priority and sticking with it. Of course keeping in mind that pretty much everything that is stressing me out ranges from an absolute joy to a necessary chore that still makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something on any given day. Who would have thought I actually miss that 800 pound gorilla called, “the dissertation?”