Small blinking moment from a different world: the Fedora 18 release schedule has slipped over a month, and I didn't know or notice.
Well, I'm back. Periodically I need to remind myself that the pace and busy-ness of the world isn't actually going to stop (case in point: another dance performance this Thursday, oral defense of my Readiness on Friday, an exam to revise, a fellowship application to write, a lab to finish, code to fix, etc...) and that if I want breathing moments, I need to prioritize and take them. Nobody will give them to me but myself.
I've been walking around exhausted with tension in my shoulders and my gut, and a neck that's craning forward and a tense face with tired eyes. The erector muscles running up the side of my spine are sore and sleepy; the various muscles that engage my shoulders are dormant, hard to reach. Good ol' body, my canary in the coal mine. My first and foremost job today (and for at least a few days) is to take care of myself, to gradually eat better food, get better sleep, tend to stretching and rubbing out those muscles, gently easing into more and more and more awareness. It's a hard thing, the awareness.
That's why I'm writing; I've found this to be the closest thing to meditation that I can reliably do. The flow of words and the touch of a keyboard help keep me centered, make it easier to see my thoughts as they come out. As someone who struggles with executive function and consistent metacognitive awareness (sometimes I have too much self-monitoring, sometimes I have too little), it's useful as a pace-setter for the day. A number of thoughts have been going through my head, all wildly diverse.
I'm tired, according to my body. I'm also twitchy. Careful of distractomel today; tiredness makes it far more likely I'll veer off track.
So much work to catch up on! The thought is part of what is making my stomach and my shoulders clench. I need to relax, breathe, prioritize -- I don't need to do everything; not everything is equally important. Triage. Learn to drop, learn to do less-than-perfectly, learn to focus on the things that are high-impact to do well.
My apartment is filthy after weeks of exam-writing and then travel. This doesn't help my state of mind. I could treat cleaning it as a sort of moving meditation.
My diet has been less than ideal these past few weeks as well, and I feel it. While I'm still eating far more healthily than I did prior to this summer, the difference between a strictly paleo, no-gluten, as-close-to-raw-as-possible diet and a maybe-sometimes-gluten, usually-some-other-form-of-carb, I-had-no-time-for-anything-but-frozen/batch-cooked-veggies diet is freakin' ridiculous. When I was strict about my diet and my sleep, my workouts and dance rehearsals were fantastic; I could push hard at them, they could build and rejuvenate my body, and my brain -- I had a consistently strong rocket and I could control it far more consistently than I was used to! Okay, maybe some of that was due to the lighter and more organized workload that accompanies the start of term; I didn't have this mess of exam recovery to deal with. So let me get myself gently back to that.
I have a hard time prioritizing intellectual work. This shows up most simply in my inability to go for less than 100% on any assignment, regardless of how trivial it is or how much I should really not care. Perhaps I should practice time-limiting things that are less impactful, bracing for less-than-stellar scores and possibly some slightly pissed-off people (who won't actually be pissed off in the long run), and taking that time and directly putting it on better things.
My underdeveloped prioritization skills also show up in the larger picture of not being able to priority-rank research/writing projects. I think that when I see something, I can sit down and fairly reasonably (for someone with my experience level, anyway) figure out a decent plan for turning out something close to the highest-quality work that project could have done on it. (Executing it reliably is a different question, as I saw during my Readiness; my ideal plans assume infinite time budget! which is not... actually the case.) So I can see each project's maximum and a route to get there, but I can't reliably tell how much that route will cost in resources, and I have a difficult time telling which project's maximum is highest -- which directly prevent me from making time/benefit comparisons.
I haven't practiced my German in ages, and my language skills are atrophying, and I want to get them in shape before next Friday when I talk with OSU's German department about what level I should be in.
I'm happy with the time I shared with friends and family over the past few days. Last night, at the dance company's dinner party, I actually understood conversations -- I felt like I was a normal person with a normal social life for a rare, brief, fleeting moment. These times of quiet awe are what make me wonder about a cochlear implant. Moments of holy cow this is what everyone's been talking about for years. I relished that quietly, in my exhaustion on the couch; grateful for people whose casual conversations I wanted to overhear and participate in, grateful that I could now do that (with non-trivial amounts of effort, but... affordable ones now!)
I will be working mostly alone for this next week, probably all the way up to Thanksgiving week, possibly longer, I'm not sure when it'll end. That's okay. I'll take responsibility for monitoring myself, and know that what I have is what I can rely on, and that everything else is a bonus. This isn't different from what I'm used to doing, anyway. I wonder why I'm struggling with this -- more than I thought I would. I think it's because I still need to learn in my bones (rather than just my head) that partnerships are also an ebb and flow, that sometimes life takes you on solos so you can grow as individuals and then come back and rediscover that. I hope. I realize that sometimes you don't, and that sometimes that's the right thing too -- maybe that's why I'm scared. I hate slow processes I can't entirely control; at least fast ones are over with quickly. I think I hate them because they ask me to trust and wait and hope along with working (I can do the working!) and I'm bad at trusting and horrendous at waiting and damn near incapable of hope at present -- they're muscles that I never developed well, and I guess life is telling me that now it's time to do that.
And once again, I cannot prioritize everything at once. I will need to cut some things entirely. Not defer to later. Cut. Decide to never do. (Or probably-never do.)
Okay. So what do I want to do today?
I am present -- physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually aware of myself and the world I am fully here in, guiding myself back to it gently as I go throughout the day.
I take time for physical relaxation, often in the form of mindful work; as my apartment and my files and notes straighten, my mind clears and my body unknots. I eat well and mindfully; a meal is fueling on multiple levels rather than the simple quelling of hunger.
My day is a prayer -- a prayer I share. I can treat the work I'm doing as a hug I'm sending out.
I believe that, at this moment, the two highest-impact things I can do work-wise are my exam revision and my fellowship application. It's okay to not work on other things for a day, if it comes to that. If I become unsure of this, I can sit down and try to think through priorities.
I set myself up well for the coming week, both in infrastructural status and in state, knowing that it won't be perfect, and therefore making the most high-impact decisions so that it will be as good as possible. I know what my priorities are for the week, and I have scheduled in breathers every day, and a longer time to pause during the weekend.
All right. I'm more relaxed. And off I go -- shower and breakfast, then onwards, pausing to breathe and check in as I go. It will be a deliciously slow day, and I will let things happen as they happen, and surprise myself with how much I do (or don't) "get done."