I belong to a Facebook group for PhD and Early Career Researcher Parents- where, we share the challenges of parenting while trying to navigate academia and just recently one of the members posted a photo of some adorable but labour intensive looking Easter themed cupcakes proclaiming herself to be a procrastibaker- I can SO relate, and while I certainly would call myself a procrasibaker in the most obvious sense of the word- I bake to avoid the mounds of writing and researching I should be attending to… I realized today, it goes much deeper than that. It hit me this afternoon as I got up from my desk after a particularly dismal day of fiddle-farting around and successfully avoiding the abstract that needs writing, the three separate student assignments that need marking and the script (for a show that goes up in 2 months) that needs re-writing- that my motivation for baking (or procrasti-baking) comes from two places; love and guilt. Love because I know the kids truly love walking in the door and racing up the stairs calling out their best guesses as to what the wafting baking smell is (“Chocolate chip cookies?” “Banana muffins… I knew it!”) And guilt for all the time I have spent away missing birthdays, school concerts, or just being there when they come in the door after school. Somehow- a warm muffin or chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven make ME feel like I am being some kind of good Mom and while neither makes up for time away- I feel like I’m doing just a little something special- while weaselling my way out of reading those 27 student essays… care for a muffin?!
I am an early riser. I always have been, my Mother was too, she grew up on a farm and I like to think it is in the genes. Even as a undergrad student, working until 3 am in a bar, I still woke up at 9 am (early for a barmaid and a student!) because I just couldn’t fathom spending the day in bed. (I suppose I have what the young ’ins these days call FoMO- of “fear of missing out”).
Over the years my early rising has shifted from what some people seem to think of as a sort of reasonable early rising of 6 am to my current 4 am. I know, 4 am is really early. Telling people you get up (because you want to- not because you have to) at 4 am elicits the same same sort of response as telling people you have six children. “What?!” “Why?!” or “That’s amazing!”- which is always slightly embarrassing because, trust me, I am not doing it for the notoriety, or the wow factor, I do it because it really helps me get set for the day- centres me, makes me feel like I can “get ‘er done” (whatever “it” may be). My current weekday morning ritual looks something like this; I wake up somewhere between 4 and 4:20 (I don’t use an alarm clock- ever- I just wake up.) I get up, turn on the heat, and make a hot water with lemon. I roll out my yoga mat, and sit in meditation for 5-15 minutes ( the time depending on whether I got up at 4 or later) I then do a bit of yoga, usually, Sun Salutations for 5-10 minutes, then try to read a short passage of something inspiring (currently; Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison), then sit for a few minutes at my desk and write a to-do list or a few notes in my agenda/journal and then go put on the water for coffee. Some of the inspiration for my current ritual came from a Podcast I was listening to on Français Authentique– I actually listen to it to work on my french but in one particular episode he was talking about “The Miracle Morning” a book by American Hal Elrod, who writes about the ‘best practices’—”developed over centuries of human consciousness development” (according to his website) to create an effective morning ritual “to transform your life” and apparently achieve everything you have ever wanted. I definitely got some inspiration from it but have also tried really hard to listen hard to what I need each morning whether it be more mediation, a few minutes rolling around on a massage ball or more time to scribble some thoughts down- I try not to be a rigid as Elrod prescribes- because I really like that time to be something nourishing- and not something I feel like I have to do.
The ol’ man gets up at 5 (he has also always been an early riser) and we sit, for a minimum of 30 minutes every single morning (this we’ve been doing without fail for 24 years) and have coffee together. Sometimes we talk; about the kids, the weather, what’s going on that evening or that coming weekend, who needs to be taken where… and sometimes we just sit in silence. By 5:30- I’m making breakfast and packing lunches, finding socks and gym clothes and white shirts with no stains on them, somedays (2 days at the moment) I am out the door by 7 am to get to work and the other days I walk the youngest kids to school and get back to my desk by 9-ish to start writing.
The ritual has shifted and changed over the years, and has most definitely had to adjust through babies, and breastfeeding etc. I remember with extreme fondness a time when I was just mama to 3 and we lived near the beach- I would get up around 5 to go for a run and watch the sun come up. Other phases of my early rising had me simply being up before everyone else and reading.
Of course, getting up so early, means that I am ready to fall into bed pretty early, usually around 9 pm and it is not unusual for me to conk out shortly after 8, as soon as I get the younger kids to bed. And on those mornings when I have had to be up “late” (10 pm+ *gasp*!) the night before I just let myself sleep until I wake up which is still usually 5:30 or so. But after many months of being on the 4 am ritual schedule- there is always just a bit of disappointment when I look at the clock to see I’ve missed my precious golden hour.
Rives, an American poet, and storyteller, talks about his own obsession with four in the morning on a Ted Talk that I highly recommend- in it he talks about how he came to curate the online; “the museum of four in the morning“. I enjoy visiting this virtual museum if for no other reason, when I am bumping around in the dark- getting up and trying not to wake anyone else in the house, it makes me feel like I am part of some secret society.
Several years ago a colleague in academia commented to me that procrastinators are adrenaline junkies, and I think about that idea every single freakin’ time I am writing or working on something, especially if it has a deadline. It can be a paper, an article, rehearsing a show, marking student assignments, pizza lunch forms for the kids, whatever… I would say 98% of the time I come right down to the wire with it… almost every single freakin’ time I have anything to complete… right down to the wire. Am I really getting that much of a “rush” of adrenaline? Am I getting off on it, or is there something more going on?
According to Adam Grant’s January 2016 New York Times article “Why I Taught Myself To Procrastinate” while “procrastination is a vice for productivity”…it is also “a virtue for creativity”. Grant’s research contends that our first ideas are usually our most conventional and by procrastinating we can let our mind wander thereby opening ourselves up to newer and more unexpected ideas and patterns. I gather that what he is suggesting is not that we should simply leave tasks completely untouched until the last minute but rather, start something and then leave it- let it simmer, come back with fresh eyes, ears and ideas. Grant lists several prolific procrastinators for whom leaving things last minute worked out very well for them, Steve Jobs, Aaron Sorkin, Bill Clinton, and Frank Lloyd Wright…my name is not on the list.
I can certainly buy the creativity angle, giving ideas time to percolate, allowing one’s self to feel a sense of spaciousness, but I am not quite there yet. My procrastinating ways tend to lead me into more dread and panic rather than whimsical creative wanderings, but, I am definitely curious to test out these theories. Perhaps I will start with the pizza lunch forms…fill in my sons name, then my daughters, allow myself time to contemplate on whether to order two slices and the juice box option or three slices with desert, lose myself in thought over whether to pay by cash…or cheque, fully feel the impulse to include my signature before racing to the school to beg the secretary to accept my late forms so I don’t have to make lunch on Tuesday.
I finally got out for a run. I have been here, in Birmingham UK (3000+ miles from home) for 5 days now and after a whole lot of pep- talking (me to myself) I did it and it was glorious. I had been thinking about getting out there A LOT- but was having all the regular anxiety I often have in new situations, and have been talking myself out of it. You would think that at my age (48) and with the kind of experience I have in travelling (7 trips to Europe alone in the last 2 years) I would be pretty laissez faire when it comes to making myself at home in a new city and surroundings- but in fact, I have an awful time with really settling in. Part of it is the loneliness/homesickness/nostalgia that I wrote about yesterday and part of it, I think, is just my totally awkward social nature. Yes, me, who as a teacher, performer, and Mother of six has to deal with other humans almost constantly, actually has a medium to high level of anxiety of dealing with other people and in particular strangers. But even more importantly, I hate looking like I don’t belong somewhere. This is why I love David Sedaris so much because he says so many things, about feeling awkward, especially in foreign cities, that I feel. He did a great interview NPR’s This American Life on his experiences in Paris that I relate to so well.
So! In the case of me procrastinating going out for a run, it was really nothing to do with me just being lazy and everything to do with feeling discombobulated in a new city, For example, because I am staying right in the city centre, I was nervous about running aimlessly through the busy streets and having to worry about traffic (I CANNOT get used to the whole cars on the wrong side of the road here and literally have to speak out loud to myself every time I cross the road saying “look the opposite way!”). So I did what any good PhD student would do and I researched it. I studied maps and then went for a test “walk” yesterday.
And this morning I went for it and headed out. (I carefully chose this morning as it is a bank holiday here and hardly any traffic). And it was, as I said glorious. In less than 10 minutes I was on the Birmingham Canals. And it was absolutely gorgeous in all the most cliché ways. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and after I finished chastising myself for being so utterly ridiculous in buying into my silly anxieties, I plodded along in the most satisfied way.
A very brief update…
Had a couple of great weeks… feeling strong and goin’ long… but in the last week life’s been CR-azy and I am really just trying hard to maintain- Getting out for a few 5ks and a 8 if I’m lucky.
I even “snuck” in a run today… literally… so much to do and on top of it, the ol’ man gives me much grief about being so selfish as to run when there are things to be done- he really doesn’t get the “I function so much better when I exercise” thing- so I just got back from a run that he doesn’t have to know about ’cause he’s not here!!!
I just gotta get through the next couple of weeks- fight to maintain and then worry about the rest later.
I’m back baby!!
In the past 2 weeks I have gotten into a bit of a training groove. It hasn’t been all rosy 100% of the time- it is a process- I’m taking it day by day- but I’m happy to report that I had a “4 runs” week and then a “3 runs” week and I started out this week with 10k yesterday and a swim this morning. Giddy up!
Things that are working;
1. Prioritizing. Which means- go for a run and leave the dishes if the kids are at daycare and school and/or the ol’man is in a good mood and will “babysit” (whatever?!) It also mean realizing I am FAR more efficient after I exercise- I have, in the last 2 weeks been back to a running schedule AND gotten back on my feet with a course I am taking. Coincidence? I think not.
2. Run every other day. My knee/IT band does not like to be called into action 2 days in a row. Cross training will be key and something I will have to push myself to do.
3. Do not panic if I cannot shower after a run. Getting the run in is priority- there are ways to freshen up without a shower, and with my schedule there are some times where I cannot do both. Big deal. But please feel free to let me know if I stink. Really.
4. I have just re-discovered the joy of on-line grocery shopping (SPUD.CA) As the working and running Mum of 6 I gotta say I love it! If you are interested in trying it use the code CRVAN-HOLSHC and each of us will get a $25 discount. They even have a huge recipe section where they show you the recipe and you can put the ingredients right into your cart for checkout. Pricewise they show you comparisons with major grocery chains and they are they same and/or slightly lower than the competitors AND if you have a standing order you get 5% off AND 20% off many bulk orders.
5. Signing up for a race gives me the motivation to get my butt out and running. I knew that about myself- so what took me so long?
What’s not working;
1. Need to stretch more need to stretch more need to stretch more…
2. Strengthening exercises… do them!!!!
3. Drink water- seems like a no brainer- but uh, apparently I have a HUGE brain.
All in all- things are looking up- Mamalegato is running and all’s well… until the kids get home and I haven’t done the dishes ’cause I was running.
I’ve been away for awhile, we went on our very fun trip to Tofino (saw whales, a bear an eagle, lots of sea lions, surfed, boogie boarded, evening fire on the beach… did it all!) and when I returned I had 1 week to prepare for a job interview.
Not just any job interview, but pretty close to my dream job interview.
Not just any job interview but pretty much my only job interview in the past 10+ years- and before that, it wasn’t job interviews, it was auditions, similar, but not the same thing.
I have to say I felt as best prepared as I could be, I went in to it wanting to have fun and I did. I tried really hard to focus not so much on wanting the job so bad, (it would just be so perfect and great pay and good hours and, and…) and tell myself that I was probably a long shot because, well, I’m pretty sure I am a long shot, but that doesn’t make me want it any less.
I should hear within the next couple of days and I gotta say the waiting is brutally stressful. This job would change my life dramatically and while I do feel I’m totally up for the challenge, the sooner I know my life is about to change the quicker I have to prepare for the change. And I like planning.
I’m very ready to jump into work. I love been a stay home Mum and I have been pretty much doing it for almost 17 years give or take a few years when I was working in spurts- I do worry how I would make the transition to working outside the home or rather, I worry more about how the rest of the family will adjust n to me working away from the home- but I really feel a need to do it. And frankly raising 6 kids, in the city is proving to be very very tricky on one salary.
And so I wait, and in the meantime I am trying to figure out how to be totally on my game the next time a similar job posting comes up. So far I know it involves getting out there and working in my field but I think it also involves me getting a graduate degree- somehow, someway. As the Mum of 6 kids I totally acknowledge that this will be tricky,but, and I know I have probably mentioned this before, I am kind of a “where there’s a will there’s a way- kind of gal” and I am, at the moment anyway, feeling kind of pumped, so we’ll just have to see how far this “will” can take me.