Great grey Friday

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It’s a pattern. Every Friday morning this fall, I sleep in (ie. not up at 5AM), yet can barely drag myself out of bed. I eat breakfast, start the laundry, see the children out the door, and struggle to be otherwise productive at anything. The cup of coffee doesn’t seem to help.

Thursday evenings I teach. Friday mornings I’m drained. I think it might be as simple as that. But frustrating, too, because there is so much about teaching that I’ve enjoyed this fall. It’s gone how I’d hoped it would go. I’m accomplishing what I’d hoped to accomplish. So how to explain my body’s reponse to the job?

I’m going to go out on a limb and self-diagnose as introvert.

A long day of writing leaves me pop-eyed and twitching. Manic, you might say. Or, energized. Three hours of teaching leaves me jelly-noodled, spine sunken like a comma. Bloodless, you might say. Glazed. Is this how other teachers feel?

This sounds like an extended complaint. I’m not meaning to complain, only to observe.

I don’t think teaching naturally drains everyone. I’m sure of it. Kevin comes home from teaching buzzing with good energy. I wish that were me. My students are terrific, interesting, thoughtful, hard-working, open-minded, and a pleasure to share ideas with.

So, yes. I do feel frustrated by myself. It’s not that I’m shy. It’s not hard for me to talk to people. But it may be that I’m introverted, and draw my energy from being alone. Any thoughts on this, from introverts or extroverts alike?

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Two more things. Okay, could be more than two, but I’ll keep it to two in this section of the post. We’ll call this the newsy section.

1. I did an interview about style for BLUEPRINT, a student-run magazine at Wilfrid Laurier. I liked the questions, and I liked thinking of myself as actually having and even cultivating style. (Long-time friends, please don’t laugh.) You can read the interview here.

2. I’m hearing rumour that the latest QUILL & QUIRE magazine has a blurb about the success of Girl Runner at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Kevin’s promised to pick me up a copy on the way home. (Quill & Quire is Canada’s publishing industry magazine.) Couldn’t find a link.

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Final section of Friday’s blog post. This will be the philosophical section wherein I write about an idea that is only half-formed, as bloggers are wont to do. The idea is about work.

Work is a word that I’m beginning to realize has enormous value in my mind. But I define it in very narrow terms. Work is writing. Period. Everything else gets filed under other categories, somehow. This happens unconsciously, and I’ve only just realized that I do it.

Here are some of my (unconciously formed) categories, which all go into the big filing cabinet of LIFE.

Parenting/pleasure. Family. Marriage. Hobbies. Recreation. Obligation. Chores. Cooking and baking. Reading. Friends. And, of course, Work.

Parenting/pleasure encompasses all the things I do for and with my kids. Of course these things have to be done, but they don’t feel like obligations. That’s why I add the word pleasure to the file.

Family is a broader category and includes my wider family systems.

Marriage. Obvious.

Hobbies. I think that’s exercise, for me. It seems to occupy the space that a hobby would. It’s quite time-consuming, and I’m devoted to it for no reason other than I love doing it. Photography fits in here. Blogging, too.

Recreation is anything done in the spirit of pure play.

Obligation is job-jobs. Things I do to earn money. There’s a bit of cross-over here between other categories, and it includes promotional work for my writing life. It isn’t all a grind, and I don’t mind doing it, but nevertheless these are jobs that must be done rather than jobs I would choose to do. These jobs don’t seem to count in my mind as work, no matter the financial value attached to them.

Chores. Also obvious. That overflowing laundry basket on the table behind me right now, for instance.

Cooking and baking. I enjoy doing this too much to call it a chore, and yet it isn’t a hobby either, seeing as feeding everyone is a daily necessity.

Reading. This gets a category all to itself. It comes close to work, in my mind, obviously in a good way.

Friends. Maintaining relationships, trying to keep them fed and nurtured, far and near, in-person and via social media.

And finally, work. As I type out this half-formed idea, I realize that work is a constant, even if I’m not at my desk. I’m feeding my working life, and my writing, by being in the world, by parenting, by playing, by running and reading, by all of it. So work is both a precious and guarded particular part of my life (writing), and work is all of it, all the time, always.

End of idea.

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Getting what you want
It went and got cold

10 Comments

  1. A personality test once put me on the cusp between intro- and extrovert. As a former opera singer I am completely comfortable performing in front of thousands of people. Put me in a social situation with more than two though and I close right down. Conclusion: we must avoid the labels?

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    • I also am comfortable on stage. And I agree, labels aren’t always helpful, especially if they’re used to limit possibilities.

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  2. I taught for several years before I had babies and my husband was working or in grad school, so I came home to an empty house. I LOVED teaching, but I’m not sure it energized me.. . . and now, I am definitely sure that being alone energizes me (introverted). One of my colleagues told me teachers are frustrated actors – perhaps some of us enjoy feeling “on” more than others and it’s not exactly extroversion? This is something for me to ponder more.

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    • I’m a frustrated actor, Margo! Maybe it’s having to write my own lines that I find exhausting …

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  3. I’m a long-time creative writing teacher who was once an actor, not frustrated at all – and I do find that my classes are like a show. As actors have “show days,” I find that the days I’m teaching, I have to be sure I’m rested, sometimes even have a nap before class, because it takes a lot of energy to be on, listening and open and making my points and making them laugh for hours at a time. It is draining. But if I can step back and relax while I work, if I’m conscious of taking pleasure in the situation, their input and energy, the whole ambience of the class – unless it’s a particularly difficult one – then tiring as it is, it’s also energizing. They are feeding me as I feed them. I try to be aware that I don’t know everything, I can only share what I know, give them whatever gifts I have to offer with my whole heart, and accept what they give me.
    But it is a show, and there’s a recovery time. Perhaps – I think maybe you’ve heard this before – go easy on yourself. You’re doing this for the first time, and it’s hard. There’s a learning curve. So a dip the next morning is no surprise.

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    • I think it would have been helpful to think of class as a show. I haven’t had the luxury to time to rest well before class (it feels shoe-horned in amidst all the other responsibilities — racing out the door with supper half-prepped, etc.). And then I’ve felt guilty for being so tired afterward, but had I been thinking of it as a show/performance, that dip in energy would just make sense, and be built in to my expectations about the whole thing.

      I do wonder, though, if there are teachers who breeze in and out of classrooms and experience no dip in energy, or perhaps even are energized by the experience. I’m only teaching one class, and most profs carry a much heavier teaching load, and honestly, I can’t imagine it! (Never have I felt more affirmed in my decision not to pursue a PhD …)

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  4. I definitely relate to the draining aspect of teaching. I’ve taught an 8-week creative writing workshop, and though I loved the students and their writing and I enjoyed the process of thinking and talking about writing….it was SO draining. It consumed those two months and there was no energy left for anything else. I’ve been asked to do it again, and it would theoretically be much easier now that I’ve designed the course, but I keep saying no because teaching to a group is much too stressful for this introvert. (On one of those scaled Meyers-Briggs tests I came out 92% on the introvert side!)

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    • I so appreciated reading your comment this morning, Saleema. It made me feel a bit less freakish about this. I can’t get over how all-consuming this one class has been. It doesn’t seem like it should be! I also keep thinking, well, now I’ve done the work of creating the curriculum, it would be easier next time … but I’m not sure that’s what’s been draining. Maybe I’m just not as good at compartmentalizing as I thought I was.

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  5. I’m posting a comment sent via email from Margaret, who finds the comment form difficult to use (I’m sure others out there do too!)

    Introverts indeed do need that recharging time alone. I thought this old article from the Atlantic in 2003 (long before Susan Cain’s book*) explained the type very well :

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/302696

    As for compartmentalizing “work” :

    When I looked at your list, I itched to breakdown your categories down even further.Categories and trying to schedule them in a busy life – I’ve been messing with infinitely sustainable (in theory) schedules for ages. Eating up valuable writing time I sometimes feel, while the clock ticks to the top of the hour (my self appointed time to get off my laptop journal, and get some of the day’s necessary business out of the way).

    But this “messing” really isn’t the waste of time I once thought it was. Do I dare admit to Excel spreadsheets and colour-coded breakdowns of all the different categories of “work” into quarter hour blocks in my search for the perfect balance in my life? With the right template and formulae, I imagined, the busyness and business of life would slot itself neatly, leaving swathes of time for writing. The requisite ideas and ability to translate them onto the page would be patiently waiting. Oh yes. 🙂

    Life will not be dealt with so simply or efficiently, it seems. But all that planning and carving out of hoped-for writing opportunities has served a purpose, if only to chronicle how our priorities and goals change, of how little or much we let the needs of the outside world, and the joys and responsibilities of family&friends sabotage (sometimes for the better) those unrealistic concepts of time.

    I am still tweaking that balance. I find that it works out better over a weekly time frame, rather than a daily.

    Regards,
    Margaret

    Reply
    • I think I do something similar, Margaret, although not in such detail. Every week I identify time for running, which has to be “stolen” from the regular business of life. Luckily, my writing time exists during the kids’ school hours, and I can rely on it. That’s made everything so much easier, for which I’m truly grateful. I look forward to having that time fully available to me again next term.

      Reply

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