Thursday, November 5, 2009

of tunnels and light

It has been pouring rain here, mercilessly, wind and rain, so that muddy bike rides and rough ferry rides are quickly becoming the "new normal." I'm trying to resist the matching mood, but it's tough. We're in the slogging part of the term -- students slump expressionless in their seats in front of me, overwhelmed by midterms and research papers, not knowing, nor caring, that I am equally worn by successive weekends and evenings spent marking -- my fourth-finger marking callous is pronounced again, my not-tennis-but-marking elbow competing for attention with my solid-as-cement neck-and-shoulders. Anxiety mounts about all those extra-curricular duties I can't get to because I have to be on campus during normal working hours, and I've just heard that one of the committees I'm on can only meet at 8:30 (so early! on my supposedly work-at-home-in-pjs day) three Fridays from now (a day that I also have two colloquia to attend and then a ferry to catch!) .

Please be patient and consider this de-briefing rather than whining, or just click yourself to a happier space. But I am enumerating my challenges to move away from them, and I'm almost there. I remind myself that we've just completed Week 9 of a 13-week term, and it won't be long before I have only marking and exam-invigilating and office hours and Writing Centre -- only four more weeks of mustering the energy to get in front of a class. And then two weeks after that and I'll be able to stay away from campus for two quiet, precious weeks.

These photos, taken Wednesday morning before the rains had me searching for an Ark, remind me that there is light at the end of this tunnel, even if it only leads to another tunnel!
And they seemed a fitting accompaniment to the good news I can finally share with you -- news of a long patch of tunnel-free daylight in my future. I just got the official word on Wednesday: my application for a six-month Research Leave was successful! January 2011 will be a beautiful sunrise for me, beginning six months during which I can concentrate on nothing but my own work. Considering that I still had kids living at home and half-time work while I worked on my dissertation, and that I've been teaching four courses per term since then while still trying to eke out a bit of research/writing, this is going to be a marvellous opportunity. Being granted the Leave goes a long way to making me feel better about my institution as well, and it helps me see myself as a teaching scholar (rather than like the beleaguered baby-sitter/high-school teacher I sometimes seem to embody after a semester with first-years).
This will be another busy weekend. Not only do I have 80 research paper proposals and accompanying annotated bibliographies to mark (!), but the extended family on Pater's side is meeting to celebrate his parents' 60th wedding anniversary (an impressive achievement, 60 years together, well worth celebrating!). Pater himself has just been landed in a challenge-of-a-career situation and trying to be resolute and resourceful and positive about it, but it will be painfully public and I can't help worrying for and about him. My shoulders seem permanently welded to my ears, but my Registered-Massage-Therapist-in-training Daughter is giving me a massage on Sunday morning, and I will keep trudging toward that next sunrise. I know it's out there.


  1. Six whole months - what a wonderful light at the end of the tunnel!

  2. Congratulations on your research leave. And crossing my fingers for similar luck on all careerish challenges.

  3. Wonderful news about the research leave! Sounds like pure bliss!


  4. So happy about the news! Just try to survive the few weeks till Christmas. And then enjoy the holidays. We got our first snow on Thursday and I´m not liking it a bit. Luckily it turned to rain and hopefully all the snow will melt away.

  5. What thrilling news and acknowledgment of you gifts. Huge, just huge. Congratuations.

    In the immediate, book more massages.

    And bon courage to Pater, pater of a resilient, hardworking, versatile family. They had to get it from you two!

  6. Dammit that was supposed to be "YOUR gifts",

  7. Congrats on your leave! How delicious to consider the possibilities before you. When I was on PEI for a month this summer, there was an exquisite relief every Saturday, as I'd see the other cottagers load up their cars and drive off, for I knew that I had three entire weeks ahead (which seemed like a lifetime, at that time!). Enjoy your research project(s); hope one includes knitting!

  8. Great news about your research leave! Sounds like you and Pater both have a lot on your plates - but you'll get through it, even if you have to grit your teeth at times. Just keep thinking of January 2011!

  9. Sorry you are going through a wearying time right now, but congratulations on your Research Leave - the light at the end of the tunnel!

  10. Yes, Lesley, it's going to be wonderful!
    Thanks, LPC, finger-crossing luck always useful round here.
    Karina: Can never think of that phrase-- "pure bliss" without thinking of our mutual friend and my comps-studying!
    Metscan: You must have such fortitude of spirit living in such a climate! I'll wish some light your way . . .
    Duchesse: Thanks so much (and I knew what you meant right away, of course, no need for the typo correction) -- and yes, I really should book many massages . . .
    Miss C: I agree that even without the Research Leave, our less-scheduled summers, Christmas break, etc., are pretty enviable (just wish that the folks envying would realize the evenings and weekends I work through term). I really should try to work knitting and research together -- thanks for the suggestion ;-)
    Tiffany: Teeth-gritting times indeed -- my dentist is always quick to tell me when I've been through stressful times -- I'm a real tooth-grinder. And now it makes such a difference knowing what I have to look forward to.
    Patricia: Thanks! I'm feeling really happy about this, for sure.

  11. thanks for those pics. looking forward to sunday

  12. wowowowowowowowow
    Good job, and congrats.
    You are going to be so happy! YAY!!!!!!
    and YAY

  13. What fabulous news. Congratulations and what a brilliant light to look forward to. And on the subject of light the photos are just gloriously inspiring.

    Good luck to you and pater in weathering the more immediate storms.

  14. Hallelujah for your research leave! That must be a huge relief.

    Those pictures are unbelievably gorgeous! Red sky at morning indeed. We could use a bit of that rain if there's any way to send it south. I hope you get a break soon, though. Days on end probably would be pretty tiresome.

  15. Girlcook: Thanks! and thanks for coming back to actually read ;-)
    Mardel: Thanks -- one thing maturity does bring is the knowledge that you can weather the storms, right?
    Pseu: Yes, the red sky was truly the sailor's storm warning, as in the verse. But it was so gorgeous, like being in a bowl of beauty, really, enveloped . . . pretty non-stop soggy ever since, though. I'd happily send you some if I could!

  16. I think time away from teaching is so utterly crucial to those that teach. When I first started teaching it was a given that after 20 years teachers could take a paid year out to return to college.
    Needless to say that is not the case now, yet I can't help thinking that if reinstated teaching here would improve. Instead I have managed to get a few weeks on a course at The Slade, which is better than nothing but only the tip of what I need right now.
    I think it is difficult for non teachers to understand the concentrated intense bursts of activty we have to deal with in our proffesion, along with motivating very disillusioned students it is a very physically draining proffesion and unlike many others we never get to chose the time off we get given either.

    I am so pleased for you. I think the older we get the more we appreciate opportunities like you have.
    I alaways have my ex-pilates teachers voice in my ear "drop the shoulders" and "navel to spine" when I am slumped over the computer banging out yet more assesment sheets!

  17. Absolutely, Alison -- we're very lucky in terms of time off, certainly, but we are restricted in when we can take holidays. And the rhythm of the work is challenging -- during term I can do very little else, can't eke time for dentist or mechanic or whatever because I have to be on campus -- no substitutes to cover for me.
    And yes, I try to remember to get my shoulders away from my ears as well -- helps that I still go to Pilates twice a week to get reminded!

  18. Just catching up after a brief sojourn in Scotland and am doing small dance of joy on your behalf! How exciting and how well deserved. And wonderful photos too.

  19. Thanks, 60/16! How great to know that a joydance is being done in my name a continent and an ocean away!


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