This is going to be a cheesy yet academic-y post, so if you don’t like either, I would recommend you to stop reading right now. This post also comes as a reply to my previous one on being alone in my PhD, and will be continued by another one shortly about having lunch with my fellow school colleagues. In fact, that post is already written, but I thought this one would have priority over that other one.
After work last night I went to my office space. I only do that occasionally, on Mondays mostly, because my wife is in her Spanish class and I can pretend to be a researcher for a few hours. I am trying really hard to start a writing cycle (I am technically writing… only about 10 words a day, which is utterly useless). I am also battling with some stress-related health issues, namely a tension headache that won’t go away and a feeling of having a heavy head every time I lay down. Which is not helped by the fact I am a total hypochondriac who thinks the world is over when I pinch a nerve on my back. Yes, you get the picture. Needless to say, not being able to write does not help my anxiety.
So when I went to my office space last night and I could not write, the whole world fell on me (again). I had two hours to sort of put together some thoughts about how I wished my introduction to be, and I just could not do it. I could not even write one sentence. My netbook crashed and did not save the only 25 words I liked of my daily contribution and then I hated myself even more because I could not remember for the life of me what was that I had written. So at 7pm my mood was gone, I was in a grump, and I walked home thinking “I will never write again”. I wasted time at home and then I put on an Aussie rules game on the background and laid on the couch. Which brought me back to my head pressure and tight neck issues.
The wife got home some time past 8 and saw this little blob on the couch, feeling sorry for itself, rolled into a ball. She urged me to get out of the couch and try to cook some dinner, and try to work through my issues. So I cried. Not a lot, I have cried worse about my PhD before. But I cried a bit because I could not talk about certain issues without feeling completely lost in them.
She asked me to describe point by point everything that was wrong, and then we tried to work out a solution. My main problem is that I should be writing “right now” if I want to finish this chapter when I said I wanted to finish it (by the end of February, and way before my year review). However, there is so much stuff on the theory of intertextuality that I *need* to be using but I have no *idea* how it works (and how to write about). And I have a few books to read, but they don’t seem to offer me much guidance on how to use the theory in itself. And there is a book I need to find but I don’t know how – funny, being my wife a bookseller.
I also need to just be able to rewrite an entire introduction and make it more accessible and readable. I don’t like how the original one looks and I have opened a new document, meaning if I need to borrow some bits and bobs, I am happy with, but I read the original and I hate it, but I cannot put my finger on why I hate it. And needless to say I can’t seem to write anything better. I feel dwarfed by the language I need to use and by the content I should know but I don’t. And to make matters worse, lately I feel so light-headed and almost dizzy that it is really, really difficult for me to construct a sentence in English that sounds good, academically speaking. I mean, read this blog! Why can’t I say the things I want to say? Properly, I mean.
So of course I cried. But it was good to let it out. She said that she understands why I feel alone in my PhD, but I don’t need to have the burden on my shoulders at all times. And writing, better writing, will come – sooner or later. And that she would help with all the revising and re-reading. I hope she is still happy with this three or four readings into the second draft of chapter three… Then suggested people I should go speak to and ask. Ask about intertextuality. How it works, who proposed it, how it is understood today. That kind of stuff. I never really thought about that, but hey, it maybe going back to basics is not that bad at all.
I cannot express in words how not-alone that makes me feel. Given the life plans that we’re trying to sort out, me getting a PhD is part of this whole conundrum working out, and that is a lot of pressure on myself, not only to finish, but to finish relatively well. And working full time is a factor that definitely works against being incredibly productive. So being able to share the burden makes me feel so much better, and makes me love her one million times over. She has the patience of a saint (those who know me well really understand this…) and is happy to get me out of the couch when all I feel like is being a crying blob on it.
Being a Mongrel often requires asking for help, even to those who are normally helping you anyway. You are not alone.