well, I’m a horrible daughter

My parents arrived today.  Yes.  It is the week before classes and my father decided to take a road trip (my mother just goes where he goes).  I know how my father operates, and it has nothing to do with planning and thinking ahead; it was huge that he brought up the idea of a visit a month or so ago.  Usually, he just calls me a few days before he’s leaving.

So, here we are.  They’ll be here for a few days before going on to visit another relative in another state, then they’ll likely stop by next week as they make their way home.  And what we will do, I have no idea.  Sit and look at each other, I guess.

I realized the other day that my parents do not have hobbies.  They don’t have particular interests that take them to museums or concerts or movies.  They don’t have the physical stamina to do much sightseeing, especially anything that involves walking.  These are people – I believe the phrase is salt of the earth – that have worked their entire lives in some form or fashion; when they sit down, it’s because they are tired.  They might watch a show on TV or read the newspaper but that’s just a prelude before going to bed.  They’re social (or were, in my mother’s case).  They go out to eat frequently, with relatives or friends; in the past, they’ve gone on trips with different relatives all over the United States.  

But when they visit me, we’re all at a loss.  I don’t have grandchildren to serve as entertainment or distraction; I don’t have a spouse to help with the socializing.  I can’t think of any particular activity that might interest them.  We have very little to say to each other when we sit down to eat.  They come because they love me.  I want them to come because I love them.  But I feel like such a horrible person because their visits are so strained.

How did I end up so different?  How can we have so little to talk about?  Why can’t I have an easy and pleasant relationship with my parents?  

None of us are getting any younger; I don’t have a whole lot of time to figure this out, so I feel like I’m just storing up the guilt.  I can already see the list of “I should have’s” scrolling in front of me: I should have spent more time with them, I should have visited more often, I should have been more patient, I should have tried harder.  In the moment, though – even knowing that – I can’t get past being stressed out and frustrated.  

Yes, it’s all about me, another thing to add to my guilt.  My parents drive over 700 miles to visit me and I’m unpleasant.  Perhaps it’s a good thing I’m single, because I seem like a fairly terrible person at the moment…

communal time

I’m not sure why we have faculty meetings, much less faculty retreats.  The majority of the time consists of people talking at an audience clearly paying attention to laptops and phones.  We need a dispersal of information in a communal forum at some point, I suppose, so we can ask questions and confirm our (dis)approval but surely the delivery can be a bit more useful when it requires us to give up our time.

Luckily, yesterday was devoid of any meetings (except with my grad student, who – as he is writing his dissertation now – will be like an extension of me this semester).  I was able to spend most of the day in front of the computer, refining syllabi and working with data.  I wasn’t so lucky today: the entire morning was spent in a meeting, so I was less than inclined to continue sitting to do work this afternoon.  Needs must, however.  I’ve managed a few hours, with a few more to go.

I’m losing tomorrow to an all-day meeting.  Ugh.  By the time I get home, my brain will be too mushy to get much in the way of thinking done – which is why I may cut my losses and head out early.  I figure, as long as I don’t make a public service announcement about it being a waste of my/our time, no one will really mind me leaving.

last weekend but one

Technically, the semester starts tomorrow, with faculty reporting to campus for (unnecessary) meetings and (overly long) retreats.  In my book, it doesn’t really start until classes start, so I have one more week – and one more weekend – before summer is officially over.

However, there is much to do before I’m facing students again, so I spent yesterday in front of the computer.  Aside from some twiddling here and there, most of my hours were spent on syllabus revision – and I’m not done yet.  I’m not sure if there’s a right or wrong way to put together a syllabus but I definitely subscribe to the long way.  It’s like putting together a puzzle when the picture is still being painted; I want all the pieces in their place but I’m not sure what the picture is going to be.  I can spend hours just moving readings around, trying to get the right progression of concepts and difficulty.  I don’t actually mind all the work, though; curriculum creation is one of my favorite parts of the job.

So far today, I have been avoiding the computer, although I’m headed that way soon.  I decided to do a little shopping this afternoon, instead, for start-of-the-semester clothes.  I didn’t find much, really, although I had a small victory: a new pair of black trousers in a smaller size.  They’re a teensy bit snug but they look nice; more importantly, none of the other trousers in my closet actually fit anymore.  It’s not simply a matter of drooping a bit on the hips or looking a little baggy; most of them come off with a decent yank.  I’ll hold on to them for a bit, in the sad case that the weight comes back, but I’m hoping I’ll either find a tailor or donate them.

I also bought a pretty box, one of those decorative things to use as storage.  And when I got home, I gathered up all of the letters and notes and cards from SG, as well as a few tokens he gave me through the years, and bundled them into the box that now sits in the corner of my closet behind my sweaters.  It crossed my mind in the aftermath to throw all these things away; I have done that with past relationships (in fact, I own nothing like that from my ex-husband) but I paused long enough to think perhaps I didn’t want to do that just yet.  Maybe, a few years from now, I won’t think twice about jettisoning all of the paraphernalia from this failed romance or maybe, many years from now, I’ll want the reminder that I was indeed in love once.  We’ll see.

The other things I brought home were simply things that make my life a little nicer.  A new spatula and sauté pan to replace my worn-out ones.  Some lovely smelling candles for the bedroom and living room.  A few hand-towels to go with the towels I bought a few weeks ago (I don’t need matching; I like complementary).  I just felt like spending money, I suppose, or reminding myself that small things can be pleasant things.

just what I needed

I am happy to report that I am just a little drunk.  

A girlfriend and I went to a movie (The Giver: quite good) and then met another girlfriend at the local pub for dinner.  Many pints were consumed; much laughter occurred – and I’m talking full-on hilarity with tears.  

I can’t remember the last time I had to leave my car behind and catch a ride home with someone else.  It feels good, quite frankly, to actually enjoy myself in the company of others.

getting out of myself

Not surprisingly, I’ve been dropping into therapy over the last few months (prior to SG, I would add).  While that’s serendipitous on the relationship stuff, it started because of the depression stuff. I’m not focused on anything specific, we just take things as we get to them.

Lately, the focus has been how to get beyond the blah-ness of my attitude toward life.  As I explained today, when I look at my life, I see a wide, featureless road leading to absolutely nothing. Let me hasten to add that my outlook wasn’t much better before SG left but I had company on that road so it seemed bearable while I figured out how to change directions.  With the end of the relationship, everything just flattened out – nothing horrible, nothing wonderful, just ongoing blah.

That is not the way I want to live my life.

So that means figuring out how to make changes.  I can’t change everything, obviously, so it also means figuring out what I can change to make myself happy with the life I have – because that’s pretty much all I’ve got here: this life with myself.

I don’t want to be a caricature: the aging single female professor using her students as substitutes for the children she didn’t have and coming home to her solitary existence of simple meals and hundreds of books.  None of those things are wrong, in and of themselves, because they’re true for me now.  it’s just that when I look at my future life, I can’t help but see how I could so easily calcify into someone I don’t want to be in a life I don’t want to live.

Somehow I have to get out of myself.  I have to change things – little things, big things – or I’m going to retreat into a life that allows me to exist rather than live.  

segmenting the day

I can’t decide if I’m more or less productive when I have multiple things going on in a day.  On one hand, I might be more focused on the task when I know I only have a two-three hour block to work; on the other, I’m losing chunks of work time when I’m doing other things.

Today’s schedule, for example.  In the morning, I took a shower and worked through emails; with my wonky (non)sleep schedule these days, that took care of what I can legitimately call morning.  I walked (about 30 min) to meet some friends for lunch, then caught a ride back home with them. For the next two and a half hours, I worked with my current data set, mostly organizing and collapsing codes.  Then, I ran out to the farmer’s market before coming back to bake a quiche and pan-fry some zucchini to take to a friend’s for dinner (new baby – need I say more).  We ate and then I stayed to snuggle the new little one while she corralled the other kids into the bathtub and bed.  I got home late enough that I didn’t feel like doing anything requiring great intellect, so I took care of some housekeeping before watching some TV.

Not exactly the most productive day and certainly not a schedule I can maintain during the semester, so maybe my query is moot.  Still, I did manage to make some headway on the data set in those few hours, so I do wonder if my limited time gave me the incentive I needed to focus on it (because this research has become the proverbial albatross swinging from my neck, making it very difficult to want to work on it).  

Anyway.  Something to consider going into the semester, since I’m only going to get busier from here on out.

sliding scale

Weight loss works differently for different people.  Some of my friends can only lose the pounds if they follow a strict meal plan, others can only do it with daily exercise.  I’ve never done either – nor have I ever truly tried to lose a lot of weight – because I just don’t have that mindset.  With my schedule and lack of interest in cooking for one, I simply won’t bother to buy specific foods or plan specific meals. As for exercise, I hate it; even though I go through periods of heading to the gym or taking a class, it never sticks.

I wasn’t necessarily trying to lose weight when all this started, even though I knew I was too heavy. I was stuffing myself into larger and larger sizes, hating everything I put on because I looked frumpy and lumpy.  I was watching the scale inch higher and higher but I didn’t have the mental energy to do anything about it.

I was hoping that going to London would get me back on track.  Different scenery would give me a break from routine; having a different schedule and walking most of the day could only be good for me.  And it was: I lost 5 pounds in the month I was there.  I was walking over 5 miles a day, eating less because I was so active and working off what I did eat.

Then my relationship imploded.  And I stopped eating.  Not intentionally, truly, but I wasn’t hungry and I forgot to eat.  I lost about 8 pounds – so there’s that silver lining.  Having lost the weight, now I really want to keep it off.  

I’m pretty sure my stomach has shrunk; small portions are quite enough for me now.  I used to order a three enchilada plate at the local Mexican restaurant; now, I’m fine with a quesadilla and some chips and salsa.  I used to sit on the sofa with a bag of chips after eating a full meal; now I’m really not interested in snacking.

Starting to watch calories has helped, too.  I’m using a calorie tracker, just to get a sense of what I’m taking in, and I’m actually motivated to stay within my daily range. If I have an active day, I eat a little more (even though I usually don’t); if I have a mope on the sofa day, I eat a little less.  

Summer helps immensely, too, because I have easy access to fresh veggies at the farmer’s market.  I can pan fry a small squash and a cup of okra for my dinner and be perfectly happy. I am trying to think about what I eat, and my grocery list shows it.  I’m buying better food instead of more food, trying to focus on fruits and veggies and organic.  My pantry isn’t very full but that’s okay, since that means I’m eating the fresh foods in my fridge.

I’m down 15 pounds since I left for London in late May.  Honestly, you can’t really tell I’ve lost any weight by looking at me; that’s how much I’ve gained in this past year.  The clothes I have don’t fit very well – some of my trousers would just need a good yank – but I haven’t quite gone down a size, so I’m still muddling along with what I have.  If I can trim a little more off, I think I can justify buying a few new things for the coming semester.

The hard part, now, is keeping it off and, ideally, taking off about 10 more pounds.  I’m not fixated and I am eating.  But I would like to make some changes in my life, and this is a good place to start.