Friday, 25 May 2012


I’m all talk and no action. 

At least here. 

Sometimes you just have to live your life in order to observe it properly. 

The silence here is due to many factors.  But I don’t think this space is going away.  I’m just working on finding a way for it to fit my life a bit better.  The beauty of the space is that it can change with my life. 

When I started this little venture I was very lost and suffering from PhD-PTSD. 

It’s totally a thing. 

While speaking to a fellow PhD survivor yesterday we hit on the core of PhD-PTSD.  

You cannot stop analysing.* 

For at least four years of your life 20% of the 25% of the brain we actively use was taken up with constantly analysing.  No matter what you were doing, that bit of the brain was constantly ticking over and ‘making connections’ and pushing you to write, write, write, write.  When you finally finish, that bit of the brain is at a loss.  Especially if you don’t continue with the academic life.  That bit of the brain is habituated to analyse so it turns to whatever it can find.  It’s like a virus (or something else that just latches on to whatever is nearby, a seed pod, whatever) and you start analysing your breakfast choices, your friends, your partner, your marriage, the look a total stranger gave you on the tube.  It’s all up for investigation with any social theory you can remember and suddenly you can’t enjoy ‘time-off’ anymore because that bit of your brain is telling you that there is something significant to be said about your choice of breakfast.  It’s all culturally relevant and indicative of a greater social pattern and the fact that you think you made the choice because it was all you could find in the cupboard and were running late, means you aren't taking a broad enough view of your life and choices…………

Do you see? It’s exhausting.  Who cares? It gets to the point that you can’t register a feeling without analysing why it is that you might be feeling this way. 
I should point out that this may only be the case with Social Science PhDs as we are trained to see any aspect of life as up for investigation, so why not my breakfast choice.

Getting back to the silence…

I didn’t want to analyse my life anymore.  I feel pretty confident in saying that continued analysis will not make life enjoyable.  The unexamined life is definitely worth living.  At least for awhile. 

I can’t turn this training off but I don’t have to feed it. 

I do, however, have to keep writing.  I have been writing and telling stories since I was 5.  Probably before.  I have a compulsion to embellish the truth for the purpose of a better story.  Some call it compulsive lying, I prefer storytelling.  Any event that happens in my life, big or small, I process through snippets of description.  Lines of text run through my head as I feel joy or horror or contentment.  I can’t stop it.  So this space will continue, but not like before. 

I don’t think. 

I’m not sure. 

I’ll get back to you.

*there is also a guilt component that rivals any cultural mother/religion stereotype

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Loose Ends

The remains of a meal in Fez.

 A new month.  A new goal.

Remember back in January when I said I was keeping myresolutions to myself?

I still am.  But I will let you in on one.  One that I think is probably the most important and the stepping stone for all the rest.

Be Mindful.

It’s that simple.  Be Mindful. 

I find that when I operate on auto-pilot I tend to end up in behaviour and thinking cycles that are less than productive or helpful.  I find myself anxious and antsy. 

Being mindful sounds easy enough, but is much harder in practice.

Being mindful, for me, is considering each action and thought.  Purposefully marking each action and thought and deciding whether or not it is the right one for the moment. 

I started this practice, unknowingly, when I joined Weight Watchers in December of 2010.  Then again, when I decided to start running. 

The practice was immensely helpful in more ways than I can count.  But most important for me was the feeling of control over some aspects of my life.  At the time I joined Weight Watchers I felt that I had lost control of some major aspects of my life.  My academic career had come to a screeching halt, my weight had ballooned and my health (mental and physical) was spiralling.

Taking the small step of being mindful of my food choices and noticing the effects those choices had on my body and health was the start of my healing process. 

Three months later I was 15 pounds lighter and running 3K on a regular basis.  I was feeling more confident and healthy.  Most importantly, I was feeling happy and able to see possibilities. 

This winter, for reasons I still am not sure of, I stopped being mindful.  Or at least I stopped taking the time to check in with myself.  I had made a lot of progress with my fitness and health and I had made a few small in-roads in getting back to work. 

Maybe these little steps, which were successful, let me think I could take a break. 

I now know, as with running, so it is with mindfulness.  I need to keep at it.  The positives gained through both are not permanent.  At least not yet.  They require vigilance and constant work. 

This past month of illness brought that realization home. 

Now that I am finally feeling better I have come back to my mindful resolution. 

First up, tying up a some loose ends I left dangling here. 

Mission: Declutter came to an unexpected stop when I worked my way through the flat to my ‘research.’  Boxes and boxes and shelves and shelves of book, articles, bits and pieces of my research from six years.  Research I spent a lot of time on and with.  Research that I have since stepped away from with no real plan to return.  However, I can’t get rid of it.  While I have decided to leave academia for the time being, I don’t think I am ready to leave that research.  It doesn’t feel done.  That journey, my circus/storytelling journey is not at an end and until it is I can’t get rid of all those bits and pieces. 

I became overwhelmed and stopped. 

Mission: Declutter ended abruptly, but it was successful.  It resulted in at least four trips to charity and quite a bit of recycling.  There are still bags of clothes waiting to be swapped and I still have yet to sell off the nicer pieces of clothes and stuff, but the overall declutter was helpful. 

And so I declare that mission complete. For now.

The sewing that was meant to accompany the declutter never started.  Or at least never got beyond collecting the clothes and cutting up some t-shirts.  This stalling is mostly down to a space issue.  I haven’t given up on it but I have accepted that it is going to have to wait until I have some space.  I will be sure to inform you when it starts back up again.

Morocco Motoring was abandoned just as I got started.  We went to Morocco in October and I have yet to tell those stories.  To be fair, there aren’t a lot beyond being ill and learning a bit about desire (hint: It’s suffering).

But not suffering as we normally think of it.  More like reality vs. expectation.

There are stories to tell, however and I intent to get on that.  If for no other reason than to preserve some of the good moments of those two weeks.  Despite the sickness, there were very good moments.  So I will endeavour to share those with you here and over in the Attic. 

It always feels good to tie a neat bow.