Writing Anxiety: Part 8 Million

It is 9:39pm on a Monday. I need to write but I can’t. There are so many things I need to do. (Most importantly: FINISH MY PROSPECTUS. Which was supposed to happen last Sunday). As writer Katie Rose Guest Pryal put it in her latest article, “I feel stuck in a place, and I can’t break out.” (The irony, of course, is that I am writing this blog post. When I’m usually at this place, I quit while I’m ahead. I make some tea, read a book, get into bed early, maybe take some sleep medicine or a pain reliever, maybe stretch. But I have to finish. I HAVE TO FINISH.

Since my exams, I’ve been waiting for the *big* sigh of relief to come. I’ve been waiting to feel happy and light and as if I can actually relax. I’ve been waiting for my body to get back in sync. After I learned that I passed each of my exams, I had a momentary burst of happiness. (Except after my oral exam, but that’s a story for another time). I hoped they would stay, but they didn’t. I found the exam process physically and emotionally exhausting. I had not had so many (seemingly) unshakable doubts about my ability to succeed since applying to and beginning graduate school. My anxiety was through the roof–and so was my pain. Again, I was sure it would dissipate when things were over. But between the ever-changing temperature and constant humidity and varying amounts of movement I was doing during the day, things remained unpleasant.

Now, I don’t want to be overdramatic. I threw myself a party when my written exams were over and had a great time hanging out with my friends. I ate many delicious celebratory meals, tried to sleep in on a few mornings, and toasted my success with my favorite chai lattes from the Root Cellar. I adopted my troll/cat.  (See the photo below). I finally baked some cookies (triple chocolate chunk via Family Circle Magazine!) that didn’t come out flat and crumble into nothingness. And since I was sure that I was merely overwhelmed with my semester projects and classes and teaching, I comforted myself with the promise that I’d rest and catch up over spring break.

But here’s the kicker. Last week was spring break, and like so many of my colleagues, I DIDN’T FINISH ANYTHING. (Especially my prospectus). Nor did I rest, which is the worst part. Admittedly, my plans were partially derailed due to reasons outside of my control: my partner had a death in the family, so we had to travel 8 hours north for the funeral and drastically rearrange our schedules. We slept in three different beds in four nights, sat in hours of NJ-PA and MD-VA traffic, ate heavy meals, drank too much wine, and dealt with our families. Some of these things were wonderful, of course, but it was all very stressful and we were thrilled to sleep at home in our own best and reunite with our troll/cat last night. BUT STILL.

It’s true: I’m in a rush, and I know that’s adding extra pressure. My dissertation co-directors are will be on leave next semester, so I need to get my prospectus out the door ASAP so that I have a plan of attack and can work independently while they’re gone. (And let’s face it, I can’t have a prospectus defense meeting next month without a prospectus). As I write this blog  post, my left knee feels swollen and achy, my back is sore, my fingers are freezing…my whole body feels out of sync. Academic fields, and rhetoric in particular, have historically worked hard to write out the unstable, emotional, too-easily-persuaded body. I have been trying to ignore my body, but clearly that hasn’t been working…. So if nothing else, maybe writing about my body and acknowledging its role in my writing (or lack thereof) will somehow move me forward?

Onward! But first it’s time for some tea.

Ori_03-21-16

Gray and black-striped cat-like troll sitting on a multicolored couch from the early 1990s and staring affectionately at her “owner” (not pictured).  

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