Stuff to Do Vs. Letting Things Go

It just so happens that the academic calendar by which I live reboots in January, when everyone famously takes on New Year’s Resolutions. Every semester I try to re-imagine my life. I think I’ve done this forever because I think I’ve been in school or have been teaching school forever. It’s nearing time to do it again.

So this post is really just one of those posts where I try to think things through in writing. I’m fresh off the drive back from my folks’ for Thanksgiving, and long drives always inspire great ideas that are instantly forgotten as soon as one arrives. So everything is still in the car, and my piriformis muscles are begging for some pigeon pose action, but I want to work through this before I get lost in unpacking and stretching and the final leg of holiday grading.

Here’s a list of what I want to do; I’m pretty sure my shrink will disprove. She’s always telling me that when I have too many goals, I’m setting myself up for failure. Well, it’s time to fail again.

Let’s start with the big two:

  • Eat unprocessed or minimally processed foods as much as possible (except for cheese and maybe Conecuh sausage when cooked with dried beans because a life without cheese and the occasional sausage is seriously not worth living). OMG, this will be hard for the girl who usually has a stash of frozen burritos for when she cannot possibly wait longer than a minute and a half for sustenance. I tried just not buying the burritos, but then I found myself eating lots of sandwiches, and let’s face it: lunch meat is crap. I’m not even talking about going vegetarian or vegan or organic or low fat. I just mean: Eat. Real. Food. I think this also means having easy staples on hand (hello, bananas!) and preparing big Tupperware containers of stuff to eat from throughout the week, like say 10-grain mix with feta, tomatoes, and spinach or seasoned black beans and friends for impromptu veggie tacos. I also really, really, really, really, really want to get a KitchenAid mixer and bake-ware and to start making my own bread with lots of whole things in it. OMG, how will I ever solve the Splenda problem? Perhaps with raw blue agave. Who can know? It is perhaps the greatest mystery of all.
  • Watch no television. I can already see myself getting around this by saying I’m watching my computer. But I think my brain needs time where it is not absorbing stuff so that it can produce stuff. Also the thought of watching no television is kind of like the thought of moving to the moon. I mean, it’s sort of unthinkable. Not only will I very much miss my long-form narrative serial dramas, but also: the void of time. the terror. a penny for the old girl. I think I’d have to program in exceptions like planned DVD marathons and maybe going to the Capri once a week. But I think if my mind must entertain itself maybe I will find my way back to creativity. Or at least get some work done. But ah, the temptation to veg after a long day is great.

Naturally, I’ve been telling myself these past few months that have been consumed with teaching five courses that as soon as I was back to a regular schedule, I’d get back to regular exercise. OMG, five flipping classes! One a new prep! I know most of my colleagues teach five classes all the time, but I’m used to spending a good portion of my day sort of wandering around aimlessly like a brainless zombie, which, truth be told, I kind of enjoy and I’m not sure I’m willing to give it up. Anyway, with five classes I felt like I had to give up hiking and the Y and jogging when it came time to make choices about how to spend my time. But seriously, on the weekends I haven’t spent grading, I’ve spent working on an article that if I think about it I will start to have panic attacks. /Time out for Klonopin. BRB./

Whew, that was close. So here’s the list of things I always want to do that never goes away:

  • Exercise more in general.
  • Get back into yoga.
  • Get back into jogging.
  • Get back into riding my bike to work twice a week.
  • Read more poetry.
  • Write more poetry.
  • Submit more poetry.
  • Publish more poetry.
  • Get back into hiking because I get out of hiking what I think religious people must get out of church.
  • Finally take up stargazing properly.

And the list wouldn’t be complete without work related resolutions:

  • Incorporate non-cognitive skills into my teaching.
  • Revise my courses to front-load QEP stuffs.
  • Reconfigure my grading situation that always and forever takes too long, though I do think grading on my laptop is ultimately less painful than grading by hand, and as far behind as I am, I feel like I’ve made progress.
  • Figure out how to get crap done during office hours, which are mostly just a waste. This is probably a lost cause because my office is scary and useless.
  • See if I can get a new office printer or get it repaired. Not being able to print at work limits a lot of what I can do on-campus.
  • Set up office hours appointments in google calendar. Somehow students are more likely to come see me if I have appointment slots available. The whole “I’m here during such and such hours, just drop on” doesn’t seem to register for them.
  • Possibly re-forge ENG 132 where they’ve got a handbook and a rhetoric but the reader is drawn from current news articles available online.
  • Get a faculty ID.

Which leads me to Miss Elainey:

  • Hey, get a regular old library card.
  • Clean out my closets.
  • Need less.
  • Actually go to the UU.
  • Meditate.

Of course, I won’t do all of these things. But maybe I can do some? Maybe the biggest thing of all is time management. Every semester I make a grid of my hours for the week and slot in teaching, office hours, exercise, writing, and it always falls apart. I don’t think there’s a single week I actually follow it. I like lots of unstructured time when I have a large task like grading. It’s very hard for me to just do it for thirty minutes here and thirty minutes there. I have to get my brain in it. Superdeluxeditto for poetry. I can’t, at least not any more, slip into Poetry Brain instantly. It takes a lot of seducing to get the elusive Poetry Brain to come out. But I think that learning something new with my body, even if it’s just balancing on one foot with my eyes closed, will help my brain make new connections. Ditto hiking in new places. Jogging or walking new routes. The brain and body need stimulation. Being an adult has become so repetitive.

For the next few weeks, which shall be devoted to grading and article writing, I think I’ll spend spare moments thinking about which of these things is most important and how I might go about implementing them. I think maybe my yardstick for measuring them will be something like which will be most likely to contribute to my happiness. And the rest, I’ll let slide.

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