Thursday, July 18, 2019

Light your soul on fire

Yet another cliche...yet again, this one is so relevant and true for me now.

Yesterday, while back at work, I was reminded of why I do what I do.

I had meetings most of the day. Two of them were with students. One was actually canceled (so, okay, 'most of the day' is probably an overstatement, but it was on my calendar when I started the day!). And the other was with two colleagues with whom I have gotten much closer, with whom I collaborate, and who are mentors to me as I navigate the sometimes-treacherous trails of the tenure track.

It was a wonderful day, even though I started it feeling a bit overwhelmed by being back from vacation. It reminded me of why I made the choice to come back to this type of job, after taking 2+  years away. It reminded me of why I have made all of the career shifts that I have. Believe me when I say that the "long and winding road" of my life and career trajectory should really be "long and winding road with lots of pit stops, detours, road construction, and blind curves".

Meeting with students lights my soul on fire. I never realized this until I lost it. Until I wasn't engaged with people who, for the most part, are eager and willing to learn, who have their own passions, and who are just starting to pursue those. It helps keep me from being jaded. It reminds me of why what we do is important, even if recognition and compensation are not necessarily, um, excessive, shall we say. I do what I do because I am passionate about making a difference for families and patients.

So yes, I'm lighting my soul on fire with my work. I'm feeding my soul in ways that speak to me, not everyone else in my life. I'm nearly in my mid-40s and... I feel like things are starting to come together. Better late than never... 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Feeding my soul

It's a cliche, but sometimes you don't know what you need until you're in the middle of it and was just what you needed.

That's what happened to me last week. I took the week off. I actually did not work. For the first time in, well, over a year. And it was desperately needed - I was so far in the muck and the mire of daily life and the grind that I didn't realize how much I needed it. 

I spent time with 2 of the people I love most in the world - my parents. (I know I am beyond lucky in that I actually like my parents, despite our, well, radically different beliefs, political leanings, etc.) I sat on the beach. I read 5+ books. I stared at the ocean. I dozed off under the umbrella. I walked on the beach, and ran on the beach, and watched the sunrise from somewhere other than my office chair. I was overwhelmed at times, yes, because a group of 15 other people is overwhelming to someone who lives alone 99% of the time. 

They were the most welcoming, loving group. They let me participate and engage as much as I wanted. They never pressured me to join in, they never questioned my choices or told me what to do. They welcomed my (minimal) help in the kitchen (I mostly loaded the dishwashers... my great contribution to our week...)

It was something I needed so desperately. And something that I need to build into my life with some regularity. 

It's also become clear to me that what feeds my soul is not what feeds my spouse's soul. And that's okay. He goes to outdoor concerts (seriously, kill. me. now.), he spends time drinking and hanging out with his friends. He doesn't really read. He does walk and bike, but I like to hike and spend time in nature if I'm not working out at the gym. 

So now I know. And I have realized that building in this downtime may be essential to me actually doing something with my life and my career. 

I know. 

It's kind of a big "duh" moment for me. Lots of people have told me this over the years - that time away is essential for a fresh perspective and actually moving my work forward. But I chose not to listen. I chose not to do what they suggested. 

Sometimes you need to be smacked between the eyes with something for the, oh, 100th time for it to sink in. Particularly if you are a bit, well, stubborn, like I am. (OK, maybe more than a bit.) 

So now I know. Scheduling time for myself - with or without others - at regular intervals throughout the year. Whether it's local (I really want to go glamping!) or a road trip (Colorado is on my list) or just a long weekend at home (harder for me to disconnect, though). 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Crack in my heart...

Oh, just when I think I have it all together. Just when I'm feeling good about where I am, about what I am doing, how I am doing it, and with whom I am doing it, life throws a curveball.

We had to say goodbye to our sweet Simon puppy on Monday morning.

It was one of the hardest and most loving things I have ever had to do.

I can tell myself that it was time, he was in pain, it was the right choice, and the loving thing to do.

But oh, it still hurts.

And it hurts even more because I feel  like I just took it for granted that he would always be there. A connection between me and my husband, even when we drifted apart from time to time. There were always Simon stories. Pictures of him sleeping on the couch. Pictures of him begging for a taste of pulled pork, or peanut butter, or just wanting a belly rub.

And now he's not there. I hadn't seen him as much the last few months - what with not traveling to see my husband as much (winter weather, schedules, other reasons...), and again, assuming that he'd be there when I could go.

This, plus a few other things going on, make me wonder how much I have taken for granted in my life

We get so set in our ways, we get so used to the status quo, the way things are, that we tend to think they're never going to change. The dog will always be there, my parents will always be just a text or email away... and so on.

But of course that's not true. I think we sometimes need this painful reminders that all of life is temporary, fleeting, that our current place in this world is not going to always be our place in this world.

And this reminder left a particularly gaping crack in my heart... one that will take some time to heal.

But perhaps in healing that Simon-sized hole... perhaps I can become more present in my everyday life, taking less for granted, and making sure I appreciate the ordinary everyday as it is now. Because it won't be this way forever.

Oh, Simon, we loved you so much. You were really the perfect dog, from the minute we brought you home. Well, except for the time you ate the snickerdoodle cookies from the Amish bakery. And maybe when you chewed up your crate beds when you were trying to send us a message. You were steadfast, and loving, and just the best dog ever. We miss you.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


“We don’t accomplish anything in the world alone and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry off one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that create something.” ~ Sandra Day O'Connor

I finally realized that if I want to connect - or re-connect - with people, then I might have to, you know, actually do something. Like reach out to them. My mindset was that yes, I wanted to connect with people, to make friends and rekindle old friendships, but that it was the other person's responsibility to initiate the connection.

What, did I think they were going to read my mind?

I finally had to get over myself - and what I admit is a strong fear of rejection and / or inadvertently offending someone - and just, well, reach out.

So far, some successes and some misses. In the sense that I haven't heard back from people I emailed, or messaged on Facebook.

But I'm trying to be okay with that. I reached out. I said what I wanted to say - for example, in one case, an apology for ghosting someone years ago - and it's now up to them to determine if they want to get back in touch with me. But I certainly feel, well, better, for having at least sent the damn email.

I can say I want to connect but then hole up in my little apartment. I can say I want to have friends but then... never go anywhere, or accept any invitations. It doesn't work that way. Putting myself out there is hard - particularly for an anxious introvert, ha! - but I hope it will be worth it.

To put it even more simply...
Image result for nothing changes if nothing changes quotes

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Random thoughts

I know I usually start with a quote and then write about that, but this morning my brain is just full of random thoughts... So rather than start with a quote, I thought I'd just write then see if anything fits it. We'll see how this goes...

1. I don't usually talk to anyone until someone else shows up at work - usually around 8 am. By that time, I've been up for, well, let's just say a while. (I get up really really early. It's an odd quirk of mine and drives my spouse crazy; a topic for another post, to be sure.) That's not to say that I don't encounter people, but that I either just say hi, good morning, or say nothing at all. The other people at the gym - I know who they are, I see them almost every day, but we don't interact other than the occasional comment or wave. I say good morning to the bus driver. I rarely if ever encounter anyone in my apartment complex who's also up at that time. So by the time someone else gets here who I can have a longer conversation with, well, this introvert is actually ready to talk. It's interesting - and so different from how my mornings were elsewhere.

2. I had to do a brain dump this morning to remind myself of all the different things and projects and analyses and grants I have going on. I was having a hard time this week remembering where, exactly, each project is, who's working on it with me, and what the next necessary steps are.  It helped, a lot. It also reminded me that I have a lot going on.

3. I can so easily set goals in my professional life; not so much in my personal life. I don't know why this is. I try to, I really do, and then I usually don't achieve them. It's odd. Maybe I just need to try harder? Write a personal to-do list, the way I do with my work-related stuff? I don't know, but it's something I should probably work on, as there are things I want to try and change in my personal life. Or, perhaps a bucket list type of approach would work. Hm. I need to think about this one more.

4. 2 vacations coming up with family. I hope I'm ready for this. I'm eagerly anticipating them, but my mother is now involving me in the minutiae and I'm reminded of why I love having her just do things, rather than asking me for my opinion and my input. It's so, well, easy when someone else does the work. Time to step up, I guess. And time to come to grips with the fact that I actually, despite some major differences, really like my family. I'm lucky.

5. We finally got some good news medically for a family member who's had some issues recently, which was a huge,  huge relief. It seemed like the blows just kept coming, and this was a welcome reprieve. Here's what's strange - I haven't shared this information with anyone. Which is strange, because usually when there is good news I want to share it with at least a few close others, but this time... yeah, not sure why I'm keeping it close, but I am.

6. I love sports. I love watching SportsCenter in the morning. I have a lot of random knowledge of sports, but I never, ever use that information in the rest of my life. It's like this separate little piece of my brain. One that very few know about it. It's just another thing that's weird about me.

And, oh, there, that might be the common thread here. I'm weird. I'm strange. I'm trying to embrace it.

And here's the quote. I think I used this one before, but it's still so appropriate.

"I'm fine with being strange, but I'm tired of people telling me I'm strange." Carolyn Hax (wonderful advice columnist for the Washington Post)

Monday, June 17, 2019

Books of my childhood...regrets, nostalgia, and paths not taken

I wrote about nostalgia a few days ago...then had another bout of it this weekend.
There was some regret woven in there, too, and that makes it harder to move past it.
It reminded me, again, that the path I am on may not be (well, is not) the path that I thought I'd be on.

I don't know if I've written about the fact that I do not have children.

I don't. It was a hard choice, but one that we came to after trying for a long time, attempting some relatively noninvasive interventions, and deciding that we did not want to go further down that road. So we veered off. I took another path, one that I rarely regret.

But this weekend, I felt a pang of nostalgia and a tinge of regret, at a library book sale, of all places. I was digging through the children's books, always on the lookout for books of my childhood, old favorites that I'd love to add (back) to my shelves. So many books I remembered, so many covers that immediately looked like old friends. And I wished that I had a child with whom I could share those books, that passion for falling into another world, going through the doors that books open wide.

I know this would have been my role in parenting - to say my spouse is not a reader is the understatement of the year (he didn't know about Mrs. Piggle Wiggle!!?!? How is that even possible?). One that I would have embraced wholeheartedly.

One that I was not able to take on.

I felt the pang of regret, the nostalgic longing for the relative simplicity of childhood, the momentary second-guessing of the path I chose over 10 years ago.

And then I returned to my quiet apartment, to an afternoon of reading a bunch of different books (I can't be reading just one at any time...) and was reminded that the path I'm on now is a pretty good one. 

Friday, June 14, 2019


Never just makes an ass out of you and me. 

So, my 6th grade teacher was the first person I ever heard say this. I could not believe that she said "ass" in front of a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds... But I still think it on a regular basis, because honestly I have never learned my lesson adequately when it comes to assuming. 

Yesterday it came back to bite me because I just assumed that I had not received an expected email with an assignment for a meeting yesterday because something had changed on the other person's end. I didn't want to be a pest - this is a pretty important person at my university - so I just assumed, went about my business.... and then found out that I did not get the email because of a typo on their end, and a failure of the system when it didn't reject that email (because the email address they used does not exist... who knows where it went?). 

By assuming, I set myself up for an afternoon of frustration and annoyance, and then time spent afterwards trying to figure it out. Sigh. 

I also made an assumption about my spouse's career goals - I can't go into detail, but suffice to say that they are not as ambitious as I thought they might be. Not wanting to go after a potential promotion. I had always assumed that if the opportunity arose, they would take it but apparently that is not the case. So, yeah. Bad assumption on my part... me, as someone who would take the promotion, who strives to succeed in her field. 

So, trying - AGAIN - to remember not to assume. But I know I'll make an ass out of myself more times that I can count in the rest of my life. Such is life as a human, I suppose.