Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Spreading myself too thin

I am at that stage in my academic career where, if someone asks me to do something, I am scared to turn it down, just in case I am never asked again. The result is that this semester I have taken on Too Much Teaching.

The module I teach in the Shit Hot Critical Theory Department was so over-subscribed that this year they asked me to teach it twice over, to two separate groups of students. It is also running as an MA option, which means that I have had to organise further classes solely for graduate students: every week, I tie myself up in knots trying to explain complicated bits of psychoanalytic theory to them. I am also doing some further teaching at another institution altogether, supervising undergraduate dissertations.

I seem to be pursued from all angles by anxious students wanting to ask me questions: every time I check my email, I find my inbox full of communications all marked 'urgent query re: essay'; at the end of every class, there is inevitably a small delegation of people waiting to talk to me. This morning one of them even followed me into the toilet: 'Are you in there, Ms Heathen?' came a voice from outside the cubicle. 'Can I ask you a quick question about my essay?'

Mr H is still working away from home during the week. Because I do not wish what little time we have together at the weekends to be entirely taken up by domestic chores, I try to cram both housework and teaching preparation into the week, while my marriage is inevitably condensed into the weekends. There seems very little time left over for myself.

Somewhere along the lines, something has had to give. And that something appears to have been my own writing - both here on my blog, but also within my PhD.

I was supposed to submit my dissertation by the end of this month. I am not going to be in a position to meet this deadline, and so am going to have to apply for (yet another) extension. I have gone through this whole process several times already - firstly after my miscarriage and latterly when I was undergoing IVF. These extensions have to be formally approved by a special committee of senior academics: somewhere in the remote recesses of the University, there sits a body of men (and somehow I always imagine them as elderly men) who are by now intimately acquainted with the vicissitudes of my reproductive system. This time, however, I have a more immovable deadline than the one imposed by the University: somehow or other, the dissertation has to be finished before my due date of 18 April next year.

With every passing day, my list of unread items in Google Reader grows ever longer. My blogging friends have been such an incredible source of support to me over the past twelve months or so, and I feel simply horrible about the fact that I am finding it increasingly difficult to find the time to repay that support - to sit and wait with those who are undergoing treatments of whatever kind, to try to empathise with those who are trying to find a path through the labyrinth of adoption, or even simply to nod in agreement with those who voice the frustration and pain inherent in living with infertility.

Night after night, I lie awake, my mind racing with all that I have to do the following day. Often, I compose blog posts in my head, posts which then never make it beyond the draft stage. I started this blog because I wanted to try to make some kind of sense of my struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss. As I continued to write, I realised that what was also important was to feel part of a broader community of women. Those twin aims have not diminished. Of course, it would be perfectly easy for me to publish a series of posts in which I confess that, at the weekend, I gave into a craving for Brie and have been racked with guilt ever since, or in which I tell you about how I finally cracked and bought a pair of maternity jeans, which constantly threaten to fall down whenever I wear them. But I don't want this blog to turn into a laundry list of common pregnancy symptoms. The blogs which I most admire - and the one which I myself aspire to write - are those which offer a degree of reflection on ART, infertility, loss and life post-treatment: whether that life includes children or not. Thoughts on these issues continue to swirl round and round in my mind... it's just that I have too much going on in other areas of my life to begin to process them in any meaningful manner.

Bear with me until term finishes in three weeks' time....

11 comments:

annacyclopedia said...

Of course I will be bearing with you, dear Ms. Heathen. We can all get caught up in feeling badly about not keeping up our end of the bloggy bargain, but really, it's silly. There is an ebb and a flow to it all, and there is simply no need to always stay on top of commenting or posting. So cut it out and relax, would you?! You have so much going on - you really don't need to spend precious energy worrying that you're not doing enough.

And I, for one, would like to thank you for not posting daily about your maternity jeans. Not that I'm not glad you have them, and not that it's not funny to imagine you pulling them up 80 times a day, it's just that I'm VERY fond of your deeper thoughts. And, well, maternity jeans blogs are, um, boring.

Can't believe I said that out loud.

Jendeis said...

No need to reply, just wanted to let you know that I'm hoping that everything calms down soon. Please take care of yourself; make a cuppa and put your feet up every so often. Hugs!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Just a tip which you may want to circulate around friends and contacts but our local MP asks respondents who just want to tell him something, pass on thanks etc to add in the subject line of the mail NNTR -- no need to reply.

If thats used at the start of an email subject line you will know your correspondent cares but that we recognise you may well not read or respond for some time.

Above all, don't feel bad about not being online. Even though the image of the maternity jeans is, truthfully, very funny...

Hugs x

Lisa said...

Well, of course I will bear with you, but, seriously, in the midst of all the goings on in your life, you still manage to support and comment me and others. You are an amazing woman!!

bleu said...

Here in the US even our Brie is made from pasteurized milk so no worries or guilt necessary

TABI said...

You sound very busy and totally understandable to lag on the blogging. I do thank you for recognizing the need to still discuss infertility issues even through your own experience post treatments. I love hearing that fellow bloggers have made it to the other side but I do find after a while when it becomes a blog about everything pregnancy oriented that it's difficult to follow while still struggling to get pregnant. In any case, I look forward to more of your thoughts.

Lisa said...

Just checking in to say hi. I read this post a while back and didn't comment right away. I hope you're making progress at work and that you're not under too much stress. The academic environment is its own little world with its own immense pressures. Try to find some breathing room, and definitely rank the blogosphere low on your to-do list. Hugs!

womb for improvement said...

Don't stress about us. We'll be here when you have a chance catch up. As for not being able to go to the toilet without being hounded by students, that's hardcore, I can't pee if there is someone in the next door cubical let alone someone trying to chat. Take care.

Shinejil said...

Shit, take care of yourself! Don't worry about us bloggy folks.

I'm with Anna: I'd rather wait until you have a moment to say something deep and true, which is your forte.

I've taken to turning stuff down nowadays. I just can't get into the academic rat race at the moment. It all seems to hollow...

The secret diary of an infertile said...

Wow! I'm exhausted just reading that post! You need a break - roll on Christmas.....

The secret diary of an infertile said...

Just a quickie to let you know that I have tagged you although I understand that you are busy so don't feel like you have to do it. It's there if you are bored
;-)