Sunday, January 28, 2007

Change is hard, part...many

I mentioned that one of my post-graduate goals was a king sized bed. I don’t enjoy feeling crowded when I sleep, and I use mounds of pillows so that I’m surrounded by softness on every side. This takes up room. With the introduction of a snuggly canine into my household during my 3rd year of grad school, I decided I wanted a bigger bed.

Having purchased a house with a large master suite (and teeny tiny extra bedrooms, lest you think I’m bragging over the size of my home. It’s small.), I asked Cousin to have a friend order me a huge mattress and corresponding box springs from a relative who sold furniture. It arrived and was placed in her garage as I waited to close on my house and I smiled over it’s gigantic size. I am the only person in my family with anything larger than a queen, so everyone was suitably impressed with the quantity of my sleeping space.

When questioned over why the sole person who slept alone required more mattress than any other family member, I spoke gravely to the reasons.

“When I interviewed and stayed in hotels, there were always king sized mattresses. I loved them.” I now realize that after the defense debacle, I likely wanted to cling to a time when I remembered feeling confident and strong in an attempt to recapture those elusive feelings. I also had the powerful hope that I wouldn’t be sleeping alone for long in my new house. I had a PhD, bought my house, had my dog, found a job that would work well in the short term – the next step should naturally be a partner and I was determined to find him.

“There are all these options!” I would continue to explain to fondly tolerant family members. “You can sleep up and down or side to side! If I get crowded by Chienne, I can get up and switch sides because there’s always room somewhere. It just takes a glance to find open mattress space, then I can sleep perfectly because I’ll find room to do so!”

I tried – for the first time, I think – sleeping across the head of the bed last week. I rearranged the pillows and nestled myself perpendicular to my typical sleeping position on the left side of the bed. My back was to the wall and when lying on my side, I was facing the television with my entire body, able to escape into mindless entertainment while I drifted off to sleep. I noticed that I was restless over the course of the night. I continued to shift then drift back into sleep. And in the morning I found myself lying up and down on the left side of the bed – exactly as I normally sleep.

It’s a variation on the same theme, I think. Change is difficult for me – if I’m not vigilant, I’ll end up in the same position I typically tend toward. Considering that it’s taken no small amount of time and effort to find some measure of contentment at work, I’m quite worried that I’ll drift back into working from home, alienating collaborators and being anti-productive as I nap and get depressed and watch a lot of daytime TV. That would be bad. I’ve done it for over a year, and the lengthy experiment has convinced me that it’s really not so good for me.

In an attempt to soothe myself a bit (and in order to post something since I’ve somehow missed a few days this week), I wanted to remind myself of the steps I’ve taken to keep myself on the right path. I have every expectation that there will be problems and days where I don’t do what I should. That’s OK. I’m looking for an overall trend more than a consistent and glowing triumph.

Therapy on Mondays
“I need to come at the beginning of the week.” I told Dr. Counselor 2 weeks ago before he shifted my appointment back to Monday morning. “It helps me refocus for the week and ensures that I’ll get to campus on Monday. Begin as you mean to go on and all that.”

He smiled proudly – pleased that he’s helping me – and I plan to start my week with him. The thing is that the problems of the past week seem somehow distant after the weekend. If someone bugged me, I need to address it so that I don’t subconsciously screw myself over. And if the weekend tripped me up, I can get past that too.

Take a break. But don’t leave campus.
I was reading LaKisha the other day – I love finding new blogs, though I’ve had her on bloglines for a least a little while now – and she was talking about how she spent all day at the library. No chance to eat or stretch or use the restroom. She had reasons for not wanting to lose her spot.

I just do all those things for fun. There’s no reason I can’t walk away from my desk to get a snack, take a walk, run an errand. So I’m getting a massage every other Thursday (I found this amazing deal!) at a place about a mile away from my office. Between the walk to and from and the actual massage, I’ll be away from the office for about 2 hours. Sometimes when I meet Friend for lunch, we’re gone for almost that long (though not always) as we get cheesy potatoes or ice cream or sandwiches.

There was one day that I really didn’t want to be on campus. Friend and I walked to a busy little sandwich shop, got orders to go, found a table under some huge trees on campus and watched the squirrels as we talked. I headed back to my desk feeling relaxed and focused. Instead of scurrying home early, ashamed I’d accomplished so little, I finished some work, talked to people and made the day relatively productive.

On Friday, I followed up an early morning experiment with some writing, then opened the yogurt I bought to find it was a little sour. Feeling immediately foodless and sad, I sat at my desk and thought about other food I had at home. The familiar tug of “let’s just leave!” hit me pretty hard until I talked myself into walking the short distance to get a snack and soda. Returning to my office to eat a biscuit and sip Diet Coke, I felt better and hung in for an entire 8 hours. It sounds simple, but it's something for me to remember.

Google Calendar
I have struggled with how to keep a calendar since starting this job. I like iCal, but don’t have it synced to anywhere, so it’s only useful when I’m at my desk. In the past, being at my desk has been the problem. If I keep a physical calendar, I forget to use it or lose it somewhere. I find the Google Calendar is more than adequate for my purposes – though the notifier appears to think all my meetings are 4 hours later than I’ve scheduled them – and can check it in the morning from home, remembering why being at work is important, and get there on time.

I’m good at talking myself out of remembering events, so losing that excuse was rather important to me.

Problems solved.
There were a few snags I didn’t think I’d get past. I therefore got discouraged and despondent and just avoided thinking about it altogether. However, there are a couple of projects that have gone blessedly right in the past few months. Project H came together and is off my desk until the penguin finishes writing it and I can edit my sections. Project M found funding, added an amazing component and people seem excited about the data I’ll soon collect. The graduate work is all in press. The feeling that progress is possible has lent me a feeling of hope that has been painfully absent in the past months. I find I’m more able to handle the inevitable disappointment and delays on some projects when other things are going right.

That reminder has led me to stack my to-do list with a variety of projects. I’ve always been big on having lots of stuff going on so that at least something is going well. I’ve avoided doing that here since everything I touched went to hell, but now that I see that was likely more depression coloring my world view, I’m picking up tasks and collaborations and feeling much more controlled and productive.

Always a caveat
I’m doing better, but I doubt many people would classify my current status as amazing. That’s OK. There are days I’d much rather stay home. I likely will indulge that impulse on occasion. I have bad habits even when at work – I get emotionally involved and take things personally. I’m still timid and deferential and the respect I get from others reflects how I present myself. It’s very much a work in progress and I don’t want to pat myself on the back so much that I forget there are still many areas to address.

As an example, I let Project X slip off my list of things to do. The final approval required extensive and trivial revisions, I didn’t want to do a practice run, I didn’t think recruitment was going to happen anyway. So I just ignored it completely.

Then someone emailed and asked if we could meet about it. So that’s Monday afternoon. I tried to remember where I was getting stuck and realized I can work around a couple problems. I scheduled time to run a trial experiment. I took a look at revisions and finished up some forms I started. I would not have done it without the external nudge. I wasn’t happy about doing it at all. But I can make it work. And if it doesn’t fall apart, that will be a nice confidence boost. When it does go to hell, I can at least say I tried.

From here, I guess we’ll just see how it goes. When Chienne crowded me the night before last, I moved to the bed in the office and slept incredibly well. So change is possible, even if tremendously difficult for me to maintain.

And now I’m going to go back to writing my book.


The Contessa said...

I hate change too. You are handling it better than I do by a large majority.

I tend to go with the "I'm old and set in my ways" A la Shirley MacLaine in steal magnolias method of thinking.

Change is tough even for those who relish it.

I like how you think it through and make decisions for small changes and evaluate the different options though you maay reject them - you know they are out there.

I think you are making huge strides and I hear a more content Katie in each post I read. It keeps me optomistic.

Anonymous said...

I chanced upon your blog very recently and just wanted to say that you write really, really well.
I think you will be successful with your project. And that will indeed boost your confidence

Lucy said...

I'm happy to hear you sounding more optimistic and accomplished all the time. :)
Some of your steps would be helpful for me, too, I think, so thanks for posting them.

Anonymous said...

1) i LOVE the new blog template. it is so springy and yellow and loveley! it's like a panorama of pretty flowers!

2) i share your love of huge beds. my goal is to one day have a king. i have a queen at home and am back in my old twin here. and i am so little people laugh at me too. but i need *lots* of pillows and space. and i love switching to perpindicular angles!

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