Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Can't Do This.

First, I re-read all the comments to my Update post yesterday evening. Thank you. I am feeling off balance and overwhelmed and your thoughts meant a great deal to me. I'm quite grateful for the words some of you wrote.

Second, I believe I'm falling apart.

I drove home today, weeping copiously three times. I woke to the sound of Mom throwing up and went to rub her back while she finished. Then I took out the icky trash bag and gave her water to rinse her mouth. I sat with her, huddled together on the couch in the toy room where she sleeps, and tried to calm down.

"I don't want to leave you." I said softly, though I knew Dad would be with her all week. But while she retched, he brushed his teeth and went about making his morning coffee. I gritted my teeth against criticism and know they'll be fine together. But he doesn't care for her as I do. So I fret.

"You have to go back to work. To your life." She said as firmly as she could. But she held my hand for a long time, finally squeezing it and insisting that I gather my pets and depart. So I did. But throughout the trip home, I thought of her. I called four times to check in, ask if she was able to take her pain pill, if she'd eaten, if Dad was checking on her amidst his cutting down trees in the yard. I only spoke to her once as Dad said she was resting most of the day. But she sounded better this afternoon, having eaten and read the paper and spent time sitting in the living room, watching the neighborhood out the front window. I wish I was there to watch with her and make sure she's OK. This is excruciatingly difficult for me.

I arrived home and opened the door for a happy dog and irritated cat. I nudged the thermostat down so the house would cool, reset my cable modem and wireless router and checked my email. Other Industry Giant wants me on the east coast October 16. I wrote a short reply to agree. Then I tried to soothe myself by the thoughts I'd had on how to structure the seminar I'll give while visiting.

My book chapter has been formatted and the proofs were sent along for a final check. I quickly downloaded them, glanced through the pages with a tiny bit of pleasure at how lovely my work was presented, then realized I'm too tired and unfocused for editing text right now.

Other Industry Giant called to thank me for my quick response and give details about the interview. Who to contact to set up travel. Where to stay, how to transport myself once I've arrived. Details of the talk and audience. Laptops and abstracts and schedules. I was attentive and polite to the lovely recruiter who called and I am grateful for the opportunity to interview for a position that I'd love to have. But I am freaking out over all the details. I'm overwhelmed and - I realized - terrified.

Chienne was peering out the window, so I went to get the mail, coming in to sort bills and ads and coupons. I left a pile of 'must be opened' mail on the loveseat and considered what I'd do first. Run to work and transfer files for a new project? Make sure my spreadsheet was updated for work tomorrow with VIMD on Project A? Look over my chapter? Re-upload the corrected files? Look over the halfway-done manuscript? Write this talk I will give when interviewing? Water my plants? Put away dishes? Scrub the carpet where week-old vomit stains wait? Grocery shop? Clip the cats nails or file down the dog's?

"Don't panic." I told myself. "You'll be fine. It's all OK."

So I took a shower and wrote a blog post. And now I have to start with one of the things on that list but I'm left with a feeling that I can't. It's too much. I'm worried and lonely and sad. I'm exhausted and crampy and feel like my body is launching an all-out revolt against all the stress lately. I want to lie down and read or watch TV. But there's no time. If I might be called home again - and I'll certainly want to go immediately if so - then I must handle as much as possible as quickly as possible while I'm here. Mow the lawn. Weed the flower bed. Write down the appointment with the AC maintenance people on Monday. Remember my laser treatment for tomorrow afternoon.

At least I have a list of things to do, I suppose. I just am really doubting my capability to accomplish any of them.


Cee said...

Try and remember to take care of yourself as well, so that you can better support your family. I'm so sorry that your Mum's so sick, and I hope she improves soon. It sounds like you've got far too much going on, with family and your job offers and so on - maybe ask Friend for some help with what you need to get done? Thinking of both you and your Mum.

Psycgirl said...

Good luck Katie - just take everything one to-do item and one day at a time. You can only cope with so much at once, and its okay to acknowledge it. I think sometimes people in academia (as well as other businesses) forget that people are human, and life goes on regardless of what manuscript needs to be finished. You'll manage to get it all done. I think you're doing wonderfully.

CharlieAmra said...

Hey Katie, I was sad to read about your mom but was glad to hear she is doing better. I hope the information that I sent you helped. Let me know if I can be of further service.

Take care of yourself. And be yourself on the Industry interviews. Remember, you have so much to offer them beyond the cut and dry CV information.

Estrella said...

You're incredibly strong. I am lifting you in thoughts and prayers ... and if virtual hugs help, I'm sending some of those too. Having a list, like that which you mentioned, always helps me. Little victories and crossing things off the list get me through when I feel overwhelmed. You've proven you can juggle so many things at one time; I really hope that things get easier soon!

doc-in-training said...

Hi Katie, I've just found out about your mom. So sorry to hear about it. I agree with everyone - please take care of yourself too.

I hope things will get a bit easier too. If you need to vent, vent it out on your blog. We're around.

Thinking of you and your family.

ppb said...

hang on, Katie, hang on.

phd me said...

You can do this. But it sucks that you have to.

flossie said...

I agree with others--do try to take care of yourself. Thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

oh katie, i know just how you feel, and nothing anyone says can make it easier... just know i am near you. hugs.

post-doc said...

Thank you for the thoughts - you're very sweet.

If you say 'wonderfully,' I'll take it. I'd go with 'struggling mightily,' but that's less of a boost when I could use one. :)

When I am convinced I will not cry and cry, I'll call to talk. But I try not to torture people I adore with having to listen to me weep. The information helped - thank you.

I hope so too, but thank you for the prayers and your confidence in my strength. I hope you're right.

I've been behind on blogs lately too. :) But thank you for the thoughts and I really will try to take care of myself. It's hard when I panic each time the phone rings. I really want Mom to be OK.

I will. But it's hard.

OK - if you say so, I'll believe you. And yes, it does suck. I really agree with the second part.

Will do. I don't have a single memo to read, so at least there's that. :)

post-doc said...

I know you know. I've thought of you often and with great empathy lately. Not much makes it easier, but the comments really do give me comfort. So thank you for that.

Alethea said...

And you *can* do it, and will.

When that imaginary list of things gets unmanageable, it's rather therapeutic to write it down in the blog post (or on any other surface). I find lists horrid, but then you see that everything that seems overwhelming is actually finite. And the next day, you'll see that you've done some or a lot of it and you can (and should) pat yourself on the back for making progress.

Some people find it helpful to separate the list into four categories on a grid (that makes them four shorter lists) with on one axis, urgent/not urgent and on the other, important/not important. For instance, answering your e-mails is often urgent but not important, etc. Everything shouldn't be in the urgent/important box, and ideally, you can move as much as possible into not urgent/important and do those.

Crying "gets the sad out of you" as I remember from Free to Be, You and Me. It's healthy and necessary. Just remember to keep up on the biological necessities: sleep, food and drink (as cee said). Your mom will pull through even without your particular brand of presence, and she knows that you can offer it and that knowledge is already a huge comfort for her. It's the same thing that parents go through in the other direction: s/he can't take care of my loved one as well as I can! But they will be taken care of differently - and also well - and know underneath that your love is still there, too.

Good luck.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

Hang in there. This is a really tough time and it's going to feel like you can't do it but you will. Do what you can, let the other stuff go. Take care of yourself. Thinking of you and your mother and wishing her wellness.

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