Thursday, April 24, 2008


I was sitting in the corner of my loveseat the night before last, reading and writing with Nick perched on a pillow on my lap. I was a bit sleepy and pretty relaxed when body tensed and heart raced at the commotion at the front of my house. I immediately closed the laptop and blinked frantically to hurry the process of adjusting my vision to the darkened room and shrank back into my seat away from the large window and nearby door.

Someone was trying to break in, I thought, and my fingers tingled, so extreme was the sudden terror. There was pounding on some surface and the heightened emotions didn't allow me to discern whether the intruder was attacking through the door or window. Did I lock the door? Where could I run and hide? Why wasn't Friend here to do something useful while I cowered in a corner? Was the dog not coming to protect me at all?!

My eyes finally adjusted and I moved the laptop aside to prepare for my immediate flight from the room. The intruder was already inside! The closed blinds were moving over the front window! Why don't I lock my windows? I don't really have items worth stealing, I thought miserably and paused as I clumsily struggled off the loveseat.

Then I saw a stripey tail twitching below the windowsill where it emerged from behind the blinds.

"Sprout?" I called, unsure and still scared. The noise stopped for a moment and as the terror eased, I realized I could hear him growling and hissing from his perch on the windowsill. I didn't realize he could push aside the wide blinds that covered the window and sneak behind them. They continued to clatter as he pounced against the glass. His paws thudded forcefully - he's gained some weight and is a pretty hefty guy right now. The white blinds shifted as he moved and he continued to hiss. "Sprout?" I called again, a bit concerned and wilting as the fear receded.

I walked carefully across the room, saying his name repeatedly so he wouldn't attack me when I went to help him out of his predicament, and slowly pulled the left edge of the blinds away from the window. My action earned me an annoyed glance rather than a grateful escape from my stripey cat and I pounced on the outlet for my overwrought emotions.

"Out, out, out!" I ordered him, standing aside so he could obediently move through the opening I created. He turned to look out the window again instead and I became enraged. "Sprout George LastName!" I shouted. "You will do what you're told! You scared me - which was sick and wrong - and you Can Not stay back there to do it again! Get out! Now!"

He finally stood and stretched before leaping down on the carpet. Then he stared at me again, obviously unimpressed by my display of extreme annoyance. I took a breath and began to politely explain why it would be better to use another window with blinds pulled up for his convenience while I settled the covering back in place over the front window.

"You broke it!" I gasped and glared at him. "I've lived here three years and I'm getting ready to move and you broke one of my blinds! What is wrong with you?" I stomped my foot three times, so upset was I by this development and he was finally startled enough to scamper down the hall. I muttered to myself and stomped back to the loveseat to tell Friend.

me: Sprout just broke a blind in the front window and had me convinced someone was trying to break in. Now I'm Pissed.
He just went back there again and I had to yell at him again!
Friend: Ah
10:08 PM me: I was scared!
Friend: He was back there last night too.
me: No more. Well, at least while I'm watching.
Friend: Yes.
me: He was growling and hissing and throwing himself at the window!
Then he wouldn't move when I lifted the blinds - just stared out the window.
Friend: It would probably be easier to just open them a few inches
10:09 PM me: And let him win?!
Friend: Yes.
He will in the end anyway.

He continued to move back to his new favorite spot throughout the evening and I would sternly scold him each time. I even had a tennis ball ready to lob at him if he started to ignore me. But Sprout is nocturnal and I am not, so I eventually went - muttering all the while - and raised the blinds a bit so he wouldn't break more of them.

I woke this morning after sleeping long and hard last night. I went to bed early - before 9 - and woke around 6 feeling achy and slow. So I wandered down the hall, stopping to scrub at my teeth, and poured coffee. I flopped on the loveseat and smiled when I saw a pale yellow dog trotting at the side of his running person. That's nice, I thought and sipped my coffee before wondering what was different.

My eyes widened when I realized that my schefflera plant - which is absolutely huge now - was lying on its side on the carpet. I had scooted it closer to the window in a last ditch effort to discourage Sprout from hanging out there. Instead, it took him only 2 nights to knock the impressive greenery and large pot over. It was obviously in his way.

I walked over and settled the pot back on its base and nudged it back from the window to avoid future toppling. I went to the hall to fetch the vacuum - to get the black soil off my cream carpet - and was faced with a curious cat who was coming toward the living room.

"You." I said accusingly and something in my tone - or the fact that I was standing up - must have warned him because he stopped. I yanked open the closet door and pulled out the vacuum. "It's obviously too much to ask that you leave the front window alone. No - you have to break stuff and knock plants over just because it pleases you to do so. You are an ass. And I don't like you very much right now."

He peeked around the corner while I scooped dirt into the pot by hand and carefully vacuumed the area. I watered on Saturday so things were dry enough that the carpet cleaned fully and quickly. I wanted to win, I realized after I finished. But I was demoralized and soundly defeated and sighed with that knowledge.

I felt much the same yesterday while looking at Boss's comments on my paper. He was leaving them on my desk when I arrived Tuesday and we talked about some concepts before he left me with pages heavy with black notes and highlighted sections. I read them three times while I waited to get my hair cut and had some lunch and again when I was waiting at my laser appointment the day before yesterday.

He's right, I realized, feeling both grateful and sad. I focused on a very subtle finding that was what I was originally after. But in the process, I found a huge difference which seemed very obvious to me. So I glossed over it - it merited a short mention in the results while I was on my way to my main point. It didn't even show up in the discussion.

Boss made various suggestions and asked some leading questions, then moved on to change some of my wording and compliment my writing in other areas. He's very kind and respectful in his mentoring - never showing the slightest frustration that I'm still not getting it. After heavy revisions on graduate work and several rounds of work on this paper, I still don't see the world as clearly as I could. I still don't write well enough to convince people that the research is important.

Once I noticed it, I saw the point very clearly. I found old graphs, made three new figures and currently think that this 'obvious' thing is probably the more important of the two findings. I'm mulling over how I want to restructure the paper - it is very cleanly written so there can be a lot of copying and pasting of what I currently have. But I need to read about what these results mean and make sure my initial interpretation is supported by the literature. I'm getting it - I can think about it and quantify it and interpret it. But the fact remains that I didn't notice it. I'm better now than I was - I've learned a lot in the past three years - but I'm still not where I think I should be.

Boss would argue that point, I'm sure. Friend would tell me I'm being too hard on myself. But I'd still hand you a tennis ball to lob at me and note that I'm looking to get out. The thought of doing another post-doc makes me cringe. Not that I couldn't learn more or that I'm at all too good to do that level of work. And there are parts of this lifestyle that I adore.

"When I think about what I like and what I'm good at," I told Friend as we were talking about this very topic, "industry or academic staff positions seem most reasonable." The looks on people's faces when I say that indicate I'm wronging them. I've been trained to do research. I have a lot of the qualities that indicate I'd be good at it. I'm learning and improving, but it's not fast enough. So now I wait (and write) and hope that one of the two potential jobs can hand me the white flag.

My cat has already done so.

Note: I realized as I edited this that I sound utterly defeated. That's probably true, but I'm not sad about it. I really think this is the right thing for me and would be thrilled to get either of these jobs. I feel happy when I picture myself in those roles and given the opportunity, I would take it. The other point that emerges is that I'm grossly impatient. I can't defend that - the truth sometimes hurts.


Brigindo said...

The Brute does that with the blinds too. He bats at them, breaks them, scratches and lunges at the window and chirps. As big of a brute as he is, he's got this little chirpy voice.

b just built him a castle so he can sit in front of the front window and survey his kingdom. we accepted defeat a long time ago.

If you take a position that provides you with the work you enjoy doing and are good at it really can't be seen as a defeat.

Anonymous said...

Who the heck is "Nick?"

- Anna

Veo Claramente said...

I think that the clarity of expression is something that comes with experience and practice, I'll bet your 20th paper will be so fabulous the first time around, for example (20's just a number as example). Even just writing about science in general sharpens your skill so much, my pathetic attempts at science blogging definitely help the structure of my sentences in other scientific writing.
And change does not mean defeat.

KM said...

PD my friend: Courage! :-)

Amanda said...

I second Veo Claramente. Change does not mean defeat. You just found a successful work around. I, also, agree that writing is an acquired skill.

Joy said...

There is something called the peace that passes all understanding. I am not quoting this right, I've heard of it before I read it in one of Oprah's books...

But it has to do with your two opportunites. You've made the effort, reached out for them and now, you wait. If it is to be, it will be, with or without your worry.

So, let your worry be what it is. It is your working out your patience in the job search, life searching. And your worry will teach you in the end that you don't have to worry. Like I said, it will be if it is meant to be.

I know this is talking in circles and I am still learning it for myself. But if you bring your awareness to your worry, and tell yourself, it is normal to be concerned and to be thinking of it, it takes some of the worry away. Your awareness is all you need to do.

I am glad you've had these two opportunities and I wish the best for you!

P.S. I have been away because my computer died...but I posted about that at my blog. :-((

ce4460 said...

I really like what Joy said. Life is what it is and it will bring to you what it has to offer. Nothing more, nothing less. It is really a cool thing. It is nothing to fear.

You are a real talent. One can see it in your writing. You will be a success in one form or another.

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