Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Enough Now

Each year at about this time, I find myself waking in the morning, curling up with Bug on the couch, trying to make myself go, move, do SOMETHING. I groan and poke at myself and chastise. I wonder how I possibly could be so tired when I've had so much sleep. It seems impossible. Seven solid hours last night and at 10 am, as I headed to the fourth section I teach each week, I was already thinking of my couch and my dog and the bagel chips and hummus that waited for me when the day was over. I felt incredibly lame. And then it dawned on me: The semester is almost over. I'm limping toward the finish line in a marathon no-one ever remembers is a marathon until it's almost over. The end of the semester is just exhausting. I'm exhausted.

The problem is that I consistently underestimate the strength of the pull between the mental and physical, the way that link vibrates and tugs. I don't really do enough each day to justify an exhaustion, so I must not be entitled to exhaustion that day. But the thing about an academic life is that work is never done. No matter how much work gets done, it's not enough work. (A problem that all too often leads me to think I might as well not bother at all.) Each day, even the days during which you know you will not work, you have this nagging feeling that work is the only thing that deserves your time. This is, of course, bunk. But that's not the point. After weeks and months of feeling that pull every day, my body starts to register it in the way I walk around and the way I talk to people. The consistency of it starts to vibrate and make things fuzzy. My brain is using my body to tell me that it's time to let up a little, walk away, think about other things for a while.

It's a nice idea. The problem with the constant pull on that cord is that even when you stop pulling, it twitches like a phantom limb. It often takes me more than a week to stop feeling it and believe with my body as well as my brain that it's time to relax. That week is not this one. This is the week I grade mid-terms so that my students can take a look at them before they take the finals that I will then grade. (Whoever arranged the university schedule this semester really messed the whole thing up.) I need to revise a conference paper and write a few things for my advisor to read while I'm at my conference. In short, the cord that twitches and nags and makes me exhausted is more of a web right now, a million sticky fingers that's got me bound and trapped. I want to snap them all and walk away into the fields, but they'd just plaster themselves to my hair and eyelids. There's nothing to be done, so I'll dance in my web. I'll spin and twirl and hope that, eventually, the academic spider with its very long legs gets tired, too, and puts this semester to bed.


Blogger Ancrene Wiseass said...

Yes. Thank you for saying it.

I hope you'll get a bit of rest here and there before the end of the term.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Acre said...

Thanks, Ancrene. You, too.

9:22 PM  
Blogger The History Enthusiast said...

Perseverance...just remember that. You're almost to the finish line!

10:29 PM  
Blogger Acre said...

Yes! It is in sight! Plus? At this point there's no choice. It's not like I can stop. I think this adds to the exhaustion factor. Just knowing how much MUST get done in the next three weeks makes me want a nap. But you're right. It's so close.

6:09 AM  
Blogger la rebelde said...

I know what you mean about the constant nagging feeling and then the seemingly inexplicable exhaustion. All the stresses of being an academic can definitely take a toll on the body, which I think is something we don't talk about enough. And they definitely don't warn us about that! But I hope you are able to find a glimmer of relief after the semester ends! Great blog, btw!

11:19 PM  
Blogger Acre said...


You're right that we don't talk about it enough, which I think contributes to the feeling that there's something wrong with us, as individuals, instead of it being something that goes with the job.

Of course, right now, I can't stop whining, so maybe I talk about it too much. Two more weeks until finals. Two more weeks. I can do two more weeks.

5:50 AM  

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