Day 130: shake it up

Some mornings, you wake up early, you drink your coffee, you banter with your children, you take your flipping meds, you read the younger child The BF blooming G, which is surely the silliest book you can possibly read, you get out in the sodding sunshine, you listen to Pharrell bloody Williams, which is surely the fizziest pop music you can possibly listen to, and you STILL end up sobbing in the parking lot, to the clear discomfort of the woman unlucky enough to be parked in the car facing yours.

What a spectacle, a great Anatid-leporid like you, crying in such undignified fashion! [1]

Fighting pain with sweetness and light was clearly highly ineffective. By this afternoon, I had a plan B: fighting pain with more pain.

What happened in the interim to inspire this strategy? I went to listen to two undergraduates talk about their theses at our annual honors thesis showcase, in which seniors who have written a thesis present their research to their peers and faculty.

One of these students had visited my undergraduate seminar last week, after I sent out a last-minute plea for former thesis-writers to come share their wisdom and experiences with my students, who are all in the beginning stages of researching their theses.

She walked into the room during our mid-seminar break, quietly introduced herself to me, and slipped into the seat next to me. She was quite strikingly dressed: most noticeable, at first glance, was her pale pink hijab, which was made of a very fine linen, and was elegantly arrayed. She also wore a quite lovely blue wool blazer, which I immediately coveted, black skinny jeans, and leather ankle boots. When she spoke, she immediately commanded the room’s attention. Her thesis was about capitalism, violence, and temporality in a recent and critically acclaimed television series. It became clear to me, and I think, to the room, pretty quickly, that this was not your average thesis. Her argument was complex and profound, and her learning was deep. She talked about the challenges of writing the thesis—both intellectual: struggling to get to grips with Fredric Jameson—and practical: struggling to find the motivation to keep writing when she felt stuck.

“How did you make it through?” one of my students asked her. Love the pain, she answered, laughing but also serious. She got up at 5am to write, she explained. And she wrote while listening to music, the bleaker the better (she recommended Radiohead specifically for this purpose).

When she stopped talking the room was silent for a couple of seconds, still spellbound. Then one student broke the silence: “by any chance are you this year’s commencement speaker?” she asked, in a star struck tone. “Because you could be.”

Seeing this same extraordinarily self-possessed student speak again this morning reminded me of her mantra, love the pain. When I got home, still unable to stop crying, I went out to run. Not for fun. Please! No, I ran for the pain. I ran hard, at a pace I knew full well I could not sustain, until my heart thumped painfully in my chest, until I was going fast enough that I was flying across the cracks in the sidewalk like the BFG leaping across hedgerows, until my breathing was loud and ragged, until I felt nauseous. I stopped and caught my breath. And then I ran again. I was probably only outside for 15 minutes – the elder was coming home from school and I needed to get back. When I unlocked the door, panting, and stretched in my living room, sweat stung my eyes as it poured down my face.

So: did it work? Yes, it did. It feels like I took myself and quite sternly and severely gave myself a good shake. And afterwards, everything, all the cells and feelings and gunk, to use the technical term, had been sort of re-distributed. I didn’t shake anything off; rather, I shook everything up, in the manner of a snow globe, or, I suppose, a well-mixed vesper.

Like a vesper, it’s only a temporary fix; but it’ll do for now.



[1] N.B. Wikipedia tells me that anatids are generally “monogamous breeders” whereas leporids are “typically polygynandrous.” IS THIS THE KEY TO ALL THAT AILS ME???