Damn this work is isolating. My cohort members, who constituted a pretty close-knit group while we were all still taking classes, are all also dissertating, but they each have their own personal challenges (much worse than mine) to deal with, so we're not communicating much with one another. A sampling: one is faced with having to return to his native country for at least two years, despite having found a life partner in the States, to fulfill the terms of a fellowship; another buried her father a little over a year ago and is now providing in-home hospice care to her mother; and yet another friend, a year ahead of me, just turned in a diss that nearly killed her long marriage and whose stress worsened a chronic condition so much that it's rendered her considerably less ambulatory.
I think about these challenges and realize it's really petty of me to complain about my own dissertating when I have such a fabulous situation in which to accomplish it (childcare shared with Mr. Trillwing, a 50% TAship that takes considerably fewer than 20 hours/week, Mr. Trillwing's income to purchase such luxuries as DSL and Netflix).
I'd join a dissertation reading group but in the past I've found I put a lot more into such groups than I take away, and I'm not ready to dedicate that kind of effort without getting considerable in return. Selfish? Yes. Practical? Also yes.
My fantastic adviser, who has always been a terrific sounding board for all things academic and personal, has become swamped with responsibilities (other students discovered her, the bastards, and now I must share her) and has also begun commuting this year, so she's less available than she has been in the past. I do give her credit for helping me to completely revamp the chapter's organization in ways that are proving fruitful. And her comments, while sometimes discouraging, do mark my progress. For example, among more constructive criticisms, her frustrated comments on an earlier draft of the first part of The Chapter that Refuses to be Completed (TCTRTBC) included such gems as "yuck" and "Oh, trillwing, don't do this," but the latest round features such encouragement as "At this rate, you'll get a contract with Duke!" (Duke University Press, are you listening? I give you linky goodness, you give me a book contract, 'K?)
Mr. Trillwing is a dear and a constant emotional support, but we don't really discuss the diss because I'm afraid when I bring it up I sound to him like the adult voices in Peanuts TV specials: Mwah-mwah-MWAH-mwah. And besides, I haven't been the best spouse, procrastinating as I have on reading his sexy, action-packed, 900-page screenplay-opus on the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, as fascinating as it is. (Honey? I promise to finish reading it shortly after I turn in the diss. It's just too damn good and I get discouraged. Seriously. I mean, you're brilliant with your high school diploma and autodidactism, and here I am with an almost-Ph.D. and years of experience as a writer and editor, yet I can't write a paragraph without evoking an occasional "yuck" from Fantastic Adviser and a zillion
I find the academic blogosphere cheering on most days, but it's also a too-tempting source of procrastination for trillwing, who has occasionally taken to referring to herself in the third person when she's feeling ashamed of her recent lack of progress. Seriously, the expert Queen of West Procrastination has nothing on me, despite her claim to the heavyweight title.
For TCTRTBC, I blame in large part my archival sources, all 125+ of them congregated so far in the footnotes. They're handwritten. They're too numerous. They're bad photocopies. They're oblique and too open to poor interpretation and trillwing's flights of feminist fancy. They cover too much time (1880s-1950s) for there ever to be one nice, clean argument that can be made about them. (Yes, I'm tackling too much at once.)
Aside from the fact that I'm sick of bringing in a teeny tiny "salary" as a TA, I have little extrinsic motivation to finish grad school, since this year's academic job search has been, shall we say, considerably less than successful. By which I mean not. a. single. nibble. It's hard to continue work that no one else seems to find meaningful.
Thank goodness for antidepressants, eh? (Five years and counting! Yay me.)
Don't worry, bloggy friends. Soon we'll return to your regularly scheduled cheery trillwing. Until then, this is defeated trillwing, signing off. . .