Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas Mr. Intellectual

I miss you, but I can’t reach out to you anymore. I don’t know if you’re still dating her and still against having anything to do with me or not. It’s only a matter of time before we run into each other somewhere. I want to know how your first semester at the post-graduate program went and how your family is doing. I want to know if you’re happy and still as deeply passionate about History as you used to be. I want to see you smile.

Right now I would give just about everything to turn back the clock to three years ago when we celebrated our last Christmas together. As difficult as that was, it was much simpler than what I’m trying to handle right now.

I hope above all, that you are happy with where you are in your life right now.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Home for a Rest

I came back to my parents house a few days earlier than planned. Originally I was supposed to head home Saturday morning for the Christmas festivities. However, that plan changed rather quickly as I started to have a personal meltdown over the difficulties I'm encountering with completing my Master's degree. Between the stress of finishing and my issues with my advisor I was sliding fast.

I don't do well during the Christmas holiday's to begin with. Something with having to go places I'm not particularly keen on going, and putting on a good face to keep up appearances. This is my first Christmas that in addition to the depression I'll be dealing with PTSD and it wasn't going well. The fact that my Mother emailed me this past Saturday and said that I seemed "fragile" was a clear indication that if I didn't do something soon I'd either be institutionalized or something far worse.

I think this is one of the first times that my Mom has caught wind of exactly how desperate my situation can be at times, which means I'm not holding it together well at all. So I decided to come home to rest and finish up in a supportive environment where people understand what I'm up against. I haven't disclosed anything to my current house mates and I doubt I will anytime soon given how intensely private I am.

I've managed to sleep better since coming back to my own room with my comfortable bed and surrounded by favourite things. It also meant I could take some pictures of a few of the other things I collect, like my tea cups. This is one of my favourite ones. It's a Royal Albert pattern called "April Showers". It is actually a cup and saucer that my mother received as a wedding present, but recently gifted to me. I had found the same pattern in a raspberry and yellow combination at an antique store a year or so ago and bought it. It was then that my mother presented me this one as a
gift. Buying antique tea cups and china was actually one of the first things that got me into antiquing and collecting many years ago, before I was even a teenager.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Razors Edge

I feel like I've been near the razors edge for the last little while with my thesis work. I'm so close to finishing my Master's and truly starting my Ph.d, free from the constraints of an unfinished degree. However, after a progress meeting this past week with my advisory committee I feel like I've been pushed off the edge. My head advisor and I are having what can best be described as a personality conflict. I'm extremely concerned that she's going to block me from completing this degree before the start of the Winter term in January. I wish I was over reacting, but I'm not and this whole situation has created quite the emotional turmoil for me right now.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Snow Day

Winter arrived with a bang last week, dropping several inches of fluffy powder on my neighbourhood. Despite not wanting Winter to come yet, the Canadian in me got the best of the situation and it was quite nice to sit inside and watch the storm come through. The huge flakes were pretty, and everything finally felt Christmasy enough for December.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Akin to Drowning

They say that you shouldn’t jump in after a drowning person, that even the strongest swimmer could die while attempting to rescue that person. Drowning people pose a risk not just to themselves but also to the potential rescuer because in their panic it’s possible that they will pull you down with them.

Depression is a lot like drowning. Your pain and inability to “make” yourself happy can pull down the person you are in a relationship with. Their natural instincts are to jump in and save you, because they love you. Despite the fact that in most cases they really have no idea what to do, and are not qualified to help you on their own. After a while they become tired, frustrated, and confused when all their efforts produce very little results. They take it personally, like it is a personal failing on their part because they couldn’t “make” you happy.

If it were just a matter of sheer will power, as a person with clinical depression I would have made myself ecstatic a long time ago. I really don’t enjoy feeling suicidal for the better part of my day, or watching the person I love hurting because of me. At times I think obsessively over what it is that causes me to be this way and why I can’t be happy- do I even know what happy is?

After bearing witness to the slow and painful breakdown of my relationship with Mr. Intellectual due in large part to my depression, I find it difficult to form new relationships. I never want to go through something like that again and feeling responsible for bringing down another human being.

When I look into the future, I see myself alone. Through somewhat twisted logic I just don’t feel right asking someone to take me on, it just doesn’t seem fair. When I’m alone I can cope somewhat better. It’s easier to control my environment and I don’t have the external pressure of living up to expectations or of maintaining a relationship. Each and every relationship I try to sustain brings up this point again and again.

I really don’t have the answer on how to fix this, or what anyone should do. My solution of course, really isn’t a solution at all, but rather an avoidance of the problem all together.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Not Ready for Winter Yet!

From my brother's garden this past summer

Today was quite cold and snowy, and even though it's the beginning of December I'm just not ready to face up to another Canadian winter. In protest I went through my pictures from this past summer to remind me that winter doesn't last forever here, it just feels like it some days. You can't help but think of warm summer sun when looking at tiger lilies.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Bad Night

He came home drunk and quarrelsome in the early hours of the morning, seething bitterness and malcontent. I was working late, my mind lethargic from a lack of sleep and slow to grasp the situation. Comprehension dawned on me too leisurely, but I quickly countered by retreated into myself as protection.

Words, sharp and barbed, penetrate yielding flesh and leave me reeling. I curl protectively around my vulnerabilities and set my mind free. It’s not enough, the damage is done and my thoughts crystallize on the hurt. I start to question what I’m doing and what I ever get out of this “relationship.” A heavy sadness descends to encompass me, and tears well up behind closed eyelids.

I hold back the feminine instinct to smooth things over, and apologize regardless of who is right or wrong. Instead I sign off and crawl defeated into bed, the covers pulled up tightly to my chin. I know it’s a desperate bid to forget what just happened, but to stay awake is to prolong the anguish.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"...because of, or in spite of."

This semester I've dealt with an unusual situation within the course I'm a graduate teaching assistant for. The long and short of it is that the sessional who is responsible for teaching the online course has essentially abandoned the course and his responsibilities towards the students. In light of this I've had to step up and take on more than my fair share of the work, considering I'm just a lowly Master's student and paid only to do the grunt work of marking assignments, midterms and the final exam.

I was called into a meeting with the chair of the department at my former University where I'm TAing the course to speak about the absent professor. After a discussion of the problem, in which I was told that this individual would essentially be blacklisted from teaching at my former institution for his lapse in duty and completely unprofessional behaviour, it was determined that I would be handling the course as best as I could on my own. I was already responding to emails, discussion board postings, requests for extensions due to medical or compassionate reasons and a host of other student related duties not officially on my work contract.

I took this on because of my students. My mother used to always have this phrase she would tell us while we were in public school and having a hard time with a teacher. I always found it to be annoying and immediately rolled my eyes when she'd tout the one out. She said that we learn because of, or in spite of certain teachers. This is an "in spite of" situation and I genuinely want to see my students learn and succeed regardless of the professor's falling down.

Over the last few day's as the course is winding down and students are gearing up for final exam's I have received a number of really touching emails from my kids, thanking me for all the work I've done for them and with them. Just when I'm reaching the end of my rope, and wondering why I'm doing all the work I am for a mere pittance compared to what they're paying this guy who's supposed to be the professor, these emails show up in my inbox. It's humbling and inspiring all at the same time, all while reminding me why I am here and doing what I'm doing.

I am here for day's like this.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Vanity Plates

I love vanity plates. I like the idea of personalizing something so impersonal as a car to reflect your style. It also makes long trips a little more fun trying to decipher some of the more complex license plates.

Back in high school I bought Mr. Intellectual vanity plates for his first car as a birthday present. It was a little hard to pick something like that for someone else since he had no concrete ideas of what he wanted as a vanity plate and I couldn’t straight out ask without giving away my gift idea. I eventually hit upon Catch 22, which was his favourite novel at the time, and still holds a special place in his heart as far as I know. It was a great surprise and I was actually impressed that it was still available for order and no one had snatched it up ages ago since it’s such a ubiquitous saying in society now. I still love that plate, and if given the chance would take it for my car in a heartbeat.

Catch 22 survived two cars in Mr. Intellectual’s life, however at last check it has been removed from the road. He got a new car a little over a year ago and the plates stayed with his last car, which his Dad drove around for a while. They have since been removed and are sitting in his room at home. For whatever reason’s he has chosen not to use them anymore. It's one of my favourite gifts that I ever gave him and it makes me a little sad to see them put away.

That being said, I was never able to come up with a vanity plate of my own that I was truly happy with as a personal reflection of my style. It wasn’t a pressing issue since I never had my own car and as such was an irrelevant concern, but it was fun to think about. I wanted a plate that reflects my passion for history, my love of education and my playful side. The idea of having “DR HISTRY” was one choice but seems a little pretentious and what happens if I don’t end up finishing my doctorate? My other plate idea was “19141918” for the years of WWI, 1914-1918, since that’s going to be my area of expertise once I’m done my education. Both are currently available as of this morning when I checked the MTO website, but I’m still unsure of having them permanently on my car.

As much as I like “DR HISTRY” I think I’ll leave it alone until I finish the doctorate and then re-evaluate my feelings on its level of pretentiousness. I think in the meantime I have hit upon a choice that I can be happy with indefinitely since it’s properly ambiguous. Recently I’ve been thinking of the Latin term “ex libris” quite a bit, which roughly translates into “from books.”

The only unfortunate part of this plate is that someone already has it, which isn’t surprising. If I want the plate I have to go for “EX LBRIS.” It’s tempting to grab it right now before it’s gone, however eventually Ontario will have to go to 9 character license plates, and when it does I can get the full ex libris since the space counts as one character.

The other thing holding me back is the price tag. At $239.35 it isn’t exactly cheap, but I do remember spending $500 on Mr. Intellectual’s plate since 8 character licenses had just come out and everyone was running to grab the vanity plates they had coveted but couldn’t quite get with only 6-7 characters. I was in high school and my overhead was almost non-existent which is far from the case these days so I’ll just have to shelve this idea until I start making more of a living wage.