staying the course

December 10, 2012 – 4:20 am

Yes, I’m wandering; yes, I’m distractomel. A little bit. Tonight. I’m a better distractomel than I’ve been — it’s interesting to see what I can do now.

I’m trying hard to hang on to the bits of focus that I can, here — tonight’s challenge wasn’t just “finish your hearing aids paper while staying present to the world.” It was “do that… without Ritalin or caffiene, so you have the option to nap at any time.” Stimulants really mess up my sleep cycle. So I’m back in my apartment (having been kicked out of a second coffee shop at closing time) with a mug of plain hot water, powering through the nearly-finished 2nd section of this paper. Progress is accelerating; I’m writing them in reverse order from least-finished to most-finished, so the 3rd and 4th sections should be faster, and then I’ll sleep a little, and then I might do the last section (bibliography) after my 6am trip to the gym.

While I realize that writing at 3:30 am is not ideal, I don’t feel too bad about it, because (1) I’m going to nap soon, (2) I spent most of the day napping, and (3) I will get to sleep in as much as I want on Tuesday morning. Slight overextension now, but making up for it later. One of the things I’ve picked up over the past few years.

As a peek into what I’ve been up to between paper-writing bouts: I’m trying to find ways to filter “may we write a guest post on your blog?” and “would you like to publish in our journal?” emails into the same spam category as “you have been invited to join this Society of Who’s Who!” snailmail. Tonight’s “would you like to write a book for our publisher?” was a new one, though. Anyone who knows R and has read my posts about the language would know that I’m not qualified to write a book about Big Data. (Or at least I am right now. Not saying I can’t learn.) However, anyone who’s read my blog should also know that I’m probably not interested in guest posts about graduate school admissions… or guest posts, for that matter.

I’m noticing that I am writing socially as a mechanism to stay on track tonight (my first real use of Facebook, I think). I need people, I need conversation, I need something like that to focus me; I have a hard, hard, hard time with quiet when I need to perform under pressure. It’s been a good learning experience to be quiet, though; up ’till 24 hours ago, I was doing that. And when the pressure passes here (I turn my paper in, etc) I’ll try to drop below the radar again and give myself good ponderin’ time.

I’m a little lonely. But I’m learning. I’m learning, damn it. And I know I’ve posted this quote before, but…

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

And there are many different kinds of learning, including the sort of learning that you need to be able to be still and quiet and alone with yourself and still be at peace. This is going to be a marathon-length lesson; it’s impossible to teach patience and extended stillness in an hour, a day, a week.

Keep going, Mel. Get to your quiet place — get back to the point where you can be in your quiet place.

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