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Learning (again) to talk to myself

May 23, 2011

One of the favorite things I’ve read this year is a YA novel called Chime, by Franny Billingsley. Quite a lot of it turns out to be about words and the power of words, what we say to others and ourselves. That makes it sound all self-help-y, and it isn’t. It’s a quirky, wonderful book with one of the best narrators (funny, lonely, prickly) I’ve read in a novel of any genre, and if you enjoy the kind of language that begs to be spoken aloud, romance, fantasy, and mystery, I’d suggest you pick it up. I liked it so much I ended up writing a short review of it on Good Reads, which I don’t often do.

This week I had my tenure review session with my supervisor, Associate Dean, and Dean. I’m great, apparently, and when it comes to primary job responsibilities and service, everyone thinks I’m doing good work except for one mystery person who thinks I suck. But this person was handily dismissed by everyone else at the meeting, so I just have to assume that this person thinks I suck for reasons that have little to do with my actual work. Apparently it’s not someone I work with on a regular basis (the comments from tenured colleagues are given anonymously, but I weaseled that much out of my supervisors), which is a relief.

I need to be much more published, however, in order to get tenure and stay on here. I need at least one article finished and submitted by June. Two articles submitted over the summer would be better.

I knew this was what I was going to hear, but it was still hard to hear it. I don’t know why. I felt like I’d been called into the principal’s office. I hate that something that used to come fairly easily to me is now hard. I hate it that I’m worried and insecure about my work when three years ago I was an energetic up-and-comer. I hate it that I’m so hard on myself, and that I’m hard on myself for being hard on myself.

I’m mad that my energy levels are so much lower than they used to be, that my drive seems to have driven away, that I can’t just buck up and get on with it. But I need to start being kind to myself in order to get my work done.

Anyway, between my initial forays into talk therapy (and goodness, it’s a relief to sit down and talk to someone without worrying about hurting feelings or being judged by people I have to live and work with) and my pleasure reading, I’ve started closely observing the way I talk to myself. I thought I was a very self-aware individual, and it’s been a bit of a shock to pay attention to how I talk to myself every day. These observations lead me to admit that when it comes to myself, I am a judgmental, intolerant, sniping bitch.  Intellectually I know I’m still grieving, slogging through grief, but there’s a very fed-up (and, as it turns out, loud) part of me that thinks I should just be better by now. That I should be more focused, more energetic. More, more, more, and better, better, better. So I’m working on being nicer to myself, of being realistic about who I am and what I’m capable of, of being tolerant of my limitations.

Instead of saying, “I should have done better. I suck,” I’m going to try to say, “I would have liked to do better, but I did what I could considering x, and I learned a lot about what I’ll do if/when this comes up in the future.” It’s hard to quiet my judgmental voice and be accepting of myself. But it’s starting to make some things easier. Hopefully soon, one of these things will be my writing.

I’m also investing in a select but substantial upgrade to my professional wardrobe. I’ve worn maternity clothes for three summers in a row, even though I’ve only been pregnant for two of those summers. And while last summer I didn’t care, this summer I want to be able to go to meetings without looking frumpy or frazzled. I want to look like I’ve got my act together, even if it’s mostly pretend.

And, just for myself (though if it helps you, I’m glad for it), I’m writing this down so that I can refer to it later, because I need to keep reminding myself that it’s true: weary ≠ lazy. Even years and months after a death. Even then.

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3 comments

  1. I don’t know anyone survived working and grieving. It’s hard. Hard to go back to a job and get into it. Plus, now you’ve got Dot that you want to get back to!

    And I don’t know about you, but I also feel I am still recuperating from Bea’s first year.

    Anyway, if you want some help with your manuscripts, let me know. I do freelance editing. I focus on science, so I don’t know if I can help a librarian (I thought that was what you did but maybe I surmised incorrectly!?!). Let me know! I’d love to help 🙂


  2. Much to chew on. I know I need to get better at this myself. So, thank you for the inspiration today.
    xo


  3. I would find that hard to hear too. I read something really interesting I am chewing on a lot lately, because my inner voice is brutal too. Very abusive and unkind. But I am trying to talk to myself the way I would my children, in some ways, that is what I am. A child in grief–only two years of this new life. I have to give myself some space. But what I read was this–I am not everything, but I am also not nothing. And that is my goal now, not to have overly developed self-confidence, but just know who I am. Worthy of respect. Just my stuff I am dealing with, but thought you might resonate with that right now. Much love to you. xo



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