58 or 5

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Good evening from the study of my house,

We are looking at another night in the 20s and I am certainly ready for spring rather than what we are doing. It makes me feel like I am back in the Upper Peninsula. I have had hanging baskets on my porch for the last two years and I have brought them in and nurtured them in the basement in the winter. I got them out and the other night it froze and we got snow. I had hung them out only a short few days before. They froze!! Dang it!! I have been so good about taking care of them. One night and they are done. They were actually a sort of hanging ivy and quite beautiful. Not anymore. 

Today I handed in the draft of my tenure statement. It is about 21 pages long and I think I could have written more, but there is a point of diminishing return. I think I hit it. This entire thing has so stressed me out. I understand rationally that I have worked hard and that the body of work I have to show for that past five years has significant merit. I have had strong evaluations across the board, but there is always that sense of doubt that plagues my existence. I am always amazed by this struggle that ravishes my body. My brain says one thing, but my emotions say something so entirely different. I have to admit this writing of the tenure statement has stressed me more than anything has for many years. I do not even think my dissertation was this bad. Perhaps my comps at one point, but I did survive them and all the stuff that someone has to do to get that three-letter title behind his or her name. 

In the midst of this two week craziness, that is how long I have been analyzing, pouring over, writing and rewriting this “draft”. It has contributed to my Crohn’s being more active than it has in probably 12 or 13 years. I think I have had more moments of intestinal problems in the past three weeks than in the past 12 years combined. It has also caused me to be terrifically fragile and emotional. I have already noted some of that in a previous post. Well, things that were said to be supportive or even merely teasing did not get interpreted as such. Things said or not said; looks given or merely perceived, tone of voice and all the things that could be misunderstood or misinterpreted were. I must note that in the light of last weekend, the support I received in the midst of that crazy weekend was a blessing and I made it through, relatively in tact because of that love and care. Yet, in spite of the positive given, as is sometimes the case, I only saw, felt or believed something negative. While I know I have a propensity for this, I think this past two weeks might have been a new high point (or low point) in all of that. All the while, needing to still manage the rest of the stuff in my life. Let me say without hesitation, I do so poorly, and while most might not be aware, those who know me best probably did. Jerry and Mark, two of my most supportive colleagues and friends were asking me almost daily if I was okay.

The night before last as I was trying to finish up, I really did hit the wall, but in my thought process, but more significantly in my emotional process. At one point, I merely got angry. For the most part, I have learned to be a bit more reasonable how I manage that anger. For sometime now, when I get really angry or upset, I clean or I move things around. Well, at 4:00 a.m., after not being able to sleep, I was moving my bedroom around. While that might not seem like anything that drastic, the furniture there is pretty substantial. Moving a dresser that is solid wood with a significant mirror attached, and one that I cannot even pick up the end of it, was no easy task. Moving a four posted bed that is also solid wood, and all of this in a confined space (you had to move one piece a ways and then the other, sort of like a dance couple) was quite a feat I must say. And the entire process took me about 20-25 minutes. Amazing the energy in anger. At least, something productive came from it. More importantly, nothing got damaged in the process. I was relatively careful in the process and not hasty, in spite of turning it around in less than a half hour. I even told people to pretty much stay away for the day.

When I said that, it was certainly where I was . . . I needed my space, mostly because I saw my own self as not worth being around. I was miserable, and probably more miserable to be around. I am not there often, but yesterday was certainly one of those times. Even though I have been shown in many ways, by many people, that I do matter, sometimes I cannot see it, much less feel it. What I find at that point is I feel I am five years old again, in a new house with a new family and trying to figure out how all of this happened and why was I given away yet again. That is a terrible feeling and the world feels big and empty, and while I am not sure I would have said I was questioning my existence or reason for being at five, I knew that I felt lost and lonely. Well that is what I actually was feeling yesterday. Regardless what I have been told, regardless what I have been shown, over the past five years, or even during this semester (is that all the time some of this has been in process?) I heard that voice from my childhood telling me that I was not wanted; I did not deserve; I would not grow up to amount to anything; I was worthless. Painful things growing up, but painful even now when somehow those words come back to haunt me. At another five-year-old-moment, I was throwing things yesterday. Nothing of great importance, nor something that expensive, but nonetheless, I threw it. Out of that throwing and ensuing conversation, however, perhaps one of the most important things occurred. Through the words and texts, I think I might have begun to believe that somehow I do matter. Somehow, I do make a difference in others lives. I know that statement sounds absurd, and on some levels, it most certainly is. However, the fragile nature of my security in this world in which I live and work, a world controlled by evaluation and assessment, is a bit overwhelming to me.

So what makes it manageable? It is the support of a letter received this week that might be one of the profound pieces of communication I have ever be fortunate enough to receive. I had to translate it, and for the most part was able to do so. It was the conversations had with three or four people. It was some of my own self-assessment. It was a 20 minute nap. It was seeing the most amazing smile on someone’s face as I somehow got embarrassed yet again. I cannot even remember the conversation, and while it does not happen often, when I turn red with embarrassment, I turn RED. Oh my. It was the hug from the student I mentor. It was the reminder in a letter than I do make a difference. It was by the grace of God that I was reminded in the middle of this Holy Week, that there is something holy and precious around us everyday. It was a 58 year old struggling to manage his 5 year old demons. Once again, at least for the time being, I am ready to stand up and keep going. I wish all of you who celebrate this holiday a blessed Easter.

Gracias,

Miguelito (which for those who do not know means “little” Michael)

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