When does one relax?

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Hello from my office,

I have finished grading for the semester and turned in those grades, I have managed a couple of items that need to be managed to get ready for the summer and I actually have a bit of time where I could relax (whatever that means) and perhaps merely take some downtime. However, as soon as I consider such a prospect, I feel guilty. Why is that? Why is it not okay to take some time for myself? Is it because I struggle with ever doing things well enough? Is it because I generally feel that there is so much more that I “should” be doing? These are larger questions, and while they are related to the simpler questions or necessary things at the moment, they certainly do inform the larger questions of when have I done enough? What is enough? Who decides? I do feel like I should be getting even more organized and doing more work. Perhaps it is because sometime I merely seem to putz around with things. I get little things accomplished, but nothing of substance. I must admit, getting my tenure work done second semester was more than something small, but I just about had a meltdown doing that. Is it because I am older and I do not feel like I have as much time left?

I was chatting a bit about retirement the other day, but I am not even sure what I think about such a possibility. I told them I would probably drive myself crazy sitting around. I got at least a taste of that the fall of 2012 when I was on a medical leave from school. I realize the bigger issue for me is  simply priorities. I need to get certain things done and it is not a question of if: it must be done; second it is not a question of when: it is now. That pretty much prioritizes it. I think there is a certain irony because that task or need of which I am speaking is that I need to write. I am, of course, ironically, writing here, but it is the sort of writing that is about publication. I do have some things done, but I feel so inadequate about the quality of them. I am feeling better about the one about the program because I do believe that there are things there that set the professional writing program here and the process apart from most other programs. It has been pretty successful and I think that is because I have amazing support in the department and at the college level. I think that actually goes up to the Provost’s office, but I think it is a really significant thing.

As I have been working in my office this morning, once again I have been checking things off the list. One of the things I did was write a recommendation for a former student, a long-past former student. She is actually going back to the very program I was in. She is one of the most outstanding students I have ever known and I did not even have her in class. However she hung out with a number of the graduate students in the RTC program and she was exceptionally intelligent, and it did not hurt that she had an amazing wit and a total sense of irreverence. It was really a joy to write that recommendation. Sometimes we get asked to write ones that are a bit more difficult. I am always pleased when really committed students do well. I get almost as much out of their success as they do. That happened with another student this week as grades have come out. Dean’s List is no small accomplishment and with only a bit more hard work, I believe that graduating with honors should certainly be attainable. I did not do that in my undergraduate. I was close, but a Physiology and Anatomy course, which was a med school weed out course, and one which I took for “something to do”, doomed that chance for me. While I do not really regret it now, I sure did at the time.

I remember once telling a counselor that I double-majored, double-minored, worked 20 hours a week, did not do summer school and graduated in four years with a 3.74 (we needed a 3.75 for honors) and he asked if I thought that was normal. I said, “certainly.” He said, “probably not.” I did not think about it as any sort of abnormal thing, it was merely what I needed to do to accomplish what I had set out to do. Graduating with a major in History/Humanities and a minor in German/Religion was a far cry from thinking about working cutting hair once upon a time. I think of Lee and Judy Swenson in Newton, Iowa, my first host family when I was on the Lutheran Youth Encounter team. It has been an interesting journey since that summer of 1978. Interestingly, one of their children, who was four when I first met her is now a college professor also.

I guess the more important thing for me is to figure out how to manage the life I have. What happens when we find we are older than we thought (whatever that means)? What is old again? I have begun to believe Lydia is old, but I do not think I will ever make it to 90. I am not sure I want to do that seeing what I have saw over the past 3+ years. What I have had to ponder again is how do I manage the life I have. I have been told many times I am a miracle from the beginning I had. I guess that is true. But when it is your life, you merely manage what you have. When you learn things about your background or your life that have long-term consequences, it might be easy to blame or be angry, but I learned long ago that such anger is really bitterness and I have no time for such behavior.

I do hope to relax some or at least do some things I want to do this summer. I think this will be important for me. I was thinking about the movie, Bucket List, a couple of times lately. I have never really considered the need to make such a thing and I still don’t, but I do want to live without regretting things. I think that is why some of the changes in my life as of late are so important to me. If you have been reading for sometime, you know that I am learning yet another language (which I want to be fluent in yesterday), I have taken some chances with people and have been more blessed than I could have anticipated. It is a bit surprising to me how the meeting of people can make such a profound change, but I think it has been a good change. It is something like the change that Bloomsburg brought from Stout. I have said in the past three for four years maybe my reason to go to Menomonie was not to work at Stout, but rather to meet and care for Lydia. While Stout certainly prepared me for Bloomsburg, maybe the reason I came back to PA was because of the Decker family. Maybe it was about teaching in the summer where I think I have had some of the most profound effect on some students who questioned whether or not they were “college material.” Well, if someone comes here with even an average ability, if he or she works hard, it can be accomplished. Some might need more help than others, but there is a lot that can be accomplished with the correct situation and support.

Next week I have some doctor’s appointments along the second half of gum surgery. Before you shudder too much, the first half of the surgery was not too terrible. I am doing a laser process with the acronym of LANAP. It is pretty amazing. The biggest difficulty is merely managing only liquids and soft food for two weeks. More weight will magically disappear. Not a bad thing. Well, hard to believe it is Friday. Tomorrow night I am going to see Art Garfunkel. I am quite excited by that. Unfortunately, no food, but I am looking forward to the evening and the concert. All in all, things are reasonable. While I am not totally relaxing, I am not sure I know what that means. I’ll work on it over the weekend. Thank you as always for reading.

Michael

2 thoughts on “When does one relax?

  1. It was nice to “catch up” with your life through your writing. Love you dear friend. You inspire a lot of people, myself included.

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