Sometimes You Have to Stop and Smell the Flowers

I’m on the last leg of my travel back from Chicago. Let me write a sentence my mother would hate. My mother has Alzheimer’s. That’s why I was travelling. And it was hard. And draining. You read about that last week.

I brought her to get a manicure. On the way back, she paused and pointed to the chrysanthemums and said “those are pretty.” She speaks with lots of these, those, and things because she’s lost many of her nouns.


And that’s really all it’s about. Those are pretty. And a quick moment of taking care of myself. 

I find myself obsessed with the Pentatonix version of Hallelujah (you’re welcome). It’s playing on an endless loop. The song reminds me of what is important. It is pretty. 

Paying attention to the present. Stopping and smelling the flowers. Savoring the song. 

All of this equips us to handle whatever challenges get thrown our way. I’m not too good at this yet. I suspect you could use a hand too. 

The articles will get written. So will the book. But 
Those are pretty.

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Self-Care and Navigating Real Life

I am out of town. I regularly spend time with a family member who has dimentia. I planned for this trip. However, every time I plan, I don’t anticipate further decline. This means that there is more time spent doing things this family member could do before such as getting dressed.

It also means that I become much more emotional. It’s hard watching someone you love getting worse with every passing visit. I find myself on the verge of tears at the oddest points. I find myself lingering over moments with this family member. I don’t have lots of time for irritation.


I get my work done. I do it before anyone else is up. But I plan less time. I also plan that I will need to have SERIOUS downtime in the latter part of the day. I have to make sure I have time to emotionally download.

It also means that I don’t go for perfect. My eating is off because I’m not completely in charge of my food. Yesterday I at a pint of “frozen dessert,” also known as ice cream without dairy! It’s emotional eating. I. Don’t. Care.

Academics have to write and produce no matter what’s going on in our lives, including partners, young people, parents, and other family members. Those who are higher ups in academia seem to think we picked these problems, suck it up and keep going.

We can’t suck it up. We also can’t be perfectionists about this. There will be days when we get two AMAZING writing hours in. There will be days where we may have to hide in the bathroom and cry all day. We are not automatons. We get divorces, there are deaths, there are single parents, we have money problems, and all manner of challenges life throws us.

We can’t plow through all of this. So self care may be a pint of ice cream. When you have more resource, you may pick up the phone. Others may go on a run. Some may sleep all day. 

Listen to your body. Listen to your mind. Listen to your spirit. THAT’S what ultimately guides your self-care regimen.

Rough Writing Morning

Oh boy is writing hard today. I am at the library really early (I love this!). However, I forgot the draft of the article I’m supposed to be working on. I thought I would work on something else and I am looking at it as if I’ve never seen it before. I’ve been working on some version of this for YEARS now.

When I have a hard time writing, I write, on the page with the file, about how I’m struggling and why.

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Writing that has NOTHING to do with the topic but helps sort out what’s hard.

This can help. As I blathered on in all caps, I realized that perfection was going to throw me under the bus! I don’t want to accept that there will be days where I look at the screen and am clueless. There will be days where writing will be a haze and lack progress. That’s part of the writing process! It’s not bad that I go through that. It is problematic if I don’t realize that writing has hard, hazy days and that sometimes you just have to fumble through the tunnel.

It turns out, my all caps tirade gave me clarity. My argument is missing. No wonder this is so hard.

What will you learn while writing today? Feel free to leave your comments below.

Money

Plain and simple. Money is often an obstacle for many of us in academia. We didn’t choose these careers because they would make us rich (unless, apparently, we decided to be come a University President . . . ). If you’re tenure track or tenured, you often don’t have enough in your research funds to attend all of the conference opportunities you want. If you are not tenure track or a Doctoral student/candidate, wages simply do not keep up with our basic needs.

Yet, if we are committed to this path, we have to spend money that we don’t have on research, writing, and publication. To top it all off, if we want people in our field to see all of this fabulous stuff we’re reading, writing, and researching, we have to present it at academic conferences.

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So much research and writing that needs an AUDIENCE!

Academic conferences are a minor fortune. Have you seen conference fees lately? Even if you are an adjunct or graduate student, the fees are still REALLY HIGH! Then there’s the flight. And the place to stay (who has money for hotels?). And food, unless you’re content with tuna fish and peanut butter for the duration of the conference. And if you live off of that, you will likely not be able to hobnob with the people you hoped to have contact with in the first place.

How do we fix this problem? There are (travel) grants that non-adjuncts can apply for to attend conferences. Apply for those! They can pad your portfolio and eventually lead to other grants.

But if you are at the end of your grant rope, there is always crowdfunding. Really. You may be able to raise way more than a grant could give you! I did it and it worked for me!

I want to share with you what I learned about this process. To learn more, register for this workshop on Finding Funding For Academic Conferences. Conferences are a linchpin to building your career. You can’t afford  to skip them because money is an obstacle. Register now.