I was going to write this post much earlier in the day, but I sat down after lunch and fell asleep. That’s how it’s been lately; I’m still a little convalescent and as usual, experiencing most things through my body. But my general state of mind is, hmm, hard to find a word for it… is resistant, I suppose. I don’t want to be fussed or stressed or bothered, I don’t want anything around me or inside my head that makes too much noise or poses too many demands. I want things very peaceful and spacious right now and am fairly unrepentant about being slow and lazy. This strikes me as inevitable. What kind of a robot would I be if, leaving behind a 25-year-old chunk of my life, I could simply brush the dust off and skip away in a new direction? Perhaps there are people who are good at that sort of thing; me, I have to do the work.
I feel a great deal better about the job itself, to the point of being almost quite relieved that I don’t have to tend to the walking wounded. I made a promise to myself many years back that I would not spend so much time fixing others, and this job was not exactly in line with it. I’m even feeling better about leaving the university, since it was kind enough to make it easy for me by behaving so badly. I couldn’t help but notice that one of my well-wishers on facebook is an ex-colleague who was convicted of paedophilia, but kept his job. There’s a waitress in my college who had a short spell in prison but her job was held open. I’m really wondering whether the university has its priorities right, you know? Having written that I do feel it’s unfair, as I’m sure those people have suffered enough in other ways. But do I want to work for a place that won’t keep me because I don’t fit a box, but will readily keep others who don’t publish, can’t teach, have criminal records, or are generally unpleasant? I always believed completely that the university was a meritocracy and it’s been quite a revelation to realise that it isn’t. I don’t think I will ever understand exactly what happened, and why. The other study support tutor, a retired gentleman who works with the mathematicians and the scientists is still doing his job. I’m glad about that – he is kind and experienced and the students need him. But I can’t help but feel that my (relative) youth and femininity and my conflict-avoidant nature went against me. I can’t tell you how much it has helped to receive so many messages of support and surprise from former students and colleagues. One of the best responses I’ve had came from the porter on Sunday duty, who stood there in complete shock with his head on one side saying ‘It just don’t seem right.’
Anyway, enough, I can close the door on all that and be thankful. I don’t need to understand. But I do feel overcome by this strange lethargy and I was wondering why. Happily I saw my reiki practitioner today and thank you again to those of you who suggested reiki and brought this wonderful woman into my life. I thought maybe it was the loss of a sense of belonging, as the university is very much like a big family. But when Jodie asked me if I was troubled by the thought of standing alone, I knew that I wasn’t in the least. I’ve always preferred to be on my own, and the group mentality never sits well with me. Did I mind about my career? Well, no, not really. My proper university career ended when I gave up teaching French literature and this has just been a long epilogue. Perhaps, Jodie suggested, it was just the effect of no longer being constrained to keep up a certain role. And that, I knew at once, was exactly it. For me, being in academia came with a lot of standards I had to keep up, a huge philosophy of careful attentiveness, pedantry, precision, loyalty, engagement. I chose to do this because it seemed right. But it turns out to be a burden I can now lay down. It’s much like having had your hands tied behind your back for a long time. Once the ropes are undone you are at first numb. But when feeling returns it’s painful. The very release itself turns out to hurt.
So, as I reassemble myself into my new shape, I have to say the self-medication with books and films has been going well. I can thoroughly recommend Roman Holiday to everyone. Audrey Hepburn won the Oscar for it, and no wonder. She is utterly adorable. And Gregory Peck is completely gorgeous. A few nights later I decided to follow up with a Doris Day film and chose Pillow Talk. When Mister Litlove came in to see what I was watching, I told him that it was an odd thing, but Gregory Peck turned out to be more handsome in black and white than he was in colour. Mister Litlove looked at the screen. ‘That’s Rock Hudson,’ he said. Well, he was right, and that did explain a few things. I’m not sure what to watch next. I have the first season of Downton Abbey that’s a strong contender, or I might work my way through my Hitchcock and Woody Allen collection again. Whatever it is, it won’t be anything too demanding.