Thursday Musings

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.

30 thoughts on “Thursday Musings

  1. You sound relieved, which is actually a good thing I think. In a weird way I understand exactly how you feel. You were in a situation that wasn’t entirely healthy or happy for you, but it was what you knew and did and felt (to a certain extent) comfortable in. And even though it wasn’t perfect, and you were questioning it, you resolved to make it work, made accomodations for it and thought you were in an okay place. Then all of a sudden, along they come and completly yank the rug out from under you. It’s such a disorienting feeling. Maybe it really is for the best, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get through–your world is suddenly tipped upside down. But things will really get better. And Doris Day really does help in her own way–if nothing else than to get outside this strange world for a while to somewhere happy and predictable and comfortable once again! Glad you are beginning to feel better but also that you aren’t putting pressure on yourself to feel like you need to feel normal again right away. It really does take time (as you have given me such wonderful advice in the past!). I say Rear Window and a Hitchcock fest would be perfect for the season!

    • Danielle, you really hit the nail on the head with this comment. That is EXACTLY how I feel. And in a weird way, it seems worse precisely because I made accommodations and adjusted myself to fit something I wasn’t entirely sure about. The whole thing has been totally disorientating. But Doris Day really does help! And I can’t think of a moment when Rear Window wouldn’t be appropriate.😉 How I love that film! It does take time to get over losses and I suppose the key is to make oneself as comfortable as possible while the inevitable feelings arise. It’s not always easy, but you’ve got to try. Bless you, my friend, yours is always a very comforting voice!

  2. You don’t actually mean ‘walking wounded’, Litlove. According to the notice board in our brand spanking new hospital (where I spent Monday morning being spoken to as if I was an extremely unintelligent two year old!) what you mean is Ambulatory Care. I kid you not. At least half the people who go there will have limited English anyway and they’re supposed to figure out what Ambulatory means. I actually suggested ‘walking wounded’ but no one seemed at all enthusiastic.

  3. If she hasn’t already done this, you might ask your Reiki practitioner to do a session focused specifically on breaking up the shell of other people’s energies/attachments. Also curious … did you receive my email about Tapas Fleming’s amazing acupressure technique? I think it would work wonders in your current situation. I think I sent it to the right email, but since it came from my yahoo account, it might have gone into your spam folder.

    • Dear David, just to say yes, I did receive your email, and think my reply to you must have gone missing in cyberspace. I sent it a couple of hours after I opened your email, so given the time difference, probably a couple of hours after you’d gone to bed. Suffice to say I was delighted to receive the information and had begun to work my way through the intstructions. Of course, all the latest kerfuffle has made me forget to do exactly the sorts of things I should be doing to support myself! But yes, now is just the time to learn that technique. And thank you again for thinking of me – you are a dear heart and a fine friend.

  4. Universities are not meritocracies. I honestly doubt people would believe the extent of corruption and blatant injustice that goes on.I can well believe the paedophile story. A couple of years ago one of my now ex-colleagues (who is now a Reader at a UK university) pretended to have terminal cancer, had affairs with students, and was involved in running a drugs operation (amongst other things). A number of us felt concerned for our safety (and that of our students) as he seemed so dangerously unbalanced. Certain people at senior level did not want him dismissed even then because he had some good publications. I manage to stay sane by basically viewing the University I work for as an insane person. I do not expect rationality, humanity, generosity or fairness. It helps to roll with the punches to have very low expectations and sometimes I’m pleasantly suprised.

    There is no doubt this transitional time will have its challenges for you. It’s not an easy thing to have to reinvent yourself and come up with a new identity- but I can also imagine there must be a sense of relief as well and I do slightly envy you your escape.

    • Amanda, your comment made me both laugh and sigh. It’s true – the bigger the institution and the more it loves its own hype, the worse the neuroses that run through its veins. I completely believe the story about your colleague – I have several similar tales that would make the blood run cold. It is amazing what stands for logic in certain situations! I’ve always defended Cambridge up until now – it’s not that I will reverse my stance and attack it, as that wouldn’t be anything like a development, but I’ll certainly view it with a more dispassionate air, and be more aware of its failings. I think as I grow accustomed to the change, it will sit a lot easier with me, and I’ll be happier to be free of some of the madness. I find it very kind of you to see reason for envy in this situation and thank you for that generosity!

  5. You sound good, Litlove, like you’re coming into a clearing at the top of a long, long hill. Enjoy the fresh air. And in the meantime, I MUST insist you find a French film (it’s on Netflix.com if you have that where you are) called “Romantics Anonymous” (in English) or “Les Emotifs Anonyme” (in French). I just watched it last week. It’s about too wildly neurotic people who fall in love with each other, but you wonder if they can put aside their neuroses enough to finally get together… makes for charming comedy. And… she is a master chocolatier (in secret, because if people knew, she’d have an anxiety attack) and he has a failing chocolate mill. It’s the kind of movie that will make you want to hug yourself then, of course, Mr Litlove. You’re both welcome.😉

    • Melissa, this sounds like a wonderful film and one I have never heard of! Thank you so much for the lovely recommendation, and I will send a hug your way, too!🙂

  6. have been going through a similar period myself, and know how you feel. try charade with audrey hebpurn and arabesque with sophia loren and g peck. maybe for good measure throw in far pavilions by mmkaye as a complete rehab cure!

    • Josina, I send you all my sympathy if you’ve had to deal with something similar. And thank you enormously for your recommendations, which sound fantastic. Hepburn, Peck and Loren – oh be still my beating heart! And I hadn’t thought of MM Kaye, but that’s a very good call.

  7. You are sounding good, Litlove. There is relief, acceptance, resolve in your words, and you’re right to indulge in books and films as that seems like an excellent prescription; reiki, too.
    More power to you!

  8. Keep up with the reiki and the book and movie medication, it seems like it is doing the trick! Gregory Peck is handsome in black and white even when he doesn’t turn out to be Rock Hudson. And I can’t believe you haven’t even watched season 1 of Downton Abbey! You must watch it. There is nothing like a period soap opera with gorgeous clothes to lift one’s spirits.

    • Stefanie, I think they should be available on the NHS!🙂 And I really must get to Downton Abbey. I love a good series when I get into it and so many people adore this one.

  9. I’m so glad you’re taking the rest you need. (And I laughed about Rock Hudson!) Movies: My Man Godfrey, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Bringing Up Baby, Ninotchka, the Miracle of Morgan Creek, Sullivan’s Travels, The Lady Eve, Hail the Conquering Hero. That should keep you busy!

    • Ha! That should definitely keep me busy! Thank you, dear Lilian, for the wonderful suggestions, so many of which are new to me. I will enjoy looking them all up!

  10. After all you have been through, you have self medication down perfectly. Enjoy it.

    I suspect you are right about the impact of not teaching French lit being an underlying factor. Doing that, and the career-building activities involved, gave you temporary psuedo-male privilege that tutoring did not. Giving up the authority of teaching to help students, how womanly it must have seemed to them. You want something more out of life than a university career? That is how you became disposable. That you really did help and teach students is not important to them.

    • MD, what you say is so very interesting and, I think, spot on. I was talking to a woman just the other evening, who had joined an Oxford college as a counsellor, and was viewed as being part of the ‘support staff’. This meant that the fellows would not even talk to her, and refused her access to all sorts of very ordinary perks and privileges. I think this was highly influential in what happened to me – having sunk to the level of being a supporter (with its feminine connotations), I was not longer acceptable to the club. It’s awful, isn’t it, to think how these outdated and unjust attitudes persist. Yet, they do.

  11. I can certainly see the ‘need’ to be lethargic; whether you wanted to experience this or not, it’s a loss in your life. (Have you read Judith Viorst’s Necessary Losses? I’ve only read bits and pieces of it, because it’s rather heavy, but loss is never easy even when it’s ‘necessary’.) I like taking naps for such a time as this, and reading, of course. I find much comfort in C.S. Lewis, in Madeleine L’Engle, in the standby classics on my favorites list. Drink tea. Eat what pleases you. Sleep tight. Be well.

    • Dear Bellezza, thank you for your lovely comment with its excellent suggestions. I have not read Judith Viorst but am very interested in it (just my sort of book!) and I will gladly follow your other directions too!

    • Ha, you’re right of course. Rock Hudson was also adorable, and only lost out because of the relatively greater gorgeousness of Gregory Peck. Frankly, I would be happy (not to mention somewhat shocked) to see either of them on my doorstep!🙂

  12. It’s really good to hear how you’re taking the time to look after yourself with old movies and good books and just time to yourself to mull over what’s happened. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me, but I fear I might be the type to skip off in a new direction – not because I’m a robot or because I wouldn’t be hurt by it, but because I’d want to start something new and get the whole thing out of my mind. But I think you’re absolutely right to be doing the work. Sitting around watching old movies and falling asleep after lunch is an odd definition of work, but that’s definitely what you’re doing, and it’s hard and important. Skipping off would be the easy way out I think.

    • Ach my friend, I have always been one of life’s great ‘overlifters’, determined never to let my mood fall and more than ready to push negative emotions to one side. I had to learn the hard way that this does not work. Or not for me, at least. I find it quite uncomfortable to be so unproductive, but I do know I’ll feel an awful lot better for it in the long run!

  13. Just look at the quality of reader you attract here, Litlove – all these intelligent, wise and articulate responses to your excellent and reflective post. Really, you set such a high standard in your writing that I think it’s brilliant you’ve been emancipated from exactly the scenario Danielle describes above. Now you can get on with what you’re supposed to be doing, which must surely have something to do focusing on your very fine way with words.

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