Monday, November 28, 2011

don't wanna be...

Fatherhood has brought me many unexpected circumstances, attributes, and attitudes. One I really was not expecting, though, was the loneliness.

I love my daughter wholeheartedly. Her smile makes me melt, and her laughter makes my heart explode. But, despite my best efforts, she's not speaking yet...damn lazy five and a half month old. So when I spend time with her, there's very little variety of interaction. She can only ask for a few things, and she really only has one preferred way of asking for anything...namely, screaming at the top of her lungs. She screams as if stabbed when she gets hungry. She screams as if stabbed when she's had enough to eat. She screams as if stabbed when she wants to sleep, be get the idea. And yes, I realize she gets the drama from my side of the family. She also grunts, groans, and occasionally bursts out into peals of laughter (a sound which is all too rare...not that she's an unhappy kid, but this is the greatest sound in the world, and I just don't hear it nearly enough). The majority of our interactions, though, are me talking to her and her either grunting, groaning, or yelling...which, while I love her dearly, can be isolating.

I don't see my beautiful wife as much as I would like. When she gets home, she takes care of our daughter...which means her attention is (quite naturally and understandably) on our kid, not on me. My wife also puts our daughter to bed...but as our kid, as a result of her 3-4 hour "go to bed" process, might very well be renamed "She Who Will Not Sleep," this means we get very little husband/wife time. So even when she's under the same roof as I, I miss her.

I also don't get to see my friends all that much. Of course, I knew I would not be going out nightly, so this was one for which I could kinda prepare. And I do get to practice on Tuesdays, hang out afterward, and maybe escape one weekend night. Still, people tend to think more of me as "new father" rather than anything, and the new father is not the one people think to call and invite out. I can really only remember one time in the last couple of months where a friend specifically contacted me to ask me out. People don't come by the house, either...I guess the possibility of encountering a potentially loud kid doesn't entice visitors. All understandable, I guess, but it doesn't help the loneliness all that much.

But now I have a cold...and this means I can't hug my wife. It means I cannot hold my daughter. So, even though I am in the same house as the two people I love more than anyone, I still feel isolated.

When I was single, I'd often get lonely. At this stage of my life, though, I wasn't expecting more loneliness.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

misery without company

I'm a terrible sick person.

Whenever I get ill, I feel like the world's biggest wimp. I cannot handle being sick in any way. I whine, I moan, I become horribly neurotic and high maintenance. Yes, I know many may claim I am that way all the's one of the side-effects of having perpetually low self-esteem. I honestly do strive toward self-sufficiency, and I try to be a good man, a strong man, a worthy man. But when I'm ill, I lose any of the resiliency and cheer to which I aspire. I become a sad, pathetic little man.

I'm always astounded when I accidentally give my wife a cold. I will go through my death-throe convalescence. Then my wife starts to display my symptoms of a few days earlier, and I leap over myself to apologize for infecting her with my death-cold. I promise to be as good to her as she was to me. Then, as her cold progresses, I compare her stages to mine...and I wonder if she just picked up some lesser-variant virus or if I'm as bad of a patient as I suspect. Where I was aching, moaning, holding onto walls, chugging cough syrup, she is light, sprightly, and tough beyond ken.

Now, though, it's infinitely worse. I still ache. I still have to stop my head from spinning when I get up. I still surround myself with a siege-worthy cache of tissues, cough syrup, and canned soup. But instead of just swelling in misery, I'm now dwelling in misery, watching my gorgeous wife care for my gorgeous child, immensely sad that I can't touch either of them, can't kiss either of them, can only love them from afar. The two people I love most are next to me, but I have to keep them at arms (or virus's)-length
Sad and lonely indeed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

illness and time

How much is time worth?

Where's the point of no return?

I'm wondering this for several reasons. First, I'm sick and on cough medicine, and that brings back memories. I make it a point to record interesting-looking films from time to time..I want a backlog of them on my dvr for a rainy day...for sick days and such. A few illnesses ago, I watched the classic Soviet science fiction film Solaris. It wasn't particularly wonderful. It looked good, but to call it slow would be an understatement (particularly the massive/eternal/never-ending "driving to the airport" scene). But it had been talked up so much, I felt I had to finish it. Maybe I missed something that further viewing would clarify. Maybe perseverance was the key. Maybe there was some ultimate grand payoff which would bring enlightenment. So I watched.

I finished the film. There didn't seem to be anything with which I could connect. I chalked it down to a difference in cultural attitudes...and the cold and its corresponding medications.

Today, I again have a cold. I went to bed last night with the slight tingling in the throat. I woke up feeling bad. As the day progressed, I felt progressively worse. After my wife went to put my child to sleep for the third time tonight, I was searching my dvr for something to watch. I had already plowed through whatever light, frivolous material I had. I had watched the Bogie-starring vehicle Sahara (which started out with grand pretensions yet ended up not able to become as notable as it dared). I came down to the 2002 Clooney remake of Solaris.

Clooney is one of my favorite actors. I had the relevant cultural context. I was, as when I watched the original, dazzled by the direction, the photography. The film, though was still exceedingly slow. It was like the song which refused to kick into the power chorus. It never improved. Still, I watched. Was it the cold which was doing it? Or did I just consider my illness-addled time to be so valuable as to not waste the thirty minutes or so I had invested?

Is it because my sick time is just not all that valuable? Feeling rotten, apparently, just is not enough.

Monday, November 14, 2011

an apology

I would like to officially offer this formal apology:

To anyone I've engaged in conversation with about the future of academics, I would like to formally apologize for the tone and content of my interactions. The last thing I want to do is to let my poisoned mood infect anyone who still believes and still has faith.

The problem? I used to be a believer. I used to believe in the power of thought, the power of thinking, the power of discussion, the power of learning. And while I never thought I would be a superstar in academics, I always thought there was at least a place for me within the ranks of thinkers. Over the last six months, I am starting to fully realize the extent to which all of this was least for me.

And there's a lot of reasons why I think I failed. I am, for the record, fully willing to admit blame for much of my academic failure. There was always more I could do; in the words of one of my favorite songs, I definitely "could've been stronger, could've been smarter"...and I know this. I still feel overwhelmed by the structural roots behind my personal failures, but I am going to try to quit bringing them they are probably news to no one (particularly anyone who's read this blog).

I am, for the record, trying to work on it. I realize I've been dwelling on all this way too much, and I realize it is one of the major (although not the only) reason behind my current slide toward depression, a slide I am trying desperately to halt and to not share.

So here's what I'm going to do. I promise only to participate in academic discussion when someone specifically asks me to do so. I promise to blow by scholarly links, discussions of the job market, blanket invitations for interactions. If you post something somewhere that raises my gloom, I will do everything I can to look the other way...and I will by no means indulge in an effort to spread my gloom. As it's clear the academic world really doesn't consider me a member, I'm going to try and quit bemoaning that fact or dwelling on it in any way. I would really hate it if my own bad attitude got into someone else.

Let me make clear that I do in fact envy all of my academic believer friends...more than you can know. For those whose career has worked out or is steadily progressing, I salute you. But more importantly, for all those who still get excited by ideas and think there's a future in pursuing them, I covet your faith and your optimism and wish you the greatest success imaginable. The life of the mind is a truly noble goal...and I wish you better luck than I experienced.