Wide Awake

I haven't had a good night's sleep in about a year and a half.

This morning at 3a.m. after getting Daniel back sleep, I found myself wide awake and alert. This happens on occasion, where I can't get to sleep for an hour or so after a middle-of-the-night waking. It reminds me of the insomnia I had in the last two months of pregnancy. I would lie in bed, counting backwards from 500, then 1000, trying to bore myself to sleep, but to no avail. By the last month before he was born, more nights than not, I would just give up and get out of bed. I washed dishes, knitted, read book reviews on Amazon until my eyes couldn't focus, and would finally collapse into bed, exhausted, about the time Stuart had to get up for work. If one more person had said to me, "Oh, it's just your body preparing for all the sleep deprivation you're about to have!!" I may have turned violent. After Daniel was born, I was relieved to be getting more sleep; that feeling lasted a good three months before I realized how sleep-deprived I actually was.

So anyway, I was lying there wide awake, thinking. I thought about knitting projects I want to start, as well as some I should finish. I thought about all the things I used to have/make time for that I miss. Like running, and reading, and yoga. I thought about my doctorate and how badly I want to finish, but at the same time the thought of writing one more paper fills me with dread.

I have mentioned (or rather, complained) that I have a lecture-recital to do this semester. For those that don't know, a lecture recital is required of all DMA students here. Basically, you talk about a piece for 20-30 minutes, take questions from the audience, and then perform the piece. I have no fear of public speaking. I have no worry that I won't be able to find enough to say; despite my topic being an obscure bassoon piece by a second-tier 19th-century composer, I know enough about music history and the importance of context that I am confident I will come up with 30 minutes' worth of coherent, interesting material. I'm just having motivation issues because I don't think I'll have anything truly important or lasting to say. I will be competent, but not profound.

It's hard when the demands and responsibilities of family and housework almost always trump school work. I have to pay a babysitter so I can go to the freaking library.

I worry that I'm becoming boring and shallow. I find myself thinking about unimportant things all the time. My mind is occupied with trivialities like what to fix for dinner, what to plant in the garden (if it ever warms up), when to do the laundry, what to knit next. It's been months since I've read a good book from start to finish. I've been a bookworm since I learned to read as a child. I'm the kind of person who devours books. I read fast, and until recently, prolifically. Even when I was a full-time student, I would snatch moments when I didn't have to read for class to read during lunch breaks, practice breaks, and before I went to bed. Fiction, non-fiction, as long as it's interesting and well-written, I'll read it. Or would have.

I know that instead of being all whiny and existential, I should just get some work done. At this moment, though, Daniel is sleeping (yay!) so I can't practice, and I can't do any more research and writing until the babysitter comes so I can go to the library.

I've decided that I need to give myself a kick in the pants. I've started re-reading Bird by Bird by the brilliant Anne Lamott (who, by the way, is doing a talk and book-signing here next week and you bet your sweet little tushies I'm going to be there). This book is ostensibly lessons on writing, but it's so much more. It's hilarious at times, and there are lessons on life in there, lessons about patience and hope and discipline. Before going to sleep, I read the introduction and first chapter, where she talks about making assignments for yourself. Sit down in front of the computer or typewriter or whatever you use at the same time every day and write about your first day of kindergarten or your favorite birthday party or whatever little nugget of memory you have that you want to describe. I'm not going to do that, exactly, because I'm not trying to be a professional writer (I know better than that), but the idea of small assignments to get through a big task is a good place to start. So today, I'm going to the library to find information on one specific area of my topic. I'm going to take notes. Tomorrow I will start an outline. And I'll go from there, step by step by step.


pamigelsrud said…
I love that book. I used to make all my students read the chapter on perfection -- it's so great! I should read more of her stuff. I keep hearing people refer to her books lately. (PS - I left some questions for you on my blog :-))
Sweetheart, welcome to motherhood. I'm ALWAYS caught up in the trivialties - what can I fix for dinner that's quick, easy and I haven't already fixed at least twice this week?; How early can I reasonably put the rugrats in bed so I can do some homework?; How do I keep from strangling the kids when they ask me the same questions 500 times in a row?; When's the next soccer practice?; What day is Jamie's friend spending the night?; When's Destiny's next playdate?; How long do I have between the end of Jamie's next soccer game and the beginning of his psych appointment that same day?; How do you properly answer the question "Did Jesus fart?"

Motherhood is full of questions that, while they may not be compelling and intriguing to the adults, they sum up your child's entire world on any given day. So chill out, enjoy the ride, and don't worry so much about being uber-fascinating for anyone other than your kid. You'll have plenty of time to impress adults. All too soon, your son will be an adult, and your opportunity to be his everything will be gone. When he's 20, he won't care that you were a witty conversationalist at such-and-such event. He will care that you were there to catch him as he took his first steps. (It has taken me a long time to learn this. I still chafe at the number of years of academia I lost as a mother. However, I have gained so much more by having him!)

Anyway, I'll quit giving unasked for advice now.
Steph said…
I don't know if this is any consolation, but I don't think that spending most of your time thinking about trivialities will make you boring or shallow. I think, actually, that there is nothing on the planet that could make YOU boring or shallow.

When I was putting in the footnotes on my thesis, I was so tragically, desperately bored that eventually I stuck a DVD of some British television show I'd already seen a million times into my computer and put it on half-screen so I could have it playing the whole time I was typing the footnotes. When I was studying for my orals, I was so unmotivated that for awhile I gave myself a break every five minutes. Not ten, not fifteen, five. Five minutes study, five minutes break. It was pathetic, but I made it through. Small assignments--dude, that is advice for the ages. Sometimes there's just no other way.

Her new book, Grace (Eventually), is an excellent read too. Short essays, easy to read in small, furtively snatched bits of time.
andre said…
Three cheers for small actionable goals!!

And if motherhood is anything like I imagine it to be (which I'm sure it's not, but still) I'm sure it's plenty creative. . I mean sustaining a human life. . is hardly shallow figuring out what to feed your child. . unless he's eating pizza and drinking diet coke every night. . eegh!

the lamott seems really interesting! Go Suze go!
Thorny said…

Anne Lamott's going to be here? What? Where? When? OMG! I ADORE HER!

We could finally meet, if'n you wanted! grin! ;)

Anyway, sorry to hear you're feeling kinda "stuck" right now. I remember feeling that way. I didn't have a lecture to prepare, so I was free to cure that by going to the library and taking out a simply absurd number of books, of all manner of subject and type. Seriously, I had close to 30 books out at one point. It was kinda crazy.

But I think it helped. Maybe this "stuck" feeling is your mind going, "Okay, I think we've got most of this baby thing down. Maybe we're ready to focus on something else again, at least some."

Good luck, lady, and I hope you start feeling better soon.
Animal said…
Suze, your worry about feeling "competent but not profound" when presenting your lecture recital is well-understood. I remain firmly convinced that "assignments" like this are merely an exercise in hoop-jumping, one of the last your committee forces upon you. I believe that the ACT of the lecture recital is less important in the minds of the committee than is the understanding of how to research and present coherently.

Ultimately, being able to speak well about a piece will be of some value for future performances; I do think an audience generally likes to hear a few tidbits about a work or the composer. But, there's also a lot to be said for the idea that music presentations are a self-perpetuating business: the only people who really care are OTHER musicians. I discovered this at my SCI conference in February: most people were there because they themselves were presenting, or were having pieces performed. I admit this may be a shallow and rather lazy attitude - the idea that research exists for the sake of research - but that's okay. I'll change my mind as soon as someone brilliant comes along to convince me otherwise.

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