Wednesday, January 4, 2017

We Schedule What We Value

33º ~ bright sun, an "Arctic front" descended overnight and will remain for the rest of the week, the sparrows and other yard birds seem indifferent, the hardwood trees with their bare branches stand

My desk tends to be a sprawling mess of ephemera, books, and life's odds & ends. The other day, I unearthed a somewhat ancient Post-it with "we schedule what we value" scrawled across it. I remember sticking it to the tin box that holds my pens a few years back as a way to remind myself that writing time will only materialize if I schedule it. Given that this past fall, I overextended myself three times over and did very little writing, I'm glad to have re-discovered this prompt.

Spring classes start at UCA in a week, and I've got lots of prep work to do, not to mention heavy revising on my mid-tenure review package, which is due in early February. As a result of my overextension last semester, I spent much of the last two weeks sleeping, reading "for fun" (a weird phrase b/c even when I'm reading for classes I consider it fun), and watching endless episodes of Midsomer Murders while cutting up magazine pages or doing jigsaw puzzles on my iPad (best app ever for a puzzle-lover who also happens to be a cat-lover). Happily, a few weeks of resting seems to have worked and my energy levels have returned to normal. I look forward to preparing for the new semester and seem to have ideas for each of my classes bubbling over.

Yet, I must still work toward balance. When I got to my desk this morning, my thoughts happened to be on one of my classes, and I almost tore haphazardly into working more on that class' syllabus. But then, I noticed the newly uncovered Post-it, which reminded me to "schedule" time for my own work. In this case, I had a submission I needed to get done. I'd gathered the poems back before the holidays and then done nothing with them. With my much-needed nudge to remember what I value, I took care of the submission first. Now, I can sink into the many hours of working on the syllabus knowing that I also placed value on my own work alongside my teaching work.

For some, I suppose, it is easy to prioritize what is valued; for some, it is easy to shift from task to task. For me, for some reason, if I have a time-consuming task from my teaching life, once I've spent several hours working on it, even after taking a break, I have a hard time shifting back to my creative work, even the "business" side of the creative. Also, I have to remind myself, now, that my ability to write poems and place them in journals is part of my teaching job. After over a decade of this not being the case, the shift in ideology is happening slowly.

And so, I move, as ever, in fits & starts toward a new year and a new semester, trying to practice self-compassion and balance. As a person who embraced life-long learning at a young age, I am not discouraged by this way of building a life; I am ever hopeful.

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