daily fieldnotes

November, 2011 archive

The possibility in 100 days 2

Have I mentioned my plan to write a draft of my thesis in 100 days? I’ve been working on it since October, and day 100 falls on January 25th, about 3 weeks before I’m due, which feels just right for sending off a draft of my thesis before settling into having my first baby; that’s when lots of mamas start maternity leave anyhow. I was inspired to make a 100-day plan after reading an article about development projects getting accomplished in 100 days. The idea is that we can all imagine 3 months ahead; it takes us “out of the realm of business as usual” and focuses our efforts. So I sat down and made a 100-day plan, and so far, it’s really helped focus the daily work on the thesis.

That and the very real deadline of having my baby, and wanting to be able to enjoy him and not have the thesis hanging over my head. So I spend early mornings at my desk writing, and afternoons in the library. My belly grows closer to the table every day, the baby’s wiggles spurring me on and reminding me why I’m working this hard. I’ll let you know how it goes!

What do the possibilities of 100 days make you think of? Anyone want to join me?

Homemade Schedules 4

“I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order – willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.” Annie Dillard in The Writing Life

I had read part of this quote from Annie Dillard many times, and love the blog inspired by it. But I had never read it in context until this summer, and ever since, this quote has stayed with me. (Actually, I’ve thought of blogging about it no less than 10 different times!)

Have you ever lived without a schedule, besides on vacation? Lots of people – parents of young children at home, writers, freelancers, graduate students – make their own schedules. I never imagined how hard it could be until I was working on my thesis research in Barcelona, and had days, weeks, months that were entirely wide open. Then when I got back, I’ve had stretches of time as wide as Montana skies that have no set agenda except “make progress on the thesis”. It surprises me that making and keeping a schedule for myself is one of the hardest things I’ve done, and I think Annie Dillard’s quote captures the reason why.

When schedules are all we know, the idea of being without a schedule sounds great. Yay! Vacation! I can do anything I want with my days! But it turns out the “chaos and whim” a schedule defends against can quickly meld into self-doubt, apathy, depression, or a daily routine of overthinking things. A day with nothing on the agenda becomes long, shapeless as a heap of laundry that needs folding.

This fall I started working on my thesis in the neighborhood library a couple days a week, and going to prenatal yoga twice a week. And a funny thing has happened – with just a couple spots of shape to the week, each day is less amorphous. When I had day upon day at home, I got up in the morning with the burden of planning the day, and before I’d fully woken up already felt the weight of the “shoulds” pressing me down. With a schedule, there are known parts to my days, and it becomes easier to start melding the pieces of wide open time into something less chaotic. Really, it just takes a few things to build a scaffolding for the days, to be able to “stand and labor with both hands at sections of time”, rather than grasp at the days as they slip away.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Why isn’t it then? Why is creating our own routine so hard?

Bougainvillea and New Grass 7

No tangerine and pomegranate maple trees here, at least not yet (we do get a few). Fall colors in SF include brilliant spreads of bougainvillea, and bright green hillsides of grass shooting through the brown summer grass. The air has a chill to it, but the sky is blue on my morning walk today. Fall is my favorite time anywhere, but especially here where summers are so disappointingly gray and cold.

Am getting slower walking up the (MANY) hills around here but still trying to walk a few days a week. I do prenatal yoga twice a week too, which helps with the random aches of being six months pregnant. This little one moves a ton, and often makes me smile as he wriggles around while I work on my thesis or sit on the couch next to JJ at night looking for our house.

If you own your house, how long did it take to find it? We’ve been looking for about 2 1/2 months…

Getting Playful 3

Like many wonderful people out there who only manage to blog now and then, I am often asking myself why I don’t participate in the medium more often, considering how much I love it. Overthinking things is definitely part of it for me. Wanting every post to be more elaborated, have my best photos, be a piece of good writing. But isn’t the beauty of the blog partly that it can be a space for smaller things, for telling pieces of a story that little by little thread together over time? I am participating this month in Christina’s daily art project, and am loving how it has me getting more playful. Because really, what do we gain by overthinking things all the time? And what might we discover if we let ourselves be more playful?

So, I’m going to try it out on blogging too. I’ll see you back here soon!