trust and distance

Something happens to my brain when I feel stressed. What, I'm not exactly sure but it makes me unable to see the forest for the trees. I begin to obsess about what's in front of me, instead of taking some time to let an idea, or what someone said, really sink in. It may also be that this happens when I get stubborn. And when I'm being stubborn and I'm stressed... well, let's just say it's a bad combination. I haven't been writing much about my dissertation here because I'd be pretty much repeating myself: I'm worried about the time crunch I'm under; I'm worried about getting it done; I'm worried it won't be good, etc. Recently, the work took a very big turn not in a completely new direction but a more narrowly focused one that obviously requires additional work and attention. It is an exciting development and one that is definitely more me but it comes with its own challenges. I'm still working out some of the ideas and so everything seems chaotic and messy in my head, in my drafts. I feel like because of this, the process is taking longer than I expected. And that's okay except that I don't have the distance I'm usually afforded to reflect on my ideas and the way I'm pulling stuff together, which means I am writing at least one sometimes two additional drafts to get at whatever it is the distance gives me.

I don't know if I've been particularly stubborn this week but I went in to my weekly meeting with my Director expecting him to be as excited as I was about the work I've been doing on my pedagogy chapter. And he was, but he was also concerned about a few things and I think a part of me shut down when he kept pushing for where he thought I should go. Because since then, I've been in a weird state when I sit down to write and I've been thinking about how to process his suggestions with my own expectations and ideas. Sometimes I think, "you just don't get it." And then I am brushing my teeth and something switches in my brain and I think, "Oh, that makes sense." But it takes the distance from the conversation, the email, the draft and I don't have the luxury of time as distance right now, not really. My challenge is to trust that the understanding will come, and trust my Director. It is not surprising to me, at all, that this is a struggle.

My mother says to me, "I don't know why you don't believe in your talent, the way that we all see it." I

I laughingly said, "Me either, Mom. I'm in therapy for it."

Maybe we can't ever see ourselves the way others see us. Maybe that's why we surround ourselves with the friends, lovers, colleagues, acquaintances that we do: because we need their version of ourselves. In Kate Hunter's brilliant novella The Dream Sequence, the narrator loses her memory and when she runs into one of her friends, the friend is disappointed that the narrator has forgotten her. I don't have the book in front of me so I can't quote the exact line but the sense is that because the narrator no longer remembered the friend, she could no longer reflect the friend back to herself. It's a poignant moment and one I have not captured very well here. Nonetheless, we want to see versions of ourselves in others; we define ourselves through our connections to others. This is part of what my dissertation is about-- the negotiation and play, performance and maintenance of identity. And of course that's what I'm struggling with now, what I've always struggled with. When I first began to focus on identity in my research, I thought I understood why. But as I've gotten into it, well, as The Dude would say: "Some new shit has come to light."