The Death Plague, or Rest and Reflection by Force

So, I took Monday and Tuesday off this week.

I arranged to be off on Monday and Tuesday so that I could go climb Mt. Le Conte with G. on his yearly adventure tangling with mother nature. I did not, however, climb Mt. Le Conte, nor leave the state of Georgia nor even my house on Monday and Tuesday (save for the obligatory picking up of TG from school). Instead, I’ve spent Monday and Tuesday in my pajamas, fighting with the beagle for space on the couch, reading, and answering emails.


Very simple, my friends. The death plague came to visit. No, no, not any swine flu claims (or seasonal flu claims, for that matter) here, though I expect to see an upswing of them at work, as we head into midterms. The death plague is a much more insipid animal, one that leaves the afflicted incapable of successfully fighting said beagle and spending most of the day as a pad for the beagle to growl, drool, and dream upon.

Hey, well, he’s a cute beagle, right? That has to count for something.

The death plague, for the uninitiated, is what tends to afflict me when I fail to listen to my brain and body demands that I take some time to do nothing. See, I’ve not managed to actually take a day to rest since changing jobs, and, in fact, since well before that. Now, I’ve taken some vacation days here and there, and on every single one of them, I’ve worked–housecleaning, running a marathon, taking too few days to reasonably travel long distances (rather takes away from the whole rest part), painting, whatevering, but not resting. Explicitly failing to rest, as a matter of fact.

I realized last week that I’d not finished a book in months, which, you might realize, is a bit odd for me. In fact, it’s damn odd and usually associated with depression. And while it is true that I seem to be emerging from my annual summer depression, that was not the reason I wasn’t reading. The reason is more simple: I am not taking the time.

Not I don’t have time, mind you. Nor do I need to “create” time (which I can’t do in any case). I am falling into the trap I knew well enough to avoid when I got into the particular profession I entered. Let me clarify: ever heard profs joke they got into the business for the summers? Well, for the most part, that’s a lie. Profs often spend summers scrambling to make ends meet–teaching three short session classes or what have you. Summers don’t tend to be especially restful. But, even teaching a 5/5 load, I was able to create spaces of rest and spaces of calm that I seem to have lost in the past year. I got into academia because I love to teach, and I love the sanctuary and freedom teaching offers me.

Now? Much more the rat race. I’m working longer hours at work (which is, for me, quite different from grading on the couch, which at least had the benefits of a cat to amuse me); I’m not able to disappear on Fridays, Spring Breaks, odd-summer days. I’m just there. And, worse, I’ve let work intrude at home.

It didn’t occur to me how bad it was until Monday, when I was feverish, achy, miserable, but pleased to sit on the couch (well, the part the beagle would cede to me, at any rate) and reading. And jumping up to answer my emails, every time my phone buzzed. Now, how ridiculous is that? By early afternoon, I had received 30 emails. And, I was answering them.

Because, like, you know, they can’t function without me!

Yeah, right.

I said–out loud even–than I needed to take a day several weeks ago, after all the church and flooding BS. I even planned a day and then didn’t take it off, but went in like good soldier.

This was not an intelligent act.

And that’s the problem that allowed the death plague to come calling: not the hours, not the stress, not the anxiety about upsetting the higher administration or, worse, faculty and staff, not the “OMG, I have to get to X in 5 minutes! (or 5 minutes ago),” not the feeling that my students are somehow getting the short end of the stick. It’s the connectivity and the failure to respect my ever-so-well-known limitations. So my body rebelled against my unwillingness to let it go for a while, and I was forced to let go of the race (though, admittedly, how many emails did I keep answering?). My brain was so unwilling to accept silence or solitude that my body was forced to resort to dastardly measures, including ruining a perfectly good chance to hike a mountain.

The fever seems to have taken the hike (up Mt. Le Conte, I’ve no doubt!), so I’ll return to work tomorrow, a bit more relaxed, and a bit more willing to take a vacation day here and there, so as not to become the (literally) feverish whack-a-loon I was becoming. And, better yet, the phone is going to get turned off. I am NOT checking email all-freaking-night-long just because there *might* be a crisis that I need to swoop into rectify.

There’s a reason why hire wonderful, competent people. It’s so we can be wonderful and competent together, and not require pseudo-superheroic deeds of anyone.

So, I’m going to turn off the connectivity for the evening and curl up for the next few hours with the couch-hog beagle and a lovely cup or three of tea.

Cheers, all. Stay well, be well, and be kind to yourselves.

One response to “The Death Plague, or Rest and Reflection by Force

  1. I had to smile when I read this post. I didn’t know you lived my life too?! It was like you were writing my biography except it would be felines fighting for couch space instead of a beagle. Wishing you moments of scheduled REST!

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