My favorite song a few years ago was George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun". I was going through a terribly difficult time, emerging from big-d Depression, which I am convinced to my core was sparked by a sexual assault which had occurred 10 years prior. Through the help of a support group for people with eating disorders, I was finally coming to understand that what I had experienced was not a result of personal failures, but was a totally normal, in many ways medical, response to trauma. A natural, health response to conditions outside of my control; NOT a personal inability to 'deal with' what I had been facing.
The past few weeks I have felt completely nuts with all of the myriad responsibilities I have taken on as part of my PhD coursework, fellowship commitments, and a grant proposal project that has become very, very dear to me. Somewhere in the midst of everything, I lost sight of just how precious this all is to me. I knew it was a tremendous privilege to be contributing to things about which I am truly, deeply passionate, but I stopped having fun with it. I was waking up before 5AM each morning, trying to get a jump on my workload, and going to bed each night with a to-do list for the next day running ticker-tape style through my brain. I was getting everything done, but feeling like a total failure regardless. If only I was a faster worker, if only there were less bureaucracy, if only I could function without sleep...then somehow I would be able to get everything done to a level of quality and at a pace which would make me feel competent.
Last night I came home utterly strung out. I have been fighting a nasty cold/infection thing for a week, not sleeping well, and was just totally cranky and grumpy and not so fun to be around. My partner, ever brilliant and wise, insisted on a 9PM bedtime for Bethy, and I didn't wake up till 8AM. And the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and I am happy.
In the midst of the paperwork, the writing, the commitments, I have to remember that working flat-out is just going to make me feel like a failure. My self-worth gets too much wrapped up in my academic output; I become the sum of my work, not the sum of my character. Just like in the midst of my Depression/recovery et al, I have to realize that I can't control external circumstances. I can only attend to what's on the inside, recognize that I have to put tight boundaries around what I can commit to in my personal and professional roles right now, and give up the idea that I can be Superwoman. Time to hunker down, say "no" to things, and get shit done while taking care to be wary of unrealistic expectations.