Musings on the News and on Work II (plus Memory and Energy)

Last time I wrote here was before the inauguration (small I), and I don’t have to say whose. And I won’t. I am one who believes that saying the name of a person means that you are remembering and honoring them, and so I won’t say his name. It’s harder to remember not to write it on social media, but I’m working on that.  We remember by speaking,  and we remember by repetition. One of the powers we do have on the Left, as frightened, angry,  frustrated, and everything else that we are, is the power to hold back one of the things this illegitimate president wants the most: people saying his name.

There are so many opportunities for in-person activism here in Brooklyn where I live and in Queens and Manhattan where I teach. I’m still working on finding a balance between my life’s work (dissertation and teaching) and the time that my various privileges afford me that I can (and need to) offer to the causes and to people I believe in. Last Monday, the day after the rally and march at Battery Park to protest the immigration ban, which is a Muslim ban, I awoke groggy and feeling like I shouldn’t take the time for the volunteer work I’d already committed to, which was working on English conversation with Muslim and Arab-American women. I spent about ten minutes feeling groggy and then I thought, if they show up, I have to show upd. I don’t know how much I helped, but I’ll keep going back as often as I can. (The organization I’m working with is the Arab-American Family Support Center; they do wonderful work at their locations in Cobble Hill and Long Island City.)

Somewhere in the middle of all this, my prospectus got officially approved, and I’m at the very least well into a chapter draft – maybe even approaching time to let other people read it stage. The prospectus approval feels somewhat anti-climactic (which you may have seen from my omission of an exclamation point), I guess because I knew it was coming, and yet my committee could have requested more revisions, and I’m very thankful for their feedback and their time.  I’m really proud of how the proposal turned out, and also very aware  that it will shift a lot as I continue to write. I also now got the opportunity to share some of my ongoing ideas with my students. I’m teaching two classes, which is one more than I should be teaching, but they’re classes I’ve taught before in much the same form. (If you see me at Queens in between them, ask me if I’m heading off to write!)

I’m also trying to set boundaries for myself to safeguard my writing time. (My ninety-minute commute is already coming in handy as “found” time for writing or prep, something I haven’t always been very successful at making happen.) I’ve also learned, after having suspected this for a while, that I work best in ninety-minute to two-hour bursts, punctuated by a short rest or a few New Yorker articles or a couple of calls to my senators or a boxing or yoga class, or even a volunteer session. I keep pretty assiduous track of the time I work each day, and longer blocks can get overwhelming, giving me too much latitude to give into either my anger at the world or my anxiety at the scope of the project I’m now officially in the middle of. Working in little spurts aligns with some important principles of physiology research, but it also helps me focus on my interest and excitement about these chapters I’m writing.