mental health · openness · saving my sanity

Pie for breakfast; or, the mid-semester fess-up.

Sometimes I am a real slacker.

Or at least I feel like a slacker. Take last night for instance. I have a stack of marking to complete, I have to job applications on the go that Must Be Posted!, I have a meeting with the academic planning committee first thing this morning, I have lectures, I have laundry, I have a partner (hi M.! Remember me?). Oh yes, and I have a blog post due. So what do I do Sunday evening? I cooked. I knit. I hung out with my dogs. I watched television and folded the laundry.

The dogs know how to chill out … sometimes.

Here’s the thing: I am not a slacker, not really, and my wager is that you aren’t either even — or especially — if you feel like one. I have a terrifically bad common habit of making negative statements about my quotidian needs. This is a habit that is endemic to academia, certainly. Indeed, I suspect it is a habit that is common to the conditions set by out neoliberal moment: workworkwork and if you’re not working, well, you’d better feel pretty horrible about all that. Further, I am almost certain that women are very prone to this tendency to negate the need to take an evening. Here’s just one snapshot of my women just below my age group who are not academics. No matter how many articles I read, no matter how often my nearest and dearest tell me I need/deserve/must take time for myself I still find it a struggle.

Fast-forward to last night. It didn’t seem to matter that on top of the usual business of the previous week I had spent Saturday in a ten hour meeting (no kidding). It didn’t matter that a friend had suddenly passed away on Monday. It didn’t matter that three times this past week I have had to vacate the house with my two crazy dogs because our landlords have decided to sell and the house needs showing. Heck, it doesn’t seem to matter that I’m writing run-on sentences: I simply could not let myself settle down.

So here is the confession: All of my best laid plans from September? They are limping along. (Actually, one of the plans is going amazingly well thanks to my collaborator’s constant encouragement) But I still seem to succumb to the mid-semester craziness, and when it hits I push myself until I crash. Which brings us to pie for breakfast.

Peach breakfast crisp! Thank you Smitten Kitchen!

I wrote a while ago about good advice my dad gave me. Last night as I was looking at the grading and looking and my knitting and longing to play around with my new cookbook (a gift from my friend EB!) I remembered something my 96-year-old grandmother tells me: sometimes you just have to throw up your hands and eat pie for breakfast. So I opened my new cookbook, made peach breakfast crisp, then made some cauliflower pesto just because, and I spent the evening on the couch.

Cauliflower pesto! (Never mind that if you look closely you can see the piles of grading off in the corner…)

Today is going to be a scramble, but last night it was worth it.

How about y’all? How are you handling the mid-semester scramble?


I am eating breakfast pie while I write this. No make-up, haven’t brushed my hair, must be out the door in five minutes…

9 thoughts on “Pie for breakfast; or, the mid-semester fess-up.

  1. Oh, Smitten Kitchen cookbook, get thee in my mailbox immediately!

    This weekend I had brunch with my folks, cut out felt circles to make a holiday wreath for my freshly painted front door, watched the last two Bond movies so that I'm caught up to see the new one, and went on a long run. But this morning I woke up, rolled over, and started writing–finished more than my daily minimum before I even got out of bed. So, you know, it all balances out. Somehow. Even when it doesn't feel like it will.

    And with that, I'm off to propose a panel for the ACQL…

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  2. Sounds like a great evening off! (What are you knitting??)

    I think my kids help me compartmentalize to some extent (i.e. I just can't be doing work when we're playing or having supper or having a bath or whatever). But then once they're asleep, I'm torn between so many possible activities, one of which is always class prep or applications or academic writing or whatever. One evening last week I didn't bring any work home from school: in fact, I didn't even bring my laptop home! My bag felt so light. 🙂

    I'd say over the past week, there were probably 3-4 evenings when I didn't do any work at all but that has not been generally true of this semester as a whole. Although I do only work a half day on Mondays so no complaints there.

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  3. Yes, yes, and yes! Also yes @Lemon Hound. Babies impose their presence in such an unavoidable way, that I've made my peace with not working when they're awake. There's just no way.

    Also, Erin, you could not look unfabulous if you tried, makeup or no!

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  4. @ Lemon Hound: Sustainability! That's the big question, isn't it? Always. I'd say for me the answer is no. No, this is not a sustainable pace. But the follow-up question is how to change the pace, how to say no without curtailing possibilities. That is the question I still haven't answered, and thus I gallop ever-onward! How do you answer that question of sustainability for yourself? (with no pressure to answer — you're busy!)

    @ Andrea: right now, a scarf. Little known fact: in 2001-2002 I made my 'living' selling knitted goods. I also ate mostly brown rice, as it was all I could afford. Moral of the story? I am a moderately capable knitter, but I'm no expert! Yet…

    @ Melissa: I read the story you posted about professional cuddlers and I am considering a career shift.

    @ Margrit: Same to you my brilliant and inside-and-out-fabulous friend!

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  5. This post hits home. I have spent the past decade begging my mother to slack off and give herself a break, or at least develop a more sustainable work/life balance. She is not an academic, but employees in her field are also chronically over worked. She doesn't have a cyclical workload governed by semesters, her children are grown up and no longer assert enough of a demand on her time–she just has deadline after deadline, project after project.

    What this post really makes me wonder is how can we have such overworked employees at so many levels and in so many sectors, and yet not be hiring new people, creating new positions? Why is it that my mum just had anoher 80 hour work week when there are so many suitable candidates unemployed? Ugh.

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  6. I am also using this blog to procrastinate 🙂

    Alexis Shotwell just came to the University of Alberta and gave a talk to Sociology students about suffering-free writing. It was really, really useful in terms of thinking about self-care, procrastination and guilt. I've been using it a lot not just to think about my not-writing, but also about balancing other academic responsibilities and being a human being, too. You can watch it online if you're interested!

    That pie looks delicious and is something I'm planning on procrastinating with later this week. Or maybe just rewarding myself with.

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  7. Late to this party, and saying yes to everything here but also, as I read: It is true that everybody's busy, but also? I'm really sorry that you lost a friend this week, and it really bites that you are responding to your landlord's realty needs. I just can't help saying (and I'm sure I sound like someone's mother here rather than your hip grandmother) that some of the things you've listed are Really Big Deals. And so, I'm sorry for your loss, E.

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