Conundrum

I am too overloaded with service and administration and it is detrimental not just to me but to the other entities who are affected by it. But when this is not the case, things are not done and it is differently detrimental, particularly to me. One needs to have boundaries and say no. But when I did that this semester I was manipulated back and ordered into place, and I could not see a viable way out.

This is the conundrum. I am not sure of the answer, but I know the main problem is being ordered and manipulated, and feeling intimidated into accepting work I do not want and know I do not have time for. The fact that my overload is detrimental to others as well as myself must be kept firmly in mind: others also need me to practice self-care.

Everyone says they want more research time and so do I, but I also want more teaching time. Saying so feels dangerous. I was always exhorted not to spend time on teaching, and I quickly learned that to get along one could not say no to service and administration. But the fact is that I do not just need more research time, I need more teaching time.

To get more teaching time, I need a more rational set of courses, and to get that, I need to do major service toward program building and reorganization. That is the conundrum that was set me (not chosen by me, but set me) years ago; it seemed irrational then and it does so now, even though I have grown accustomed to it.

How to cut this Gordian knot?

Answer 1. I should do as I see fit. Problem: I receive orders not to. Answer: I should press on, whether those in power agree or not.

Answer 2. Better Boundaries. I want time to reflect on everything, time to breathe before class, time to prepare things, not to have to live on a constant pivot. Comment: I do not like the exhortation to boundaries, though, any more than I like the exhortation to do things very quickly and save time. Both connote constraints. One is to confine oneself in a small space, where one will work as quickly as possible, “cutting corners” (how I detest that phrase).

And yet — when I think of how I used to live, with time to reflect and plan, and time to focus, it occurs to me that this was in fact a way of “having boundaries.” (When did I stop? When I was told it was not my right. In phantasmagoria: when I was told I would be killed if I did not allow myself to be tortured; when I was told all my instincts and everything I had ever learned were wrong by definition; when I was informed I was a servant of others, not a master of myself, and that I must keep my place if I did not want everyone I loved to be killed.)

Answer 3. I should take authority, allow myself my own identity, and do things with love.
This is the answer I like best. The other word I might add is solidarity, of which there is too little and which is considered something one can dispense with out of expedience (because one has “boundaries”). But that, to me, is too stingy.

I may always have more service and administration than others, because of solidarity. Yet I must allow myself to love the things I have always been told I must not. Teaching, one must “cut corners” on. Research, one should not take seriously (“just write something”) and/or should consider a frivolity (“it is selfish, dear, and meaningless”). I have to fight these last two sentences with authority and identity.

I also need to take authority and affirm identity by not negotiating for these — by making them non-negotiable. How to do this in certain practical situations is not clear. I want as a first step not to negotiate for the right to these.

I am missing a deadline (research) this week and I am late on another project (research). I am also spending too little time on regular teaching because of the demands of independent projects, only one of which I took on of my own accord, and because of rewriting the departmental website, which I said I could not do this semester but then did because I was told I had no (real) choice.

I have also neglected some things in my own life because of this. I think that was because I felt so mistreated and angry and — ashamed that I had this situation … and if I have learned anything from writing this weblog it is that if I feel ashamed, it is because I have been done harm.

Shame, in books (how I would love to read certain serious books, and how I should allow myself this) and on the Internet, has to do with abuse and loss of self. So it is no wonder I keep saying my cure is (my  own) authority, identity, love — and that I should not feel guilty about to feel solidarity with others and acting on it, even if this is impractical or a luxury.

Others say they need to learn they can be wrong sometimes, to give up the desire to control everything, and to have some kind of self-discipline. Who are these people?

Axé.

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