balance · emotional labour · kindness · paying it forward

The uses of kindness

I’m walking around feeling very stylin’ this week, on account of my new purse. It’s not actually my purse, though. It’s my sister’s. As we just spent a whole weekend together up north at our parents’ house where I could not stop telling her how lovely I thought that Fossil cross-body buff leather purse was, she just dumped all her stuff out of it, and told me I could borrow it for a month or two.

How kind!

In fact, our whole weekend was awash in kindness. Our husbands took on sole-charge child and home care so that we could have this getaway, and our parents had as their objective to spoil us with sleep-ins, and home cooking, and fancy cocktails, and a dinner out. My mom said nice things about my hair and complimented my photography. My dad uploaded a bunch of his jazz CDs into my iTunes, and made me a little post-it note so I would know what was new.

When I got home on Sunday, I was touched by my husband’s kindness, driving out to my sister’s house down the highway to pick me up, and then taking the dog out for a walk when we got back to our tidy! house. I was so touched, that I sent him out for supper and did the groceries with our girl, and then did a bunch of cooking.

The next morning, I discovered, he washed all the cooking dishes after I went to bed, because he was so happy I had done so much prep work for all our lunches. Then I was so touched by THAT kindness that I went in the backyard to retrieve all the bags of dog poop that had scattered everywhere when a big wind blew our garbage can off the back porch.

And on it goes, this week, kindness begetting kindness, multiplying kindness.

This time of year, my own kindness tends to go out the window: I get stressed, and when that happens, my fuse gets shorter, I perceive more slights and wrongs and start tabulating who’s done what chore or eaten the last muffin or not refilled the milk or someone got unfairly treated better than me. And you know where that gets me? Having fights.

It’s so easy to forget that sometimes, we just need to invite a little kindness into our day. I’ll tell you, sometimes, it’s really hard for me to offer to take the dog out on his last “poop walk” of the day when I’ve already scooped up three and it’s cold and I want to go to bed. But when I do make that offer, my little kindness multiplies unexpectedly, in hugs, or flowers, or an offer to take the dog out for his *first* poop walk the next morning. And I always feel so good.

I’m going to try to remember that, that even in the busy time, the awful time … maybe especially in this time, I need to take a deep breath, and offer myself in kindness. And it will come back to me.

Here’s a digital hug for you, dear reader: I sincerely hope your day is going well, and if there was a more tangible kindness I could offer you, other than me just wishing you a nice day, I would.

appreciation · paying it forward · positive thoughts as I fill out grant applications

Sharing; or, I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

Much of the frustration, work, and anxiety of the trough of the J Curve relates to paperwork.

Induction into the Great Paperwork Nightmare arrives with the crafting of The Job Letter, which is unlike anything you’ve ever written before and for which the only instruction seems to be “make sure it’s perfect.” If one of your (hundreds? of) letters is, in fact, somehow perfect, you will have to fill out more bureaucratic forms than you knew existed, because you will become a faculty member.

Let’s see: there’s internal funding applications, annual activity reports, applications for different internal funds, SSHRC Standard Research Grants (if you’re in the social sciences or humanities … oh wait! They’ve changed all the programs and now the forms, too!), a variety of other SSHRC grants, sabbatical applications, convert-your-salary-to-research-funds forms, research ethics forms, graduate dissertation / research project/ Master’s thesis / reading course forms, reference letters, reports to journal editors on revisions attempted or rejected, and the mother of all of them (at least from where I’m sitting), the tenure application.

Mostly, you stare at these form-fillable but not saveable PDF, these table-based Word docs with crazy formatting, these spreadsheets that won’t run on your Mac, slack-jawed, writing and creativity alike locked up. Cue the  whining, complaining, defeatism, procrastination, and, if you’re me, drinking.

Well. Thank God for my friends, I say.

When I went on the job market, Heather vetted my letters for me, giving me concrete feedback and advice like “this is too timid,” or “you need a longer paragraph saying what your dissertation is about.” The research office here collects winning SSHRC apps from researcher volunteers, and puts them in a binder for us to consult. When I was trying to write my tenure dossier, three colleagues who’d come up in the three years before me sent me all their material to use as examples. Immeasurably helpful. This week, I sent my tenure dossier to a friend in the US who wondered how to write up her technical work in new media. I sent an internal award application to a friend here who’s junior to me and has never yet applied for one. I sent my salary-conversion application to a colleague in my department who wanted a model of what kinds of things she might budget for and how to justify them.

Of course, when I send you that stuff, you’ll see what my research is. You’ll see my reference lists. My CV and all the things I’ve done or not done so far in my career. You’ll see my budgets, my five year research plan, how I allot work to graduate students, where I’ve applied for jobs, what kind of funding I had in grad school. You might see my big idea, even. But that’s okay: I don’t think you intend me any harm, and I don’t know why that information has to be so closely guarded. Are you going to steal my ideas? Judge my career? Decide you want to apply for the same fellowship as me?

Okay–once in grad school I was in this seminar where we had to workshop our annotated bibliographies, and the next day a classmate RECALLED ALL MY BOOKS. But that’s the only bad thing I’ve ever had happen. I guess it comes with the digital media research area: I’m all about transparency and disclosure, baby.

So to everyone who has ever sent me their own material to save me some stress preparing mine, I thank you from the very deepest part of my heart. I will never recall your books, I promise.

And to anyone who might like to have a look at something I’ve written, to use as a model (or a terrible warning; I don’t know), you’re welcome to it. Just ask.

What about you? Do you share? Have others shared with you? Why? Why not? What are we hiding?

appreciation · paying it forward · reflection · thank you · you're awesome

Heartfelt thanks

Following Aimée’s lead, I’m giving thanks today.

I am thankful for my incredible partner who gave up a flourishing freelance career to move across the country with me when I took what was at the time only a 10-month LTA. We could have tried long-distance, but he chose to support me. He is a truly wonderful person. I’m so grateful to share a home with him.

I am thankful for my family, far-flung as we all are.

I am thankful for my friends, here and there, without whom I would be a lesser person.

I am thankful for my mentors. Almost speechless with thanks. I will work to pay it forward in the way you have for me.

I am thankful for articulate reminders that holidays aren’t neutral, and that we must continue to work for equitable futures in the academy and outside it.

I am thankful to have the privilege of working in a department that is supportive and engaged (I had the opportunity to give a draft of an article to my colleagues and students on Friday: the discussion was thoughtful and the audience worked to help me address some parts of the paper I didn’t feel were yet finished. When I walked out of the room an hour and a half later I had solid essentially workshopped suggestions for how to finish the piece. One colleague even wrote a follow up email with her thoughts!)

I’m thankful for my colleague and friend with whom I’m researching a new project.

I’m thankful for my colleague(s) who offer to take time out of their busy lives to offer commentary on my work. I’m thankful our department has such strong, forward-thinking, humane leadership.

I am thankful that I have–and have had–the opportunity to teach such incredible students. In addition to working with students from first to fourth year, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with graduate students and aspiring graduate students.

I am thankful for Halifax’s Farmers market, and most especially to the farmers for growing the things I get to buy there, and for the incredible luck that brought my farmer’s market pal and I together.

I am thankful for the Halifax Ashtanga Yoga Shala, without which I would be a far more hunched, stressed person.

And I’m thankful for you, readers, who have let us here at hook&eye know there’s an engaged audience out there.