Immersion

Ahhh. This morning I achieved a goal that has eluded me this week. I spent the whole morning immersed in the world of digital humanities, text encoding, and general scholarly contemplation of the Wheaton College Digital History Project. No small achievement since much of my energy has been focused on my father’s health for the past month. We discovered on October 5 that a seemingly simple physical annoyance–foot pain associated with a nail infection–in fact had a more disturbing explanation. Dad has Stage III melanoma. He had surgery on October 21 and will have another on November 17. I spent the two and a half weeks between October 19 and November 7 in Austin, and though I did steal a full day for work on proposals for DH2011, I have been feeling quite distant from my scholar-self while I have been operating primarily as my daughter-self.

The distance was only magnified as I tried to replicate my usual work patterns during the past all-too-brief week I’ve been spending at home. I’ve sat down at the computer each morning after taking the dog out and making coffee, going online before truly waking, and feeling frustrated that I could not find the immersion point. I’ve known intellectually of course that my brain and body were simply deploying the defense mechanisms that would get them the rest they have needed, a response to the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that comes with trying to support aging parents as they confront one of the most frightening and bewildering experiences of their lives.

I don’t begrudge them any of that, and in fact I feel lucky to have the flexibility that comes with working outside the classroom for these few months so that I can help in whatever ways are useful as they begin their journey through the medical system and establish a treatment plan. At the same time, it feels so good to have been at the computer productively for these past few hours. To have been inside my scholar-self and usefully exploring ideas about how to use these last few sabbatical months to positive effect. So much better than the feeling of hammering on the door to that self from the outside, chasing specters of deadlines and expectations from the exhausted basic-self and wanting to flee in despair.

Aah. Immersion feels good.

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