Mightier than the sword

On Monday night, I submitted the last batch of grades for my face-to-face classes at Keene State, officially ending a busier-than-usual Spring semester: time to re-introduce myself to my own life.

Phillis Wheatley

I’ve written before about the weird let-down I experience twice a year, in December and May, at the end of a busy semester, “the transition from super-busy to leisurely shocking me with its suddenness.” For the past few weeks, I’ve been juggling four classes, and for several months before that, I was juggling five; now, suddenly, I’m teaching only one. Now that I’ve submitted grades, I’m revisiting long-procrastinated tasks and reintroducing myself to friends I haven’t seen all semester, both my to-do lists and my social life tending to fall by the wayside at the height of the academic year, when the effort of juggling two jobs and living in two states takes most of my mental focus. The sudden switch from “on” to “off” is welcome, but disorienting in its own way.

Lucy Stone, made of stone

One of the things I’ve been itching to have more time for is writing, both here on-blog and in my offline journal. I managed to keep up (mostly) with my morning journal-pages this semester, as I’ve learned over the years not to postpone the important stuff. But for the past month or so, during the always-busy month of April, I’ve downsized my morning routine, writing two pages rather than my usual four. Writing only two pages doesn’t save that much time from writing four, but when I’m busy, I find myself spending most of my journal-pages simply reiterating the to-dos I’ve listed elsewhere, spinning my wheels just thinking about the upcoming day’s tasks. At a certain point, it’s less frustrating to put down the pen and actually get down to doing the things you need to do rather than scribbling on about them, and writing two journal-pages a day is my compromise in the face of that fact: a nod to my busy schedule, but a conscious decision to keep in daily touch (literally) with the blank page.

Abigail Adams stands up for herself

I find there’s a substantial difference between writing two journal-pages and writing four, a kind of degree of depth you achieve after you’ve run out of superficial things to say. Once you’ve spent two pages describing the weather or noting the current behaviors of any of a number of pets, you then turn the page and have to dig a bit deeper to fill two more pages. Once you’ve stated the obvious–once you’ve repeated the same mundane observations you note pretty much every day–you have to go beneath these superficial details to figure out what’s “really” on your mind. Once you’ve gotten over the introductory pleasantries, you can tackle the question of how you’re doing, really.

In the past, I’ve looked forward to summer as a chance to write longer and more thoughtful blog-posts, and I’m looking forward to that this summer, too. But I’m also looking forward to having time to write longer and more thoughtful journal entries, the writing I do simply and entirely for me. When I don’t have time to craft long or thoughtful blog-posts, I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt, as if I’m neglecting my blog and its readers; when I don’t have time to devote myself fully to my morning journal pages, I feel a twinge of sadness, as if I’m letting my own self down. Now that my summer is here, I’m truly happy to be write back in the rhythm of my own life.

Click here for more photos from the Boston Women’s Memorial, which I photographed last month on the way to Symphony Hall for a BSO concert. Enjoy!

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