Archive for the ‘#reverb10’ Category

I did not realize when I began this project on Dec. 1 how totally stoked I would be to finish up with it.  And I’m even more happy now that I see the final prompt of the whole shebang:

Prompt: Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

Jesus H. Christ.  I’m just going to pretend that the whole “core story” business is not part of this prompt, because if I have a core story (and I’m not saying that I do, because eewww) I certainly don’t think that’s public property and I don’t intend to share it with the world.

So let’s just pretend that the “bonus” is the actual prompt, because that’s what I’d wanted to do with this whole reverb10 exercise in the first place.  I just looked over all of my reverb10 posts, and I feel like as a writing exercise, this thing was a success for me.

I began it because I thought it would be a nice way to finish up the year on the blog, and a nice way to round out my sabbatical time.  At times I was frustrated by the prompts, and if I had it to do over again I think that I would have been less perversely wed to the idea that each prompt was an “assignment” of some sort.  I suggested to Nels a few days ago that I felt like it might have been more productive for me to view the prompts (especially the ones with “moment” in them) more like mad-libs, where I just replaced the annoying word with another word I actually wanted to write about.

Even with that being the case, though, I did appreciate that the project was about positive reflection, if that makes sense.  While it’s true that I did respond snarkily to a good many of the prompts because they felt so cheesy/fake to me, I wasn’t actually looking for prompts that themselves were more snarky, if that makes sense.  I have enough snark in my life and in my heart.  I wanted this project to be about peeling back that defensive layer of snark (well, er, as much as I’m able to do that).  Here’s the thing: snark is the way that I posture.  It’s dishonest, for me.  And the insidious thing about that is that I think a good many of us view snark as being “more true” than other ways of being, so it’s in some ways the ultimate pose.  Now, sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it allows me to blow off steam, and it probably will always be a fundamental part of the way that I communicate.  But the value in this project for me was that it forced me to try (sometimes successfully and sometimes not) to leave the snark behind (at least a little) and instead to, I don’t know, try to be more genuinely nice in the way that I was writing.  (Again, I did not always succeed with that, but it was something I tried.)  It’s worth noting that from doing the reverb10 thing it became clear to me that its approach just promotes another kind of posturing that I enjoy a whole lot less than I enjoy being snarky.  I guess that’s good to know, too.

I also think it’s worth noting that I never would have done the reverb10 project if it were another year.  Sort of like how I never do NaNoWriMo because who the hell has time to write a novel in November – JUST WHO?- I would, under normal circumstances have heard about this project and said, “well, isn’t that a nice idea, but I’m sorry it’s the end of the semester and I don’t have the time or the patience for this navel-gazing.”  But because I wasn’t teaching, and because I’ve felt… I’ve felt like I should devote some time to reflection so that when I return from sabbatical I’ll be able to have a sense of what this time has meant.  I mean, sure, I’ll have my report that I turn in, and so I’ll be able to understand what it’s meant in terms of work.  But I feel like if I return and I don’t have a sense of where I am personally that will have been a huge waste of the luxury of this time.  I want for this past 8 months to have meant something.  Maybe that’s stupid.  I don’t know.  But I don’t want to return to the daily grind having learned nothing from this experience.

So I didn’t read through all of the posts from the month carefully, but in skimming some and reading others more deeply, I tried to do so with a certain amount of critical distance, tried to imagine that I was not myself and that I was just reading these posts as an outsider.  And I don’t know if I’d say that there is a concrete thread that runs through each and every one of them, but I think there is a sort of emotional thread.  As I read, I did get a sense of centeredness and also of wanting to protect a feeling of positivity.  I got a sense of a person who does at least to some extent understand and accept her flaws, but who isn’t interested in wallowing in those flaws.  I got a sense of a person who is perhaps a little more relaxed than I typically perceive myself to be (but maybe that was the effect of the hippie writing project?), and also a person who does have clear ideas about what sort of life she wants to have perhaps more than I give myself credit for doing.  I got a sense of general well-being and satisfaction, in spite of there being some things still left to work on.

I feel weird writing the above paragraph because what if those aren’t the things other people see?  What if I’m projecting what I want to have discovered in the project into this post and not really describing what’s there?  I don’t think I’m doing that, but well, I wouldn’t, would I?

And so I’m not sure what difference all of the above makes, if any, but it feels good to have given myself the time to think it all through – both throughout the month and now on the last day.


[I may do some real reflecting and resolution-making later, as I like to do on New Year’s Eve.  But for now, let’s just all do a little dance of joy that reverb10 is over!!!!!]

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Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

I’ve been thinking about this prompt off and on all day today.  I really want to write something profound and thoughtful and whatever, but I’ve got a problem.  I think that anything I’d want to write about that would be profound and thoughtful or whatever isn’t actually a gift.  Instead, it’s something that I earned or worked for.  So I’m going to take this prompt in the opposite direction and be totally silly and literal about it.  Best gift this year? Something I’d never buy for myself, but because I have a great friend I got it as a housewarming present?

Fancy basil-scented dish soap, lotion, and hand soap.


Williams-Sonoma Essential Oils Collection Hand Soap, Basil

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Defining Moment

Prompt: Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

I’m sick of all these “moment” posts.  Individually?  They are fine.  Taken together, it’s like I’m writing on the same prompt every three days.

Also I’m grumpy.  I have less than one week left of sabbatical, and if there were any way that I could just bail on MLA this year, I would do it.  I’m already strategizing about how to shirk my responsibilities next year and not go, and then about how I will just never go again.  Because you know why?  I need that week before classes start to get my head on straight.  It’s not about prep.  It’s about sanity.  I am thinking about starting this semester exhausted and I hate it.  HATE.

But so anyway the defining moment (or series of moments, whatever) is sabbatical.  And if you don’t understand why, then I can’t explain it to you.

And with that, I’m going to go off and grumble and drink more coffee and hope that my mood improves.

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Prompt: Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

You’d think that I’d have an easy answer for this one.  I’m pretty achievement-oriented, compared with most people.  And most years I have really explicit, definite goals that I want to achieve.  But as 2010 comes to a close… I’ve got nothing.  I mean, seriously.

I think the problem might be that I’ve achieved a lot in the past few years.  Since 2008, I’ve published a book, earned tenure, revised curriculum, developed new courses, been awarded sabbatical (which is competitive, where I work), begun a new book project, gotten out of credit card debt, and bought a house.  That’s a lot of things.  And that’s not even everything I’ve achieved, but just the things that stick out as major to me.  But having achieved all of that, I do have a bit of a feeling like, “Um, haven’t I done enough?  Perhaps I need to take a little tiny break from achieving things!”

(As much as I’m motivated by the idea of achieving goals, I’m also innately lazy.  You might not believe this, with all of the achievements, but if it weren’t for my ability to trick myself into achieving things because of my deep desire to avoid shame and guilt, I would lie around, slug-like, all day long.  No, really.  I would.)

But so, apparently I don’t have any new concrete objectives I feel like achieving.  (I do plan to continue working toward objectives that I began this year, but I’ve written about those already and I find them boring in terms of this post.)  I suppose I could be more abstract about this prompt, talking about achieving things like “balance” (although you know I’m against that) or “peace” (which I sort of think sounds self-important and also like not very much fun) or something like that.  But just… no.  Those sorts of things are not for me.  And then there are things I want but I don’t really feel like they are things to be “achieved,” if that makes sense.  Like I want to fall in love.  But is that something one can “achieve”?  I don’t think so.  I mean, I think that I can do things to facilitate the potential for that to happen, but I do not think that falling in love works like getting a publication or getting out of debt or whatever.  (Would that it did, though, because I’d be a lot better at it then….)

But so what do I hope to achieve?  I dunno.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe I just want to spend a year not worrying about achieving anything.  Maybe I just want to putter along, continuing to work on weight loss, continuing to plod along with the book project, continuing to do my thing, whatever my thing happens to be.  Maybe this is going to be a year in which I “achieve” absolutely nothing.  That sounds pretty good, actually.  Yes, I like the idea of that.  No achievements in 2011, unless they happen accidentally.  No self-imposed deadlines, no stressing myself out, and absolutely no guilt about not achieving enough.  No freaking out that I’m going to let other people down when the whole reason that I have so much on my shoulders is because those other people don’t carry their own stupid weight.  Maybe I will just hang out and see what happens.

Imagine if I can actually accomplish all that!  It would really be quite an achievement.

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I’m just skipping today’s and yesterday’s reverb10 prompts.  Not because I have a problem with them (yesterday’s was about food, and today’s was about something not offensive… I forget… oh yeah, something about ordinary joyful moments or something) but because I’ve just been feeling very sleepy, and, like others, I’ve been reading The Hunger Games Trilogy, and… well, haven’t I already written on both of those prompts?  I’m sure I have.  But anyway, perhaps reverb10 is doing its job and making me more chill and relaxed about things?  Or maybe I’m to the point where boredom is overtaking my innate perversity and stubborn adherence to a plan?  Or, seriously: maybe I just need to sleep and to lay around and read much more than I need to navel-gaze.  Whatever.  Tomorrow I’ll try to get it up to write on the prompt.  But for now, I’m going to go be lazy some more.

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Sadly, No.

Prompt: Photo – a present to yourself. Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

As a lady writing under a pseudonym, this is not the prompt for me.  To be fair, though, I also feel like it’s not the prompt for me because I’m not the sort of person who is very picture-oriented, if that makes sense.  Like, I’m the sort of person who ends up forgetting to take pictures, or who’s too busy running around like a nut to end up in a picture.  Only when there is a professional photographer involved (my cousin’s wedding) or some insistent picture-taking friend or family member do pictures of me end up happening.  What is this about?  Well, probably it has something to do with the fact that FL is a photographer and for the 5 years we went out, he was constantly taking my picture (which means tons of pictures exist of me between ages 16 and 21 in which I’m scowling).

Really what I should have done was take pictures yesterday of the unbelievable Christmas Eve dinner I cooked.  I ended up deciding to do the menu that I posted for the Eve rather than the Day for a number of reasons, some practical (didn’t want to waste a day cooking while my parents were here) and some impatient (I just wanted to eat that dinner asap).  But anyway, I should have taken pics of that, but I didn’t because I was too busy enjoying eating it.  Note to readers: Do not pass go; do not collect 200 dollars: MAKE THAT RED-WINE POT ROAST.  It was…. I can’t even talk about it.  And the creamy polenta that I made to go with it?  BOSS.

But, alas, you don’t get to see pictures of all that because I didn’t take them.  And the food has now been eaten. (Well, or it’s put away in plastic containers as leftovers, which just isn’t pretty.)  Nothing to see here.

I nevertheless do feel obligated to post some sort of picture.  I know.  Kitties!  Who doesn’t love my kitties!  This picture is what the kitties do every morning, because they are very conscientious neighborhood citizens who must know at all moments what is going on in the neighborhood.


Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!  I feel like I need to eat some church windows (one of my favorite completely irredeemably unhealthy Christmas treats – well, except my mom makes hers with coconut, which I feel is sort of healthy-ish….. haha) with my coffee.


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Everything’s Ok?

Prompt: Everything’s OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

I am feeling like I don’t know whether things will be alright or not.  I feel like I am not entirely sure what comes next.  But let me ramble for a bit and maybe I’ll come up with something.

With the end of sabbatical I’m feeling a huge sense of loss and stress.  I wish that I could be on sabbatical forever.  One person said to me that I should have taken the whole year, but a couple of things about that: 1) Um, I’m not made of money and I don’t have a partner to pick up the slack while I make 60% of my salary, and 2) While a year may be longer, it’s not forever and what I want is sabbatical forever. It’s not that I’m dreading going back to teaching or something.  I actually miss teaching.  Well, or I miss teaching in theory, but the thought of being slammed back into teaching four courses in a term does not sound like fun.  I am dreading going back to all of the service parts of my job, but well, I suppose that’s what makes the whole thing work.  You know, people talk about teaching like it’s the dreadful thing we do in order to pay the bills and to facilitate our one true love, research.  I’ve never felt that way about teaching.  Instead, I see teaching and research as two sides of the same coin.  Service, on the other hand….  Look, I know it’s important, and I can even admit that there are some satisfactions to doing it well and to being involved and to taking it seriously, but it is the thing that makes me dread returning from sabbatical.  DREAD. And I think part of what I dread about it is how exhausting it will be not only to do the service that I can’t get out of but also how exhausting it is to have to say no over and over and over again.  I hate having to tell people no, and not because I’m such a martyr or something but rather because having constantly to assert one’s priorities in the face of people who couldn’t care less about one or those priorities is exhausting.  Waaaah!

Ok, enough of my whining.  Back to the question at hand.  Maybe my problem is thinking of one moment in time as “proof” of something that extends out into the future.  Because I can pick a number of moments where I felt like everything was ok and like things were heading in the right direction, but I’m not sure what any of those moments “prove” – about me or about the path I’m on.

I don’t want you all to get the wrong idea, here.  I’m not actually pessimistic about the future.  I’m actually really optimistic and centered-feeling, and happy.  Maybe my problem is the one I talked about earlier in the week – about being superstitious.  Not wanting to offend the gods with my hubris or something.  Wanting to be braced in case things don’t go according to plan.

That said, I guess I do believe this, which sort of answers the final part of this question: I believe that everything is only as ok as we believe it can be or is.  The trick to happiness, I think, is in choosing to be happy.  It’s not where you live, how much money you have, who you love, or what you do.  Not really.  The trick is in convincing oneself to live as a happy, contented person, whatever the circumstances may be.

Now, of course, this isn’t to discount more negative feelings.  I mean, hell, I’ve spent a good amount of the last few years not terribly happy, and for some pretty decent reasons, too.  But I guess the thing is, I don’t want to live like that.  I don’t want to wallow.  I don’t want to blunt my feelings with food or alcohol.  I don’t want to wait around for my life to start and then be disappointed when it doesn’t magically do so.  So if I’ve gotten anything out of my sabbatical, I’ve gotten the time to shift my thinking from passivity to activity, from waiting to doing.  And so I guess the thing that makes me so upset about sabbatical ending is worrying that all of the progress that I’ve made as a person since May is going to be destroyed when I go back.  What if I don’t know how to trick myself into happiness and contentedness with all of the pressures that will return in a couple of weeks?

But even with that anxiety bubbling away, I can tell you this: everything will be ok because everything always is.  I mean, seriously.  When is everything not ok?  Horrible disasters happen and it’s not the end of the world.  People die, or your heart gets broken, or you screw up something in your work – at the end of the day, though, it’s not like the apocalypse when those things happen.  Everything is ok because ultimately nothing is really all that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.  Which I realize is a sort of cynical way of looking at it, but I really do think that.  I mean, things are as ok as you act like they are.  Or, more simply, how you act is how things are.  Or, to go further, the words you say make things happen, so if you say everything’s ok, then it is.  In fact, saying that it is makes it happen.

So, I guess where I end is with a really unsophisticated idea of ok-ness as performative.  Whatever.  I’m kind of thinking that if you’re looking for a moment to prove that everything will be ok, then you’ve got bigger problems than my reductive rendering of theory.

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Fucking Absurdity

Prompt: New name. Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

Unless I’m reflecting on being a complete jacktard and manifesting a future in the witness protection program, I am absolutely unclear about the point of this question.  Beyond that, I actually find the suggestion that I write an answer to it offensive.  Look, I’ve been giving reverb10 the college try.  I’ve been planning a whole post wrapping it up where I talk about my resistance but also the positive value of doing it, and I really have found taking it on primarily positive.  But this prompt makes me want to slap not only the idiot who wrote this prompt but also Gwen Bell for thinking that this prompt was worthy of more than three thousand people’s time.  I mean, even if every single person refuses to write on it, we all had to consider it for 30 seconds.  And that’s 30 seconds I’ll never get back.  (By the way, I’m sorry for making you spend 30 seconds on it, too.  I’m kind of an asshole.)

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Prompt: Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

I’m choosing to take this prompt literally since I’m kinda hung over and I don’t have the energy to get all metaphorical and shit about the travel.  Anyway, I didn’t do a whole lot of traveling in 2010.  I did a whole lot of nesting.  Really, the only place I went that even sorta counts was NY, which was awesome, sure, but it was to visit family and wasn’t going to a new place or anything like that.

In 2011, I anticipate more traveling than that, kicking off with MLA in LA, and then maybe going to Napa Valley in the spring, and then maybe Boston in May, and then who knows where else I might end up?

But right now I need to travel to the kitchen to get my butternut squash out of the oven to cool, and then I need to rest a bit, and then I need to make butternut squash soup.  And maybe have a snack.  And then rest some more.

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ETA: *Thanks to Chris in NY for catching my original error in the title to this post.  I decided to leave it, because perhaps my Future Self has a Council of Elders, or something, who advise her?  ‘Tis hard to know, as Future Self isn’t talking 🙂

Prompt: Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

Maybe I’m superstitious.  I mean, I kind of am.  The idea of imagining myself five years into the future and then telling Me Now what Future Me thinks I should know seems to involve a lot of potentially dangerous conjecture.  I mean, let’s say that I decide Future Me is married with kids.  That would probably make Future Me give a whole range of advice for Me Now that would follow a certain set of protocols, if you will.  In contrast, what if Future Me is single, and ends up getting a different job and moving to a different city?  Clearly that Future Me would tell Me Now some very different things.  Or, look: those are two super-awesome potential Future Me scenarios.  But what if Future Me gets cancer or loses her job or house or ends up a weirdo recluse with 6 cats?  Because that Future Me would probably have still other things she’d like to say to Me Now.

I guess my point is, I don’t know.  I can tell you goals that I have for the next five years, or I can tell you my dreams, or the things that I hope to accomplish.  But I don’t actually have total control over all of that.  I can do my best to make those things happen – unless of course I realize that I don’t want them anymore – but I am not God.  And yes, I’m superstitious.  What if I choose one of those Future Me types and give myself advice based on that?  And then what if that tempts fate and fate decides to give me the great cosmic smack-down, just to show who’s boss?  I believe in shit like that, people.  So, no.  I am not going to assume that I know who or where I’ll be in five years.  And I’m certainly not going to pretend to advise Me Now based on the way that I fantasize my life will be in five years.  The thought of doing so totally sketches me out.

Now, I can do the “bonus” part of the prompt, though.  Me Now would tell 26-year-old-Me the following:

  1. You will get a tenure-track job and your professional life will work out ok, so seriously: chill.  You’re great.
  2. Break up with him.  Yes, I know that you think you’re going to live happily ever after with him if you just get through this particular rough patch, and breaking up is a whole lot harder when you made the stupid decision to move in with a person, and don’t you believe in commitment and doesn’t that mean sticking it out, but dude.  You are about to waste the next two years being miserable, and you’re going to break up with him anyway. And you’re going to be gunshy for a really long time after that relationship if you let it go on.  Break up with him.  Like, yesterday. Um, I just realized that this is advice I’d have to give 9-years-ago-Me.  Because apparently I can’t do math, even when it relates to something simple, like my age.  So really this advice would be “don’t begin a relationship that is going to have you moving in with a loser who doesn’t work for two of the three years you’re together and who decides he wants space at the precise moment that you get your tenure-track job, even if you do think that having a serious boyfriend would offer more stability for writing your dissertation than fucking around, which, incidentally, is not the reason to have a serious relationship and probably is a pretty big sign that you’re not ready for one of those.”

Other than that, I think 26-year-old-Me was sort of great.  I mean, aside from being a stressed out freak in a crappy relationship, I managed to keep it together enough to stop myself from being a stressed out freak in a crappy relationship ultimately.

But this is important: No matter how well-meaning Me Now is, the truth is that 26-year-old-Me never would have listened to Me Now.  Because the thing about me in the present tense – whether it’s Me Now, Me Ten Years Ago, or the Me I’ll become five years into the future – is that I tend to trust myself in the moment and I tend to think that I know what’s best for myself.  I tend to think that even if I make mistakes, that they are my mistakes and they make me who I am.  I tend to trust that the mistakes that I make are going to teach me something.

Like this thing that I learned from my mistakes that I didn’t really know 10 years ago.  I think now that it’s impossible to predict every possible future thing, and so it’s a whole lot better to focus on immediate things that are within our control than to live so much for the future that we miss out on our present.  I’m not interested in advice from Future Self because I believe in Me Now.  And Future Self doesn’t want to offer advice because she knows Me Now wouldn’t listen anyway.

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