Friday, April 17, 2020

NYC day 30

Quarantine doesn't change the fact that Facebook leaches my energy away from blogging - it's just so easy to post a trivial sentence with a picture there! But I'm surfacing again here....

On balance I've been doing really well. I'm distracted by coronanews and finding it hard to get off the internet, also of course weighed down by the weight of global calamity, but my morale is good and my day-to-day life is quite similar to how it always is. April is probably the single busiest month in the academic year, and I've got a lot of stuff to do, but the workload is on balance mitigated rather than exacerbated by the move online, and my life is definitely easier when there can be absolutely no expectation that I should meet people face to face, especially for evening social commitments!

I had a low spell Sunday evening, but this week has been really good.

I thoroughly enjoyed my seminars on Monday on Tuesday (it's not really for the teacher to evaluate whether they were great classes or not, but I experienced them as great!).

A PhD student of mine got a job offer on Wednesday, always a prompt for joy but under these circumstances extraordinarily so!

My mother is doing well, and I had another really joyful conversation via Zoom on Thursday with a student who's been writing poetry in quarantine and shared some of it with me.

Running and yoga are both going very very well.

And various choices I'd already made about what I'm doing the coming year make it relatively low-stakes for me whether we're teaching online in the fall or not, so I've been able not to obsess too much about that (or whether we'll wait to start the fall semester till January? I'm not keen on that as I feel that the US is so disorganized and chaotic that the kind of protocols that let schools be open in China or Singapore are absolutely unenforceable here, and I think the following fall is more realistic for moving students safely back into dorms).

Due partly I think to the morale boost from good seminar meetings but also to various other external tasks having been accomplished, I assessed things post-run on Wednesday morning and decided that what I really needed was a day off. For the last four weeks I've basically been working sort of all the time but so inefficiently that I am getting less done than usual. Decided to really just give myself the whole day, and it was a gift!

I took a long nap (had slept very badly - the early waking remains an issue), then read not one but TWO novels, new releases of the day before. I liked Joanna Hershon's St. Ivo very much - the writing is superb, the characters are interesting and not at all stereotypical, the choice to have short sharp cuts rather than more conventional novelistic development works very well (in some ways it feels more like a novella than a full-blown novel, or rather perhaps the scenario for a film - the technique of excision might be related to what Jenny Offill's been doing too, only it plays out in a completely different technical fashion here). Would also make an interesting teaching pairing with The Need on the grounds of shared emotional terrain.

It was the other book, though, that really spoke so directly to my heart that I might have cried at the end if I were a slightly different person! The book is Jenn Reese's A Game of Fox & Squirrels; a middle-grade fantasy novel, it is as suitable for the adult reader as anything I have ever read in this vein. A powerful and deeply moving book about the experience of being the child of an angry parent, and how that damage can be resolved by love. Read it! It's going on my top ten novels of 2020 for sure. It broke a spell for me, too: it was the first novel I read in its entirety since I've been back in NYC and sheltering in place.

Thursday was another rather unproductive work day - somehow just doing those few hours of Zoom meetings, plus morning exercise of course, leaves me completely tapped out for anything other. I had one truly pressing work task and two more general ones that I need to attend to sometime and couldn't touch any of them.

I held out till 9 for bedtime and actually slept from 9-5:30, which is almost like a normal night of sleep, albeit weirdly early for my natural clock. Felt surprisingly well rested - probably the first "regular" night of sleep I've had this week - and was able to sit down and complete time-sensitive priority task in a bit more than an hour of focused work. That felt really good, and I'm going to share it as its own blog post in a minute!

Glitch on yoga logistics meant I thought I had an 8:30 session but didn't really, so I've been able to write this post as well and will go out for my easy Friday run (40 as 1:1) momentarily. I have a dissertation chapter conference at 11 and still need to read the 40-page chapter but it is my coronadiscretionary thought that doing the run and only reading half the chapter will be more productive for all concerned than just reading the chapter and not doing the run. (I don't like to go out later because the park will be so much more crowded.) I can get more detailed comments to the chapter-writer later in the day if that's the way it goes....

Image: all of us yesterday.


  1. Incorrect link for _A Game of Fox and Squirrels_ - goes to a different book.