The day after my thesis defence was scheduled, my supervisor sent me an e-mail to tell me that my thesis defence had been scheduled (I had been cc’ed on the e-mail from my department’s business officer, so I was well aware). In a message that was so nice it made me cry—OK, I’m a little emotional these days—he advised me that I should take advantage of this time to relax because, to sum up the spirit of what he wrote, “You’ve got this. There’s nothing you can do to at this point, so don’t even try.”

(I feel it’s important to interject an aside in order to make clear that there are, of course, plenty of things that I can, must, and will do to prepare for my defence. However, I have many weeks to accomplish these tasks, and it doesn’t make sense to get started for a while.)

So, I’ve been “relaxing.” And learning/remembering that I’m not very good at it.

I first wrapped up a few outstanding projects that were hanging over my head—a book review for a journal, for example. I then launched headfirst into copyediting, lesson preparation, and a novel that I put aside last November. Oh, and dealing with the health issues that I mentioned in my last post (my husband often reminds me that I should “count” medical appointments etc. as work since I get all down on myself when I perceive my productivity to be reduced during periods in which I have an especially high number of health-related obligations; I like the way he thinks, provided it makes me feel good about myself).

The truth is, free time makes me super uncomfortable: I mean, I have trouble watching TV without simultaneously working on another task even during my busiest stretches, in which TV time, carved out of a hectic schedule, is one of my only chances to truly unwind. Now that the hours that I would normally spend on my dissertation have been liberated, it’s like my entire being has tensed up. So yeah.

But maybe this is an opportunity to practice the fine art of relaxation? My hunch is that it’s better, for now, to find ways to distract myself rather than worrying about building new life skills. I’ll hone the ones I already have, like speed-knitting while listening to educational podcasts: that, my friends, is my idea of letting my hair down.


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