Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Decompressing after the AHA

It doesn’t look like much—a paper, a program, a notebook, a couple of business cards and catalogs.  But this small pile of remains from this year’s meeting of the American Historical Association has given me something invaluable:


Remember how I said I felt like I was “slip sliding away” with regard to my sabbatical research?  I had a ton of sources, but felt overwhelmed and uncertain about where to take them, how to make sense of them.  Well, I now have ideas about how to move forward with the paper that I gave at the conference.  I had amazing, inspiring conversations with editors, and even had a couple of colleagues approach me about publication possibilities.  All of this is of course flattering (to which I am far from immune), but most importantly these possibilities are helping me to see how I can move forward in meaningful ways with the research that I am doing this year.  Most critical of all: these projects feel right.  I can see how I would do them, and they build out of (and onto) my strengths.

So much for quitting.  (A recurring fantasy of mine). 

However, I am also trying to keep perspective.  As far as I know, there are still only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.  (Will someone please work on adding to that???)  I also only have a certain amount of energy and focus to devote to new projects—I will be away in Ecuador this summer, and next fall I return to teaching and committee work.  Moreover, I have worked enough with mindfulness in the past few years to step away from the excitement and flattery a bit.  Nothing from the “outside” is going to lead to my happiness or self-confidence, after all.  I have to do projects for reasons that are right to me, and find my meaning from within. 

Finally, I need time, need to make time, for what is truly meaningful to me.  As much as I kvetch about them, I am madly in love with my kids.  While I was working on finishing the conference paper last week, Anya kept bringing me art work:

I also need time to relax and read novels, take photos, knit, cook, feel grounded in my home.  I am a profoundly domestic creature in some ways—which is perhaps one of the reasons that my current research focuses on various implications of domesticity in history.

I am therefore proceeding with caution as well as excitement.  And I need time to decompress from the constant whirl of activity at the conference, particularly since I have a head cold today.  I think some time curled up on a favorite chair, reading, is called for.

What do you love most about the work that you do?
What are your best “secrets” for creating a livable work-life balance or environment?


  1. For me, I've always loved the creative aspect of work. Taking nothing and making something that can be used. Oddly enough, it's what I don't like about work in once that you put it into peoples hands they comment on it and, the tough part about that is not taking it too personally. The trick is finally convincing myself that the work that I have done is the best I can do and be happy with that and not really be affected (positively or negatively) about what other people say.

    And, try and remember the words of wisdom by the wise Anya -- We Come In Peace!

  2. I am a problem solver and I get to do that alot at work. It makes me feel producitve and ultimately makes me happy. Also, over the years I have learned to not bring work home. The seperation has made me a better person at home.

  3. Okay...that is a pet peeve..mis-spelled words...See post above....