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?