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There is no quiet in my soul without camaraderie.

I move away, I move on; upward but always looking back. I think i can sustain myself on introductions, but it’s not true. I’m not sure it ever has been. I find approval in new places, impress those I can with the surface of my being and wall in what is myself so I can remember who I am. If not for the secret interior, the private past and coveted future, I am a passably friendly acquaintance and a paper trail.

My entire self quiets with my friends. My good friends. There are so few of these people in life it seems impossible that you could ever forget yourself. And then it happens. The need to entertain, impress, please, assuage is gone and only laughter and remembrance obtains. Stories you don’t even recall give continuity to the self: yes, that sounds like something I’d have done. There’s a me – an essence, an assemblage of tendencies – that has always been. And there are friends, to stand testament and to accept.

I cleave life like a wedge. Only will and fortitude move me forward. Yet the dull clang of progress fades in the company of known hearts. The rasping grind of metal on stone seems interminable, but now and again – a breath. And in that moment prevails the clarity of position, a knowledge of the permanence of life, the happiness of nothingness.


A pause.  A temporary lull between festive diversions and my furtive life.   It’s the last weekend before I start the fifth quarter of my graduate program.

It’s been long enough that I am not nervous whatsoever about the coming course load.  And long enough for me to feel like I’m not going to accomplish anything notable this quarter.  Edging closer to some inevitable department-wide acknowledgement that I’m a good student, and a poor researcher.   This PhD feels simultaneously easy and impossible – the work itself is trivial, yet the outcome is unachievable.   It’s not for lack of resources, or even an inability to understand my subject.   Failure is predicated merely on the fatalistic view of my own trajectory which prevents the fervent spark of inspired research from catching.  I’m green wood on a cool evening; building the fire is formulaic, but a achieving a toasty refuge is improbable.

Despite this, I’m looking forward to the return of a regular schedule.  I enjoy the somewhat tedious monotony of going to class – the endless reading, the hours of taking notes, and the cathartic final essays.  It’s a new year, and it would be disingenuous of me not to admit that the prospect of a fresh beginning doesn’t leave me a little hopeful that this will be the quarter I start making my mark.  To be honest, being a mediocre academic is still less disappointing than what I see as my alternative: a completely forgettable woman. This isn’t the note I intended to start this new year on, but fatalism and optimism need not always conflict.  I think this is going to be a good year.   I have a life I love, with good friends and engaging work.  I’m blessed in so many ways.  If I could only suppress this feeling of ultimate and unavoidable disappointment, I’d be sitting pretty indeed.


I just got back from a trip to the Sacramento Rail Museum, and my house smells like stew.  Technically it’s vegetarian (squash) chili, but nevermind that.  It smells like stew.

I’ve been getting really worried about starting this new quarter, in a latent way.  I know there’s nothing beyond my capacities coming up, and that all I have is another three months of hard work before the next rest.  I think I put perhaps too much hope into how much I was going to get done in this break, and how settled and relaxed I was going to feel by the time it was over.  It’s less than a week before I head back, and I feel like I’m just now able to relax and take stock of what’s going on in my life.  There’s so much I want to do, and so little time left, and that alone is enough to stress me out and make it so I don’t get anything done.

I keep having these visions of the one tiny adjustment I need to make before my house will be perfect and settled.  Of course that means that there are a million tiny adjustments to be done, and that my house will never feel really “done”, but my mind seems to fixate on a few really silly things.  I was vacuuming today and thinking that maybe what the house was missing is something that smells nice to put in the bathroom.  Like a scented candle.  Yesterday I thought maybe it was (also nice smelling) pine or lavender satchets to go in the linen drawers.   The idea of simple pleasures derived from small, decadent items seems to be the theme.  I think I want to be able to focus all my restless energy on a totem of some kind that I feel like I can channel into and tell myself that everything is calm and settled because my house smells nice.  The mind works in mysterious ways.

There are two self-pampering things I wanted to do before the break was over, and I’m not sure I’ll get around to either.  First, I really need a haircut.  My hair as it is needed to be trimmed months ago.  It’s manageable, but it does make me wonder if I’ll ever get it together.  I wanted to go to see Melody (who is so awesome) in Berkeley, but she never got back to my email and I’ve been completely lax in following up, and incapable of finding a Davis alternative.  It’s almost like finding a new doctor – you don’t want to end up having something ridiculous happen by going to someone surly or sub-par.  And Berkeley isn’t a place that’s so hard to get to I couldn’t manage it once a quarter.  But as it is, I’m at a complete impass.   The other thing I had thought of doing was getting a massage.  My neck and back muscles have been as tights as ropes since about half way through last quarter, and I had sort of assumed they would loosen themselves when I wasn’t at the computer all day and studying so much, but that’s not at all what has happened.  A massage is probably fairly good for you, physiologically speaking, and I’m trying to focus a little this quarter on taking better care of myself.

This is one of those loops I’ve been on seemingly forever.  It’s nearly impossible to rise above the status quo and do all the things you know you ought or intend to do.  Last quarter I even went so far as to block out a few hours a few days a week to go to the gym on campus, and haven’t even been once.  I don’t even really know where the building is.  But here I am, a few days before the next quarter, having the same conversation with myself about going to the gym a few days a week just because it’s good for you.  I don’t have any plan or goal in mind, just the simple wanting to spend a few hours of my day doing something, other than reading, that will be good for me.  I don’t know if the problem is lack of specificity of goals, or that I don’t really want to do these things I tell myself I do, or nervousness about trying something new, but whatever it is, I’m really easily defeated in this category despite the best of intentions.

Oddly, I feel exactly the same way about the gym as I do about getting chores done and cooking up the vegetables in my fridge.  We get vegetables delivered biweekly from Farm Fresh to You and they’ve been piling up in the fridge since finals week.  Normally I feel like I have a pretty good grip on seeing what we have and knowing what to do with it, but the last month or so has been completely uninspired.  Part of it really has to do with going out too often – we went out more than usual while finals were happening, and we’ve been treating ourselves lavishly (well, for grad students anyway) over the break, and even eating at parties and the Lawyers’ and such, so not so much cooking has been going on around here.  Instead of rectifying the problem my brain just spins on how I don’t have any great ideas though, and that really gets me nowhere but closer to our next vegetable delivery.

Perhaps what this whole thing amounts to is this:  school is almost starting, and I need my routine back.  Rising above the status quo is something that only sounds good when you’re disatisfied with what’s going on, and I never have enough time to be bothered when I’m in the middle of studying.  Whether having failed to do most of what I intended over break is a real failure to improve my quality of life, or is just a symptom of having a more relaxing and not hyper-productive break, I don’t know.  Makes me wonder what setting up all these plans was really about in the first place.