Hello (again) World!

May 7, 2012

Ha ha! So much for my countdown to submission. I think that was probably a little optimistic what with the all-nighters and the fact that three days before submission my eyes and fingers were bleeding from reading and writing.

But I did submit on time – a statement that would have been less anti-climactic had I made it on the day of submission rather than 10 days later.

But I have only just started to feel that I can look at this computer again, having developed a hatred for it that almost rivals my hatred for Microsoft Word. I think the dislike was mutual as once the last superfluous comma was deleted and the last footnote checked, my laptop went on strike and I have only just been able to coax it into compliance. It might have been something to do with the twenty-gabillion software updates that I hadn’t been able to spare the time to install because that would have meant shutting down the forty or so bazillion tabs open in firefox, one of the (insert improbably large number) applications I had open at any one time. I imagine the poor laptop felt like I have felt for the last ten days – totally burned out.

The whole thing has felt a bit of anti-climax really. This is something I was prepared for. I reckon this is partially down to complete exhaustion followed by the limbo that is waiting for the viva. But also it’s because the last 3.5 years (and especially the last few months) have been so intensely focused on one thing that it takes more than a few days to adjust to the fact that it isn’t there anymore. I still feel guilty when I oversleep at weekends. I still hesistate before committing to arrangements with friends, still prefix the idea of everything I would like to do with the thought ‘When I finish the PhD…’*

Here’s some things I planned to do post-submission:

1) Go to Brighton for a couple of days in the sun (ha ha ha ha SUN!)

2) Binge-drink often and completely (until I feel as though I am vomiting my own eyeballs)

3) Spend time with friends who I have neglected horribly

4) Go on my friend’s hen do

5) Go and see my Grandma who I have also neglected

6) Make some scones

Here are some things I have actually done:

1) Watch rain from the window and wonder if I can make it to the shop for more packets of instant noodles without having to put plastic bags round my feet inside my poor broken boots

2) Sleep (I’m talking marathon sleeps here. I sleep for so long that I wake up severely dehydrated and my fingernails have started growing into the palms of my hands)

3) Not answered emails or texts or making plans with friends or drinking or doing anything remotely social in nature. Just no energy. I went for lunch with my brother and sis-in-law and felt as though I was watching a video of the three of us talking rather than participating in the conversation. Also it was raining and I had bags on my feet and when I got home I was so exhausted I slept for a further 12 hours.

4) Not gone on my friend’s hen do this weekend. It was a glamping (glamerous + camping = fun portmanteau) and although I’m not generally a big fan of the hen do, I think any other weekend I’d have really enjoyed it. But the others would have been out frolicking in the woods drinking champagne and building camp fires and I would have been asleep under a sleeping bag/pile of coats/pile of moss and dead leaves for the entire weekend.

5) Watched all fifteen series of Silent Witness. Bloody good show if you ignore the gaping plot holes and the inability of any of the pathologsts to undertake only activities falling within their job descriptions. Dr Alexander, Dr Cunningham, whilst you’re sniffing the stomach contents of that cadaver could you also negotiate world peace? Oh, and while you’re at it, how about working out how we can have 166% of April’s average rainfall in 10 days and still be in flipping drought? I realise that’s quite a heavy workload but you could always delegate some of that interrogation of suspects or family liaison work to… oh, I don’t know, the police??  By the way, you know you have seen too much Silent Witness if you go for a massage (in order to relax) and imagine that you’re on the slab in the hands of an impossibly attractive and implausibly well-slept pathologist.

6) I did almost make some scones but realised that I didn’t have mixing bowl, couldn’t find the weighing scales and couldn’t be arsed to convert US cups into grams.

The day of the hand-in was also somewhat of a disappointment. I spent several hours vomiting in the morning followed by several hours on a train trying not to vomit into one of the plastic carrier bags I had to take off one foot as a precaution. The cause of the vomiting remains a mystery but no doubt Drs Alexander and Cunningham could work it out in the course of two one hour episodes whilst simultaneously disproving the big bang.

Nevertheless, although I’ve not been particularly energetic or euphoric, I am happy, relieved and looking forward to a summer of a normal 9-5 and weekends and evenings where I can do whatever the fuck I want. I intend to enjoy this free time, and this achievement (whatever the outcome of the viva). No doubt I will still write numerous posts about how shit everything is but that’s one of the ways I enjoy myself so whatevs.

Here’s a snap of me on the day my thesis became an actual object that I could hold in my hands. Those of you who have met me in real life will be able to see the ravages of thesis hell on my face (that’s supposed to be a smile and it’s supposed to indicate pleasure but I think it indicates the pain of 3 hours sleep in as many days). Those of you who have not met me in real life will just have to believe me when I say I am not in fact a ninety-year old woman with two black eyes. Image

* of course it might not be finished. It may not even pass. But I am determined to recognise the achievement of having got as far as handing it in. For the moment, it feels finished, if not finished with.

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An excerpt

April 19, 2012

As I sit here at my desk, in my study, the desk lamp throws my shadow squarely across the page. This shadow is made up of all the elements of me that I know I am supposed to edit out of this thesis.

The shadow of the PhD student who writes is a twenty-nine year old, white, British woman with one ovary. She has recently been going through a bout of insomnia, is struggling to pay the bills, and is experiencing all of the standard anxieties of a final year doctoral student with a few others thrown in for good measure.

When I sit down at this desk to write my thesis, she is my shadow. But at other times, when I email friends, when I feel guilty about not visiting my ninety-three year old grandmother more often, or when I accidentally spend most of Sunday reading novels in the bath, I am not the shadow cast by a PhD candidate sitting before a laptop and a desk-lamp.

In this chapter, I am letting the shadow write too. I am speaking in both of my voices, because I realise as I read back through the other chapters in this thesis, that the shadow’s voice was never quite silenced anyway. It was she who spent hours reading the blogs of infertile women because it was she who had her ovary removed in Lewisham hospital in 2005. It was she who first read A Room of One’s Own, before the PhD student picked up a copy, and it was she who first thought of the avatar as her own online self-portraiture, an idea that the PhD student took up and ran with.

Woolf may have written about the autobiographical ‘I’ as overshadowing the feminine, but here, in this thesis where as Leigh Gilmore would say, it is ‘not licensed’, it is the autobiographical ‘I’ that is liberating me from the shadows, allowing me to walk back into this thesis that I write.

Mirror of the mind

April 17, 2012

‘But as computers become common-place objects in daily life – in leisure and learning as well as in work – everyone will have the opportunity to interact with them in ways where the machine can act as a projection of part of the self, a mirror of the mind.’

This was Sherry Turkle in 1984. If this screen is a mirror of my current state of mind, and the reflection is to be represented in text:

hgghrhagiogi[mamf hrrhup qp939

Despite rereading my argument that we’re not disembodied in virtual life, I have to admit I feel weirdly disembodied in real life today. Or wrongly embodied. As though somebody switched with me in the night and my hands and legs don’t feel quite right. That sounds very dramatic. I’m just tired – but probably no more so than most new parents (and I have the promise of uninterrupted sleep in a few days – win!). I am making a fuss here because it makes me feel better. It is the mirror of my mind, after all, and if the great Shezza Turkle says it, it must be true 🙂

The British Library has quietened down a little. It always thins out after 5pm.  Just the hardcore crew left now. The desperate. Or maybe they just brought packed lunches so they weren’t a) forced to pay £6.95 for a sandwich, or b) driven home by starvation. There’s a few of them though with that ‘deadline look’ – the one i see in my face when I look in the mirror. The real mirror that is – not the mirror of my mind.

Having said that, both reflections are equally horrifying just now.

 

 

 

10

April 16, 2012

10 days ’till hand in

8 days ’till binders.

Last night I couldn’t sleep. I started counting sheep. Little fluffy lambs jumping over a gate. I got to 640 which is, I think, the highest I’ve ever counted in one sitting. Achievements a-plenty here in Wonderland, I tell you. After 640 the sheep stopped jumping over a gate and began to mill about in that way sheep do until I couldn’t tell which ones I’d counted and which ones I hadn’t. I guess that’s why sheep have splodges of paint on them. Anyroad, there were a shit load of sheep in my head before I finally fell asleep.

It’s no wonder I can’t sleep. On the one hand I feel tired to my bones. Like that feeling you get when you’re sickening for something and your legs ache like bastards from walking up a flight of stairs. On the other hand I feel constantly like I’ve had about 15 cups of coffee.

I am currently wading through my proofreaders’ corrections and comments. Obviously it’s reassuring that they have picked up on them before the examiners scrutinise it all but when I re-read some of my 3am typos and sentences all mangled like a game of twister I wonder how I was ever allowed to enrol on a PhD in the first place.

An additional hindrance is that Audrey has taken to howling loudly (yes, howling, not meowing) unless I let her sit on a) my proofread chapters b) my laptop or c) my shoulders. However awkward it is to write with a cat on your shoulders, it’s less detrimental than the first two options.

Not crazy, just tired…

February 24, 2012

Something odd happened this morning, Internet.

I woke up with a familar fuzzy-headedness that could well have been the fault of the wine consumed last night with a certain shiny friend of mine (Hi, Shiny!). But I don’t think so. You see, as I went about my morning routine I became aware that I was thinking in rhyme. You know when you do a little mental commentary of your actions and talk to yourself in the second person? It mostly happens when you’re a bit drunk, like this:

‘Now the reason you’re feeling a little bit sick is more likely to be this bumpy bus-driver than the amount of heineken you have just consumed, so don’t beat yourself up because that won’t help with the nausea. The main thing to do is remember where you’ve put your keys so that you don’t have to look for them on the doorstep because a) that’s where the muggers hang out and b) you already need a wee and that’s only going to get worse.’

Etc Etc

I refuse to believe that this is not a universally experienced symptom of intoxication. Sometimes I even nod to myself in agreement. I’m doing it now.

Anyway, this morning a similar thing happened but my brain must have slept on itself funny and it woke up with a crick in its interior monologue synapse (or IMS as it’s known in the completely made up school of neurology in which I am valedictorian), and this resulted in a completely involuntary urge to rhyme my thoughts in the following manner:

‘Half a cup of coffee in a mug for me, cool enough to drink by the time I’ve had a wee’

‘Don’t give into pressure from hungry little cat, calorie reduction will prevent him getting fat’

‘Don’t get distracted, there’s just no time, it’s a little perturbing, this thinking in rhyme’

‘Today must be productive, a PhD bonanza, failure not an option, do-de-doo-de-do-rananza’

(When the spirit of improvisation failed me, I just made words up. It was a compulsion, I couldn’t help it)

Anyway, I have added this strange phenomenon to the list of side-effects that I am compiling in order to submit them to the company that makes ‘Sleep Well’ herbal sleep tablets. They have been reasonably effective in their improvement of my recent bout of insomnia, and in all fairness they do warn you not to consume alcohol with a dose, but still… I think it only fair that they include the following in the list of possible side-effects:

  • Compulsive Rhyming
  • Impulsive gherkin-eating
  • Repulsive night sweats
  • Propulsive vomiting

According to google, two of the above are possible symptoms of pregnancy, and two of them are possible symptoms of stress and anxiety. I am fairly sure that my total clusterfuck of a reproductive system makes the latter explanation far more likely than the former yet neither account for why I would wake up one morning to find I am thinking in rhyme. Answers on a postcard to:

‘Fuct int ‘ead’ PO BOX: At least I’m not Dead (yet).

Enter title here

February 10, 2012

As the morning tips into the afternoon I have, as yet, nothing to report other than that my cat has a bout of cystitis and now hates me for dragging her to the vet in the slushy snow. Other than giving me the cold shoulder, she is in fine spirits now but I think it will take me a little longer to recover from the snarling Alsatian with a taste for frightened cat.

I hate going to the vet. It’s distressing for everyone involved. Plus, the vets’ waiting rooms of south east london are full of some of the noisiest and smelliest animals you can imagine. Thankfully, their pets are a delight *BA BOOM!* (thank you, watch me as I take a little bow).

Anyway, I am now back in the warmth of my study with an instant coffee (damned economy drive – more on my church mouse-ness another day) and a sulky cat, I am turning my attention to the thesis abstract I need to send off today in order to register my ‘intention to submit’ the actual thesis at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant future. As the thesis is mostly written, this shouldn’t take too long to write a one-page abstract, but I also have to submit my final, actual, definite title for the thesis and this is causing me to chew my lower lip into a bloody pulp of indecision.

I am crap at titles. Absolutely crap. I can’t even choose a blog title without making a chamomile tea and drawing up a list of pros and cons. As you may have noticed from our long-standing relationship, Internet, brevity is not my thing.  And titles need to be short, snappy and accurate. Ideally, they should have an element of wit, and yet failed attempts at this end up sounding like a Daily Mail headline and, as I’m sure you’ll agree, that would be a “Pun-damental” flaw in my plan to convince my examiners I am worthy of a title of my own.

Fortunately perhaps for me, academic studies tend to make full and frequent use of the colon as a way of marrying catchy but pointless title with boring but descriptive subtitle. Something like:

Alluringly Alliterative Accolades: the boring story of some lesser-known public figure 1847-1888

or

The Rise and Fall of Someone or Something: the thesis sounds more interesting if presented as a rise and fall even if nobody cares about the rise and fall therein.

or

Bold but Irrelevant Statement: How I intend to make my fave quote relevant to actual content of thesis.

It’s not the bracket (my puntuating weapon of choice) but it’ll just have to do. Or, sometimes, the colon is replaced by the question mark as follows…

Rhetorical Question? It may be rhetorical and out of context but I’m going to answer it anyway.

 

Ok, now I’ve had a bit of a practice, I’m going to try to fit my thesis topic into one of the above templates. Wish me luck!

 

Seriously wordpress? Stop moving things about. Don’t you know some of us have ADHD? Sort it out.

That said, it’s been a few weeks since I blogged regularly. I don’t like the interruption of regularity. Blogging, like moving one’s bowels, should be a business of regularity and routine. Otherwise I find everything gets all backed up, I spend the intervening time grumpy and bloated, and what finally emerges is either a small, mean, wizened offering, or else an unstoppable rush of, well….the metaphor speaks for itself, surely.

I also find that without the regularity of what we might call (for these purposes), the ‘brain dump,’ I have little appetite for new thoughts, and so the whole gastrointestinal tract of thought (what? people totally say gastrointestinal tract of thought, no?) grinds to a halt. Indeed I haven’t had one new or interesting thought since New Year, as evidenced by this scatalogically themed post.

You know what though? I’ve been dead busy, Internet. Really, truly, actually busy. You know that new job I started back in November? They work me hard. They seem to think I am quite competent, but do you know how many hours of covering my mistakes and waving my hands either side of my ears in panic it takes to cultivate that impression, Internet? Many hours. Many many hours.

It’s not just the job either. I have been writing my PhD. I’m just going to go ahead and say that once again because the novelty of productivity has by no means yet worn off. I have been writing my PhD. It is getting written and I am the one writing it (just to be clear, no one else is writing it. It represents entirely my own endeavours etc etc).

Other things I have been doing aside from the above:

1) Planning the bloody deaths of all those who ask ‘Is the thesis done yet?’ ‘Have you finished now?’ or variations on that theme.

2) Obsessing about the following note written by one of my downstairs neighbours (she has a seperate entrance and post box and I’ve never met her):

‘Please bring down the weekly Grazia magazine when it is delivered upstairs by mistake. Thank you.’

That’s it! No name or anything! I mean, all the necessary ingriedients of a polite note are there (mainly the pleases and thank yous) but it still reads more like an order than a request. Or an order that’s supposed to sound like a request. Such as,

‘Please use the sanitary bins provided. Thank you.’

‘Please do not park on this driveway. Thank you.’

Or, I dunno,

‘Please come up and get your cocking weekly Grazia magazine when it is delivered upstairs by mistake. Thank you.’

I think I might find therapy to be greatly beneficial. Until then dear Internet, I have you. 🙂

An attempt at brevity…

December 9, 2011

Morning,

So. Without further ado, I’m going to finish telling you what I started to tell you yesterday about SuperCoach Bev (SCB) and my day of productivity on Wednesday.

It all began at 11am on Wednesday morning when SCB called and we spoke a bit about my difficulties with procrastination etc and why I didn’t have much faith in my ability to implement organisational strategies after years of obsessing over to-do-lists and timetables that I’ve never managed to stick to. Indeed, I think this is an experience to which many ADHDers can relate and so needs no further explanation. Because my posts tend to be quite text-heavy (and recent feedback suggests I might want to think about y’know, brevity), I am going to use a visual aid from the good people at xkcd.com (sorry about this, you have probably lost several hours since clicking on this link) to explain this phenomenon to the non-ADHers among you:

So yes, you see my problem. Anyway, SCB has come up with some crafty ideas to prevent this from happening and I’m going to be open-minded and give them a go. On Wednesday though, the conversation went like this:

SCB: What do you need to do today?

Me: Take my duvet to the dry cleaners because my cat pissed on it again, write a report on my student whose dissertation I am (laughably enough) supervising, and finish my PhD.

SCB: That might not be a realistic to-do-list. Let’s focus on the first two. It’s better to achieve those two things than not achieve anything because you’ve set an unrealistic goal.

Me: Good point. How do I achieve the first two things?

SCB: You half half an hr to get dressed and get out of the house, one hour to get back from the dry cleaners, and then you need to split up the work into 15-30 minute sessions with breaks in between. I will be phoning and texting at regular intervals to make sure you’re on track.

And she did! And I did it! It was an amazing brilliant feeling. I’m not sure whether it was the encouragement, the close supervision, or my need to please that made this work for me but I’m not questioning it. With the exception of two small kitchen fires, it was a really good day and I feel better.

My next step is to go back on the meds (I’ve actually been meaning to write a post about this since October). This is going to be a long step (more a lighthouse-like flight of stairs really)  consisting of many hundred gabillion steps which are as of yet unknowable but I am feeling hopeful, determined, motivated… It’s very unusual.

Anyway, yesterday I forgot it was Thursday (clearly not cured yet) so here’s my belated weekly Haiku for ADHD:

 

 

I love your blue coat—

Sorry, what were we saying?

I don’t remember.

 

Another Lesson Not Learned

December 1, 2011

So a couple of weeks ago I lost my passport. I was v annoyed with myself because it had been a good long while since I last lost anything. In fact, Internet, I think the last time I lost anything, y’know, important was the day I found the spare keys to my flat lying next to the wheelie bins. And I didn’t even know I’d lost them until I found them so that just doesn’t really count as lost.

Anyway, I realised the passport was lost some time ago but couldn’t remember when I’d last had it. Which didn’t give me much to go on in terms of retracing my steps (plus I had an uncomfortable feeling that it might have somehow got inside the book I posted to Cambridge last week. This has happened with a variety of objects including bank cards, library cards, to-do-lists, and my cat’s vaccination certificate). What I should have done, was ring some places I go to sometimes, ask if they had the passport, and if that investigation didn’t generate any promising leads then I could conclude it was, indeed, missing presumed dead, and reported it.

I didn’t.

Rather, I decided I’d look for it for a week first. Of course, other than repeatedly turning my handbag inside out (that’s where it’s usually kept) in disbelief, I didn’t do much looking. I asked the guy in the shop whether I’d left it on the shop counter when I’d been in to buy beer. He asked what it looked like. I said it just looked like a normal British passport. He asked if it had my name in. I left the shop in bewilderment.

After that, the trail went cold and despite the threat of identity theft, and lots of very sensible people advising me very sensibly to report it missing, I somehow just never got round to it. Fast forward to today. M and I are walking back from our place of work in the rain, squabbling about which of us should carry the umbrella, when a man we vaguely recognise from ‘about’ approaches us.

Man: Your passport is behind the bar in the Hobgoblin.

Me [with surprise and gratitude]: Squark! (Am not articulate when feeling both surprised and grateful at the same time – brain deletes words at random)

M: For fucks sake

Me: What? My passport has been found. Isn’t it a good thing I didn’t cancel it when you told me to. I told you it was better to wait and look for it.

M: But you weren’t looking for it. You didn’t look. At all.

Me: Well, it would appear I didn’t have to.

M: Another lesson not learned.

He has a point of course. These things have a habit of working themselves out and a small part of me never gives up hope that everything will resolve itself without me lifting a finger, despite all evidence indicating otherwise. When, as tends to happen, things do magically resolve themselves, this only reinforces my belief that in the face of possible identity theft or other dire consequence, the best place for my head is most definitely the sand.

In way of a conclusion Internet, I will offer no flourish, no moral message. and no sign-off. I will merely acknowledge that it is Thursday and serve up another meagre portion of the customary (it’s the third) Thursday Haiku for ADHD:

 

A picture of you:

Two years and the glass still cracked

Will mend it. One day.

 

Well knock me down with a feather, Internet. I done good.

 

I got up at 4.30am this morning. That is 4.30 A.M. That is 4.30 A.M. IN THE MORNING! This in itself is quite an achievement for me.* I said I was going to get up at 5.30 and I got up at 4.30. That means I started the day with my time-management balance a whole hour in credit!

 

And then, because the rest of the world was asleep, and because the Internet held no interest (I’ve already read all the good bits), I sat down and did some work. Just like that! No procrastinating, no distractions. I am still in shock. I just keep running through it in my head, trying to recall each stage of the process in the hope that I can recreate it. It went something like this:

 

1. Open computer

2. Quit Firefox

3. Quit Email

4. Open new word document.

5. Start writing.

6. Finish writing with 500 precious little words in the PhD bank – kerCHING!

 

Examining this process more closely, I see where it usually breaks down:

 

[Note: What follows here is an analysis of the above process. Because that’s what I specialise in  – totally pointless analysis of mostly pointless writing. Just watch me in action]

 

Step 1, it could be argued, seldom presents difficulty. Indeed, there exists empirical evidence to support this theory. However, steps 2 and 3 are likely to prove more problematic, particularly where the subject engages in a process of reflexive looping in which the legitimate pursuit of knowledge inevitably gives rise to a decrease in productivity. Entirely optional, step 4 can often be beneficial, particularly where the subject might suffer epistemological crises in relation to previous attempts at expression. Nevertheless, the real problem here rests not, as one might assume, with the successful execution of step 5, but in fact with the slippage resulting from what is represented here as a seamless causal relation between step 5 and 6. It would appear, in fact, that there exists several hundred sub-steps between these parent sets, sub-steps not anticipated by the model above. Such sub-steps may include but are by no means limited to: examination of eyebrows to see if they need plucking; preparation of multiple cups of tea; investigation of back of the wardrobe; assorted activities associated with animal husbandry. Etc etc etc

 

What total bollocks. Sometimes I really do hate myself.

 

 

 

*Granted this is probably owing to me going to bed at the unusual hour of 8pm last night. And there’s probably only so much sleep one person can have in one night. But so what? I’m awarding myself a bonus cat treat from the cupboard under the microwave.