There Is Some Pleasure Even In Words, When They Bring Forgetfulness Of Present Miseries.*

May 29, 2010

Our ability to delude ourselves may be an important survival tool.
• Jane Wagner (1985),
The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Work is a comfort when you’re worried about someone or something. It is possible to occasionally become so immersed in a task that you forget—perhaps just for a moment or two—that there are sharks in life’s waters and that sometimes they bite. They circle. They lurk, awaiting their moment. You know they are there. You know they are waiting. You know their attack will come. And the distraction of work can help. Or not. Sometimes I distract myself with poetry about the act of distraction:

These Are The Things
by W-OZ

These are the things I do
in the hours
when I do not
think of you:
seventeen essays graded
scribbled with
apostrophes please
spellcheck won’t catch everything
cite your sources.

While  all I do not say
floats in the air around my head,
pen sharply bitten
never leaking out
its cranky inky admonitions:
What are you thinking?
Are you thinking?
This makes no sense!

And then it’s back to
watch your run-on sentences
and subject-verb agreement.

These are the things I do
in the hours
when I do not
worry about you:
Read three chapters of a
U.S. history text circa 1939.
Write fourteen quotations
onto blue-lined white cards,
a favorite this from Austen.
Mansfield Park.
“A watch is always too fast or too slow.
I cannot be dictated to by a watch.”

And papers sorted
this pile into that and
then into their folders.
I’ve seen some of this
too many times before
and yet
they were not ready for their place.

These are the things I do
in the hours
when I am afraid
to think of you:
Straighten out the closet.
Put the shoes into their boxes,
stack them high.
Fix the dresser drawer
that hasn’t shut for many months.
I found three socks,
a scarf,
and a red beret
I thought I’d lost last winter.

Untangled silver chains and
paired my earrings
into little plastic bags.

These are the things I do.

I do these things,
a dozen others and
then a dozen more,
inventing ways to fill the hours
I dare not think of you.

And still my mind returns
all ways
to you
of whom I cannot think.

But do.

It is difficult to think clearly when you’re distracted by worry. If you’re in school this can be particularly challenging since it’s seldom possible to stop the clock of school and take a worry break. Regardless of what’s happening in your life, papers come due and finals week approaches. At times like this, compartmentalization and distraction are useful skills to develop.

What do you do to distract yourself?

At painful times when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammars and dictionaries are excellent for distraction.
• Elizabeth Barrett Browning

* Title wisdom is from Sophocles.



  1. The Hardest Year of my Life
    July 15th 2010 started the hardest year of my life. I have always been an extremely busy person, taking care of my family, running my own business, and managing the other countless things I take on in my life. On July 15th, as I was preparing to start my new adventure with the school of education, I was dealt some terrible news. My wife of sixteen years told me that she was leaving, and that she had feelings for someone else and that she needed time apart to think about what she wanted to do. I was completely baffled. We had had some problems, but nothing to the point of breaking up. This left me completely defeated, I was reeling in pain, confusion, and anger. But it was not just me, I had to think of my two children and make sure they were getting the support they needed through this horrible situation as well.

    The separation was tough, but I have to say starting my grad program three days later was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because I was so busy trying to keep up, that I did not have a lot of time to really deal with the separation and all of the hurt and pain that it was causing. I kept myself so busy doing school, homework, and taking care of my kids that I was able to shove the separation on the back burner. The first classes I took that summer were by far the best classes I have had all year. Both the foundations of education and the diversity class were rich in self reflection, psychology and philosophy. The tools I got from those classes helped me deal with my own pain, and the companionship I built with the other students was very healing.

    Once the fall term started and I was in school full time and student teaching, the pressures of taking care of school, family, and myself, became difficult. I found myself falling behind and was spending every weekend trying to catch up on all of my homework while spending all of my weekdays student teaching and going to class. I got behind and have still not completely caught up. I feel that being behind most of the year made my teaching suffer, and I was not able to absorb the knowledge I should have from all of my classes. Throughout this year I have been contemplating switching to the two year program, and if I had it all to do over that is the first thing I would do.

  2. Although it’s been difficult, you’re at the other end of the year and survival is something to be proud of when life is difficult. I’m hoping you’ll be able to catch up with everything, including yourself. W-OZ

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