Blog

Wishing you…in 2018

31 December 2017 by Lisa Meloncon

One of the nerdy great things about this job is that we can read lots of things and call it research. For me, I have always enjoyed the expertise of early modern medical texts that were part actual medicine of the day, part advice book, and part collections of lore. These little books are easily some of the earliest forms of public health communication. As I was re-reading parts of these books recently (this time truly in relation to the J-O-B), I was struck by this line from Thomas Elyot, ca. 1534, “Ioye or gladness of harte dothe prolonge the lyfe…”

Merriam Webster gives three definitions for joy:

  1. a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion
  2. a state of happiness or felicity
  3. a source or cause of delight

Joy in its many forms always reminds me of children. I so love watching their faces and expressions as they do things. If you watch closely, you can see their struggles and then the precise moment when they figure something out. It’s a magical moment. It’s a joyful moment. Children also have the innate and unconscious ability to simply be joyful, to find a “gladness of heart” in all sorts of things both big and small.

It has not been a secret that I have had, personally, a difficult year. Admittedly, joy has been hard to come by. But as I have worked toward rebooting my life, I was reminded of something that my father said many years ago.

His wisdom often found its release in pithy sayings and odd aphorisms. Some of these are legendary because he said them all the time. So for example, “if you’re gonna be stupid, you gotta be tough,” is a Joe classic. But others I remember not because of their frequency, rather because of their weight. After a difficult conversation many years ago, he asked a couple of pertinent questions, and then he looked at me and said, “let’s go make some joy.”

I have always appreciated my father’s connection between the material process of making to that of an emotion, state or source. To talk about making gives us back control over something that often times seems so far outside of it.

This is also the thing with children. They are experts at making joy simply through the process of experiencing the world with a passion and zeal of openness and exploration. A child’s courage and fearlessness is the foundation of their joy, and unfortunately, these things shift and change as fear weaves its way into our adult lives. Because as we get older and experience gets in the way, we often forget what that childhood joy felt like—unencumbered, full bodied, optimistic, and magical.

To embrace this part of childhood again…

So that’s my wish for each of you in the coming year. I wish you joy:

  • lots of joyful experiences with those dear to you;
  • lots of joy over your successes big and small;
  • lots of remembrances of joy in times of trials;
  • and lots of joyful moments that together simply make a life well lived.

Yes, in 2018, I wish you so much joy.

 

End of term list

16 December 2017 by Lisa Meloncon

Sometimes you have too many things to say that they all get jumbled up in your head. When this happens to me, I have to completely step away from it all and just let my mind work it out. That’s what has happened recently when I was trying to decide on a blog topic for the end of the term. (And hey, you wanna write something. Just email.)

I have a whole lot of thoughts about things that have been circulating about higher education and the world and women and well, you get the idea. But there are so many thoughts, I can’t find an angle to focus on. To try get me moving in the right direction, I did what I normally do, and that is, think in terms of a bulleted list that will fit on a sticky note.

I asked myself, “what would I put on a self-care list to remind me that things will be ok?” What phrases or advice would I give myself or others at times of high (work) stress, like the end of the term.

Here’s what I came up with:

And when I had written this list, I realized that each of these has been the topic of an existing blog. Maybe one or two will resonate with you and help ease you through.

These are good reminders as we move into the “break,” which is a time that can still remain stressful with holiday commitments or over planning our schedules (and then feeling disappointed when we don’t accomplish things).

Let me encourage you to be kind to yourself. Do fun things and focus on just being you.

Wishing you a peaceful and joyful end of the term.

 

 

Tools for Change

29 November 2017

 

Tools for change.

I have been struggling to focus since the summer. And as I have been working hard to reboot my life, I saw an image (at the left) that resonated with me. I saw this early in November, which is the time of the year where #acwrimo** happens.

Between the accountability of academic writing month and this image, I took the time to reflect on how to re-shape my work life. In many ways, November and academic writing month has been a success for me.

Please know when I say success that I recognize that success looks and feels and is different for each of us, and also know that I am not advocating for the overproduction that plagues higher education. But what I am saying is that we do need to think carefully and strategically about how our work lives and reflect on ways to make that happen.

So over the course of November, I’ve been more deliberate in my work schedule, and I have taken to heart these tools for change. Here is how they played out for me.

 

Practice

I had gotten out of the practice of writing (and the related tasks that fit with writing and count as “writing”). So without doubt, everyday I did something that was attached to a project. From reading, to editing, to drafting words, to coding data, to gathering data, to analysis…..you get the idea. I worked hard at re-learning—at practicing—the art of writing and research. And I hope this practice stays with me into the spring as I head back to the classroom!

Mistakes

This month (as well as the ones before and no doubt after) I made a ton of mistakes. All sorts of mistakes. From forgetting things, from not responding as soon as I should, from drawing incorrect conclusions, from collating data incorrectly and having to re-do thousands of entries, from “that’s a great section” to understanding it had to be deleted….you get the idea. Having the courage to admit that mistakes are part of our lives (and often our daily lives) is a free moment. It opens up space to laugh at yourself, admit it, and then find ways to move forward. My mistakes this past month have helped me realize it’s all going to be ok.

Love

I was reminded of the joys of life through this month as friends and colleagues near and far took time to read or comment or just talk to me to work through a problem. There is a love in this sort of giving and receiving, and often, we forget to acknowledge how important this sort of help and support is not only to the work but to ourselves and well-being. Feeling the love and support of others—which in part can’t be accomplished unless you ask for help—offsets the day to day grind.

Adversity

Life is filled with adversities. And it’s no secret that this job can be challenging. As I approached trying to re-learn how to do this job, there were new challenges and difficulties that I had not face before. I learned new strategies for focusing; new strategies for revising; new strategies for reading. You name it and I worked toward a new practice or an improved old practice to get anything accomplished. The constant feeling of walking uphill (not quite like Atlas but close) reminded me that adversity brings with it its own rewards. Just the simple fact that I kept trying and found some success made it all worthwhile.

Vulnerability

Writing and research and teaching are all vulnerable moments (whether we acknowledge it out loud or not) because they open us up for being judged. For most of this month, I have walked around feeling like I was partially flayed open and it was disconcerting and at times, disheartening. But part of the success of this month was found in the fact I pushed on through. I reminded myself that I as definitely not alone in the feeling of vulnerability. (see above about love and friendship.)

Patience

My entire life I have wished I was more like my mother. The reasons for that are legion, but one that I often refer to is the fact my mother is a model of patience. Working this past month has been a testament in patience. I have had to consciously be patient with myself and refuse the impulse to be too hard on myself when things didn’t go right or it was taking too long to do things.

But patience circles us back to practice. We have to be patient and kind to ourselves as we practice new things because we will make mistakes and face adversity and feel vulnerable, but hopefully, through it all we can find and share the love with one another.

As we all finish up this term and start to contemplate what we’ll do over the “break,” I encourage you to think through what your tools for change may be. The opening image spoke to me and helped me reflect on this month where I was consciously and deliberately trying to invoke a change in my own work life. It is important to our own professional development to give ourselves the space to reflect on our own practices. What would be your tools for change?

Wishing you health, joy, and peace in your own reflection processes.

** acwrimo = academic writing month which occurs in November. It’s the academic equivalent to the creative writing month to write your novel. Its aims are to provide a source of accountability and focus to get writing projects moving forward.