Oct. 15th, 2011 10:29 am
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I feel like I'm finding parts of myself I didn't even realise were gone.

Last night people came over and although I felt a little overwhelmed and anxious I was mostly just full of delight at the many lovely people in my life. There was ukulele! and dancing! and a gleeful singalong:

I spent a lot of the time bouncing around being silly (hopefully without offending anyone too much). I saw a few people I haven't seen in ages, and a few people who I never see enough of (including the lovely ones I see often and can't possibly tire of).

And after everyone left or went to sleep I did the dishes and swept the floor and picked up the last of the bottles (our lovely guests had already helped with the tidying).

This morning I pottered around in the kitchen and made everyone breakfast while our houseguest played ukulele, taking little breaks in between cooking to dance with J around the kitchen.

I'm lucky. And proud, a little, because I've helped to make this.

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I've had some nice catchups over the last few days. One of the things I'm really appreciating at the moment is having a whole heap of people (mostly ladies, but one or two of the man-types as well) who are terrible clever and insightful, and who aren't afraid to ask me the Tough Questions or tell me the Tough Things.

I am so lucky to have people who I have a whole heap of respect for who aren't afraid to disagree with me, and whose questions and requests for further explanation come out of their love and care.

Plus, people who are willing to let me babble on at length about Issues without telling me to STFU.

I know lj (not to mention dreamwidth) is pretty dead these days, but if you happen to be one of these people and you happen to read this: thank you!


Jun. 10th, 2011 10:59 pm
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I have been finding the space to do things that make me happy again, including:

* I hung around in Northbridge for a while on Wednesday night. I had fifteen minutes to fill before meeting lovely-old-friend and lovely-new-friend for dinner, and I sat down in the Northbridge piazza to watch a documentary, and immediately a stranger sat next to me and started chatting. I like this! I like talking to strangers, and surprises, and the oddness of Northbridge.

* J invited a friend from uni around on Wednesday night, and when I got back from dinner I sat with them and the housemates in the lounge, talking about politics (live animal exports, how people see science) until 1 am. It is so restorative to have clever people in my life who are willing to pull apart ideas and ethics, and ask tough questions in gentle ways.

* I have been starting to do ukulele practice again, after a long absence (mostly to do with strange hangups and associations I have with ukulelestuff). I am finding new songs to play that are tricky, but not impossible, which is just what I need right now.

* Vegan cooking! Some of it works out and some of it doesn't, but I am feeling pretty good about vegan food at the moment. It almost never feels like I'm missing out.

* Getting back to research and writing. I'm having a hard time with it, mostly because after the last year of rushed teaching the slower pace of reading and thinking and plotting and planning feels decadently unproductive. But I'm happy to have ideas in mind and projects ahead of me that I know I'll get into eventually.

* People! J is absolutely and ridiculously lovely, and I am appreciating the heck out of him. Also, ladyfriends! Ladyfriends for crafternoon, and ukuleletimes, and Friday night museum visits (we went to a talk on dangerous marine animals: I am never going in the sea ever again), and dressups, and extravagant overseas trips, and dancing, and Always Having Someone Who Has My Back. Also, a variety of strange but delightful connections I have to people that are hard to describe, but which nevertheless make me feel much better about the world.

* Good spaces. I have always felt just a little odd in our house, because it's the first place I've lived where I haven't had my own room, and I haven't wanted to impose my crazy aesthetic on housemates. But I've rearranged the study/guest bedroom, and now it's colourful and useable and full of silly pictures, and I feel very happy in it. Also, in our room which I tidied up as well.

* Books! I keep forgetting to read, because I feel like I should be doing Productive Things! Always! But I have been making time, and I went and explored the Curtin library and found a book on women of the Beat generation, and it is so nice to be learning and exploring with no particularly aim.

That's probably enough for now, right? I am feeling fairly pleased about it all.
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Sometimes, there are a Difficult Few Days.

Sometimes, there are days when I talk to some of my best friends on Skype. (I am so glad we're living in the future.)

Sometimes, I get emails from people that I love.

Sometimes, I meet new people and old friends who look after me and hang out with me and help me think about work and are willing to indulge my sudden urge for sesame toast. (The Indian version of sesame toast is awesome.)

Hi, family! Are you reading this? I hope you're reading this. You know, I make sure that I write here reasonably often while I'm travelling for you. Because even though my friends love me and care about me, they are not usually worried that I've been kidnapped if I'm quiet for a day or two.

Hi, friends! Thank you for being my friends. It matters to me! I am missing lots of you!

Hi, strangers who read this! I don't know why you're reading this, but I guess you find it interesting now and then? Maybe say hello sometime, or something.

And now I will get back to trying to catch up on work, which is a constant and futile pursuit.

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I went to Hampi this weekend! We got to explore the Vijayanagara site a fair bit, which was awesome. I especially liked:
* A giant statue of Ganesha, tucked away inside a temple, looking very calm despite having been partially destroyed.
* Some of the temples have musical pillars! They're tuned to different pitches (?) so that people could play them. 
* A rocky outcrop where we sat and watched the sun set.
* A huge wall covered in reliefs of whales and fish and crocodiles. I stood and stared and pretended that I was underwater.
* Monkeys!

Also, I got to take my first overnight train trip. D. and I caught the non-A/C sleeper out, which was just like Indian trains in the movies except that there weren't a thousand people with all of their livestock. It was actually very nice - I rather like the way each bunk feels like a little room, and everyone creates their own self-contained space. We got the airconditioned sleeper back, which I also liked, although you can't open the windows.

And today:
* Lots of teaching work and research work and feeling more on top of things, work-wise.
* Cycling to yoga and back!
* Yoga! My teacher calls me, "Eh, what's that girl's name? Graduated Bob! Graduated Bob, right leg straight!"
* Accidentally having icecream with TBD and D, who knows me too well... when I say, "Oh, I suppose I might have a bite of yours if you have one", she says, "I know what your bite is! Come on, let's get icecream!" (At the moment, I am known for my ability to eat huge amounts, and to fall asleep within a minute whenever I get a chance.)

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I was all sooky about work stuff yesterday! )

I wanted to go home after the workshop, but TBD. pointed out that there was a little artists' residence on the roof above the art gallery where the workshop was held. It was one of the most beautiful spaces I've ever been in - something about the way it all fit together tidily and the light and the way the rooms connected made me fall instantly in love with it. Then instantly asleep on my face.

And when I woke up TBD. gave me Delicious Milk Drink*, and I got a lovely long email from PinkHairClaire, and some guys turned up with drums, and A. (a Swedish lady staying here) pulled me up to dance for a bit, and then I played a bit of capoeira, and my new friend-who-is-a-lady, D., turned up and we all went and ate some delicious snacks, and then D. and I spent ages sitting up on the roof looking for songs that she knew how to sing and I knew how to play on my ukulele...

...and I felt much better about the world.

I am very lucky with the people that I meet.

* I am not being vegan here. I am avoiding eggs, but it feels silly to say no to milk that is delivered by a guy whose cow lives just across the road from us and eats our food scraps.
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* The strangenesses and the people: last night we went to a photography exhibit, by surprise - I was all set to spend the evening working on an article submission. The woman we went with was kind enough to let me crash the post-exhibit drinks while my friend D. went to a family thing. We went to a jazz-themed bar, and I got an incredible sense of culture shock when I realised that despite all of the "no smoking" signs, people were smoking! inside! in a covered area! with food present! I had some lovely offers of further hangouts, including an invitation to meet a collective involved in setting up community radio stations. I might hang out with the woman we went with and D. for holi, which will be nice. I am really looking forward to some more people-time next week, including catching up with old friends, once the workshop is over. I feel very lucky to know Good People here who are helping to look after me.

* Moments in which I feel competent: I spend a lot of time in India feeling kind of useless. Everything is difficult, including carrying out research. I have a few moments, now and then, when I see how it all fits together, and how I'm doing something useful, and I carry them around with me like a security blanket.

* OMG the snacks: you guys. I get to eat masala dosa for breakfast every morning. (I'm not, though. I'm mixing it up with idlis and rava dosas and maybe some other things?) Pretty much every single thing I eat here is the Most Delicious Ever.

* Squirrels! I had forgotten there were squirrels.

What I need

Feb. 6th, 2011 10:15 pm
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Many lovely things are happening in my life, as well as many that are challenging. Some of these have helped me to remember: I need to Make Things to be happy.

I've set up my (KindOf) Grown-Up Website! I wrote some stuff on it, as a way of trying to start organising my thoughts.

On Friday I had band practice*. We recorded some new versions of songs! Liz was very patient and taught me some Difficult Strumming Things, to add to the other Difficult Strumming Things I've been trying to learn from G and J and the Internet.

Last night I went to see Amanda Palmer play. I've been feeling dull lately, and rather awkward, physically. I wanted to play dressups! I took some lovely material that I bought in Pakistan far-too-long ago, and about a billion safety pins, and I made myself a ridiculous skirt with a bustle. (And the AFP ninja gig was ridiculously awesome, but maybe I'll write about that later.)

Tonight I had a skype writing date with one of my distant ladyfriends, and actually wrote a few paragraphs on a couple of stories. Not good paragraphs, but still! They exist, and before they didn't!

All of these things made me feel better. I need to make things. I need to research, I need to write fiction and nonfiction and letters and postcards and stickers to leave for strangers to read. I need to make things with my hands. I need to cook! I need to leave traces of myself in the world, tiny sparks of interest or surprise or colour, to be happy.

I must make time for this to be happy, and so I will.

* I still have to giggle a little about this.
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* I just got a care package from my mother, and it is awesome! A little sketch of Frida Kahlo, and a warm scarf with a hood, and a letter, and a book, and little chocolates, and love. My grandmother told her that J had just headed off, so she sent me some Care to keep me warm. Oh! I am very spoilt, in the love that I get.
* I wrote a ukulele song! It is about small things, and things that I like. It is not very good at all, but I am still very excited to have written a song. It's not a thing I ever imagined that I would be able to do, and it's only because liz has been so very encouraging that I even tried.
* This week has not sucked nearly as much as I thought it would. I've been sick, and have had a heap of marking, but I've been giving the house a lot of love so it feels like a lovely little nest, and the marking has actually been pretty interesting (and, at times, hilarious).
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Did you know that I went to Sydney? Probably! Because I talk about everything, all the time. So, here is some of my news about going to Sydney, and coming back, and yesterday:

* I went to Newcastle! I felt very intrepid, because I caught buses to the airport on Friday morning, and then a plane to Sydney, and then trains to Newcastle, where I got picked up by a friend. If there had been some bicycling in there as well I would have felt Most Adventurous Ever.
* Newcastle has a great urban renewal project going on, Renew Newcastle. I am a bit jealous that I'm missing the project's This Is Not Art festival, but I did get to at least get a tour of the little galleries and craft-spaces. I particularly like the upcycling space, where people had been putting together hand-sewn journals with more skill and pizzazz than my usual misshapen efforts. I also rather like the exhibition of "art concerning dinosaurs". I am jealous that I missed out on going to Totoro's Tea House.
* I went to a conference! Some of it was painful, with all the academic jargon and egos. But there was definitely enough exciting work that I felt all excited about research again, and about Learning New Things. I met one of my examiners, and managed not to spill a drink all over her, and I gave a talk to a tiny audience (I was in the last session of the last day), and I ate lots of snacks. I'm going to put up some links and stuff on my grownup blog.
* People! Sometimes, I meet people and think that they are lovely, but then sort of expect never to see them again. And then I see them again, and feel a little disoriented and also delighted by it. In this category, I caught up with a couple of friends in Newcastle, both of whom are lovely, and a conference-friend from last year. There was also a posse of Perth people, including one of my Think Tank ladies, and lots of strangers to talk to. I like talking to strangers!
* Yesterday was pretty exhausting. Everything has felt so rushed for so very long, and the conference most definitely did not give me a break from that, fun as it was. Luckily, I have mostly managed to maintain momentum - I'm sure that's all that got me through yesterday. I had a heap of teaching to do, plus marking, plus lesson preparation, plus had to go to the Real Food Forum and be all grownup for Bluestocking. I'm glad I went, because it was fascinating (in a scary kind of way). I'm going to try to blog about it over the next few days.

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of this, but I feel like I've been getting lots done. Unfortunately, I suspect that's because I've been very busy with teaching...I love teaching, and it gives me short-term, achievable goals, and involved actually interacting with people. When I'm working on my thesis, on the other hand, I often feel a bit isolated, and feel like I'm not achieving much because everything moves so slowly and my goals are so unclear. Anyway! The conference helped me get excited about my thesis again, so I'm going to get back to it! Today has been thesis-day, and I still have a bit more thesis-time left before I play with ukuleles.
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Things I did last week:
* Jason and I found a phone charger in a box, so I can now be contacted without going via the Interwebs.
* Put in a job application for a Grownup Job, which a) would be pretty much perfect since it's part time so I could keep teaching, and b) it will take a miracle for me to get. Still, I feel better for applying.
* Battled my way through more of Chapter 4 rewriting. I have banned all not-thesis Internet at uni now, and instead when I feel like I need downtime I read an article or drink tea. I have been drinking a lot of tea.
* Had a very intense Greek lesson.
* Had some good time with the Think Tank and at Crafternoon, which has helped a lot to keep me sane.
* Went to Barcamp.
* Crocheted and baked.
* Talked to my head of department about new teaching stuff.
* Watched RiP: A remix manifesto.
* Had a lot of conversations in my head.

It has been a rough week. I have been finding uni hard to deal with, both making my way through the work (because I am so anxious about it) and spending so much time alone in an office. It is a very isolating experience. Still, I feel like I've been dealing with it reasonably well, working hard to look after myself and do things that make me happy.

Things I need to do next week:
* By next Friday: write a paper.
* By next Thursday (probably): read a 600 page book for the class I will be teaching. I think it will be a level three class, which means it will be a two-hour workshop instead of the usual 45 minute classes. I am a bit nervous about this, and a bit excited.
* Soon: finish Chapter 4, which will (ihopeihopeihope) be the last major part of rewriting/research necessary.
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Oh, my! A wide variety of things are pretty awesome right now, mostly in a quiet kind of way.

* I have been feeding people a lot. On Saturday I cooked a big batch of vegan corn chowder to give to E, since he is alone with his two littles for the next two weeks until his partner gets back. (I felt a bit uncomfortable with this for a while, gender stereotypes and all, but then I decided that since I would do the exact same thing for his wife it would be silly to refrain.) I also spent Sunday morning experimenting with vegan spinach pie and vegan macadamia slice, both of which worked out okay. I gave the spinach pie and some bean salad to J to take for a lunch he was going to (since he is awfully nice to me sometimes), and Jessica Monster and I had some of the macadamia slice for crafternoon snacks. I took the rest of the slice into the department this morning to give to staff, and it made me feel like my role as the resident hippy is going well.
* On Sunday Jessica Monster came around for crafting, and it was awesome. It is nice to have people around that I can talk to about how to put a waistband in, or which jobs I should be applying for, or ... just stuff, generally. I love crafting and mending. I finished my crochet skirt, and hemmed a dress, and fixed my old tweed skirt, and sewed the buttons back onto my leg-warmers. It would have been good to do some darning, too, but I am running out of things to darn.
* I talked with J about my thesis chapter, and it helped me work out how to fit it all together. I feel much better about thesis-writing now!
* I have had some lovely people-time lately. Hangouts with Jessica Monster, and catchups with Kal-friend L, and tea with Lisa and Jarrad, and hangouts with J all weekend. Plus J and I did some baby-wrangling, and that is one of my favourite things to do with J.
* I am going to Newcastle on Thursday! Just for a week. I will stay with a friend and meet new people and talk about my thesis, and it will be awesome.

I have decided that I should be not-quite-so-hard on myself. I am always telling myself off for not spending enough time with my People, and for not doing my thesis fast enough, and for not spending all my time well. And then I have these debates with myself about whether or not it is okay. I think that, in fact, it is okay, and I should work harder at convincing myself of that. (I am reading a book about how silly the protestant work ethic is, and that's helping.) I am generally a pretty active person. I use my time well, and do interesting things. I care about the people around me. I try to to make the world better, in small ways.

It's going to be okay!
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* I babysat Miss Z, who is around one-and-a-half, yesterday. She hadn't had an afternoon nap and was pretty traumatized when her father left, and burst into heart-breaking sobbing. When I stopped hugging her and put her down she walked over to the front door and held her hand against it, like maybe if she could get it open he would come back. Oh my. In the end I put on some jazz and we listened to it together, and then she pointed at some things and made little-mammal-snuffling noises. I gave her my XO to play with, and she tried very hard to destroy it, but mostly just made it sticky.
* I have decided to go to Newcastle at the end of next week for a one-week change of scenery. I have been getting more and more frustrated with my thesis, and I think I was starting to feel like it was just going on and on. Even the thought of working in a different place for a while makes me feel a bit less anxious about the whole thing.
* J has been ridiculously lovely, and when I had a little Panic last night about not being able to concentrate on my thesis he did a good job of back-patting and plan-making. Today I actually got some work done! Not a heap, but enough that I feel a bit more on-track again. I also called N and received further reassurances, and had a nice lunch with my father, and am generally feeling cared-for.

Also: I need to buy some elastic for my crochet-skirt's waistband. Can anyone recommend a place to do this that isn't in the middle of nowhere?
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I am feeling rather the opposite of 'on top of things'.

* I did a section of last year's Greek exam last night in class. It was a comprehension exercise in which one had to fill in blanks in a letter with words from a list. I got 8 out of 13, which is good, but I couldn't really work out what the letter was about, which is bad. I am pretty sure, at this stage, that if I pass it will be a) only just, and b) a very baffling experience for me. My vocabulary is just too small. Still, I have two weeks until the test, so I guess I can still do a little more catching up.

* My thesis is going, but always more slowly than I would like. I am trying to write the last section of my first chapter at the moment, because I deleted the previous version of it (for good reasons). But then the rewrite I attempted over the last couple of days also had to be deleted. And... *sigh*

* Teaching is somewhat painful at the moment. The area I'm teaching is not my specialty, and I'm trying to restrict the time spent preparing to a sensible amount, which means I spend much of the class saying 'that's a good question, I don't know. Why don't you guys look it up?' I have no fundamental problem with this approach, but it gets a little discouraging for me at times.

* There are many people who I am not seeing nearly as often as I'd like. Right now, my weekday evenings are full from Monday to Thursday, I do greek homework every morning, and I have teaching prep and greek homework to do on the weekends. Trying to see everyone that I want to see is hard!

* Other bits and pieces: bluestocking has been somewhat neglected as I don't have internet at home right now. Kate put up a good entry on creating community cohesion on the blog, and Shae's also been doing a bit here and there, so I don't feel too bad. A couple of my articles have come up on ActNow, one on facebook stuff and one on online communities.

Overall, despite feeling a bit overwhelmed, I am not feeling too stressed. I am reminding myself that things sometimes take longer than you would like, and that not everything can be done brilliantly, and that's okay.
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* I am going to be in Sydney between 18th and 24th of February. Actually, I will mostly be in Armidale or doing a workshop during that time, but I will be free the evening of the 20th, I think. Does anyone want to have dinner/put me up? (Also: are any of you guys in Sydney?)
* My brother is quite wonderful. He told me a story about his mice: his house has lots of mice. They like to hide behind the microwave, and poop. So, one day they used the microwave, and a poor little mouse came staggering out and died a dramatic death. Very upsetting! After considering the problem carefully, they got rid of the microwave, because who wants such a terrible killer in the house? Now the mouse hang out somewhere different, and more hidden, and everyone's happy. For some reason I find this story very cheering. It reminds me that people are not so bad, after all.
* My family is pretty excellent, did I mention? I like Παπού playing tavli with Ms N and debating, Γιαγιά's stories and her popping some dessert into Ms N's mouth mid-sentence, Byron's attempts to lure Brotherdear or J into playing with him, Strati's standard response to Relationship News ("well, when are you bringing them around?"), Lorraine's quiet strength, GirlCousins' willingness to debate ethics and morality, Motherdear's automatic carbon-neutralling of my flights, Fatherdear's continual attempts to work out where he is and where he wants to be. I am very lucky!
* Ms L came around the other night to work on my story. It's quite wonderful to write with/for someone who's that expressive - I am usually so nervous when someone reads my work with me near, but I really enjoy all of her laughing and approval-faces and questions. Also, it is fun to make demands like, "draw a thing here that is like a rubbish bin crossed with a cloud, but sparkly".
* A couple of nights ago I had a dream that my first complete thesis-draft was finished. It still had lots of 'insert research here' bits, but it felt so amazingly good. Like a dream about flying, where you're simultaneously surprising that you can do and at how wonderful it is.
* A couple of nights ago I had a dream about
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* I have an accordion! My father got it for me, with the help of my uncle and grandmother, and I love it very much. I want to take it everywhere with me, but although it is small, for an accordion, it is quite large for a bicycle. I practised with it on Sunday, and I sounded terrible, but I kept going anyway. Maybe I will mostly practise when others are not around.
* I got a job! It is a little job, and I will be waiting to get Official Forms before I rub my hands in glee, but it looks like it will cover my bills for the first half of next year, and will involve writing 'opinion pieces' (read as: rants) for 'the youth' on a website.
* Today I went to the gym. I am, as yet, undecided on whether this will be a long-term thing.
* I have been writing an awful lot on my thesis! And reading a book for this masterclass I am doing. And reading some other books that I feel I should read for my thesis. It feels like I am Getting Things Done.
* My last Greek class for the semester was on yesterday. We drank ouzo, and I was very, very tired from all the Getting Things Done. Next year I will probably prepare for my first certificate, which I guess will involve quite some work, since it's at the end of the year.
* I upgraded my XO's operating system, and it is all shiny, and I just want to play with it always, but I've had hardly any time to. I also upgraded Ubuntu on my grown-up laptop (after some help from Jamie): it promptly had a complete hissy fit, but luckily it was all stuff I managed to sort out in a few hours. I was a bit horrified that KVocTrain, my language-learning software, disappeared, but it turns out it's been replaced with Parley. I was initially a bit grumbly, but it turns out Parley is actually very good, and has some useful features that were missing from the KVocTrain.
* I have some lovely people in my life, who spoil me very much. I have been having nice chats to K (who always manages to perk me up when I'm down, although I cannot return the favour, unfortunately). My father and his partner got back from South Africa, and I enjoyed hanging around with them on Saturday. Also my grandparents came around, and I swelled up full of love all over again. I am excited about them coming to uni for lunch! I will show them the ducks, and my shelves full of books. I have been seeing a lot of N and J, and having fun times and restful times both. J cooked dinner last night, and picked me up after Greek, and it was lovely to eat good food and not do the dishes and just breathe out.
* My garden makes me happy. I potter in it ineffectual, and turn the compost, and wonder what to do to make my plants healthy and strong. There are many tomatoes growing (and I still do not quite believe that they are real, and one day I will snack on them), and little snow peas, and the corn and the sunflowers out the front are doing interesting and baffling things.
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I had a lot of people-time this weekend, and it's been awfully fun. I've been hanging out with Office-Mate-Nath, who is lovely and clever and fun, and I also met her friend Helen, who is similarly wonderful. *waves* I've also had family-time, and not-so-new-friend time, and have felt terribly appreciative of the amazing people that I have around me.

Oddly, perhaps, my people-worry has also been rather high - I seem to be spending an awful lot of time fretting that I have offended people, or talked too much, etc etc. Increasingly, this seems like something that I really should work out how to do less. It is not the most fun ever.

I have been thinking that perhaps the reason I'm fretting so much is because my anxiety levels are generally high, what with the thesis-worry getting larger every day. I really do need to finish it soon. Hopefully now that I'm not teaching it will be easier to get on with writing.

Today I feel productive - I finished my marking, and now I'm going to do my Greek homework and then get on with writing. And I have an office-mate today, so the office doesn't feel all abandoned. Hurrah!


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