One of the great things about being a student is that it affords the sort of flexibility I need to manage my caregiving responsibilities. I figured out several years ago that any form of paid employment, outside of small bits of a contract work, is likely unrealistic. Juggling a job while also managing the unpredictability of Matthew’s life and schedule just ensured I had lots of grey hair and let a whole lot of people down. But while being student offers tons of flexibility, I do actually have to work. Which is sometimes easier said than done in my life.
I consider a successful day a day where I am able to work for about 4-5 hours, usually when the kids are at school/day program. Sometimes that 4-5 hours happens in smaller chunks, and sometimes I get a long stretch of time. It really depends on my life. The phone rings, wheelchairs need repairs (repeatedly), and the list could go on. I consider a good week a week where I can string together 3 or 4 of those productive days. Five days almost never happens. Three has been the norm in recent weeks. Between appointments, illnesses, day program cancellations, nurse cancellations, and so on, a full week just hasn’t happened. During one particularly frustrating day I suggested to my husband that a writer’s retreat would, once again, be helpful.
A few years ago I was struggling to finish the coursework for my (hoped for) PhD. Life was crazy busy and I was becoming a tad frantic. The deadline was looming and I needed to finish a paper, but I couldn’t seem to find the quiet to do so. My stress and panic was mounting. I do not do well writing papers at the last minute. One day in total frustration I blurted out to my husband, “I will only get this paper done if I leave”. He nodded and said, “that is a great idea, book a hotel”.
After a bit of discussion we discovered that renting an (off-season) cottage was far more cost effective. This was before we owned our own retreat. I booked a place and packed up my computer, books, a week’s worth of food, a couple of bottles of wine, and left my family. The end result was a paper I was happy with and a much calmer spirit. And probably a family that didn’t spend a week or two walking on eggshells because mom was so stressed out.
I love my family. I love our family life. But ask anyone who has spent any time in my house. Our house is a whirlwind of activity. It is full of people, and dogs, and caregivers, and general busy-ness. And most days I love it. But periodically the introvert in me needs to get away, particularly if I am trying to work my way through a demanding paper exploring all sorts of philosophy I don’t really understand!!! So here I am at our cottage for three and half days trying to finish the draft (emphasis on that word) of my last (God-willing) comprehensive paper before I knuckle down on my dissertation. I have written four comps (long story involving switching universities) so I am ready for this part of my journey to be done.
Here I can hear myself think. Something that I have discovered is useful when trying to write a paper. My husband and youngest joined me here for the weekend to open the cottage and then they left for home leaving me with well-wishes, my computer, and a stack of books. As I settle in I find I am preparing for something that is akin to a brief silent retreat. There is no one to talk to, save one of our dogs. I am hoping that not only will I come home with a decent draft of a paper, but I will also come home with an uncluttered spirit.
Wish me luck.