Friday, October 21, 2011

The Edge of Frustration

Let me tell you what frustration is not. It is not the tiny, little infant currently curled up in my lap.

Let me tell you what frustration is. It is the tiny, little infant currently curled up in my lap.

Contradictory? Not in the least. Peculiar? Certainly.

Babies are weird, or rather, how babies make me feel is weird. You can go from being a sane, rational human being with everything ordered, planned, systematized and scheduled to a wild lunatic with hair disheveled, house a mess, and a terrible sense that not only have your forgotten something important, but that it will probably come and eat you soon. This is where I am tonight, sitting in the dimly lit office, typing away at the too-bright screen, and wondering when the--whatever it is--will arrive, and whether I'm just an appetizer or the main course.

Fridays are supposed to be quiet days, but we have had no such luck today. Our best plans were waylaid, and there was nothing that anyone could have done, said, or foreseen to forestall the derailment. The whole day was an exercise in frustration for me. Frustration to speak well in front of my classes, frustration to lead a discussion section, frustration to have a sense of what side is up and what side is down. I need one of those labels you find on the cereal box, or a package from UPS--open this side. Then, of course, there is the frustration of attempting to lay your child in his crib. He seems tremendously asleep. His breathing is fixed. His eyes flutter ever so gently, but then, just as you place him on that beddish surface, his eyes burst open, his face wrinkles in distaste, and he scolds you for being myopic. Bespectacled though I am, he still feels it necessary to remind me of my failure to sense his inner wakefulness, his need for yet one more trip to the bottle, one more change of the diaper, and one more agitating attempt at lowering him into his crib.

Maybe it is the lack of sleep. I've been up since 3:00 am this morning. Maybe it is the cumulative effort of teaching (bad day today), writing (ha!), husbanding (not doing enough there), and parenting (feels like a lot on Tuesdays, but never enough on Wednesdays), but I feel disorganized. I have lists, but trouble keeping them. I have notes, but trouble following them. I have tasks, and planners, and calendars, and programs, and timers, and alarms, and sundry other aids, but still I feel like Alice, except that I think I drank my Eat Me and ate my Drink Me. I am not sure what to do. Sleep, probably. The demons of exhaustion are the ugliest suckers, I know. But something more must be done tomorrow. I need to get a sense of equilibrium. I need to find a better balance. I thought I had it, and then the week before my conference, everything started to get shaky.

Hey, Reader, whoever you are. What do you do to find balance? Any advice for this father of two, dissertating, teaching, administrating, husbanding madman? Inquiring minds want to know. 



  1. I usually seek balance through meals, sleep, and nature walks. I don't know if that works for non-introverts. Sometimes shrinking your area of concern to a book or chess board for a while helps you gain a temporary sense of composure.

  2. Remember... "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."

    -Edward Everett Hale

    * It is my experience, that all good things come in time. You need to take a day (a full day) to prioritize. Having 100's of papers and schedules wont do. You are part of a team and although you may not be able to do your work together, you can work as a team more effectively if you have time to really get priorities in order for both of you and then take turns caring for the boys while one or the other of you are working, or cleaning. Plus there are a handful of ideas for toddlers to do that keeps them occupied, bonding with parents, while still allowing you to get work done...I can email suggestions in detail if you think it would help. Although I am not a parent myself, I have a lot of experience with small children and the act of being overwhelmed.

    a reader