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Thursday, 22 August 2013


That sinking ship feeling - everyone gets it. When you're clinging to the side and hoping the problems will mysteriously right themselves as you feel the water getting ever closer. At the moment, though, I get the impression my ship has sunk. There I am in the water with debris floating all around me and not sure which direction to try and swim in.

Each section of debris correlates to part of my life right now. One section is that pesky PhD. Coincidentally, that is the section that has broken into the most pieces, scattering fragments far and wide. To put it back together is going to require sustained thought but, as I tread water, I wonder if I'm capable of that.

You see, over there, in the opposite direction, is the grandmother section. Common sense tells me to swim to that bit first because it's sinking. That's what ninety years on this planet does for you but I owe it to her to swim towards her and try to rebuild her life so it's at least bearable. That, however, is a full time job and, while I ponder undertaking it, the jigsaw pieces of my thesis are drifting further and further away from each other. What seems to be happening is that I swim towards one, change my mind, swim back, change my mind again. That's going to keep nothing afloat for long, especially not my tired body.

And, of course, there are other sections of debris, smaller but no less important. Picture novel manuscripts cast along the sea, paper fragments soaking up the water and breaking apart. Picture essays I'm trying to write doing the same, picture groups of people gradually getting further away from me because I can't physically hold on to them and nothing else. Picture my relationship that actually seems to have found a boat and is rowing away from me while I, quite honestly, don't try to follow.

However, perhaps there's hope. In the middle of the darkness I find there's a solitary rock that I can cling on to. It doesn't help me gather the pieces together but it does at least allow me to keep them all in sight. I can make expeditions to the outskirts and try to reassemble the fragments but, when I fail, the rock is still there. There's a lot to be said for that rock. It keeps me afloat when I feel I can swim any more and it makes me realise that I may be out here marooned but I'm not alone and there will be an end to it. It just may take more perseverance and emotional reserves than I gave it credit for when I started out this journey. But at least I'm not alone.


Laura Daniels said...

If you are struggling with getting your thesis completed mostly because of your grandmother's health issues then I would recommend having some sort of conversation with your supervisor about taking some sort of sabbatical - say, for example, six months - on the PhD. This could help you spend a serious amount of time on helping your grandmother get sorted so that, when it's time to hit the unpause button on the PhD, you can do so in much better mental condition. I know, from reading snatches of your blog, how much you care for your grandmother and how much you want to help her, but also, from what you've said in the past, how much your grandmother has helped you with getting on with the PhD. She would hate to be the cause of you not completing. So why not hit the pause button, give her your focus for a period of time, which will probably also give you some mental space to gird the loins, appraise what needs sorting on the PhD and be able to launch back in to it with fresh focus?

CharmedLassie said...

It is something I've considered but, unfortunately, pausing doesn't seem to be an option. I'm running on fumes financially, dependent on family for all my outgoings including even my travel to my supervisor meetings. Another year is about all I can take of this - and I'd still have the financial problems while I took a break so I think I'd be berating myself for at least not moving forward a little bit.

I also don't think my grandmother or my dad would be receptive to the idea. He's under the impression that if I stop I'll never get started again. He might be right.