Monday, April 13, 2009


Sunday Nights Since...

Back in high school, every Sunday night was torture. That was when the homework for the weekend that I'd been putting off finally couldn't be put off any more. I finally had to face it.

The same held true in college, and, weirdly enough, even in grad school. Then in my faculty days, Sunday nights were usually devoted to class prep and/or grading, so the dynamic didn't really change.

For a few years, after entering administration, Sunday nights were relatively calm again. Then I got the bright flippin' idea to start blogging five days a week. And now Sunday nights represent the return of deadlines.

You'd think I would have figured this out by now. But nooo...

Between my own overeducation, this career choice, and parenthood, I've been responding to 'school night' imperatives since 1973, and there's no end in sight.

Granted, there was a minor lull during the intense dissertating period, but that period really taught me that I have a choice in life. I can have deadlines, or I can be a sullen, unproductive lump wallowing in his own angst. I've chosen deadlines, which seems like the right choice about 80 percent of the time.

(I haven't had really good angst since my twenties. I agonize over decisions, but that's not the same thing. Decision agony isn't about what kind of person I am or where I fit in the universe; it's about solving an external problem. It can be stressful, but it's a kind of stress that doesn't shake my emotional center the way so many things seemed to in my teens and twenties. Whether that's 'maturity' or just 'angst fatigue' I'll leave to the psychologists.)

Between parenting and the job, I'm now very much a creature of habits, structures, and deadlines. When those fall away, there's a brief period of euphoric relief, followed quickly by a period of complete non-productivity and a sense of being lost. The blogging is very much a function of the job and the routines of daily life, which is why I usually suspend it for vacations. When it's one deadline among many, that's all it is. When it's the only active deadline I have, it feels oppressive.

Infants are no respecters of external routines, which is why early parenthood is unspeakably tiring. It's one thing to schedule yourself to within an inch of your life. It's quite another to do that, and then have the baby air it out for a few hours overnight. During TB's first year, I literally walked into walls at night. TW still laughs about the time I fell asleep in the middle of my own sentence. (In my defense, I wasn't very interesting.) When you're overcommitted, which early parents generally are, routines are the only thing keeping you from going completely around the bend.

The frustrating part of it is that I'm not the type who elevates (most) routines to Holy Writ. (I'll make an exception for the morning newspaper-and-coffee, which is what separates us from the animals.) The content of most routines is utterly unimportant, and amenable to change. But stuff that doesn't fit into routines tends not to happen, or at least not on any kind of reliable basis. I didn't start going to the gym until I figured out how to incorporate it into my routine; now it's fine.

I should be disturbed that I pay so much deference to constructs that are no better than any other, but somehow, I'm not. It just seems like the only reasonable way to get anything done. I've got four different routes I take to get to work; on any given day, there usually isn't any special reason to choose one over the others. But I do, or I wouldn't get there. It's not worth angsting over, and not worth vesting with any great significance. It's just the price of getting stuff done. Sometimes, even an arbitrary decision is better than no decision.

So I still panic on Sunday nights, facing those school night deadlines that have stood since childhood. And I still resent them, silently envying all the people who can just relax. The difference is that now, I know I just don't have it in me to be one of them.

I've been an educator all my working life and Sunday night blues have been part of that for as long as I can remember -- until I started teaching full time online. Now I can set my students' due dates (end of weeks) and I usually choose Wed to Tues weeks. This means that no longer do my school weeks begin on Monday. There are many of advantages to this, too numerous to explain here, but the most important advantage is that I actually enjoy my weekends now and don't dread "Monday mornings"!!
(I'll make an exception for the morning newspaper-and-coffee, which is what separates us from the animals.)

Still chuckling at this. Thanks, DD.
Actually, I don't MIND working on weekends as an academic because the hours are far better than what I did before (musician).

The joys of being a musician are:

1. You have to have a day job in a field outside of music. Bills must be paid and I'm fond of health insurance.

2. Every spare minute that you're not gigging, eating or sleeping, you should be practicing, teaching music, or lining up gigs (either playing or teaching).

3. Academic hours are long, but I never put in months of 90+ hours per week that I did as a musician. All of that stopped once I left music and rediscovered 8 hours of sleep in doctoral school.

So, I don't mind the Sunday night prep/grade/plan schtick. It's far better than my alternative....
Sunday nights here start about 1pm when it's the high school students who are being strongly encouraged to get out their assignments. Sometimes they need a lot of help, close-by, to stay focused. Fortunately we see this role somewhat reduced between 9th and 12th grades. But I would not have been reading Hemingway last night if the 9th grader had figured out the story himself.

Now I've got to get to the grading -- I, like the virtualprof, tend toward Tuesdays.
Oh my yes, the Sunday Night Blues. I'm still learning how to not a) keen and rend my garments all Sunday afternoon, and, b) complete every undesirable household and/or grooming task prior to settling down to grade or write on the notorious Sunday nights.

Living in a small, rural, Midwestern town which pretty much goes into a collective coma on Sundays, finding motivation can be an act of pure faith and much self-flagellation.
Since I've started grad school, I've made going out for a drink Sunday night part of my routine. I might pay for it Monday, but at least Sunday Night Blues are a thing of the past.
(In my defense, I wasn't very interesting.)

That's a defense?!?

I'm wrestling with the stress surrounding school work on Sundays. It must be my blue-collar upbringing which lives for a 5-day work week and a weekend. I've stopped bringing work home so that it does not feel like a ball-and-chain if there is a task or activity I want/need to do. I've also given myself permission to not give students assignments back the next day if I do not have time during the work day hours to grade.

One outcome of this is that my time on campus is far more productive. I no longer say to myself, "Oh, you can just take that home and do it later." I won't and I won't let myself feel guilty about having a life anymore.
It just absolutely kills me that Friday night and Saturday night are television wastelands and all the good stuff is on on Sunday night. Even if I'm set, I'm less likely to settle in with a good red wine for those later "In Treatment" episodes. On the other hand, laywers at big firms don't even get to go home during a case.
Angst is overrated. Trust me. I've been angsting for a while now.
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