Progress Report

Much as the Eeyore in me hates to admit it, things are actually going fairly well at the moment, so I thought it only fair to give you a full(ish) report. Just so long as you don't, you know, expect me to be cheerful about it. Right? Right. 'Cause us Eeyores get nervous with cheerful. It might look like, I don't know, bragging or some such. 'Cause I'm not. Bragging, that is. Although I would if there were something to brag about, which there isn't. Except that everything is going so well, even if I'm not entirely sure I can take credit for it. But I'm worried that you all are worried about me too much and I don't want you to be. So you need to know that sometimes things look really good, like right now, today, with all this beautiful weather we're having. Plus some other stuff, which I should tell you about. Now. Before I lose my nerve. Perhaps I should do some more yoga first. Deep breath. Okay, here goes.

Item, dog training. The Dragon Baby seems to be more or less house trained; at least, we haven't had an "oops!" in well over a week. Most of the time when we're out walking, she heels beautifully, even managing to resist chasing after (most of) the squirrels. She and I had our first obedience training test yesterday at dog class--and passed! (Sort of: 33 out of a possible 49 points, according to our instructor.) This thanks more to the fact that the Dragon Baby held her stay for a full 15 minutes than that I worked her all that well in the heeling, but compared to where we were in May, it's a miracle. We're even invited (provisionally) to join the Advanced Dogs now. Woohoo!

Item, remodeling. The kitchen is finished, the bathroom is finished, and now, at long last, the room of my own is finished (mostly--we still should paint). Back a hundred years ago, it was supposed to be the Maid's Room; for the past eight years, it has held my desk and a futon couch for guests, both now gone. In their place, I have two leather sitting chairs with matching ottomans, a little table for my tea, a rug for doing yoga, and plastic ornamental elephant (all of the furniture and the elephant courtesy Pier 1). Amazingly, thanks to redecorating just this one room, our apartment now feels infinitely bigger. I can do my yoga somewhere other than the living room; I have a place to sit away from the rest of the things going on at home where I can read; and I have been able to indulge my worst tastes (the plastic elephant, plus lots of "jeweled" pillows and even a wall-mirror with gold rings) in decorating it. And it's close to the kitchen so I can make tea.

Item, fencing. My back (left) foot is hurting me quite a lot, which means I can't manage more than warm-up, a lesson and two or three longish bouts per practice. And yet, I feel calmer, as if I actually know what I'm doing at long last. I am even more hesitant to admit to progress here than elsewhere (the dog is a way faster learner than I am!), but it's there, it's real, and it seems to be stable. That is, I don't fence one day, make some great touches, then come back the next evening and have no clue how I made them the night before. (Actually, I'm only practicing two days a week now, as opposed to my previous three, but it's harder to narrate if I say, "the day after next" all the time.) Sometimes I even seem to be able to set up touches clearly. And, even better, I can consciously change what I'm doing in the midst of a bout. You should have seen the gorgeous touch I made at the tournament last weekend: I'd been pushing, trying to get my attacks in strongly and quickly, but she kept parrying hard. So I tried moving in slowly--and surprised her utterly with a gentle attack. See? I can even remember actions now after the fact, something I never used to be able to do. Next step is to be able actually to describe them.

Item, teaching. It's odd, but I have almost no memory of teaching last year. I guess I was under a bit of stress. This year, however, I am feeling much more relaxed, possibly in large part owing to the fact that the first week I gave all of the students tent cards with their names on them. Rather than spending the first two weeks of term anxiously trying to memorize their names from the class list, I've been able to call on them, even the ones that don't put their hands up--a big step for introvert bears! And the students themselves are, let's face, great (as always, truth be told; I teach at a great university). And they are posting wonderful things on our class blog--go there and learn about animals! One day we'll even all figure out what my name is. For the moment I answer to most combinations of Dr./Prof./Mrs. Fulton/Brown other than "Dr. Brown."

Item, marriage. Ah, yes, the real elephant in the room. How are we doing? Yes, it's been hard. Sometimes it still is, but rarely for the reasons that one expects it to be. We're still seeing our counselor, who is great. And we're gradually learning how to balance ourselves with our marriage, our jobs and our friends. It's one great thing I've found about changing my name: it reminds me every time I have to say it what actually matters to me, that I am a wife as well as a professor, that it is important to me to be a wife and have a family. Yes, it would be easier to stick with my maiden name rather than going through the hassle of convincing people to call me "Rachel Brown," but "Rachel Fulton" doesn't really exist any more, not in the way that she used to. Rachel Brown has a dog who can walk on a leash and a room of her own where she can write and an attack that actually lands on occasion and students whose names she knows. And a husband who helped hang the gold-ringed mirror and all the other pictures in "her" room and a son who is busy playing with the dog of whom a year ago he would have been deathly afraid.

So, yes, some progress has been made. Oh, yes, and I'm still not smoking. Hail, Mary, full of grace! Things still to work on: my academic writing, my eating habits, my self-esteem. Ah, well, nobody's perfect. Which, come to think of it, is probably not such a bad thing, otherwise how would there ever be any progress to report?


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