Psychomachia

I went to the doctor today to get medicines for the sinus infection that I seem to have been fighting for going on twelve or thirteen years. I didn't realize that it was a chronic infection; I thought that I just kept getting sick all the time. My mother has been telling me to get myself checked for a while now, but what does she know? She's only a radiologist. Who knows what chronic sinus infections look like thanks to all the CT scans she's read. But never mind. I didn't want to take the time to go to the doctor because I didn't think that he would be able to give me anything other than a talk about how all I had was the flu.

I was wrong: he gave me antibiotics and steroids (nasal, not anabolic!). I also got my wrist x-rayed. It's been hurting for a good year and a half now, ever since I fell during an epee bout (I know, what was I thinking?  Epee?!!) Thanks to the pain in my wrist, I haven't been able to do my yoga for a good six months, and I probably shouldn't have been doing it for a year or so before that without getting my wrist looked at. Maybe if the doctor finds out what is wrong with my wrist, I'll be able to do Downward Dog again. Or maybe not. What if I'm permanently broken, like my grandfather who couldn't lift his arm above his shoulder because he never got it fixed? And I don't even want to think about how much I weighed this morning, shoes and all, but still. Was it wise throwing out my scales a year ago? I was supposed to have found my "true" weight by now, but now I'm worried that I just may be fat.

I'm exhausted. I've had this current flare-up with my sinuses for over two weeks now. I feel achy and fatigued and stupid and stiff. Which can't have helped with the negotiations (ha!) that I had with my departmental chair this afternoon about whether I am ever going to be able to be compensated equitably for the work that I do unless I start playing the game of Looking for Outside Offers. Which to my mind is the whole root of the inequity, so why would I just feed the demon by playing it myself? I could try to transcend it, learn not to care about ephemera like status. But that seems to me now simply to be playing into their hands (whoever "they" are). As far as they're concerned, I'm cheap at the price; they're certainly not going to notice if, heaven forbid, I keep doing my job well just because I think that it is right to do so.

How to write about what I've been thinking and feeling these past several months without alarming my readers?  That is, alarming them even more than usual, I suppose.  The things that I haven't told you, when you thought I was baring all.  As if.  I can think of so many things more embarrassing than talking about how frustrated I am at losing a fencing bout or not being able to write.  Much, much more embarrassing; you have no idea.  But then how embarrassing is it to have to go to the doctor for a sinus infection?  Given what the signs at the hospital said about patient confidentiality, perhaps it is after all.  Embarrassing, that is.  As if to admit that I have a body that gets sick.  Or an ego that would prefer to feel like I am valued for the work that I do.  Or a tendency to cry when I am under stress or trying to express something that I feel deeply.  I'm not crying now, so nothing that I'm writing can be that hard to think about.  Hmm....  I wonder what it is I'm blocking now.

Anger.  Lots and lots and lots of anger.  Is it justified?  I'm not sure anymore.  Some of the things that I've been angry about--or so our couples' therapist has taught me--weren't actually there.  But other things, like the inequities in the system that I work within, well, maybe it's not all in my mind.  How I respond to it is, of course.  But how best to respond?  Again, I'm exhausted.  Maybe this isn't the best time to be trying to work all this through, especially given that I still have reading to do for class tomorrow.  More precisely, re-reading, which is not quite as hard as the first or second or third time through.  But even a fourth takes concentration.  Which I don't seem to have at the moment.  See?  Are you wondering why I am even trying to write right now?  Because I haven't managed to write a proper blog post in weeks and I'm worried about losing my voice here, too.  Out of fear.  Out of anger.  Out of worrying about all of the things that I'm not supposed to say.  Because it would worry my mother.  Or piss off my colleagues.  Or be "too personal", whatever that means.  Look at Elizabeth Gilbert!   She's made a fortune off of describing herself masturbating, for goodness' sake.  Which I'm sure thrilled her friends and relations, but, hey!  Now she's rich.  I'm just an obscure academic blogger describing my fears about fencing.  And other stuff.

See?  I'm a coward.  Or the bravest woman I know.  I'm not sure which.  I am afraid of everything, and yet look where I am.  Somehow I have managed to keep fighting, keep working, keep competing, keep writing despite being terrified out of my wits.  What if I didn't have this handicap?  Think what I could achieve.  But instead, just like the character in Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead whom the powers-that-be have genetically engineered to be afflicted with OCD so that she has to spend her life tracing grains of wood across the floor rather than getting on with her scientific work, here I am, fighting my demons yet again.  Or maybe I'm just mediocre.  (Wow, that demon was fast!  Did you see it coming?  I didn't.)  What would it be like to wake up in the morning without this cloud of lies hanging over me, day after day?  Or does everybody have a similar cloud that she has to fight and the only real lie is that I am all alone in the battle?  Broken, while everyone else is getting on with her life.  Except that otherwise there wouldn't have to be books about teaching women to negotiate; we'd all have what we'd asked for, just like the men.  Except that my chair insists the inequities in our institution are not gender-based, just the propensity of the men to go for outside offers.  Which sounds gendered to me, but what do I know?  I've never been very good at theory.

Oops, there I go again, talking about things that I probably shouldn't.  Like jealousy.  And ambition.  And fear.  There it is again.  Fear.  How much of my life is governed by fear?  Fear that others won't like me.  Fear of making a mistake.  Fear of being hurt.  Fear of getting in trouble.  I got in trouble yesterday with my dog because she started barking while I was heating up my lunch at the downstairs cafe in my building on campus.  There's a reading room right next to the cafe, and an earnest young woman felt it her duty to tell me about this.  I was so angry at her, I tried pulling rank: "I'm one of your professors.  I've worked here for 17 years; I know there's a reading room there."  But I was nervous.  What if I was breaking a rule?  What if I shouldn't have my dog there?  Today, the guys who work at the counter reassured me that they like that I bring my dog with me, but it's still there, the fear.  "Bad girl.  You know you should apologize.  You know you were in the wrong."  But was I, really?  The guys didn't seem to think so.  I wonder what it would be like to be a guy.  To have the balls not to care so much about what other people think.  To have the testosterone to take risks, real risks, not just girly little risks.  Like bringing your dog onto campus and risking having some other woman be afraid of her and then having to feel all apologetic for even existing.

It's late.  I can feel the anxiety in my face by now.  Or maybe that's the antibiotics starting to fight the infection in my sinuses, who knows?  I need to read so that I am ready to talk with my students tomorrow afternoon about sin.  And about the fear of death.  Funny, that's what the sermon we heard on Good Friday was about, dying as a part of living, God's death as something to embrace, not fear.  Which, funnily enough, only the women (and John), despite being afraid, were there to witness.  So there.

Comments

  1. Wow, you're still bloggin'

    I have a funny waffling sound in my ear when I - not so loudly - belch. It's something similar too as if water were trapped. Its odd, and has only been a recent thing I never experienced before. But enough about me, I'm glad to see you're still blogging. What a brilliant mind you must have. I tried to have my own blog and the most I could think of was barely a paragraph in any given post of yours. By the way, how did your book turn out? As I recall, you were still writing your last book, the one you went too England to study for. It was on psalms....I think. This last post was curious and gave me a smile. I was about to being Inferno Canto IX in my book "The Divine Comedy". I am thinking it would of been more helpful if I had read anything by Virgil first. Thank you for hanging around. Best Wishes.

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  2. Good to hear from you! Yes, I'm still blogging; it's been quite an eventful year for me. I've been teaching and working on other projects the past year and a half; I won't really be working full time on my book again until year after next. Meanwhile, I'm translating a curious text that may have had some influence on Dante. You can check it out on my other blog, Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    Thanks for checking in!

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