The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Monday, March 31, 2008

What Do I Do?

I asked my wife to hold me as I wept harsh tears on two different occasions yesterday. I feel so sad, so lost, so without hope at times. I do, however, continue to pray to God and ask for His help.

I went to the inner city parish again this Saturday for Mass. The message was about doubting Thomas. As it always does, the fears and worries of me being "Thomas" came through loud and clear. However there was hope to the message as the priest spoke his Homily and it helped me feel calm for a while.

Yesterday's second torrent of tears is what I shall try to encapsulate for you here. My wife was flipping through the various channels on the television and stumbled across the tail end of a romantic comedy that I have seen previously but cannot recall the title of. It was a newer film, having Drew Barrymore playing the character of a woman who suffered a brain injury that resulted in her forgetting everything each night when she went to bed. The gist of the story was that this fellow (Adam Sandler, I think is his name) falls in love with her and they struggle on how to have a relationship. Each morning Miss Barrymore's character awakens with no knowledge of people she met. Well, here is the important part for me... as you may know from seeing the movie or from watching romantic comedies in general, there was a wonderfully designed happy ending to the film. I will not spoil it for others who may not have yet seen the film.

When the details of the happy ending unfolded over a period of 10 or so minutes, it was then that the tears started to fall and the sobs started taking over my body. I used to think that life was all about searching for the good, trying to create good and happiness for others in life. That by doing this, one could find joy and contentment. I used to believe that so fervently (recall my Don Quixote posts). Now the glaring harshness of reality has set in and all I see is a slow walk towards death. Nothing I do, say, or feel has any bearing on anything. I wept for that loss of spirit I had, I sobbed for no longer being a "Don Quixote", I cried out in pain from the fear I had. A fear so deep and so intense that it paralyzes me into wanting to do nothing but sleep or sit doing nothing.

I cried because I missed who I was... who I used to be. I do not know who I am now, nor what I should do.

It is very debilitating. It is an enormous weight on my body, mind, and spirit. I think of the unending path of death that I have watched in my life as one by one those that I love die before me. I am on the same journey as are we all. It is so harsh, so brutal, so desolate.

I pray to God to help me find a way out of this pit of despair, to find a way to feel joy. I wish to forget, or push aside the truth of the march toward death and ignore it like I used to be able to do.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Reply to Lady Elaine

I am not sure what caused her rancor, but in some way my thoughts irritated Lady Elaine to such an extent that she responded with this comment to my last essay:

So....What makes you believe that this other gentleman has not been also praying to God on a daily(hourly basis) to grant him THIS job...perhaps he has family who rely on him and this is the way he will care for them? I am perplexed why you would think that something as specific as "preventing person X from getting Y job" would be something as a Christian you would ask God to do? All the angst you are sufferring is very very selfish. God does not exist to make sure that your work environment is suitable and pleasing for you...I think there are larger issues here that She needs to look after. You are correct in saying that you should be focusing on your family life, and how to become a better father/husband. That should be your first priority. That would be a prayer worthy of God's intersession. I have enjoyed reading your musings in the past, but this latest river of agony is too selfish and self centered to be taken seriously. Its like a little boy asking God to please bring him the only red bicycle in the store, because his friend also wants one. You have a blessed career. You have cant be fired, your bills will be paid, you will not become homeless, and no one is preventing you from researching what you wish. For 99.9% of the world, your situation would be heaven. basically, what I am saying is stop whining, get real, put your big boy coat on and deal with it. No one..especially GOD owes you anything. Perhaps you should start off on a relationship with God by thanking HIM for all your blessings instead of whining that you want HIM to interced so that someone else does not get a job...

My comments:

1. I never wished ill will on this possible hire. I have stated several times I do not feel he is the best person for this position. I have also stated that I hope for God to grant him a better job at another U that he will like more. I do not think his coming to my U would be in either of our best interests... he and I would be competing for students, for resources, and for teaching loads in ways that DO NOT EXIST between any other members of the Department. I do not think his taking this job would be fair to HIM nor to ME.

2. Whether you would understand my pain would depend upon if you had ever experienced playing "second fiddle" to someone for an EXTENDED period of time, not because you are not qualified... but because you are not the "cool, trendy" one. It is a devastating feeling and demoralizes a person and causes them to doubt their own self-worth. The hire of this possible individual would set me up for such a scenario for the remainder of my work life. And, again, until you have lived in the shadow of someone who shines for reasons outside of the work effort, it is difficult for you to understand. This "second fiddle" aspect is something I faced during most of my childhood, and the thought of returning to that is difficult at best.

3. My writings here have been ways for me to express my feelings about life. As it stands, my emotions have been in a good deal of turmoil for quite a spell... roughly two years now. What I write about is of late mostly about the feelings I have of my own limits, my own fears, my difficulties facing the myriad of changes that have happened to me as of late.

4. If I had my druthers, I would want to have some emotional stability for an extended period of time. I would like to not have fear, or worry, or grief for just a while, so that my body and my mind can relax and recover from what has been difficult for me for a long while.

So, in a nutshell, I have tried to restructure my relationship with God. I am trying to talk openly to Him and have Him hear me. If I am to find peace and purpose again, it will only be through His help and guidance.

I pray to you, O God, to keep me and my family safe. I pray to you to look into my heart and see how emotionally drained I am. I leave it in your hands to of course do your will. But, please, please, I beg you to look out for me. I feel so fragile and vulnerable, and adrift. I cry every day because I miss so much... my mother, my father, my aunts and uncles, my niece who committed suicide, I miss feeling confident and "speical" in my work, I miss feeling confident I can make a difference with my life. I miss having a vision of the road I wish to travel in life. I miss feeling positive about life. I miss myself.

You know my hopes, O Lord. Please consider my requests as you make your decisions.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eye of the Storm

It is currently a waiting game. We shall see if the fellow accepts the job, or if he has a better job opportunity. I hope and pray that God has given him another job opportunity, one that the fellow likes far better than the offer at my U.

It is now Easter Sunday. It is a time of rebirth for those of us who practice the Roman Catholic faith. In my mind, I have contemplated so much of late about my place in the Department and my place in the world, and I feel I have been lacking. I truly believe this is the message that I was meant to hear... "Get going, do not let your time here go for naught."

I have been trying to focus my energies better. I have been trying to figure out how to make myself into a better, more loving husband and father. I have been trying to figure out how to become a stronger, more passionate researcher and educator. I so hope this is what God wants for me.

Please God, Your dying on the cross frees me to pursue a life bigger than myself. I cannot know what You are thinking at this moment, so I can only offer my hope for what will transpire in the next few days. In taking to heart Your message to me on Palm Sunday to give my troubles to You and to not worry myself about the politics of the Department, I have been envisioning a plan of action to change myself into what it is I believe You wish for me to become. Please God, know that I now have a compass point to steer my efforts. Please, please consider giving this suggested hire another job, one that is better suited for him that he accepts so that I may have a bit of breathing room, a bit of peace, in order to undergo this transformation. Please consider this request, in Your most holy name.

Thank you, Lord, for all that you have provided.


Friday, March 21, 2008

So Many Thoughts, So Much Fear

I cannot bear to live my life in fear any longer. The hurt and fear and sadness is overwhelming. I miss feeling alive. I feel like a hunted mouse cowering in the corner waiting until the claws of my predator ensnare me and puncture my body with their sharp, stinging, curved lancets.

I am not a horrid wretch. I am not an evil man. I am not beyond redemption. I am not vile scum. Yet, I am in terror. I am lost. I am isolated. There is no comfort. There is no quiet.

For part of the evening today, I felt hopeful. Hopeful that God is hearing my prayers, is hearing my fear. I felt for a time that He was there. I hoped He would help me. Perhaps, I thought, perhaps God will grant that fellow another, better job at some other university and he will turn down our offer. I sit, and I wait.

Yet, the comfort did not remain. As I quieted down for the evening, the fears and the grief flooded back, pushing hard against my torso, making breathing laborious. I try to again focus my thoughts toward God. I need comfort, I need peace. I need the end of this stress. I miss feeling good. I miss feeling intact. I miss feeling like I had a role.

Cowering and trembling is my current state. I cannot wail anymore in my head, "Why did they do that to me?" I cannot bear to ponder again, "Why do they not see me as valuable?" To realize my insignificance to them causes me to lament with deep shame. What have I done? Where is my life?

Trying to wrestle my mind back into thoughts of giving this to God, I worry if I am failing... flailing in an attempt toward something I can never master... accepting that I am nothing, that I cannot control anything, that I cannot be anything.

God, please help me. I cannot do more. I need You to carry this burden for me. I am smothering, whithering, losing hope, losing my vision. I need You.

I searched for help in my communication with God. The following are prayers I will try to keep saying, in hope that God WILL hear me and WILL help me. Please, God, let it be so. Please, let it be so:

A Prayer for Peace of Mind

(By Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini)

FORTIFY me with the grace of Your Holy Spirit
and give Your peace to my soul
that I may be free from all needless anxiety, solicitude and worry.

Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to You
so that Your will may be my will.


Prayer to Saint Joseph for Success in Work

Glorious St. Joseph,
model of all those who are devoted to labour,
obtain for me the grace to work conscientiously,
putting the call of duty above my many sins;
to work with thankfulness and joy,
considering it an honour to employ and develop,
by means of labour,
the gifts received from God;
to work with order,
peace, prudence and patience,
never surrendering to weariness or difficulties;
to work, above all,
with purity of intention,
and with detachment from self,
having always death before my eyes
and the account which I must render of time lost,
of talents wasted,
of good omitted,
of vain complacency in success
so fatal to the work of God.
All for Jesus,
all for Mary,
all after thy example,
O Patriarch Joseph.
Such shall be my motto in life and death.


Prayer for Strength to Forgive

Faultless Lord, enduring death for me,
You have consummated the debt of my sins:
Your sacrifice of forgiveness was absolute!
Grant me the strength to also forgive others,
To excuse their transgressions against me.
So I may truly reflect this spiritual fruit,
Obliterate any persistent feelings of malice.
Let each trespass end as a closing chapter,
My continuing on the road of righteousness.
Forgive my sins as I aspire to forgive others.
You are truly archetypical of forgiveness.
You are a most forgiving Lord!


Please keep me safe, God. Please keep me safe. Please do not think my failures to keep my focus on you, and my failure to consistently be able to let go of my worries to you mean I do not care, nor that I do not try. I have tried and continue to try. I have been trying to learn and to see what You want from me and for me. And while I have improved, I am still a failure. But, please, still protect me.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Long & Winding Road

Yesterday was a difficult day for me to keep focus on my new life. I kept being distracted from my goals of having thoughts of God being in charge and control. Distractions were from many sources and I would often find myself back in the midst of feeling pain, hurt, anger and resentment at the members of my Department. Please do not get me wrong... I STILL DO feel anger, pain, hurt, and deep seated resentment at my Department and may likely feel that way for many, many years. Yet, what I have been working to do is to find my way to continue to LIVE in the midst of this new sadly revealing turn of events by my Department. It is a difficult task for me to accomplish, but it is something I must do if I am to regain happiness, peace, and be able to succeed in doing good work in my life.

What I have been doing (as best as I can with my herky-jerky emotional state and terrible lack of focus) is to focus in prayer on three things. The first item is to pray to help me know and understand how important it is to give this problem over to God. The second item is talk with God about my grave fears and worries and ask him to help me. During this part of my prayer I ask God to please consider offering this fellow a better job at another university that he gladly accepts. I do not know if God will grant me this request, but I hope He does. I believe that I would be better able to grow and thrive in my new direction and in my new goals of service if he is willing to grant me this hope. I also explain to God that regardless of His decision, I will try as hard as I can to still follow the new path/vision he has shown to me. I worry about the degree of stress I will have, however, if this new possible hire accepts. Finally, I pray to God and try to have Him help me to better see and clarify my new role in life.

I sit and wait and try to pray, and when I do not pray, I try to work. When I do not pray and do not work I struggle and fall deeper into the abyss of despair. Yet, sometimes I am swirling in that abyss, losing my breath, gasping for air and filled with terror no matter how strenuously I try to find those other thoughts.

I am scared.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I am working to try and put into effect the messages I heard when I went to Mass at the small inner-city parish this past Saturday (for Palm Sunday). The major ideas of my effort include:

1. Giving my struggle (my anger, resentment, and worry) over to God.

2. Praying more to talk with God about what I feel.

3. Learning the ability to focus my thoughts during prayer (my mind will race to-and-fro when I attempt prayer, usually about my anger, resentment and worry).

4. Realizing that no matter how this ends, I can be a "free" person... a person who does not have to suffer and be in pain and agony.

5. Realizing that I do not NEED the "family" of my Department, and also realizing that I no longer really even WANT to consider them a family of sorts.

6. Realizing that without the burden of keeping my dysfunctional Department "family" together and focused, I will have significantly greater time to pursue more meaningful efforts in life.

7. Seeing that perhaps the Department's blatantly rude and evil decision was a tool used by God to SHOW me how unnecessary my care and efforts for then and towards them are.

With this focus, it is becoming less of a struggle to attend to my work. Please do not get me wrong... the last several days have been hell. But, keeping my focus squarely on a) providing for my students, b) ignoring anyone in my Department who is not my friend, c) making myself scarce in Departmental gathering spots, and d) conducting communication with the people I dislike only via brief e-mail communication, I have found a greater focus and think I will be able to get used to this different direction I am being led.

It is still my hope that a) God may grant this fellow the Department selected a nicer, better job elsewhere so he will decline the position or b) the Dean may view the Department's decision with a jaundiced eye and may select one of the other (much preferred by me) candidates. Yet, I am working to keep perspective that whatever the outcome, I have options and ways to cope that will allow me to be happy. It is difficult to maintain that notion 24 hours a day, and I often slip back into my thoughts of anger, frustration and fear. But, and this is a big but, I am trying to see and embrace a light... of protection and care... from God.


Sunday, March 16, 2008


I am trying to survive. I am trying to find a way to flourish. The best that I can hope and pray for is that this fellow picked by the Department will have received a better job offer at another institution and will turn down our offer. I hope and pray that is what happens, but I do not expect it. I pray to God that He might grant me this wish.

One point of value from the meeting on Friday is that I now know blatantly, exactly how little the members of the Department care about me and how little they view our Department as a "family". I no longer have that delusion. We are not a family of any sort, and as a Department, I really do not give a damn about any of them. There are two individuals who I consider true, real friends. These two are people whom I would want to see outside of work. The others? I do not need them. I do not need to try to please them. I do not need to ever again try to take their best interests to heart in any decisions I may make.

My wife agreed with me that I needed to spend some time alone in an effort to try to sort this out. We decided to attend Mass separately this weekend as it is often a challenge to concentrate when together with the whole family. So, I went off alone and drove across town to Mass at the small inner city parish I have written about before. I went there specifically because I have felt more spiritually alive at this ethnically diverse Catholic church than I have felt at my home parish or at the other nearby parishes I occasionally visit.

On my drive there, I tried to focus my mind... focus my mind away from the bitter hurt and resentment towards those who hurt me in my Department. It was a struggle because I have been in such excruciating emotional pain. I kept repeating,

"God, please let me give this to you. I cannot carry this hurt. Please help me."

I tried to focus on this during the entirety of the long drive. It was so difficult to break my focus from my own hurt, from my own pain. I really only could hold my thoughts on anything outside of my pain for a few moments. I kept hoping if I could actually focus, I might find peace and understanding through my faith.

At Mass, the first reading (all the readings actually) were just as difficult for me to concentrate upon. My mind kept racing back to my pain, my hurt, my sorrow. My mind would easily drift back to what I wanted to say to the people who voted to hurt me.

But, I kept trying to focus on what was being read, hoping to find help. In the first reading, snippets I heard included,

"The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue... ... I gave my back to those who beat me... ... my cheeks to those who plucked my beard... ... my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting... The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced. I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame."

The second reading was similar, only snippets being recalled. The Gospel reading was about the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, Peter, and the various others, and ended in His death by crucifixion.

The Homily by the priest was of great value to me. The ideas were that through His death by crucifixion, I am free and need not worry or fear. Also, the imperfectness of humans' love and care for one another is so vast and so large that it can hurt and destroy us. God and His love is the only constant love we can rely on.

Help me! (Azru Li! in Hebrew) is what I plead to God for. But I must take His advice as described by the theologians and relayed by this small parish priest today. I must learn that I am free. He has given me freedom. I do not need be afraid.

I am sad that I have lost some of the train of thought that I felt through Mass. If I had only brought a pad of paper to write down my ideas and impressions through the Mass. I am going to pray tonight when I go to bed, and I will pray more fervently than I have in a long time. Here is what I shall pray about:

1. I want to ask God to please return to my mind the insight I was exposed to during Mass. Please help me to remember the important ideas.

2. I want to continue to ask God to please let me give my pain and worry to Him. Please help me to give it up to You, Lord.

3. Please God, please take care of me and watch out for me. Please keep me safe and free.

4. Please God, I am learning again, please help me and also help the candidate the Department selected..... Please allow this fellow to get a job that is better somewhere else so that he turns us down.

5. Please God, due your will. Please, however, help me to understand.

I am going to go to bed to try to remember via my dreams what it is I am not fully recalling.

Marty Haugen's hymn, "We Remember" was played during Communion. The first verse and the refrain were especially touching to me:

"Here, a million wounded souls are yearning just to touch you and be healed.
Gather all our people, and hold them to your heart.
We remember how you loved us to your death,
and still we celebrate,
for you are with us here;
and we believe that we will see you
when you come in your glory, Lord.
We remember, we celebrate, we believe."

Please God, I am trying to once again believe and feel your presence and hope for me. Please help me... Azru Li!


Saturday, March 15, 2008

As Expected

The Department screwed me over royally as anticipated. I despise them and their behavior.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Jingle - Jangle

I am currently sitting in a classroom proctoring an exam, so I thought I would try to write as I have been lax for quite a spell.

I am literally a jangle of raw, bundled nerves at present. The meeting looms for this coming Friday, and I am unsure of what the outcome shall be. There are several candidates that I feel are well suited and would be wonderful to work with. Yet, there is one candidate that I feel unable to work with and I fear he will be selected.

I keep running through my mind the ways I can handle this possible outcome, but all of them leave me very sad with a dead, weighted feeling in my heart. I can a) become a bastard and demand my way in every situation where I have to interact with this fellow (via senority to him).... but this is not my personality and I could not keep that up for long, b) I could become an easy patsy in the classroom... giving away "A" grades to keep students coming to my courses instead of his... but again, this is not in my psyche or visage to do so, c) I could seek employment elsewhere at another university.... there is of course the difficulty in finding a position if I could get one, and of leaving the campus I love and have tried to make a positive mark upon all these years... it would be very, very hard psychologically, but better than losing my own sense of worth, or d) I could put out feelers on campus to try to obtain an administrative position within the U... but again, this is not a role I ever wanted to pursue even though there have been offers previously.... the change would be difficult to obtain and difficult to muster psychologically... but again it is far, far better than losing my own sense of worth.

So, four viable candidates that I like and would be very happy to work with, and one that will change the course of my life in ways that I do not want to change. Who will be selected? I cannot know. I hope and pray it is one of the candidates I like.

My nerves have been so on edge since the interview nearly two weeks ago that it is difficult to think and function at times. I have grave difficulty falling asleep, and I have tremendous difficulty awakening in the morning. I have given up coffee as it makes me more tense and on edge. I have no patience with students or others in the Department. I feel angry and hurt virtually every moment. I can only find a bit of peace at home where I know I am loved. But, even at home, the weight of my fears is smothering.

Last night, I tried to write many hours of text here concerning my mother's death and its impact on me. It has been roughly 54 weeks now, and the pain is still deep and harsh. But I deleted the enormous essay as it was just the same old sh*t I always say and I have had enough grief about being redundant on that issue in the past.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Nothing to Say, Still

I am tired and forlorn. I wait for Friday, when it will be decided what shall happen with my career. Last week was rough. I was planning my talk as well as five talks for my research students for a regional meeting last week. The talks went acceptably well, but it was like pulling teeth to put them together.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Adrift in a Maelstrom

There is not much to say. The title of my essay says it all. A maelstrom is the scientific name for a very strong whirlpool with an undercurrent. I feel as if my life is just such an event and I am simply adrift in it... until it pulls me under.

Five weights are upon my mind that test my mettle and find it lacking. A) The year anniversary of my beloved mother's passage, B) The nebulous waiting game until the 14th when the decision on whom to hire is made by my Department, C) Worry and fret about handling my mother's last tax return that will need to be accomplished along with a significant sorting again through her records and belongings which sadden me to sort through, D) The nine research students who are clamoring for attention every single moment as they prepare to give their talks at a formal meeting this week, and E) the malfunctioning eaves trough on my home that is letting water seep into my basement and there is not a damn thing I can do about it until the huge ice dams and snow eventually melt off my roof line from the abominable winter we have had.