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.

Friday, May 19, 2023



I am not in a great mood.  Nothing is actually "wrong" per say..... but nothing feels interesting, exciting, pleasant, nor relaxing.  I feel sheer exhaustion, and I feel blue (cerulean):

  • Ran 6.2 miles (10 km) to reach my 50 miles in a week (~80.5 km), weekly goal.  Typically, I would feel AT LEAST a sense of relief that I accomplished this goal... on Friday and would have two days "off" from running.  But, today, I do not seem to care.
  • Had a Department Meeting about assessment.  Nothing horrible happened.  But, the three hours of that meeting DRAINED my soul of any sense of purpose, goals, hopes, dreams.  It was three hours of discussions about how to assess our majors.  There were more opinions, more ideas from every direction imaginable.... it seemed there were more ideas than the number of atoms in the universe.
  • In this meeting, there was no sequential thought.  There was no cohesion.  There were no insights.  There were no conclusions.  There were no decisions.  There was just folks spewing out words... words of chaos, like a thirty minute discussion/debate over the terms "learning objectives" and "learning outcomes" where the "discussion" undulated back and forth at least half a dozen times on whether those two terms were "the same thing" or if they were "obviously, distinctly different 'concepts'".  To my manner of thinking they are both terms of "1984-esque" double-speak nonsense and neither has any merit or use in anything meaningful regarding education.  Both are simply jargon-style words designed to create work that is unnecessary and unfruitful for getting students to learn.... and both are simply terms that play into the fallacy that professors need to objectify and justify any thing they attempt to teach in the classroom.  But, "learning objectives" and "learning outcomes" were just two of the MANY OTHER nonsense terms bandied about across the three hours of torture.
  • I am stuck in a no-win situation with regards to pipes too, I have come to realize.  I want to smoke my pipes.  But, I also know that if I simply did so today... say here at work, or at home perhaps on the back porch.... that I would not have the glee, would not have the joy, would not have the pleasantness envelope me.  Instead, all I would feel is guilt, and worry, and shame.  Shame for not doing what I said I would do.  Worry for what would be next? Guilt for not being the truthful person who follows through on things that I strive to be.  It would be a so, so very different.... and also a hard experience, and why the hell would I want that?  It would not be like it was in Chicago.  Somehow there, I was able to recapture that joy, that feeling of self, that feeling of my identity... without worry, without shame, without guilt. It was truly magical.  I felt 30 years younger.  But, I can sense that would not be how I would feel if I were to have a pipe today.  
  • Our diocese, like most dioceses nationwide (and globally) is experiencing a priest shortage.  In our diocese, the powers-that-be have dealt with this shortage by combing some parishes and closing others.  There is a very strong potential that my parish may be shuttered due to the shortage.  This is the parish my wife has known her whole life, and it is the parish I moved to and joined when I married her.  If the closure does occur, it will be devastating for my wife.  It will hurt me greatly, with the scattering of decades known friends across to other parishes in the community.  If it closes, the sense of family loss will be strong.   
  • I SHOULD be working hard on getting more of my class materials ready for next week.  But, I do not want to.  I SHOULD be cleaning and organizing my laboratory, but I do not want to.  I SHOULD write e-mails, paper letters, and letters of recommendation I need to do, but I do not want to. I SHOULD be working on cleaning the garage, and cleaning the basement, but I do not want to. I SHOULD be trying to be a better person.  I SHOULD be kinder. I SHOULD be more caring.  I SHOULD be more patient.  I SHOULD be stronger emotionally and physically than I am.  I SHOULD be a better father, better husband, better sibling, better friend, better teacher.  I SHOULD be millions of things I am not.
  • I feel emotionally dead inside.  I feel nothing I do is of value.  I feel no sense of purpose.  I feel no understanding of how to be.  

But... what is there to do about it?  Not a damn thing.  All I can do is to try as best as I can to carry on.  Right now is very unpleasant.  It is exhausting.  I just have to keep trying to push through.  Eventually, perhaps, it will let up and I can feel and sense a metaphorical sunshine again.  But, it is very difficult to believe this, sometimes.



Blogger Pat M. said...

Professor, wouldn't your Capuchin friends remind you of these words of Jesus? "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." That's Matthew 11:28.

Even a priest can be released from his vows. If you vowed rashly to abandon your pipes, there's no guilt associated with giving up that vow. And I'm pretty sure you never actually vowed to abstain forever; you simply extended a Lenten vow for as long as you could manage it, ending with your Iwan Ries experience. Then again, the fact that you are still dreaming of being a sixteen-year-old who is completely comfortable and "yourself" with your pipes tells me that you never really separated yourself from your pipes as a vow would have done.

Do I recall correctly that you have a Capuchin monk friend who is a pipe smoker? Maybe you could talk with him about your dilemma.

Also, aren't many dioceses responding to the priest shortage by increasing the number of permanent deacons? Maybe you're at a point in your career when you could scale back, or even retire, and instead become a permanent deacon? That might add some needed balance to your life, but of course you would first need to let go of your shame over all the SHOULDs you feel, and just humbly accept yourself as you are, trying imperfectly to do your imperfect best.

Friday, 19 May, 2023  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I can't stand the best of meeting, and your meeting was a horribly useless one. Meetings easily give me a headache, and just thinkingabout yours is getting me close.

As far as I can tell you are about as productive as a person can be. I don't know how you even do what you do.

Friday, 19 May, 2023  
Blogger Pam J. said...

This may be an unpopular opinion and maybe rude (?) but I think you suffer from depression, mild perhaps but depression nonetheless. Maybe accompanied by a mild anxiety disorder. As a scientist, you probably accept the concept of mental illness. But as a Catholic, you may resist the notion that depression can be alleviated with medicine or counseling. I only say that because I've noted over the decades that my Catholic friends are much more likely to subscribe to the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of thinking. Do you ever talk to a doctor about your mental health? Maybe it's time.

Saturday, 20 May, 2023  
Blogger peppylady (Dora) said...

I'm sorry your under a dark cloud. I see therapy and I learn a lot.
Coffee is on, and stay safe.

Saturday, 20 May, 2023  

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