Today is the final day of the first month in our new year. How are you checking in with your goals? I could be doing better, myself. But I refuse to let me berate and abuse what hasn’t been done (although my personal gap review is long – that’s the inveterate MBA in me speaking). Fact is, when reviewing my own goals check in this morning (yay for insomnia m while my progress is not as fast or far as I wanted, I’ve covered a lot of ground during these past 30 days. I have wins! And not of the tiger blood variety, either. I feel good enough to be encouraged but not cocky.
~My dissertation, all five chapters, is written. Fina-f*cking-Lutely! It’s a hotter mess than my sweat saturated ponytail after a #parytonabike spin class, but it’s written. I’m not saying I haven’t cried during edits. But it’s written!
~I went out on an limb and displayed great vulnerability at the expense of almost painful emotional discomfort in effort to break a haunting pattern. Twice. Wait… three times. In the moment of one particular ignorer of boundaries, instead of my usual pattern of annoyance > frustration > total devolution into emotional anger, I felt unf*ckwithable and held my boundary. Fact is, while a troll doesn’t deserve your kindness, you don’t deserve the emotional fallout of meeting him (or her) at that same level of petty disrespect.
~I relocated and am settling into my new city with lost in translation embarrassments every day.
~I marched in the Women’s March on Washington in my new home city and stood with other US expats among our Mexican neighbors in solidarity. We expected approximately 300 people to show up and march. Over 2,000 US and Canadian expats residing in Oaxaca along with tourists from other nationalities visiting the city who heard of the march showed up and marched with us. It was beautiful.

And there are more. But these… I’m most proud of and I’m not going to let energy spend dwelling on what wasn’t done. I’ll review and reset my priorities for February.

Because we get to start over every month, day, hour, minute. Every breath – in and or out – is an opportunity for a reset. There’s no rule stating when your revolution must begin. Isn’t that beauty-full?

Jack Keruoac - I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page - goals check inNow, how are you checking in? What are your January wins?

XO, Jennifer

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Despite my persistent whining, crying, and moaning about being “stuck” still in Phoenix, my reality is I’m close to leaving. The number of weeks I am here is longer than the original intention. But, by the love of family – the kind you make not the kind that is kin – and friends, I still have a “home.” Even when crying about being “homeless,” Mom Two, Kathy, assures me I have as long as I need to stay with them. Which, I appreciate. More than appreciate. Dad Two, Pete, greets me every morning with a daily reporting on my progress, challenges, how I’m addressing those challenges…. Between Pete and my dissertation chair, Dr. Dale, I have more motivation to find every conceivable way to complete my data collection interviews than a gymnast training for Rio.

***With, of course, more sugary and fatty diet options… of course. Metaphorical back flips, not physical. Heck, I am so out of shape right now, I can’t even do a handstand, anymore. Not even on a wall. Can’t kick that robustly enlarged bottom up over my shoulders without risk of throwing out my back and breaking my neck.***

I told Pete and Dr. Dale they are very much the personality equivalent of dopplegangers if ever existed. Right down to their ages, education and backgrounds, military service, vast professional accomplishments… oh, and ultra type a and insane alpha male dynamics. With senses of humor, and affections for me… when not wanting to kick me in my tush or neck, I’m sure. Between those two and their tough love philosophies, even if I wanted to be a lazy loafer, I’d have no chance of succeeding on that front.

What bothers me is I don’t have an equitable way to repay them for their love and generosity to Edie and me. Not only do I have their shelter, I receive their counsel and wisdom from very successful and moral lives lived. It does not matter whether the talks are over split pots of coffee and morning paper reading with Pete or midnight margaritas (who am I kidding – full witching hour cocktails were consumed) with Kathy. There is no possible way I can even come close to bringing them the value they give me.

I love and respect these two as my own parents. Heck, they were both as actively involved in raising my best friend and me in high school as my own parents. Where Amy was, I was, and vice versa. Heck, we even wore each others’ clothes, constantly. The only things that were off limits to each other were bras because her “ladies” were much more developed than mine. Still are.

I’ve spoken with Amy about my feelings and discomfort. I’m not used to being in a position of accepting help. I’m not good at asking for help. I am intensely uncomfortable with that vulnerability to another person. That discomfort and extreme unease of letting myself go to any state of personal interdependence or -any- dependence is a common theme in my many failed attempts at relationships. In fact, numerous men called me out on it. I know it. That is deeply rooted within me.

I had lunch with a couple of friends this week. We spoke about my discouraged optimism and my challenges with lack of progress on data and relocation. We spoke, specifically, about the difficulty in vulnerability and accepting help and love for the sake of loving help. Struggling to not feel as though I am taking advantage of someone if I take their assistance.

I know how much joy I receive when I help someone who sincerely needs and receives my help. I helped many friends with no expectation or wish of reciprocity. But, I have a hard time even considering I could be the person someone wants to help. I don’t know why, I just do. And, so as my friends made sure to observe to me on Friday, my dissertation data collection going badly – worse than I could have predicted – and the necessity for me to remain in Phoenix under Mom and Dad Two’s care and supervision, might be a life lesson for me to learn.  And the lesson might be to receive help without ability to neutralize.hipster swimming pool float for dogs

After all, Edie has her own pool boat float. I promise you she. does. not. love. The boat or her doggles.

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This morning is another one of those mornings. Up at 4. Not by choice. Laid in bed until about a quarter to 5, then decided to make an effort to capitalize on the early day. A few cups of coffee on the patio and several mosquito bites later, Edie and I are taking refuge in the air conditioning, listening to the din of the washing machine and dryer with laundry loads # 2 and 3 complementing Matt Simons streaming on the iPad. Grading is already complete for the week, I checked in with my class and all is seemingly well with my students; I will check on them again tonight, but for the day, my work is mostly done. Well, of course there is more dissertation editing. I know, right?! ALWAYS dissertation editing. It’s a grind, my friends! If I cannot interview, I can edit. I can transcribe I can work more on building the database to prepare for analysis. Seriously, only mega jerks get their PhDs! I swear it!
 manchester terrier mix, Oh edie
I have the house to myself for a couple of weeks and am celebrating my reunion with my solitude in rather appropriate fashion: underwear and a too-small tank top, the back of which is completely damp from my hair. Even though I aim to have no interpersonal interactions today and intend to not dress for anything other than the walk to the mailbox to send off a consent form for another participant for a skype interview, I  was overdue for a hair wash, so in the spirit of the early day, I even already managed to shower. If I were willing to face people, I almost might be adultable, today.
But I’m not.

I’m tired. Restless and agitated. Emotional. Tired. Too long spent, too much trying to do too many things at the same time. It’s possible multi-tasking will be the death of me.

Truth be told, I feel like I am walking through deep mud. I’m trudging, but with an exhaustive effort. Unable to make the progress and distance I aim for, and the exertion… well, without muck boots, it’s even more… muckier. I understand, now, why so many people leave their PhDs when they are so near the end. Before, I couldn’t understand how on Earth someone could make all the way through the pain of the course work, the heinous torture of comprehensive exams (that is time and energy in my life I will never get back and I am certain the stress I experienced during that two week period of time took years off the end of my expiration date), and walk away. Now, though, I can get it. Obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. Roadblock, puzzle, solve, solve, endure, patience, patience, perseverance, obstacle, regroup, redirect, over and over and over. It’s exhausting. I cried again, last night. From the emotional and mental fatigue. Perpetual disappointments. I’ll have a breakthrough and success, then another complication. A PhD is not for the weak or wearisome, I tell you, that much. I have been broken so many times throughout – and by – this damn degree… there’s a cargo ship’s volume of irony I see, right now, in reference to a PhD being a “terminal” degree.
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Some mornings require dance parties to get the day started. Monday mornings, especially. For me, “Monday” is only a concept, as I now have been unemployed for coming up on three months. I was not supposed to still be in Phoenix, by now, but few things in my PhD process have gone easily, including the latest quandary.

When you’re unemployed but still “working” – attempting order, focus, and optimism – but failing at most of those attempts because the data collection process is even more mind f-erry-ing than the darned proposal, forcing oneself to not give up on life and lay in bed crying a better part of the day has to be a conscious action. This morning’s conscious action is this little number, here, thanks to the ultra cute JT.

…if nothing else, if I ever get my final three participant interviews completed — THREE! That’s all I need THREE! If I ever get those completed, my dissertation will be the best personally edited publication, ever.

venn diagram phd proposal dissertation

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It’s now been six weeks since my last interview for my data collection. At a minimum — minimum — I need 12 individual interview participants and 4 focus group participants. I am a little over half what is required for me to move forward with analysis. I thought the proposal phase of the dissertation was difficult – oh, wait, it was. There is nothing about my PhD journey that has been easy. I’m amazed the trials haven’t broken me. I am, however, 30 pounds heavier, 22 of which I can directly attribute to 2014 and beyond.

I must keep my frustration in check and find the work on which to continue to focus. I cannot afford to go to into the headspace of anger and impatience. I am… so close to the end goal. I have to wait, and persist, and find the positivity through this grind and also keep my head in the mind frame focused on vetting participants and coordinating with administrators at my study site. When I complete the data collection, then I will be able to leave Phoenix, and take that next step. Next step toward analysis and forming conclusions to defend as final actions to obtain my doctoral degree, and next step toward my next step in my life. I don’t have a hard plan and all of that figured out, and that lack of design is intentional. For the first time, I don’t have a set plan, and that sort of anarchistic, nebulous construct might actually be exactly what I need to level set. Because my “plans” in the past haven’t necessarily gone bad, but I wouldn’t say they’ve gone exceptionally well, either. And, I need to remember the words of my dissertation chair, without whom, I don’t believe I would have been able to come this far: the dissertation is supposed to be hard, the data collection is challenging, and more importantly, I can do this.

latte; lattes and laptops

“By seeking and blundering we learn.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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