The Sweet Solitude of House Sitting


I love house sitting. It feels much less mooch-like. I can wake up, resume former underwear wearing uniform, and stream music as loud as I want. This morning’s pick is the rather dreamy, streamy, and somewhat steamy, beats of Lost Frequencies ~ Are You With Me. Love it! When house sitting, I have a purpose, here, instead of merely occupying breakfast nook space with stacks of papers, books, computers, a screeching printer, and Edie barking. At. Every. Thing. Incessant barking.

I’m, essentially, living with a second set of parents. Might as well be, for I’ve known them since I was 13. While that was sufficient for me for the anticipated month it would take me to finish my data collection, I’m feeling the stress of how much longer I’m living here than was originally expected. I cannot accurately – sufficiently – express the deep, deep, gratitude and love I feel for being allowed to spend my final weeks in Phoenix in such a positive and supportive space…. But — I am ready to goooooo………..

Doctoral Writing research draft house sitting

I managed to condense six banker’s boxes’ worth of documents, software, and random papers into two. Which is progress I’m rather satisfied with for the morning. This afternoon, after drafting entries for my data collection journal to submit to my dissertation chair for review, I am hosting a shredding party. Party of two. Edie and me.
Why did I make the symbolic sacrifice of no wine until my data collection is complete? Well, with more luck than I seem to be due, I hope to have the focus group completed August 6. While I do not want to make the hard – and $$$ expensive $$$ choice it will be to get the focus group done. If I manage to facilitate a successful focus group, I can at least pack up and head to Alabama. The last focus group attempt did not go so well.

Diary of a Frustrated PhD Student | Morning Coffee Dates with Jackalope
Today is another day in PhD frustrations, wearing the cloak of self doubt, and swimming in the deep end of the pool of imposter syndrome. Let’s call it what it is: another entry in the “Dear” diary of a frustrated PhD student. 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. The task list of a working PhD student feels never ending.

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.
 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.
my own true north frustrated PhD student

Dissertation Data Collection Purgatory | Monday Morning Dance Party
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. In other words, I have been a not-good, not-bad PhD student, apparently, because I am stuck in a blackhole/wormhole hybrid nightmare AKA dissertation data collection purgatory.
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. This morning… is one of those mornings.

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. Today’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. Purgatory. And not the amazing ski destination. This Venn diagram sums it up pretty accurately.

venn diagram phd proposal dissertation

dissertation data collection purgatory my own true north


PhD Perseverance | Pushing Through Frustration and Blinding Overwhelm

PhD perseverance is… insane. It is intense. An exercise in exhaustion and mental power.

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.

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. This focus group might very well be the end of me. I already made two failed attempts because of inability to secure enough confirmed participants to show up.

When you get to this space of frustration and complete overwhelm, persevering through your PhD program will require putting that 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.

latte; lattes and laptops

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.

Which means, you can do this, too. Push through the emotions. Step away from your computer and your analysis. Put down the books. For a small while, at least. Go for a walk. Refrain from eating the box of crackers and the entire tub of hummus. If you need a big pour of wine, go for it. Your PhD is a test in perseverance.  

“By seeking and blundering we learn.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
phd perseverance my own true north

When Doors are Definitely Closed | Finding the Open Door
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. ~Helen Keller 

Today is her birthday. Ms. Keller’s. She also penned poignant messages regarding suffering, pain, and overcoming adversity. If anyone understands the struggle to finding the open door of opportunity, it’s surely her.

I left my employer 60 days ago, today.

Today is a sort of mini anniversary.

I guess….

finding the open door

I retained my faculty role, but that is part time and inconsistent, dependent on scheduling cycles. Planning and  set up my first weeks of unemployment to complete my dissertation data collection, I actually believed I would be able to accomplish so much more progress with my interviews with my open schedule. I did not factor an unexpected derailment in the form of obscure dates, paperwork filing, and administrative actions… and waiting and waiting.

What I did not factor in was the emotional fatigue of selling and donating almost all of my possessions. I had NO idea of how exhausting and disorienting the process of dismantling my Phoenix life while simultaneously attempting my data collection would be for me.

Hypothetically, I thought leaving my job would release the stress, but if anything, I feel more stress, I feel less grounded, I feel less certain about my next step, than ever (ever) before, and I am in adversity of my own creation.  I’m in veritable Purgatory of sorts, and while I know this will pass and I will be able to eventually progress beyond the present situation, that does not mean any part of what I am doing… is… easy.

Which is why I love this quote by Helen Keller so much.

We owe fidelity to finding the open door.

Abandon blindness and looking toward only what is not working – there IS a way out and through.

finding the open door