Work, Not Work -- It's All the Same

 Some days I don't work. 

As a result, nothing of the dozen projects I need to finish (or start) get done.

Other days, I work.

 But the result is that none of the dozen projects I need to finish (or start) get done. 

Work, don't work. It all ends the same.

I've been trying to figure out why nothing seems to get done no matter how much or how little I work and I have no answers. I do know that my brain is a mess -- I can barely string more than a few sentences of a thought together before it starts to break down. I try repeatedly to summon up something of the ideas I've been pondering for years to put them to page and all I get are fragments.

I am surrounded by the fragments of my projects -- piles of unread or half read scholarship and primary sources, partially written chapters and other documents, partially translated texts, unfinished windows in the kitchen, unfinished ceilings, unstained stairs I ripped the carpet off 3 years ago, half painted walls in the entry of the house, a light fixture unboxed but sitting in pieces. I hardly even notice that one anymore. 

Part of the issue lies, of course, with the ADHD and the difficulties of keeping myself on task --except when I hyperfocus, though what I hyperfocus on is not really within my control. My list of active symptoms is long:

  • missing details and becoming distracted easily

  • trouble focusing on the task at hand

  • becoming bored quickly

  • becoming confused easily or daydreaming frequently

  • seeming not to listen when spoken to directly

  • ​​having difficulty following through on tasks or assignments

  • losing or forgetting things or events

  • fidgeting or squirming

  • talking nonstop

  • saying inappropriate things without thinking

  • being impatient or rude

  • interrupting or butting into other peoples’ conversations

  • having difficulty waiting your turn

Not all of these impact my writing and work, but most of them do. I look at the list and I wonder how I ever got anything done (or how I have any friends). But hyperfocus properly aimed is truly an amazing thing.

Another reason is just mental exhaustion. Between the overwork of doing both my professor position and museum director position for 5 years and the intense uptick in requests for my time by...everyone and the strangeness that is COVID life, I am just spent. Sometimes I don't sleep well and when I don't sleep well, I can't think well. Somedays I sleep like a champion, but my energy is wasted away in I don't even know what, but it usually involves driving my child to some tournament or sports event or something. Maybe it is announcing the high school field hockey games? Or helping install new floors at the fencing club. My time is rarely my own.

Another reason may be futility. Of the 5 things I have finished since 2019, only 2 of those are even close to seeing the light of day currently. Both of those come out in separate volumes in December-ish. The other 3, 2 of which are to my mind the best scholarship I have written to date and 1 of which (my piece on race and metics) is one of the most important things I have ever written, are languishing with editors. One of them I have not received even comments from the editors on in the 18 months since I submitted it. Another has been revised and reviewed by the press, but is waiting on work on the intro and some of the other chapters. The third I never received feedback from the editor, but it went out to review also like 18 months ago and I have not heard anything since. It's like the best stuff I have ever written has gone into the wind never to be seen or heard from again.

It really does make it hard to put words to page when there seems to be no hope anyone will ever read the words you've written.

Its likely a combination of all of these things that makes working and not working all the same in the end. No matter how much I work, I get nowhere, nothing gets done, or it gets done and goes into a void.

The other issue may be that there is so much work that I have no way to devote myself singularly to any thing and so the fragmenting of my brain continues even in times of supposed concentration and I can't write about poverty because thoughts about colonialist fashion trends keep intruding, all while ancient Greek sources on women and centuries of ideas of race and ethnicity swirl around in my mind like a hurricane.

To try to focus on each project, I go back and read things past Rebecca has written on the topic. It helps for a few minutes, but then I either realize that these things are themselves not yet published and seem like they never will be (but I can't duplicate them or, I guess, even quote them or cite them as they languish with the various editors). I also wonder how past Rebecca ever wrote anything so concise, effective, or...finished.

I haven't even been able to finish writing a blog post in months. I've started three. Only this one -- which involves no real work other than typing my fragmented and fractured thoughts -- is close to completion.

So, work, don't work. At this stage, my results are the same. Most days, I wonder why I even try.