The wheel(er) considers turning

“Yeah, I didn’t want to remind you about the equinox,” my spouse said.

“Right? Another thing on the to-do list,” I agreed. We mimed leaning our shoulders into the wheel of the year. “But I got it done!”

It’s autumn and my birthday and I’m struggling. Sleep has been especially hard. If I’m to have any chance at all, I have to turn off the screens, even Netflix, an hour and or two before bedtime and read something completely unrelated to work, as well as popping Unisom and melatonin–and while I love sinking into a book, the new routine makes the day feel even shorter. I’m ruminating about some old conflicts and challenging people in my work-life; self-doubt has blown back into my life with a vengeance. I wish I could stop THAT wheel and get off. I live less than a ten-minute walk from campus, which is a beautiful way to commute, but sometimes I get home and it still feels too close, looming in my imagination. It’s also inherently a job without solid boundaries. On what side of the line, for instance, does writing sit? Is criticism work and poetry play? What about now that I’m writing creative criticism?

I like many aspects of my job, and as I’ve been writing in a forthcoming column, that’s how they get you. Universities run on uncompensated enthusiasm; without it, they’d have to change the business model. For example, event programming is a kind of work that no one cares that I do, but I do it anyway because I learn so much from visitors and so do my students. I know people who approach it instrumentally: I’ll invite this famous person and they’ll blurb my book; I’ll invite that less-famous person and they’ll reciprocate by getting me money to read at their university. I don’t, although I appreciate that hosting someone can help build friendships. I tried NOT to book too many visitors this year, while I’m also doing the hard work of heading my department, but next week I’m running a serendipitous event: I happen to be teaching British poetry and a very good Anglo-Caribbean poet, Malika Booker, happens to be in the area visiting a nearby university (with the advantage that someone else is doing the visa paperwork, hurrah!). I’m excited about her visit and it’s great for my students. But it happens to coincide with some major administrative deadlines and is immediately followed by a NC/ VA mini-reading tour for Poetry’s Possible Worlds:

  • Flyleaf Books: Thursday September 29, 5:30 signing and 6 pm event, in Chapel Hill, NC with Rochelle Hurt
  • Pomegranate Books: Friday September 30, 7 pm, in Wilmington, NC with Rochelle Hurt
  • New Dominion Bookshop: Saturday, October 1, 7-8 pm in Charlottesville, VA: a reading and conversation with Remica Bingham-Risher

Good fortune, right? I am wildly enthusiastic about the richness of the week ahead. Also, yikes. Another bummer: I’m diligently barding around, as Frost called it, but the reprint of my book is still delayed. I was wrong about it having arrived at the distributor’s, although I finally got word on Friday that the boxes are on their way. I’m spinning through a pretty wide range of emotions most days.

October should be a little kinder to mind and body. Or perhaps I should say: I will make sure October is kinder to mind and body. I actually took a Saturday off in honor of my birthday–I’ve been revving on the hamster wheel for 7 days a week a long time now–and made time for a pretty walk and a fancy restaurant. I also found this little gift had been posted online: a sweet interview for DIY MFA with Angela Yeh. Here’s to gifts and brisk mornings and transformations.

3 responses to “The wheel(er) considers turning”

  1. Happy birthday dear Lesley! Yes, you deserved a day off, especially those blue sky fall days that are so rare here. I also have been having trouble sleeping this week, and have also overscheduled, but instead of my job, it’s all health stuff – eye appointments, new gynecologists (yikes), new hematologists (double yikes,) more fillings, an MRI, and a poetry festival upcoming. I need to learn to build down time into the schedule – I can’t be at a doctor every single day of the week, even if some of them are blessedly virtual.

    Liked by 1 person

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