What I’m Loving Lately

books, daily life, dissertation, graduate school

I’ve been making some changes lately, swapping coffee for tea (most of the time) and my lunch-time sandwich for a lunch-salad. My work outs are different. I’m only running three times a week, with swimming, biking, and CrossFit thrown in. I quit working at home and now try to make it to the library every single day. I bought a new planner that I’ve loving. I’m trying to be consistent at practicing reading/speaking French again. Life is good.

Here are some things I’m loving right now.

Results tea from Tea Forte. Once upon a time, before I got hooked on coffee I was a real tea junkie. I even had a blog called “SocraTeas” because I was not a coffee person…yet. Then I hit that liquid ambition hard. With my stomach problems, I decided to mostly give it up, even though I still think and will forever think coffee is like a warm hug in a mug. I was drinking some rooibos tea from Kroger’s, and that was ok, but I figured if this was going to stick I would need to bring out the big guns. Results is delicious. I do not miss coffee at all when I drink it. It doesn’t seem to ever get boring (like rooibos) and I think it will be my standard morning drink for awhile.

RomWod. You might have noticed this addition to my workouts the last couple of weeks. I want to work on mobility, but sometimes I just need someone to tell me what to do for the day. These videos are usually only 20 minutes (aside for Thursdays) and they are effective. Bruno and I usually do them post-dinner when we are both super sore from our work outs and they usually help get me into the mindset of “ahh, the day is over.”

Working on campus. I am struggling with distraction lately. Being home has made it easier for me to say “ah, well I’ll just take the day off” and then I’ll sit on the couch on read…not Rousseau and not anything to do with an Introduction to the Constitution class. We decided we were going to start going to campus in May and for the most part it has worked out. I’m still struggling with desperately wanting to use the internet (I’ve already broke my goals to avoid social media during the week) and I suspect I still waste a lot of time internet surfing, but I definitely have gotten probably more done in the last two weeks than I normally do. So it is, at the very least, a step in the right direction.

Soup for breakfast. So here is something strange. When I was having all my problems back in March and April I was eating a really restrictive diet and a lot of bone broth. I started having soup for breakfast because I could not eat anything else, usually ground beef, bone broth, green beans, and plenty of olive oil. I’m still doing it, although I’ve been adding more veggies and the ground beef is grass fed, local, and (my favorite) raised stress free. This week is it ground beef, bone broth, carrots, turnips, and green beans. Its good and I feel satiated the rest of the morning.

The Historian by Elizabeth KostovaWhat I consider a relative miracle, Bruno and I managed to buy around 10 brand new, some hard cover books for less than $100 over the weekend. We bought them at some bargain book place and it was heaven. I was not expecting to find much, but I wanted everything. This book has been on my to-do read list for awhile. I’m not a Twilight person, but I love Dracula and I read Anne Rice in high school, so you could say I like the vampire stories. This book is so beautifully written, that I do not think one would even need to be a fan of horror to love this book. Sidenote: it explains academic life pretty well. There are some great lines about dissertation-writing.

Anything you are loving lately?

xo, Ali

 

Tri Not to be a Chicken

dissertation, goals, running, swimming, training, triathlon

Confession I: I used to be a total daredevil when I was younger. I think growing up on a dairy farm skewed my idea of “dangerous.” My sister and I would pile up hay at the bottom of a haymow and jump off. We would climb up the sides of silos to see who would go up the highest. We dared each other to grab hold the electric fence (explains a lot, ha!). I grew riding around fast as I could on four-wheelers (sometimes falling off).

Confession III: I’m a total chicken now. There are so many things I’m afraid of now. I’m scared of flying (Bruno had to practically hold my hand through the whole flight from Madrid to JFK in New York), scared of driving (I almost never drive), scared of large groups of people (hello, feeling suffocated), and scared of riding my bike (I had a bad bike accident several years ago, breaking my left elbow).

The day after my half-marathon I signed up for the Williams Bay Triathlon. It takes place September 22 in Williams Bay, Wisconsin on Lake Geneva. It is a sprint distance: 500m swim, 13 mile bike, and a 5k run.

This place holds a special place in my heart. My grandma grew up in Williams Bay. My great-grandma cooked for the mansions that line the lake. It was (is?) a popular summer vacation spot for Chicagoans. Legend has it my great-grandfather was an excellent athlete and would regularly swim across the lake and was even such a good hockey player that the Chicago Black Hawks wanted him to play for them. His mother wouldn’t let him go. All family legend of course. Lake Geneva is a family vacation spot, a place I grew up swimming in during summers. I look forward to swimming in the lake again and doing something small to honor my family history.

I’ve made a mixture of the Hal Higdon half-marathon running three days a week plan plus the Joe Friel beginner triathlon plan. My goal from here until I finish the Serious Series in early August is to run three times a week, bike twice, and swim twice. After the Legend half, I’ll focus more intently on brick training, etc. I am excited to switch things up and I am excited to finish off the season with something different. I can maybe count on one hand the people I know of who have done triathlons (I think like three people, maybe?).

I only have a mountain bike, the same one from my accident. It is rickety and feels a bit like a death trap (oh hi, fear!). I have plans for replacing it before the triathlon, but it will have to wait until the end of the summer (lest I fail the Dave Ramsey commandments of fiscal responsibility). But for now, I put an odometer on my bike and a helmet on my head and as of last week have been riding around town.

And it is nice. I honestly never thought I would like cycling. Even when I would go to and from work on a bike (see above about being scared to drive), it was kind of a drag. But I think now, because I have an end goal, a plan. I find myself looking at bikes, researching bikes, and talking about bikes. I work in the archives of an academic who was known for his cycling and I became very excited finding a letter on how many miles he cycled a year, advice for the newbie cyclist, and buying your first bike. I never expected this interest to happen, but it did.

But it is also a little scary. I think I’m still afraid from my accident. I get nervous about going downhill, like to the point that I probably can’t really take advantage of it because I get that heart racing “it’s too fast” feeling and start tapping the breaks. It is both exhilarating and terrifying. Every time I go out I become a little braver.

And that is what I most appreciate about this new training plan, it really truly shakes things up. It is not just longer (which I’m not actually sure if my body would hold up to right now, to be honest), but it requires two different sports, one of which I can barely do (bike), and one I haven’t done in over a decade (swim). It forces me to be brave with my biking, brave with cutting down running from four to three days a week (yeah, I know that four is barely any and I barely ran over 20 miles a week anyways, but still, different for me).

Even more, it forces me to be brave in changing my goals. I always wanted to go longer with running. I still do, but I think sometimes I want to do too much too fast (I had a solid seven mile run! Let’s look at 50 mile training plans!). And I’ll say it again and again and again. That dissertation is number one priority. I have to do things that do not get in the way of my being able to think and work well most of the day. Sometimes being brave is just being honest with where you are.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty excited about training right now and I am definitely not going to be a chicken.

xo, Ali

 

Me vs. the Siren Call of the Internet

daily life, dissertation, goals

I have found my biggest struggle in writing my dissertation has been the siren call of the Internet. I don’t even think about it. I’ll be stuck, thinking of the next word I want to write in a sentence or how I want to phrase a certain argument, and it is like my fingers habitually type in “Facebook” or “Instagram” or “Michigan trail races.” I’ll be on a roll, listening to some tunes, cranking out some words and next thing you know I’m looking at a shirt on Everlane fantasizing about having a daily uniform so I don’t have to think about what to wear everyday. I know I’m not alone on this. Cal Newport addresses the problem of social media and the internet in Deep Work. He recommends quitting.

But productivity is not the only thing that I think social media takes from me. I will just be going about my day la-di-da and I’ll check facebook — I’m about to admit that I’m not the most rational person in the world — and someone will be wrong on the internet (gasp!). I’m not one to facebook philosophize, but I will think about it. I think about what I would say, you know, if I were the type of person who wanted to get in political arguments on facebook. I will ruminate. I will check to see if anyone has said what I think should be said. It takes mental space. Space that could be devoted to Rousseau, planning this class I’m going to teach in the fall, or just feeling peaceful.

The funny thing is is that I try really hard to show up for other people. If we are out to dinner, out for drinks, or out for coffee, you have my attention. I will probably not pull my phone out. But when it comes to my own life, I am easily distracted. Which I guess means, I don’t show up. Stirring the pot while looking at Instagram? Done it. Taken a relaxing bath with phone in hand? Done that too. Sat outside on the porch to read a book and drink some tea, but ended up looking at my phone for most of the time? Guilty.

And so this month I deleted Instagram from my phone. I’ve had facebook off my phone for awhile now. For the past week or so, after dinner, I’ve been turning my phone on airplane mode. This has not always been successful. Last night, I spent a good amount of reading time googling “crossfit and running” (a very contentious issue!). Today, I think I checked Instagram twice on my computer. I’ve typed in facebook out of habit. When I should have been doing the readings for the class I’m going to teach, I spent a lot of time looking at articles on dirtbagging (our rent is up in mid-June, but we cannot move into our new place until July, so technically “homeless” for two weeks. I’m trying to convince Bruno we should dirtbag during them. He is not persuaded). So, I have yet to overcome my need for internet distraction, but I do think I am making improvements.

Ultimately, the objectives are: no Instagram or Facebook during the week, only on weekends. Weekends only. Turn off the phone after dinner. No more googling things when I should be working. More peace. Write and read more pages, less screens. Less getting mad at the internet. Less trying to persuade Bruno we should be dirtbags this summer.

May is the month of me vs. the Internet.*

xo, Ali

*I get that this is a blog on the internet. But I think I’m being productive here! This entire post was done without searching around on the web, a victory in itself.

 

 

Dissertation Update

dissertation, graduate school, Uncategorized

I started chapter four yesterday. Or is it five? I turned in chapter three a couple weeks ago, but with the craziness that comes with the end of the semester by advisor will not be able to get to it. I told him that I thought it might be better as two chapters, but that I needed a break from working on it. I tell you this. I can talk your head off on Rousseau and Christianity right now. And right now, I need a break.

I asked if I could just start the next chapter instead and return to chapter three or chapters three and four, and was given the a-ok. So I’m back to writing and have about a thousand words written (and approximately ten thousand more to go!). I appreciate that it can be a total mess and imperfect, whereas with chapters three/four, I was in the state of “will it ever be good enough?” When I start something new, I can just turn on some tunes, open some Rousseau, and go. It feels good.

So far, the goal, the plan, the ideal, is to have chapters three, four, and five done, turned in, and approved by the end of this summer. That leaves one chapter left with a year of additional funding. I think I can handle that.

xo, Ali

A Good Day

daily life, dissertation

I have been up since around 4 this morning, working on edits for my third dissertation chapter, edits for a professor’s article, and a little bit of French for good measure. It is after lunch and I am still wearing what I slept in — after I type this up, I am going to go for a run, head to campus and sign some papers (because I have a fellowship for next year!), and crank out about another three hours of editing for my chapter which will be it until Thursday — because we are driving to Connecticut tomorrow. The plan is to have very little to do on the chapter, beyond one last read through, on Thursday when I plan on doing it in no matter what. 

I like days like today. They do not happen much, these moments like I feel like I am in the zone. I may still be in these ridiculous looking leggings that were hand-me-downs (confession: I don’t get Lularoe, plain black leggings for life), but I am mostly packed for our trip east, food is in the crockpot, and editing is going well. Really, that is all I can ask for.

It is strange what can make for a good day. I’m going to go enjoy it.

xo, Ali

 

 

 

A “Winning” Mindset

dissertation, graduate school, running

When it has been awhile since I’ve turned anything in or when it has been awhile since I’ve gotten any “you’re on the right track” type of feedback, I start to get antsy. I mean, I’m always antsy and anxious, but even more so than usual. Maybe some irritability will crop up or dramatic exclamations of “I’m a failure!” What did I fail? To be determined. Usually around this time, I’ll start saying things to Bruno like: “I need a win.”

It does not matter how many times I have “won” (in whatever way that can mean in graduate school). Within a few days, I need another opportunity to “prove myself” because I’m still not sure, even though I’ve been here for five years, passed my classes, passed reading comprehension in ancient Greek and French, passed comps (it was brutally ugly, but I passed) and have had two chapters approved and I still do not think I’m intelligent enough for grad school. And I constantly have to work make sure someone “qualified” can let me know whether I am intelligent enough or whether I am not, because none of the above “proves” it once and for all.

Meanwhile, this is a total joy-sucker and a total sucker-punch to the idea that learning is good for its own sake. I mean, I truly believe it is the best way of life and I would rather be here than making six figures with health insurance elsewhere. What is the point of anything if I can’t spend all day with Rousseau, Plato, Hegel, Hobbes, and so on reading, thinking, writing, etc?

And yet, in my day to day life it becomes much less about learning for its own sake and more about getting that chapter approved because someday I need to finish this dissertation, so I can get those three little letters appended to my name, so that I can get a job, so that I can get health insurance, and blah, blah, blah. I understand the need to be pragmatic, but there are times where it can be crushing, where I forget it is only the means to the end. The day becomes less about what I learned and more about productivity. The word count basically my little star of approval when I can’t get it from anywhere else. You wrote a lot today. Today mattered. Or, you didn’t write a lot today. Today was a waste.

I have not figured this out yet, how to separate the joy of learning with the practical need for affirmation, but moreover for the more pernicious need for affirmation. I have been trying to figure out how to remove that feeling for the last five years of graduate school and I’m not sure that I am any closer than I was today in 2018 than I was in 2013 when I first started.

Amelia Boone, 3x World Toughest Mudder Champion, had a great Instagram post the other day. She wrote, “I spent so many years – maybe most of my life so far – doing things out of fear (racing included). I thought that, somehow, enough awards and accolades and wins would make me happy. That, at some point, I’d be satisfied. But it was only when I accepted that these would *never* be enough did I finally start to feel full.”

I want to apply that mindset to graduate school, to the learning life, because it is true. No amount of A’s, passes, honorary societies, chapter approvals I get ever seems to be enough. I have not “arrived,” because I never will. And as much as I may say that I need a “win” there will never be one final “win” to end all wins, that fully declares “I’m smart enough to be here and certifiably not a moron.”

I’m not sure how someone goes about the acceptance Boone describes, but I am willing to give it a go.

xo, Ali

 

 

Favorite Things : March 10 – 16, 2018

dissertation, favorite things

Well. I’m caught up. I’ve started the third set of edits and hopefully will be well on my way to get this chapter turned in by the end of the month. I still feel anxious (what else is new?), but I’m hoping that as I get closer and closer to turning the chapter in that anxiety will eventually recede.

Not much on the docket for this weekend. I run twelve miles tomorrow and some fellow graduate students are having a St. Patrick’s Day party in the evening. Still not drinking, we bought some Q ginger beers (still kind of festive, get it…”ginger” beers…ok, I’m still twelve) and I’m making some cookies to bring.

And without further ado, here are this week’s favorite things:

Long, but poignant essay on privilege.

These pictures make me want a skateboard.

Not a vegan, but I was still interested in this list.

Also, not a fan of baseball, but this article on Ichiro Suzuki was fascinating.

Definitely worth reading and thinking about: submissive sex in the age of #metoo.

Usually I wake around 4am — an old article on why that is the most productive hour.

The always wonderful Ann Patchett on baking and retraining your shrinking attention span.

If you read anything on this list, read this one: life after cancer diagnosis.

Have a great weekend!

xo, Ali

 

 

 

 

 

An Hour of Reading a Day Keeps the Anxiety Away

books, daily life, dissertation, graduate school, Harry Potter, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, reading

I usually wake up around 4am. That is, the alarm goes off at four. I lay in bed for a bit, but I’m usually out in the kitchen by 4:15-4:20ish. Bruno usually prepares coffee the night before, so all I have to do is press the “on” button. I chug two glasses of water. I take vitamins.

And, then, I grab a mug of coffee. I set an hour timer on my phone. I sit on the couch. I open a book and read. I do not read Rousseau. I do not read anything related to my Ph.D. I read whatever I damn well please. I’ve been doing this for over a year now.

After I took my Ph.D. comprehensive exam I had a really hard time with stress, like more than normal. Like I have mentioned before, stress manifests itself physically for me so I had high blood pressure, an ulcer, insomnia, and panic attacks. Not to mention, comps was not exactly the highlight of my graduate school experience. Pressure may be a privilege, but I have never been at my best when the stakes are high.

I missed reading for the sake of reading. For the last four years, I mainly read only what was required for class or for a paper. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I read for school. I would not be doing this if I did not truly love it, but around comps I reached a point where I could not separate the fear of failure with reading political philosophy. I feel much better now, but I do not think it would have happened if not for my daily reading habit.

Knowing that I would likely not get it done in the evenings — that is typically “Bruno time” — I began getting up an hour earlier. I began with re-reading the Harry Potter series which I have not read for years and years despite being a favorite. It was comfort fiction, like eating my mom’s chocolate chip cookies or taking a warm bubble bath. I continued from there to Mischka Berlinski’s Fieldwork and then Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I re-read favorite classics like Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and discovered new one’s like Anatole France’s The Gods Will Have Blood. Somewhere I had forgotten that I’m someone with lots of interests, not just Rousseau. Case in point: The hot topic of books I read last year was on explorers and conquerors of the Amazons last year (this one on Theodore Roosevelt and the Amazon River is on my shelf now. The obsession continues!).

As the year has passed, I have actually transitioned to reading books more related to my field. Right now I’m reading Homer’s Iliad for the first time — I know, I’m practically an uneducated barbarian. I have two books on liberalism and freedom of religion that I’ve started and yes, sometimes, I even read Rousseau — but only the autobiographical works and Julie!

The benefits of reading in the morning have been practical as well as good for my mental state. It is hard for me to drag myself out of bed to work out or to work really. I have tried to start writing right away in the morning and I just don’t like it. I like easing into my day not rushing into it. That I get to reward myself by getting out of bed so early in the morning with some coffee and a book and generally just some quiet time to myself usually means that while I am slow at getting out of bed, that snooze button is almost never pushed.

And by the time I do go for my run or start writing or whatever the morning has planned, I already feel replenished not only from a good night sleep, but a good book too.

xo, Ali

 

 

Blitzkrieg (Bop!) Dissertation Catch-Up

daily life, dissertation, graduate school, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I hate feeling behind. We have only two more days until the Ides of March (beware!) and I am already five days behind my writing schedule, not to mention my plans for reading too. I blame last week. But I struggled with keeping up with my schedule in February too and I know I do not expect too much of myself — quality over quantity.

I’m at that point in chapter writing where it isn’t new anymore. And the more time that passes the more anxious I am beginning to feel. I have fifty-four pages of writing, but none of it feels like it coming together. I’m very close to finishing the second draft (assuming the chapter will end up around sixty pages), but I’m afraid I lost the thesis thread. I just want to get it done and turn in it so I can have that day or two of “ah.”

So with all that going on, I went to noon mass and adoration today. And while I entered with a lot of dissertation anxiety, I left with a plan. One might call it divine inspiration.

I have am declaring all-out war on the third chapter. This is a blitzkrieg. Like my “let’s just do this” weekend miles, so I could get my tenth week of consistent running in, I’m writing until I’m caught up. That is, by March 15, I not only want that second draft done, but I went to be onto the third.

This chapter will be turned in by the end of the month. And hopefully it will be even decent too.

Now take it, Dee Dee! Hey ho, let’s go!

xo, Ali

 

Monday Miles : March 5 – 11, 2018

dissertation, monday miles, running

Well, I was not so sure how this week was going to go. If you asked me on Friday, even, I would have said the miles just were not going to get done. I had been having stomach problems for over a week, visits to the doctor, the hospital, a migraine on Monday, and perhaps worst of all, almost no dissertating was done. C’est pas vrais! 

Friday afternoon, I found out the ultrasound was all clear and my bloodwork showed that I was getting over a virus. I did not (and still do not) feel that great, but I was no longer yacking. I felt unbelievably anxious and grumpy. Around four-ish on Saturday, I though I was just going to do what I could to make it happen. I did Wednesday’s 5 miles on Friday, Saturday’s 11 miles on Saturday, and Thursday’s 3 miles on Sunday. It was not pretty. But it got done.

saturdayrun

Saturday Pre-Run Power Pose.

 

3 / 5 : Nothing, nada, zilch. Not necessarily a recovery day, though. I did spend the day chasing down my two toddler nephews.

3 / 6 : 3 miles. IT Band & Core.

3 / 7 : Where everything begins to go downhill.

3 / 8 : I’m dying, Egypt. Dying.” Also, so much time in the walk-in clinic, the hospital, just waiting, waiting, waiting.

3 / 9 : 5 miles on the treadmill. Even though it was fine out, the treadmill just felt safer. This was fine. It happened. 3 x 10 push-ups, 3 x 10 assisted pull-ups, IT Band, and Core.

3 / 10 : I took some time to work as much on my dissertation as I could in the morning and I did something I never do. In fact, I kind of hate doing. I ran my long run in the afternoon. I told myself I only had to do six and could decide from there. Two miles in, feeling bloated, heavy, just blah, I was certain that I was not going to be able to do it. Well, guess what, I did it. It happened. I felt like a walrus the entire time because I felt so bloated and, frankly, exhausted the last two miles, but man, I was in a good mood the rest of the night. 11 miles in average 10:17 mile pace — which, for feeling like hell, felt pretty good to me.

3 / 11 : 3 miles. Slowly trudging around. I was sore. Yoga with Adriene for Back and Hips.

This week was a reminder to quit being so precious. Things don’t have to happen exactly how they are supposed to (i.e. running in the morning, not afternoon) do to get my runs in. I need to (must) apply the same thing to dissertation writing.

xo, Ali