Friday, April 10, 2009

My Weekend Question Is Back!!

For the wise ones, how do you let go?

Y'all would not believe the things I obsess over at night while staring at the ceiling. One example, I showed pictures of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima and one of my students asked how far did it extend into the sky. I didn't know the answer off hand. I worried about that.

Okay, I shouldn't paint it as an isolated event that I went crazy over--the survey class I have this semester has a knack for missing the point, sometimes, and asking me all sorts of questions like that. My old advisor told me, "Tell them that's something that they can easily look up on their own."

But while I don't get a malicious feel from them, I am aware of the fact that because I am black, a woman, and young-looking, some students take it upon themselves to "prove" I don't know everything, and I'm not at a point where I can be as dismissive as advisor advises. :-)

Y'all would believe that I've blown this semester into the worst-thing-ever to the point that I can't even hear the students who tell me "This is my favorite class" or "I love when we do so-and-so" or "I never thought about that." A thicker skin, my female colleagues advise me, will grow.

In the meantime, I obsess.

Tell me how not to!


Joan Kelly said...

Oy, I don't know how to not-obsess about stuff like this in general. (At night, I at least have the help of a medication I'm on, which is for a specific condition but has the added benefit of regulating my sleep.)

I know you wanted to hear from wise people with answers, sorry. I felt like I wanted to put in a word of, "that sucks, I hate that," regarding students trying to "prove" you don't know everything. I saw that happen to more than one woman professor when I went back to school a few years ago - and this was at a school that prided (inaccurately in my view, but still) itself on being overtly feminist, anti-ractist, anti-supremacy/hatred of all kinds. And male students especially seemed to feel on a mission to put women professors in their place. They did get confronted for it (and certainly when my foul-tempered ass was in the room), but it still just bugs the ever-loving f-word out of me that it happens in the first place.

I'm trying not to have a total temper tantrum about it here at your blog, but seriously, why is it that these smug young effs aren't ever challenging the obnoxiously-claimed-in-the-first-place authority of the CRAPPY professors afoot? Grrr.

elle said...

And male students...

The first thing any female professor with whom i've shared my frustration asks, the very first thing, is "are these your white male students?"

Renee said...

Wish I could be of help to you but I am a Cancer and obsessing is what we do best. LOL at least I can blame it on my birth sign.

seitzk said...

This maybe? might? possibly? help. If it doesn't, I hope that someone else comes up with something constructive. Good luck to you.

This is what I do, sometimes, as a mental exercise for when I am stuck in a self-critical rut. You see, I occasionally obsess over things I did over ten years ago, that I can't change, and sometimes actually affects my sleep.

Because this usually happens when I'm trying to do something else, I deliberately take my priorities away from trying to sleep, and focus it on the thing I'm obsessing about. In a case I remember well, I was mentally recounting over and over again how I lost a beautiful bracelet of my mother' 2000. I interrupted the involuntary self-criticism and made it voluntary - turned a mental spotlight on it, so to speak. I decided to think about the whole thing once through, and repeat in my head the actual things I was thinking, like "I lost this bracelet at this time and this place, and in this way. I think this makes me untrustworthy and horrible, and I will never be able to replace this beautiful thing." I do not shirk from saying the horrible things that I am thinking to myself - that I am bad, and shiftless, etc. etc. THEN, I make a conscious decision right then to forgive myself - not forever, you understand, but right then. I have laid out all of the implications of what my feelings mean for myself and brought them out into the open, and then, asked myself to move on, JUST FOR TONIGHT.

The key to why this works for me, I think, is that it 1. helps me see that some of my reactions to things are out of proportion to the actual offense and 2. doesn't make me try to promise to some major spiritual/emotional breakthrough. I'm not pretending I won't think that way again, but airing it out ONCE, THOROUGHLY, and then putting it to rest FOR NOW.

Explicitly saying some of the things to myself that I am only half-thinking is really helpful - it's not always nice to hear, but it does help me realize that I don't always have emotions proportional to the offense.

Good luck, again, and I hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

If you find a way that helps (sans medication), please let me know! I lie awake at night worrying about everything from "did I pay that bill yet?" to "I wonder if anyone will misread that comment I left on X blog". It's awful!

In one of Spalding Gray's books he mentioned something about meditating on a sphere of green positive energy coming from his spine...I haven't perfected it yet...but if my concentration is good it helps (I am the world's worst meditator. I can not shut off my brain sometimes).

elle said...

Renee, my mom's a cancer too. I can see that!

seitzk, random babble, i'm going to try both of those starting tonight.

Kim said...

I'm fond of "that's a really interesting point that I'm afraid we don't have time to discuss. Perhaps you could email it to me? I'd be happy to send you a book list on the topic." It doesn't always work, but I've become better about it since a stalker student a couple of years ago who got so interested in proving me wrong that he would follow me around to do so. I've also found my students very receptive to "I don't know." Often, I put one of my students with a computer on the problem right there (snarky of me, since most of them are probably on FB or gaming). Some students have told me that a non-know-it-all prof is liberating to them - esp when we solve the problem together.

Your knowledge is not your self. Hard for us academics to separate that, but it's true.

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