Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Some Weeks are Challenging

I haven't had a good night's sleep in a few weeks, but this week seems to be off to the worst of starts. Midnight passes me by, while I work on projects for school, clients, and myself. I haven't been able to sleep well, despite being exhausted. Anemia is slowing my brain and body.

Today I have a dental appointment, my first since moving to PA. I've had some bleeding and receding of the gums, so I'm not going to take any chances. The anemia can be bad enough without more bleeding — and gums shouldn't bleed, anyway. After the dental appointment, it is the last night of summer school.

Yeah! I know the students are eager for classes to end so they can enjoy a few weeks of summer. I need a few weeks to work on school-related projects. I have to make some serious progress on a research paper and on at least one or two theoretical papers so I can keep moving ahead. I don't know if I could call it irony, but I need to prove I could succeed as an academic so I can feel okay about possibly leaving academia. More on that in the weeks and months ahead.

My stomach is making noises that the cats notice. Misty Kitty stares at me, like Mimi used to do. I know it is loud because Susan was 20 feet away in the kitchen and heard my stomach churning. Not a good sign.

Thursday is yet another internal scoping procedure. It will be the third time in a year that doctors have tried to locate the source of blood loss, trying to halt my anemia so I can recover and get back to feeling awake. At least there's no sodium citrate solution this time. That stuff is horrible. Fasting and drinking liquid is much easier on the system (and causes less blood loss). The doctor said he might be able to do a quick surgical procedure if he can spot any tears or ulcerations. Having had laser "ablation" before, at least I know my body recovers quickly.

Friday, I have an appointment regarding two big projects that have me excited. They are website projects, with all the challenges and thrills of fighting Web 2.0 technologies. I'm torn between my need to write and my need to learn more and more about technology. At least I can write about technology, which allows me to explain why I enjoy it.

Our work on the "old house" continues, as well. I'm already looking forward to selling our old house and having a bit more "us" time. Right now, I worry about getting the house on the market and sold before the start of winter. It will be a nice house; it is already much better than when we purchased it. Selling or at least renting the property will reduce some financial stress, too.

Now, I need a warm bath. I'll pretend it isn't already "tomorrow" as I hit send on this post.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Controlling the Future

One of the common traits between the autistic people and the "gifted" people I meet is a desire to control their futures. These people generally dislike feeling there is no control, no structure to the future. Structure seems to be an important aspect of their lives, even if from the outside some talented people seem disorganized.

I like to know what is going to happen a month, six months, or a year from now. Ideally, I'd have a plan for several years into the future. Therefore, it is interesting that I am not alone in this desire.

My short-term future seems to be planned, at least through the end of the year. My calendar and to-do list are up-to-date with teaching duties, research projects, freelance projects, and my creative writing. It will be a busy second half to 2012. But, at least I know what is supposed to be accomplished.

But, after December, things get all vague and blurry.

Because I don't know what is ahead, I get anxious. What will my job be a year from now? Will I be teaching and researching somewhere? Will I be working in private industry? Will I be writing and editing full-time? How will I be contributing to the household?

Some of my friends are able to relax and tolerate uncertainty, but I'd rather have a clear plan. It would be nice to be able to relax, just "go with the flow" and enjoy life, but I worry about the details.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Too Much To Do, Too Little Energy

I have a long, long list of projects in various stages of completion (or incompletion) that I want to finish. More pressing, I have deadlines for work and clients that cannot be ignored, either. Finally, my wife and I have a house to get ready to sell. Work on our new house can wait… it has to wait.

The projects that must be done first are those for the courses I'm teaching this summer. I have three or four more lectures to outline, stacks of papers to grade, and then there are two more weeks to teach — including final exams and papers. After summer school ends, I also have to develop an editing course for this fall, before mid-August. There's little "free time" for other tasks at the moment.

Like many people, I keep a "to-do list" to help organize myself, but it never seems to shrink. Why is that? Why are my time management skills and whatever plans carefully make insufficient to catch-up with the list?

Of course, the first question to ask is if my "to-do" list has that many rush projects. What is a "must" and what is only a "want" on the list? Working all the time isn't healthy, so setting priorities matters.

Okay, I can't delay school projects. Those deadlines are set by a calendar. I can't push clients aside, because they have deadlines, too. These leaves the things I want to accomplish… and those things keep getting delayed year after year after year.

My blogging schedule, which was supposed to help me post an article to each of my blogs every week, gave way during the last year. Other writing plans also fell apart, despite careful outlines and schedules. My master schedule just didn't seem to work as planned. Moving (twice), losing two pets, starting a new job, and medical issues kept interfering with my plans. Life gets in the way of schedules.

What's really frustrating is that each project on my to-do list should be a full-time job if I ever want to finish anything.

So, how can I cram 48 hours into the 12 to 18 hours I have each day?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Autism Research… Resistance was Futile

I don't want to offer too many details, as they are not yet important, but I am returning to autism-related research projects. For the last few months, I have been considering some questions about autism and I outlined some research concepts. Having thought I'd leave autism research behind when I started my new faculty post — which is focused on professional writing — I don't know why I felt compelled to outline autism research ideas, but I was.

Earlier this week, I was informed that I had received grant funding for an autism project related to writing. It was unexpected, to say the least, because it was a project I had only mentioned in broad outlines to faculty and administrators at my university. Still, I believe the project could have important implications for understanding autism, writing, and self-image.

So, I'm back to the topic I studied as a doctoral student: autism.

Because I have two research concepts outlined, my focus is now on completing those two projects by year's end (December 2012) and presenting my initial findings in the spring or summer of 2013. I am confident the research topics are worthy of publication, so I need to get down to the data collection this month.

I really did intend to focus on writing in general, and maybe some research into the rhetorical power of creative writing. But, the reality in academia is that you need a specialty to stay on the tenure track. While I would rather be a generalist, maybe that "generalist's breadth" will help me find new ways of thinking about autism and writing.

The reason I'm blogging about this is that I had become frustrated with the heat of autism debates, even when research was involved and the participants in the debates were/are academics. Tonight, I was skimming yet more heated arguments about a particular form of "writing" and autism. It can be disheartening, yet I have to admit that I fall on "one side or the other" of most debates about autism. I'm not sure you can research autism and not reach some rigid conclusions.

Why in the world would I want to conduct autism research knowing the unpleasant nature of the debates?

I'm asking myself that question and not coming up with a great answer. My only answer is that the questions I have deserve some attention and possible answers. (Granted, in research you rarely have definite answers, only likely answers based on statistics.) If I'm asking these questions, someone else likely has them, too. Maybe my research will be a small piece of something greater, or maybe it will simply reaffirm existing knowledge. Either way, I am compelled to seek data and develop conclusions.

So, resistance to research was futile. My mind couldn't resist pondering questions and seeking answers, especially about autism and writing.