Sunday, July 15, 2012

An Eclectic Review of Recent Scramblings

My computer died the day after my paper was due. I was expecting it actually because it's been having power problems for months, and I just kept praying (literally) that my computer would survive my dissertation. Which it did, very kindly. I think it will be mostly fixed with the purchase of a new power cord, but typically, I haven't gotten around to it yet. Thus my jubilant facebook post post-dissertation (using words such as "hello world" and "reemergence") was mostly deceptive. My tangible world saw a reemergence - I have been far more social than I had been between January and June - but the online world...through blog, facebook, and email...has had to do pretty much without me. I'm sure it has been surviving just fine.

Nonetheless, I am stealing a few moments on Dave's computer to write what has to be an eclectic post about various facets of life. It has been 15 days now since the day my dissertation was due, and a full three weeks since I submitted the dissertation to my department and the Cambridge bindery. I can't describe very well what that felt like. It was mostly terrifying. The word that kept running through my head was "impetuous." I was so determined to submit the paper by the evening of the 24th that I didn't even read through my entire dissertation before hitting the send button. I had read through it a lot throughout the weekend, yes, but I had always stopped to make changes and sometimes those changes were extensive. As a result, when I should have felt nothing but relief and been doing nothing but grinning stupidly from ear to ear, I just felt rather foolhardy and, like I said, impetuous. I kept thinking, "I had another full week! Why couldn't I have come home from work on Monday, read through my paper once carefully and thoroughly, and then have sent it off to the publishers!" Because I had already told everyone in the world that I would be done before Monday. And because the bindery only accepts orders on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And because I wanted so, so badly to be done. I still haven't read my paper over since I have submitted it. I'm still hoping desperately that there isn't some glaring error on page 32 of 50.

Don't worry; the feeling of fool-hardy impetuousness wore off in a couple of days. And then I felt a delicious freedom and began delighting in all of the things I could finally do again. Top of the list: read a book that was NOT written in the 1600s (or, to be fair, a book that was written about books written in the 1600s). I had started the Hobbit (which I had never read) while I was in Utah for my sister-in-law's wedding a couple of months ago and I finally got to finish it. Fabulous book! I've been devouring whatever book I can get my hands on ever since. I also looked forward to having friends over, to going out to lunch with work friends instead of remaining at my desk to work furiously on my own paper for an hour, to playing my flute, painting, cleaning (funny that I would miss having control over my house), making dinner for my husband, having Saturdays to get out of the house and do anything!, watching movies, going swimming.

On the other hand, I did pass through a phase of loss. I missed having something so completely worthwhile to work on. I missed feeling like my time was spent doing something fascinating, meaningful and important. I began to wonder how to measure the productivity of my days.

Thankfully, my new-found freedom is not overly aimless. There were two particularly important things that loomed even after my dissertation was finished: buying our first house and preparing for our first baby. The house-buying process has gone on and on. Poor David is absolutely sick of it, and I don't blame him. We started looking at the very beginning of May and Dave has had to carry the brunt of the online house hunting, the in-person house viewing, the number crunching, the paper signing and the decision making. I wrote about our first house previously on this blog and after the inspection fell through and we backed out of that contract, we thought about or actually proceeded to place offers on several other houses. One house had twenty offers already, at least six of which were all-cash offers $20,000 above asking price. There was no way we could compete with that. We offered on another house and did everything we could do to persuade the owners and their Realtor to accept the offer (we even sent a personal note with the offer describing why we liked the house and would care for it and raise our family there) and we lost to a cash investor who had never even seen the property. The first Saturday after I submitted my dissertation, David and I spent five hours driving all over the valley with our Realtor looking at 8 different houses. I think we killed our poor Realtor (who is a wonderful, upper-middle class, upper middle-aged woman) because by the time we were finished with the eight houses, it was probably 120 degrees outside and so, so hot. We owe her one for that marathon! We are about 95% of the way to owning one of the houses we looked at that day, but it has been a tense, frustrating two weeks as we have tried to out-maneuver the other bidders, waited for an appraisal that was most likely going to come back far lower than our bid, waited for the owners to grant us an extension to the inspection period or risk going without an inspection at all, and watched the 30-day-notice deadline for leaving our apartment complex at the end of our lease creep steadily closer. After the disappointment of our first home, we have tried to stay as detached as possible from this one. I have only seen it once (on our marathon day) and don't know a lot about the house - like where the washer and dryer are located (on the important end) or whether the house has a popcorn ceiling (on the less important end). Thankfully, the house passed the appraisal and we are now in the underwriting period. I think David has decided he's never going to buy a house again, but thankfully, it looks like this process for this little first home of ours is finally coming to a close. Once the underwriting is complete, we will be closing on August 3rd, leaving two weeks to move-in before the end of our lease and a month and a half or so before the baby comes. 

Speaking of baby, it has finally hit me. It's not easy to ignore the first six months of pregnancy, so it's not that I was completely oblivious, but a few days after my dissertation was submitted, I was walking through my living room and looking at some of the baby girl things my friend had given us. I suddenly felt a sense of panic and realized that in less than three months, my entire life would be changing dramatically. I felt extremely unprepared for the delivery that was quickly approaching, for the temporal care I would have to provide a newborn, and for the emotional strength that I would be required to exhibit. We have started working on the temporal care aspect - my baby showers here in AZ and possibly UT are now planned (mostly) and my wonderful, wonderful sisters-in-law sent me a long list of items and commentary in order of "must-haves." I feel so overwhelmed by the amount of products that are available and completely clueless about how to make informed decisions about what will be best for our family. The advice of close loved-ones has certainly helped instill (a bit of) confidence. Still, Dave and I headed out last night to start a baby registry (only because I was becoming tired of the shocked looks I received when I admitted we hadn't registered anywhere) and we both stood gaping at the aisles full of millions of types and brands. How is ignorant me supposed to decide between (for one particularly illustrative example) wide bottles with more natural nipples, standard bottles that are easier for baby to hold, drop-in bottles which reduce bubbles, or angled bottles for upright feeding? I have absolutely no idea what I will prefer or what my baby will like best. Isn't the point of a baby shower to bring all the experienced mothers together to provide the things that their experience has found to be best? Registering feels completely counter-intuitive to me. 

I realize that complete emotional preparation for the arrival of a baby is impossible, but it has been amazing how much it has helped to be done with my schooling. I am looking ahead to the end of September now, instead of to the 1st of July. I am grateful for this time to prepare. It is shocking to me that I came back from England almost exactly one year ago. Time has flown - I feel like it was just yesterday that I was saying my goodbyes there and meeting Dave here. I can't believe that that chapter of my life is over. I feel grateful for that year I had in England, hard as it was in many ways. I feel so grateful that I am back and that I was able to complete all of research and writing here in Arizona. God bless the people who have spent hours and hours scanning primary archival documents from seventeenth-century England into online databases. I could never have done it without their diligent work and I have been very, very aware of how easy my research has been compared to the generations of scholars who have spent most of their lives in dusty library archival rooms carefully turning brittle pages in search of prime material. I loved my topic, I felt very good about the work that I submitted and I feel enriched by the things I learned and the conclusions I made. I feel blessed to have made the friends that I did in England and know that I am a wiser and better person because of the experiences I had while I was there. I am looking forward to the new chapter of life that is beginning - the favorable outlook doesn't change the underlying terror I feel when I think of undertaking motherhood, but I am working up a stalwart feeling that I hope will see me through as successfully as during my difficult, but absolutely wonderful, time in England.