Immersion, Extraction, Re-Centering

I spent the weekend at a conference for historians, and as I walked away from the conference hotel to catch the shuttle to the airport, I found myself thinking about the processes involved in this thoroughly enjoyable social and intellectual activity.

Most people with experiences of languages other than their first have a passing familiarity with the concept of immersion. We learn best how to speak a new language through immersion in a context in which we have the opportunity to speak that language consistently for a period of time.

Conferences offer a similar kind of immersion experience with reference to the “languages” of professional life. Since I attend a variety of conferences associated with higher education, it often takes me a bit of time to adjust to the cultural context of any particular context. Visits with family involve a similar immersion process; this time with reference to personal relationships.

One of the things I like best about myself is my ability to adjust to these kinds of immersion experiences. I think I did particularly well this summer when my mother’s needs led my to my unintentionally long stay in Texas. One of the things I think I could most improve is my ability to be so fully immersed in my own life. Finding an ideal level of such immersion is a recurring theme for me.

With conferences, extraction tends to come around the time I’m beginning to feel well immersed. These professional events tend to last only a few days, with the advantage that one tends to leave them wanting more. With family, especially now that I have reached the age when care for an aging parent has become more of a constant in my life, extraction tends to be more fraught.

Perhaps my experiences with conferences over the past twenty years will help me learn how better to manage both the process of extraction and the re-centering that is the ideal next stage. Centering has always been an issue for me, in part I think because I tend to engage so fully when I am immersed in a particular context.

In any context other than my own life, that is. I haven’t yet managed to achieve the kind of re-centering that I would hope for in the wake of my father’s death just over a year ago. I know that these things take time. And I am frustrated that the world expects a rapidity of adjustment quite out of proportion to the impact that loss of a parent and family restructuring actually require.

One of my goals at the moment is to experiment with the immersion, extraction, re-centering process over the next year. This meshes with associated goals about full engagement in my own life in order to use my limited time on this planet in fulfilling ways, as well as ones aimed at increasing my ability to focus on tasks in various sectors of my life so as to assure for myself the best, most well-rounded experience to look back on twenty years from now.

Posted in family, goals, home, work | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Day 2

I wish there were a principle opposite to entropy.

I chose that word for yesterday’s title because I can see the effects of entropy all around me.  The state of my home has deteriorated in way that surely is attributable to entropy.  Only heroic and persistent effort is going to make possible the level of digging out required.

A while back, I was considering the idea of accretion as the opposite principle I had in mind.  I suppose it’s possible that accretion of accomplishments in the form of clearing space might have some positive effect.

The trouble of course is that that entropy is a constant, whilst effort is sporadic.  Which means that a precarious equilibrium is the best state I can hope for.

Better than being buried in the detritus of life, I suppose.

Posted in goals | Tagged , | Leave a comment


The idea behind my creating this blog a while back was to develop a daily writing habit.  Family emergencies and traumas and dramas have intervened, and I take that to mean that the habit was not yet firmly enough established to survive them.

Beginning again has been a constant theme.  I’m doing it once again.

As I look around at the many projects–from my living space to my professional life to my Mom and the challenges of caring for her at a distance–I am struck by how utterly apt is today’s post on xkcd.

Except, of course, I already did that.  And I’m now embarking on the next step.

Posted in habit | Tagged | Leave a comment

Finding a Way Forward

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted either here or on my professional blog.  Part of the reason might be preoccupation with my day job.  Another might be the challenge of finding my voice again after a bout of depression.

And one thing that brings me back here is a new family concern, indications that my mom is probably losing ground cognitively.  Like the other ways in which my family and their needs crashed into my life a year and a half ago when my dad was diagnosed with Stage IIIC melanoma, the issues surfaced by Mom’s likely decline are common ones for families everywhere.  But the fact that a problem is generic makes it no less painful when it affects one personally.

As I have mentioned to several friends recently, I find myself deeply angry with my father over the ways that Mom’s problem now affects my life.  I suspected when I was spending extended time with my parents between October 2010 and March 2011 that they had been denying early signs of Mom’s decline, at a point when it might have been treated medically.  But when I tried to talk with Dad about it, he would say little.  “Mom’s weak,” he told me.  “It’s not going to be easy to take care of her.”  And his own aversion to change and unwillingness to face the possibility of a world without him in it kept him from attending to Mom’s future in ways that I had hoped he would.

In my ideal world, we would have had a plan for Mom to move into assisted living by now, a year after Dad’s death.  Our contract with whatever facility she chose would provide for her transfer to greater care as she needed it.  And there would have been no questions.

But Dad was a procrastinator.  He had a lot of great qualities, among them his frugality, which has assured that Mom will have an income for the rest of her life.  Unfortunately, income is only one of the many needs of an elderly widow. Dad surely knew this, as he and Mom and her sister and brother-in-law took care of Mom’s mother during her long widowhood.  And Mom’s financial security makes clear that he applied at least some of the lessons he learned from that experience.

But he was unable to take the next step, to plan realistically for a living situation that would take into account Mom’s “weakness” once he was no longer around to shield her from its implications.  Which leaves me angry and frustrated.

And as much as I miss Dad for himself and for my own sake, I miss him much more for Mom’s.

Posted in family | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Spring Break

Getting back to daily writing after having lost the habit for a while.  I’m working steadily on marking papers and spring cleaning and organizing the house.  Such a big pile to dig out from under.

I’ve scheduled tasks for every day, and I’m being sure to make a list of the tasks I complete each day.  Here’s hoping things continue to get better and better.

Posted in habit | Tagged , | Leave a comment


As I walk to my office on teaching days, I notice the crocuses sprouting again.

In my back garden, the witch hazel is in full bloom, and the daffodils are showing green sprouts.

And I am finding my voice again.

It must be spring.

Posted in writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I Wrote Today!

The past weeks have been pretty dark, and not only on my blogs.  Yesterday, I attended a presentation that inspired me to write this morning.

“Just around the corner, there’s a rainbow in the sky….”*


*Irving Berlin, “Let’s Have Another Cup of Coffee” (1932)

Posted in habit | Tagged | Leave a comment