Classically Inclined

September 8, 2022

Update on the Summer Rest Project

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:35 am
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Back in June, I posted about the Summer Rest Project, my Cunning Plan to get enough rest over the summer to be actually ready to go for the autumn term (which, as you may recall, is A Lot and indeed is already living up to expectations). So, how did it go?

Well, I think it’s fair to say that there were mixed results. First of all, a couple of things I didn’t account for:

  • The plan of ‘do this much a week’ didn’t really work when it encountered Proper Annual Leave, which I hadn’t anticipated. The list of things I’d set out to do worked alright for a regular working week during the summer, but not for being on holiday. I would end up with a grid that looked as if I’d had no rest of any kinds at all, but that didn’t capture all the other sorts of things I had done which definitely counted as ‘being on holiday and not at work’ (including reading. So much reading of trashy fiction).
  • Orange and red heat advisories really don’t go well with weekly exercise goals. Especially when, like me, you are a very much a novice runner trying to get the hang of it. I did one run in 25 degree heat. (nowhere near as hot as we did get) and that was a terrible idea which got abandoned early. I don’t feel bad about deciding not to do things that actively endanger my health, but equally, it did mean that the relevant bit on the tracker looked a bit sad.
  • The usual problem of early enthusiasm, long-term drop-off – exacerbated by both of the above. That is, when things already seemed to be getting off the rails, it wasn’t as easy as I would have liked to have paid attention to the other parts of rest – which were the ones that could have done with the attention!

That said, some things did work well. I think I managed half an hour of lunch break over the full period (to the end of August), which is pretty amazing given how difficult that time feels to find even now, at the beginning of the September. I also enjoyed getting outside for lunch (weather permitting) which meant using our patio properly – it sounds a small thing, but it’s not a thing I’ve always been as good at as I should have been. Even though playing the piano and centering prayer were the ones that fell off the radar, I did actually do some of them for the first few weeks, and that’s surely a win.

So, a couple of take-aways. I want to try this again next summer, but without the exercise element (which I’m going to be working on throughout the year anyway, as everyone who follows me on Twitter and has read me grumbling about the Couch to 5K plan will know). The things I seem to have trouble making time for are the bits that, for want of a better word, feel really self-indulgent – that is, that need me to take some time to sit down and do something on my own that isn’t easily interrupted and requires me to claim some space (unlike reading, which can be broken off if needed and doesn’t really affect anyone else in the immediate vicinity. Unless it’s a really funny bit). Those are the bits that really need the deliberate attention next time around.

Finally – do I feel more rested? Well, this isn’t a great week to ask me that question because there is a lot going on, and last week’s bank holiday has meant that I’ve had a fortnight of zero to 60mph learning curve combined with all the back to school chaos, and I’d quite like a lie-down now. That said, September has been marked in my diary as Crunch Month for some time, so it’s not actually a surprise, and it will calm down. Underneath all of the surface ‘ALL THE THINGS’, I do feel like I took things easier over the summer, slowed it down, and had a change of pace; that’s one of the reasons why re-entry is feeling quite so much like jumping into a lake of cold water. So I’ll take some comfort in that as a sign that I must have got some rest somewhere.

June 28, 2022

The Summer Rest Project

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:27 pm
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Over May and June, I’ve been reading two books – Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski, and Radical Rest: Get More Done By Doing Less by Richard Lister. I wanted to read these books after just feeling – well, drained after the last two years of All The Things. I had a lovely long weekend break at the start of May, and the benefits disappeared within 24 hours of returning to work, which was Not Ideal. Plus, while I’ve been doing some recovery work around the complete pit of survival mode in which I spent large portions of 2020 and 2021 (as many people parenting small children whilst working full-time jobs will appreciate), I wanted something a bit more deliberate.

Now, both books were written to appeal to certain audiences. Burnout very definitely has the goal of reaching women who find it hard to make space for themselves within a patriarchal framework that sees women as what the Nagoskis call Human Giver Syndrome (or all the social norms which say it’s women’s job to pour themselves out selflessly to enable others to Do Their Thing). There’s a certain US self-help book tone to the writing which I can cope with but others might find a bit off-putting. Radical Rest, written by a practicing UK nurse, might give a bit more houseroom to alternative therapies than some people are comfortable with. But the overlaps and emphases on the science of rest and stress release mean that combined, they offer a range of solutions and options for resting properly and giving you and your body a chance just to – catch up with itself. Which, under the circumstances, sounds like a jolly fine idea.

So, to practicalities. One option particularly for Radical Rest would be to try each technique described in each (short) chapter for a week and see how they fit in with your own preferences and needs. I would like to try that at some point, but what I really wanted to put together was a practical ‘this is what I’m going to try to do every week over the summer’ with measurable outcomes to say that this resting thing was actually happening. Because, yes, otherwise it actually won’t.

It was an inevitable outcome that there would be a spreadsheet. So there is a spreadsheet.

Screenshot of a spreadsheet heading ‘Liz’s Rest Tracker’, with rows listing activities and columns marking days of the week.

The activities in the spreadsheet have all been chosen because they match on to the science in Burnout and Radical Rest as things that help close off stress cycles and give – well, rest. So, they are:

  • A 30 minute lunch break away from my desk, ideally eaten outside if the weather’s good enough.
  • A Big Hug – this is about positive physical affection and reinforcing a sense of being safe and cared for enough to slip out of fight or flight mode and into rest or digest. The Nagoskis say a hug of at least 20 seconds where each hugger is balancing their own weight does the job (see? Science!).
  • Playing the piano – I really want to do creative fun things! And I’ve been wanting to do more piano for years (quite literally). Taking time to do creative stuff tells your brain you’re not being chased by a saber toothed tiger. Win-win.
  • Running and yoga – different kinds of physical exercise that both simulate the physical bit of fight-or-flight responses we miss when we, for instance, get a really stressful e-mail in our inbox and thus gives our nervous systems a chance to shut that cycle off; also are activities where you’re not thinking about anything except the exercise, and thus enter an kind of mental rest even though your body’s being very active. (I still hate running with the burning passion of a thousand suns but the science has spoken.)
  • Centering prayer – I used to have a really strong centering prayer practice when I was a graduate student and an ECR but, unsurprisingly, parenthood sent that down the drain. This is about calming active or deliberate meditation (any kind of tradition would do, this just happens to be mine) – if I can manage a short slot three times a week, that’ll be doing alright.

Some of this I should be doing anyway. Lunch breaks outside are about discipline and getting away from the screen. The exercise stuff is again where I want to be – I twisted my ankle just before Easter and have just been cleared to run again, so this is the right moment to be setting these goals (and I’ve been really antsy about not being able to do things). But the piano, and the yoga, and the deliberate hug, are about trying to create that bit of extra space and – well, let’s see what happens.

I’ll try to have a bit of accountability/update on how things go over on Twitter, and I want to come back to this at the end of the summer and see what I think. (And yes, if we get back into a run of 30 degree days, I shan’t be worrying too much about getting the running in!) It’s all a bit of an experiment, but we’ll see how it goes – after all, I have a spreadsheet.

With thanks to Jo VanEvery for tipping me off about Burnout.

July 1, 2021

A curve in the road: some personal news

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 10:18 pm
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Over the last year or so, those of you who follow me on Twitter with any degree of attention will have noticed cryptic references to doing Things Not For Work or having Big Non-work Things on the horizon. This has been partly because it was entirely possible that there would be no news to share in the end, and partly because – well, it’s the sort of thing which you only really want to make public if there is news to share.

That news is now confirmed, so I am both very pleased and a wee bit scared to tell you that I have been recommended for training for ordination in the Church of England.

I am anticipating that this will raise a lot of questions, so I thought that I would use an FAQ format to address the ones I’m assuming will come to mind, and quite possibly some that won’t. There will inevitably be some God-language in what follows.

(more…)

January 23, 2021

The way we live now

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:56 am
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It is exhausting, the way we live now,
and I am one of the lucky ones.
Whatever luck means, in the midst
of chaos.

I reply to e-mails, to invitations,
to things which might have sparked joy
in the before-times.
No, no, no, no, certainly not,
yes – but not yet.
I question my decisions, but
they have to be made.

I confuse my time zones
for a commitment made a thousand years ago
in November,
and sit, waiting to be admitted to a Zoom meeting
which has already moved on without me,
crushed by the unnoticed slippage of an hour.

I record videos, smiling blithely at the green light –
record, embed, caption, upload,
record, embed, caption, upload.
I teach to black squares with initials, to faces
against uncomfortably personal backgrounds,
rooms I have no right to be in
and which I try to ignore.

I stay up late (too late)
editing, marking, pouring out effort
which I would have rejoiced in
during the before-times, but now
comes from a well which has run decidedly dry.

I learn a curriculum which I thought
I had left well behind me.
Pounds and pence without the shillings,
shapes in varying dimensions,
the formation of the letter d.
The waterproof properties of materials must be investigated;
the kitchen floor is flooded.
I refuse to be apologetic
about my second full-time job.

Do not mistake me –
there are joys, smiles, laughter.
Having dinner together every night,
the weekly family film,
the silly imaginative games.
The students thriving under these circumstances,
growing towards the light despite everything.

But there is no let up, and no respite,
and even paradise becomes tiring
without variety, or the space
to be lonely, to be bored.

In the midst of this chaos,
whatever luck means –
I am one of the lucky ones,
and it is exhausting, the way we live now.

September 12, 2020

On Responding To Anger: Growing Pains

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 7:30 pm

With thanks and apologies to Sara Ahmed, without whom I would not even be attempting to write [like] this.

Something happened to me a few week ago. Someone thought I had got something wrong. What’s more, they thought I had got something wrong that I had tried very hard to get right.

This post is not about that incident. My personal encounter with the fallout of the Well-meaning White Woman’s Dilemma – do we act, write and speak about racism and colonialism in the knowledge that we are going to get it wrong, or do we remain silent and expect people of colour to pick up the burden yet again – is not particularly edifying, and is work best done more privately. This is a post about a process.

Earlier this summer, I read The Uses of Anger by Audre Lorde for the first time. Among all the observations that still remain insightful almost four decades after it was written, one in particular jumped out at me:

Most women have not developed tools for facing anger constructively. CR [consciousness raising] groups in the past, largely white, dealt with how to express anger, usually at the world of men. And these groups were made up of white women who shared the terms of their oppressions. There was usually little attempt to articulate the genuine differences between women, such as those of race, color, age, class, and sexual identity. There was no apparent need at that time to examine the contradictions of self, woman as oppressor. There was work on expressing anger, but very little on anger directed against each other. No tools were developed to deal with other women’s anger except to avoid it, deflect it, or flee from it under a blanket of guilt.

No tools were developed to deal with other women’s anger – or indeed for any kind of anger. Anger is not ladylike, not civilized, not appropriate.

But it is necessary. It is needed. We need a way of responding to it – but a way which takes anger as the gift that it is, that accepts the learning and the knowledge that anger gives us, and does not perform the kind of negation and willful ignorance that Lorde describes and that is so familiar, most of all in ourselves.

(more…)

July 10, 2020

On beginnings, endings, and beginning again

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 2:58 pm
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Hello, folks. It’s been a while.

Looking back on the blog, it really has been a considerable while; I’ve been pretty quiet since spring last year, apart from a few posts about Tracking Classical Monsters in Popular Culture, which was launched to a pleasing amount of acclaim last Halloween, and an announcement for a workshop which has now been indefinitely postponed in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What ostensibly draws me back is the news that some of you who follow me on social media will have seen earlier this week, namely that I have been promoted to Reader in the Classics department at Royal Holloway. I could easily do a self-congratulatory post and leave it there, but actually, I want to sit a while and do some unpicking of the tapestry.

The 2019-2020 academic year, you see, was going to be a great year. After some administrative to-ing and fro-ing, my research sabbatical had been confirmed; my son was going to start school; I was keeping my diary clear so I could make the most of tidying up old projects and getting started on the next book. It was going to be wonderful.

It didn’t turn out like that. I have since learned that quite a lot of people have stories of the Sabbatical That Went Rogue, where life decides that the moment you have a little more space to think is a perfect time to intervene and make sure you can’t. In my case, at this point we are looking at three close family bereavements (one at the start of September just before the sabbatical was due to begin), a lot of caring and support following those, my son starting school (fine under normal circumstances, challenging under these), two rounds of extended UCU strikes, and, of course, a global pandemic with the associated challenges of school-at-home. It has not been, shall we say, the most conducive environment for thinking. Or, let’s be honest, for blogging. (more…)

June 25, 2018

Elevated to seniority

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 10:47 am
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I know I’ve been quiet here on the blog for a while – that has a lot to do with trying to finish off the monster book and the seasonal onslaught of undergraduate marking which I’ve been dealing with. I’m hoping to get back into the rhythm of a weekly post once the manuscript revisions are finished and everything’s been sent off to the publisher, but for the time being most of my spare bandwidth is going into trying to get that all finished.

However, I’m popping back to let you know some very good news which those of you who follow me on Twitter may already have picked up. I’m delighted to share that I have just been promoted to Senior Lecturer at Royal Holloway!

The process of promotion at RHUL is quite straightforward but a bit opaque – you submit your application form at the end of January, and then it’s radio silence as it goes past various committees at various levels, and you patiently wait until you get told the outcome ‘by the end of June’. So on the one hand you have no idea what’s going on, but on the other at least you’ve been told not to expect to hear anything so you don’t start reading anything untoward into it. Obviously, since the preferred result has come out of the process I don’t mind the wait at all.

Some people have asked me what this means in terms of my every-day job. The answer is ‘not much’ – in order to get promoted, you have to show you are already meet the criteria for holding the position, which is what the application form is for. Basically I will keep on doing what I am doing, and by and by have another stab at moving up the titles. But right now, senior lecturer feels really rather good.

October 31, 2016

Livetweeting conferences – a protocol

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 1:56 pm
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This set of guidelines was originally compiled by the team of Tweeters who were planning to attend the Classical Association conference in 2014, with me basically kitten herding. The intention was to offer guidance to those new to Twitter and livetweeting, and to help them and more experienced Tweeters create a comprehensive and useful livefeed for those not attending the conference.

These guidelines originally appeared on the Classical Association blog, but because of issues with the CA’s website they are not currently available. I am taking the opportunity to repost them, and to make a few small edits to make them applicable for conferences in general. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the original #CA14 crew for their help and assistance.

The Basics

  • Always tweet using the conference hashtag. Include this in all tweets you want included in the conference feed; anyone following the hashtag will see it, and it will be used to compile an archive of the conference tweets later.
  • If you don’t know the conference hashtag, ask the organisers for one, or come up with your own – before committing to it, do check that it’s not being shared by another event.
  • Be aware that livetweeting can change the atmosphere in a room, particularly if you are attending a single track conference; it may be appropriate to tweet less and be more directly involved in conversation at smaller events.
  • If you are asked to stop livetweeting by a panel chair, a speaker or a conference attendee, please stop. Many are not comfortable with Twitter as a medium; its presence should not negatively impact the conference experience for other attendees, however positive we may feel about social media.
  • You can livetweet whatever you like about the conference – the papers, the plenaries, the social side…
  • You can tweet as little or as much as you like. A livetweeter who tweets half a dozen times over the whole conference is as important as one who tweets half a dozen times to thoroughly summarise a single paper.
  • You may find this article on livetweeting conferences in general helpful: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/oct/03/ethics-live-tweeting-academic-conferences

In Panels and Plenaries

  • Always begin your tweets of a paper with the speaker’s initials, to make it clear that you are reporting their argument. If a tweet gets widely retweeted, this makes sure the right person gets intellectual credit for the idea.
  • If the speaker is on Twitter, please use their Twitter handle when livetweeting – that will let people following on Twitter connect with them if they so wish.
  • If you are giving a paper, mention your Twitter handle as you begin, or include it on your handout.
  • Remember that the goal of livetweeting a paper is for somebody who isn’t in the room to be able to follow along with the speaker’s argument.
  • You may find that sitting at the back of a room makes you feel less self-conscious about tweeting; it may also make the process less obtrusive for other attendees.
  • Please make sure that your device is on ‘silent’.
  • Please demonstrate the usual high standards of professionalism, collegiality and courtesy that are the hallmarks of classicists as a discipline – that is, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • It is fine to have multiple people livetweeting the same session.
  • Don’t try to livetweet your own paper. Trust us on this.
  • If anyone following along on Twitter asks a question, please feel free to ask that question of the speaker and report the answer back. However, be aware that questions from people in the room take precedence.

Outside Panels

  • Again, please demonstrate professionalism, collegiality and courtesy in everything you say.
  • Remember to ask permission before posting photographs.
  • Be mindful that people following the hashtag are interested in the academic aspects of the conference rather than what dinner looks like. Unless someone has made a scale replica of Troy in mashed potato.

September 8, 2016

Sabbatical planning 1 – Shut Up and @britishlibrary

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:18 pm
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I’ve been thinking about planning my sabbatical term, and have realised there is a big risk of not seeing a sufficiently high concentration of humans over the next few months, which I know is bad for me. (I suspect it will be even worse than it has been in the past given that a lot of the time when I do see humans, I’m seeing them in the capacity of infans’ mother rather than as an academic.) So I thought I’d see if anybody would be interested in a semi-regular meet-up at the British Library – a version of Shut Up And Write, but a bit more flexible.

It turns out that Clare Vernon is in the market for something like this, so we’re going to meet up on Wednesday 14th September for the first of these sessions. The plan is to meet at 9.30am for a pre-desk cup of tea in the downstairs café; meet up again for lunch; and then perhaps meet up for an afternoon tea and a debrief. We’ll also put dates into the diary for the rest of the term – I’m hoping we’ll go fortnightly, although prior commitments may mean we’re not always on a Wednesday and we might not always be fortnightly.

So if you’re on sabbatical or working on research solo and would like an informal way of keeping in touch with other humans, feel free to come along. One of the reasons for setting dates is so that people who can’t make every session can plan to come along for a day – and if you can just make it for a morning or an afternoon, then you’re welcome too. The point is to create a bit of structure for community and hopefully facilitate some research work – I suspect Clare and I will set it up to suit us, but if you can hack it to suit you, then that’s all to the good. If you’d like to know the dates we come up with, please get in touch and I’ll keep you updated.

June 24, 2016

On Pandora and the opening of Zeus’ gift

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 7:30 pm
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But when he had finished the sheer, hopeless snare, the Father sent glorious Argus-Slayer, the swift messenger of the gods, to take it to Epimetheus as a gift. And Epimetheus did not think on what Prometheus had said to him, bidding him never take a gift of Olympian Zeus, but to send it back for fear it might prove to be something harmful to men. But he took the gift, and afterwards, when the evil thing was already his, he understood. For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sickness which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. – Hesiod, Works and Days.

I’m writing this on my way back from a conference in Dublin, where I have found it very difficult to give a paper on classical monsters in Hollywood films since 2000, and equally difficult to concentrate on the panel I have been attending about the nature of the ancient epic in the modern world. British classicists have checked the BBC and social media obsessively, sworn a fair bit, looked at each other hopelessly. Our European and international colleagues have commiserated, hugged, looked at an equal loss. And those who are British but work in the EU, or are EU nationals who work in Britain, have been doing a bit of everything.

Pandora’s jar has been opened and we are seeing the evils come out into the world.

We have had the Prime Minister resign, key pledges from the Leave campaign dismissed as ‘mistakes’, the financial markets drop sharply and struggle to right themselves, people who voted Leave astonished and upset to discover their vote actually counted, Scotland and Ireland reconsidering their positions as part of the Union, the EU Commission trying to get this process over and done with as quickly as possible, and on, and on, and on.

I am worried for myself, for my son, for my little family that had just got a little bit of stability, for my wider family, for the higher education sector, for those who had so much to lose – although, if I’m honest, in a rather blank sort of way, because I suspect I’m still in shock.

And yet. And yet.

When Pandora had opened the jar, and all the evils had flown out and into the world, one last thing remained. Hope.

Hope in the majority of people under 49 who voted to Remain, and whose political day is coming. Hope in three months’ grace before a change of Prime Minister. Hope in the pause before Article 50 is invoked. Hope in the time it will take the dust to settle and to see what landscape actually remains. Hope in the potential this has to re-engage people who believed their votes didn’t matter. Hope in the unlikeliest of places, also in the jar. Whether or not it too was an evil remains to be seen.

Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds.

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