BUT FIRST I HAVE TO …   10 comments

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve been watching my struggles. Today I have another “Why do I have to keep learning this over and over?”

Back when I was still on the faculty at Southern Connecticut State University, one of my colleagues reported on a lesson her mentor tried to teach sometime after she had retired. Here’s what she said. “All during my career I kept putting off the reading I wanted to do, thinking I had so much to do first. Then I retired and I found I had much less time and strength for reading. The lesson? Don’t put it off…. “

In 1957, leaving Boston University to move with my husband of two years to our new home in Connecticut – and pregnant with our first child – I had all my course requirements completed for the Ph.D., with only my dissertation left to finish. I even had a professor who had agreed to be my advisor. But there was so much that had to be done first. Lou loved a very tidy, clean house (and, I admit, so did I) so before I did anything else I had to make sure our home was thoroughly cleaned every day. Well, that wasn’t really the first thing. Most important was making the fresh muffins each morning for him to share at work, plus packing his lunch. Then, of course, there was doing my best to prepare a meal that approached the expertise of my mother-in-law. Let’s remember, too, that pregnancy required taking a walk every day, and that expanded into visiting the neighbor ladies for coffee each morning.

All that activity required a nap before getting to work on my experiment. By the way, it could have been completed in two weeks or so if we’d had the computer options we have now. As it was, there were papers all over, and the calculator borrowed on an occasional daily basis from Lou’s work. That took up space and made a mess, so of course the tidy house required putting everything away before Lou came home for dinner. So many things to do first.

The lesson was mine to learn, I was so aware of the way I put off the thesis that I didn’t confess to people at B.U. that I was putting housewifery first. But still… Then, too, there was the spirit of the time. A married woman must of course put housework before a thesis. When I finally finished (in 1964), one of the faculty told me they had all assumed when I married and left Boston that I would not finish my degree. Some of my colleagues when I saw them in later years told me they assumed I must be brilliant – a woman admitted into a doctoral program. The truth is, I’m not brilliant. I was just too stupid to realize that I wasn’t supposed to be pursuing the degree.

OK, so there was an atmosphere that contributed to it. But the problem was mine: so many things to do first, including having a second child, and, joy oh joy! teaching evenings. When I finally got smart and traveled to Boston to consult on my plan and then got to work on it, my children were the only kids in the neighborhood who played thesis – spreading papers all over the floor. Yes, I did reach the point where I left the papers and computer out, with the plan to clean it all up only when I finally finished the dissertation.

My children were 4 and 6 when I finally finished.

So why do I have to keep learning? Getting to writing and editing should be the first thing I go to in the mornings when I don’t have clients scheduled. E-mail and web friends can survive without me. There, I’ve said it again. At least my house isn’t so tidy as it was back when I was still married.

I guess the problem now is that once again I have to get control of my schedule. So, my new day’s resolution: First things first. Schedule myself in during the high-energy parts of the day. The rest can wait.

If I’m holding your interest with this, then check back to monitor my success. That’s the reason for going public, you know. The best guarantee that one will follow through on a resolution is to commit to it in the presence of lots of people.

Thanks for helping.

Posted June 28, 2012 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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10 responses to “BUT FIRST I HAVE TO …

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  1. i do the same thing as far as using my best part of my day to do the worst things. i clean or move furniture all in the mornings. i don’t know if it is age or what but by afternoons i am too tired for anything. i just want to relax. I am happy to hear that you are still sticking to your plan and have your priorities in order. have a wonderful day!

  2. Hey, Terry, maybe I’m a messenger sent to cheer you on. Thanks for your support.

  3. One, you ARE brilliant, and two, refer back to number one. Your story reminds me of the film Mona Lisa Smile – only the Julia Roberts character gets to be an early feminist, cast in a positive light in this 21st century film, because of the strides and sacrifices women like you made.

  4. You have lots of company. The best advice I was ever given was simple. “Just DO it!” In this case, put your writing and editing first. Cup of coffee. Write, edit, write, second cup of coffee…. until you’ve done it with your highest energy. Then let the emails out of the box. Go for it. Gordon

  5. This is so true. I am learning every day that I that I cannot throw away my high energy times with doing things that do not count or have little value. If I do the least important things first, then my day is shot.
    Thanks Mona.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

  6. My comment seems to have been lost, Gordon. To repeat, your idea for tomorrow is a good one, but this weekend is for family. Always more important.

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