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Sleep

I have slept most of this weekend. I am in the midst of midterms and struggles with life, work, love and have no energy for any of it. I’m ready to quit it all and crawl in my hole (yet again) until I’m stronger.

But of course, I don’t get that choice. The exams require my presence, the jobs must be done, and you can’t not deal with life just because it’s hard. It’s just not fair.

This week, for the first time since I started this degree, I considered not handing in a paper. I figured one mark a day is the usual penalty and a quiet weekend to work on it would make it a much better paper than the draft I had so far…but then I checked the syllabus: “papers handed in after the due date will not be accepted.”. Of course I started to cry and then worked until 3:30 a.m. at which time I fell asleep in the chair for a few hours. I woke up at 5 to finish it and then at 9 a.m. handed in probably the worst paper of my career. The paper wasn’t difficult which is why it makes it so much harder to take. It came down to not having had sufficient time to work on it. Sufficient days, yes, if I didn’t have other responsibilities, but not with the life I currently lead. (Hence the previous post about having to Cut Cut Cut from my list.)

Did I mention the uti?

It hasn’t been good sleep though. My bedroom is the only room in the house warm enough to sit still long enough to get any real studying done. When I sit in my office my toes freeze and my fingers go numb. The living room is drafty and the number of blankets required to keep warm make holding a book impossible. My bedroom is only large enough for a bed, dresser, and bookcase so all studying is done on the bed. Prone. See where this is going?

I spread out, sometimes on top, sometimes below the covers and pretend that I will study until I realize I’m way too depressed and sleep would be so much better. So I close my eyes and wait and hope that sleep will come quickly. Of course it doesn’t. I toss and turn (or close my eyes more tightly and try not to move) until eventually I can hear the tick of the clock. Then sometimes I sleep. My father taught me a wonderful trick when I was young, about how to use sleep time to solve problems. Instead of really resting, we both (and maybe other people do this too and I’m just not aware) let the wheels turn over each and every problem we’re currently struggling with. For him it often results in mechanical solutions to the designs he’s working on, for me it often gets me concepts for artwork: designs, layouts, images or else theses for papers or ideas for projects. I wake up excited to get started. These days it’s not so productive. The answer to ‘what to cut out of my life’ just isn’t coming – it may be time to frame the question differently.

What if I turned it into: how do I combine all these different interests into a way to make a living?

I’ve discovered I’m not the sort of activist I once thought I was or thought I wanted to be. Out-there-in-your-face-activism is exhausting. It consumes your working time and your resting time. I’ve been involved with an action on campus that is making me more and more ill. I believe in it but I don’t like how it’s consumed me. I much preferred the show/theatre/art night we put together – the message was clear, it was positive, it was pro-active. The movie night concept is good too – consume, discuss, go forth with a stretched-if-not-opened mind. But when a person or group is responding to something else someone has done then itís always a reaction. There is no getting ahead. This is what I’m afraid this action is turning into. I don’t know how to change the world and it seems my attempts so far are failing. I can either learn to do this sort of large-scale activism more effectively or I can go back to the positive message sending type of activism. Somehow though this doesn’t really feel like it counts – somehow it’s not ‘activist’ enough. Does this make sense? I feel like if I walk away from an issue I’m failing feminism, women, the world, the victims… I hate the way the guilt sits on me.

So the activism competes with school which is ironic: in school I learn about activism, but when I take on an issue I don’t have time for school. School life or real life: choose. Somehow, this seems very wrong – but it is the current state of things.

I am amazed (not sure if itís in a good way) at how much my person, personality, identity are changing because of this program and the courses I take. They haven’t all been positive – there were some definite times when I thought all we were learning was to blame. Lots of hate, lots of anger, lots of blame. I understand more where that came from and how it is lies beneath the rest. Maybe it wasn’t always presented in the best way or maybe I had a bad combination of classes in the same semester, but this year (3rd) things have been much clearer: I have the background understanding now (more or less) that the application of what I’ve learned so far is much more the focus. Or maybe it’s my own attitude that has changed.

It was only last year that I wouldn’t call myself a feminist. I felt the word was too narrow to describe all the issues that fall under the umbrella “feminism”. Now I feel more like, yes, I am a feminist, and I am also whatever that other word is that describes all those huge and complicated issues that take on every social justice issues you can name. To refuse to claim the name ‘feminist’ means to reject all that feminism stands for. If you’re not a feminist you’re not a feminist. See what I’m saying?

But it’s not done there, there’s more still.

I’m one of them now. A feminist. I believe in the equality of all people and I want to work toward making that a reality. I know there has been injustice: against women and other marginalized groups. I know that the power imbalance has historically favoured white men – this is to say that some men have held most of the world’s power, in big ways and small ways. This is not to say that every white man is to blame: this issue is systemic, not personal.

So itís all fine and dandy in the classroom, but once you step outside the game changes. I am surrounded by real life people who are not taking the classes I’m taking, or hearing or reading what I am. Studying yesterday for my history midterm (women in canada & us 1870 to present – we’re up to about 1925 so far) I came across a message on a discussion board. The post was basic anti-feminist stuff Iíve heard over and over again: feminists are ugly women who can’t catch valuable men, who need jobs since they can’t live off their husband’s assets…women had it much better when all they had to do was a few chores but spent most of their time pursuing their interests like art and writing. Or something like that. Grrr. Juxtaposed with the details of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire that I was studying and other working class women’s issues, and knowing that Elizabeth Cady Stanton was hardly an ugly woman who couldn’t get a husband (which is irrelevant anyway), I was exasperated. You can’t change the minds of people like this, and itís hard to not let it get to you. Me. I was on the phone with a friend though and when he agreed with the person posting I was shocked. He said that the classes I was taking offering opposing examples were taught in Women’s Studies. By feminists. /sigh/ The implication being that this makes them invalid. /double sigh/

So when intelligent people that I respect find no value Ė or worse Ė in what I study Iím at a loss. Am I deluded? Have I been brainwashed? Agreeing to disagree is one thing, and taking different paths to the same conclusion is another, but to completely and 100% disagree with someone is a big deal. It needs a lot of thought. And a lot of sleep. Which I think Iíll do now.