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Diarist A01 Day 20



Note: I have kept every Everyday Life in Middletown diary since 2016, and this is the first one that is pieced together retrospectively. Friday Sept. 17 was an extremely busy work day at the conclusion of an intense week, and I lacked the energy to write in the evening. So this was written in a series of sessions on Saturday, Sept. 18 but written in the usual, continuous present diary voice. 


The morning begins with the clock radio playing classical music at about 5:05 a.m. I hit the snooze once and then, when the music plays again, lie there for a minute listening. I put on gym shorts and a ratty t-shirt and go into the living room to stretch. About 3-4 times a week now I do these physical therapy exercises designed to ward off the effects of arthritis on my right hip: a set of so-called “clamshells” in which I lie on my left side and raise my right knee, a rubber band wrapped around my legs at knee height, exercising the hip flexor; an intense stretch of my right thigh muscle with a nylon strap; a set of one-legged “glute bridges” where I lie on my back and raise my butt off the floor; then a thing where I wrap the rubber band around my ankles and take steps side to side across the room. These exercises are fairly hard, and I grumbled internally about them for a long time, but I’m pretty used to them by now, and my muscles and joints down there do feel good—loosened and warm—when the exercises are done. About six weeks ago a very annoying “referred pain” from the hip, which was showing itself as something like a groin pull or a hernia, disappeared, so I keep doing the exercises. 


While doing the exercises I start thinking about the day ahead; I realize that I’m thinking in my “diary voice” and wondering what I might write later today. 


The stretches take about 15 minutes, after which I go to my home office, set my phone alarm for 15 minutes, and meditate. My mind flits about a good deal; hearing the crickets outside, thinking in fragments about this and that random thing. In between these little thought-sparks I bring myself back to my breathing. This is better than just sitting there being carried along on a coherent wave of thought (about, say, work), which is another frequent “meditation” experience for me. 


It’s now 5:30 and I check to see that C. is awake. She’s going back east to visit her siblings and their kids and grandkids and has a flight at 8. She’s up, making the bed, moving around. We hug and nuzzle a bit, then I shower while she makes coffee and prepares herself to leave. It’s around 6:20 when I’m out of the shower and dressed, so I pour a cup of coffee and sit on the couch and talk to C.; she needs to leave in a minute so I’ll wait for breakfast. 


At 6:30 she leaves; I walk her out to the car and we hug & kiss and tell each other we’re going to miss each other. It’s cool and still quite dark and about as starry as the sky above the 11th (or 12th?) biggest city in the U.S gets. Back inside I put large slices of wheat toast in the toaster, open a small can of tuna, rummage in the freezer for something to pack for lunch (rice and beans, it turns out), put tuna and mayo on bread, hustling now, because my carpool partner E. is coming to pick me up at 6:55. Quickly eat on the couch, glancing at the morning news (splendid weather forecast: sunny & high of 84). I do some final packing up, stand at the kitchen counter and eat two dates, and glance at my phone; E has texted “Here,” so off we go. 


E is a close friend and one of my favorite colleagues; very chatty and easy to talk to, so I am pleased to ride from Indy with her, especially since she’s driving today. We’ll both be attending Ball State’s “Student Success Summit” today, so we talk about that and many other work things, including how enraging one presenter the previous day of the two-day summit was. We laugh about how we were both asking ourself, during the panel, if we were unusually irritable yesterday or whether it was this guy. Must have been the guy. 


[That said, I have been irritable the last few days. I am one of the least cynical people around but an inner cynical voice popped up intermittently throughout the summit yesterday, amidst some genuinely inspiring moments. I chalk this up to insufficient exercise: since school started, I’ve been pretty much limited to three, hour-long bike rides a week. That’s not terrible but it’s not enough] 


At about 8 we park south of campus, walk together for a block, then part ways. I hustle to the office, make sure I have everything I need, do a quick email check, then head over to the summit, where I have to introduce the presenters at an 8:30 session.  


The summit is good—two brisk, pretty absorbing sessions. I get to meet some folks in other divisions that I didn’t know; info passing between the sorts of folks who don’t talk frequently (as in advisors and academic administrators, etc.). I’m not irritable. In the third, closing session I sit at a round table with a couple faculty members I never met from other colleges and 3-4 advisors. There is coffee and little baggies of gorp. I leave feeling upbeat, and with lots of thoughts about things to try, people to get in touch with, ways of framing the problem, etc. 


Downstairs at the student center, I buy a diet soda and some string cheese to augment my rice and beans. I exit the student center into brilliant sunshine and warmth, and see G. up ahead, a fat backpack strapped on. I call out to him because I’ve been wanting to set up a coffee with him to talk about a class we’re both teaching. He immediately asks me about it, and I say, “That’s what I want to talk to you about.” We chat for a few minutes. He shows me something cool he’s doing with his students with Instagram on his phone. We make a date and I walk quickly back to my office, where I  


…dump my briefcase in my office and run back and forth between it and the kitchen, warming my frijoles. I’m feeling upbeat and also a bit manic and overloaded from the busy day/week, all the social interaction at the summit, and I also have that Friday jittery I’m-almost-out-of-here feeling. It’s been a week—the day-and-a-half of the summit, plus I had a writing deadline. The writing was very pleasurable, and I lingered over it here and there. So, good things, but they made it hard to get much else done. All of this has swirled itself into this mild mania I’m feeling as I sit down in front of my computer to eat my beans. I open the drawer where I keep my hot sauce, only to find that it’s empty. I remember that I finished the hot sauce last week. This causes me to think, “Oh my God I am completely screwed right now.” Then I laugh at myself briefly, out loud. 


I look at my calendar and see that I have a coffee with a collaborator at 2 at The Cup. I’ve been looking forward to this, although now I’m thinking, “Oh shoot, I am going to get NOTHING done today.” So while I eat I read, write, and delete emails, and cross a few things off my list, getting through with a couple tiny niggling tasks that have been malingering on my lists. At about 


1:35 my boss comes in and sits down to debrief about the summit. This leads her to share some memories from her earlier years in administration, during which she interrupts herself and says, “I know I’m wasting your time here…” She wraps up and it’s  


1:55, so I walk briskly over to the Cup, where D., who works on a project with me, is seated at an outside table. I grab a small coffee (lots of coffee on these summit days. Too much!) and sit with D. for about 45 minutes. We talk about unexpected directions the project has taken, about his contributions, about some plans for later writing possibilities, about what he describes as his better mood about things in general. We shake hands and I leave. Now I’m sweaty—hot day, a good bit of running around, coffee.  


As I’m leaving the Cup I run into K, a good friend; we’re walking in the same direction so we de-brief a bit about the summit, talking about some of the culture change elements that are going to need to take place. We’re both in good moods and joke and laugh loudly as we walk. I’m in pretty high spirits and kind of in the mode now of—well, whatever I get done today will be fine I did a good job this week and I’ll get caught up later. 


We part at Riverside Ave and I return to my desk and write, delete, and read emails, checking a couple last things off my list in time for a  


4 p.m. meeting, on Zoom, in which my role is pretty much just to be there. It’s short and efficient, well-run by my colleague K. Very routine. That’s over and it’s time for me to go over my weekly status document. This is a new organizational strategy I’m using—I have a word doc listing all my projects with outstanding tasks, deadlines, dates to check in with collaborators, etc, organized under the major headings in my administrative portfolio, with color-coding for status. (I’m sure hipper more tech-savvy people use Slack or something for this. I’m still on the late-1900s technology.) I update this thoroughly every Friday and send it to my boss. I’ve been doing it for about a month and it’s been helping a lot. I finish that and attach it in an email to my boss, then send out one last email—hectoring the college department chairs to send me something I need early next week. 


By the time I’m done with this it’s 20 till 5. The office is kind of a mess and I had told myself I’d clean it up today, but I’m feeling like I am DONE. I text E. and ask, “What’s it looking like in your environs?” I carry the phone with me to the kitchen and wash my lunch dishes. By the time I’m back in my office E. has written “I could leave now or stay a little longer. How about you?” I write, “Let me check in with [my boss].” I stick my head in her office—she’s at the computer with her back to the door, and I say, “With your kind indulgence I’m going to get the hell out of here.” “Go!” she says, so I gather my things, text E “Let’s blow this pop stand,” and start walking towards the parking lot. 


On the drive home the high-spiritedness continues. E. and I laugh about various zany colleagues & administrative absurdities, mixing it in with serious but jocular (jocoserious) talk about the brilliant future of Dear Old Ball U. There’s some traffic, so by the time she drops me off it’s  


6:40 and I quickly change into workout clothes, text my wife with an update, including the cute little bicycle emoji, and go out on my bike for an hour. It’s beautiful outside—cooling and increasingly dusky. My energy is good; legs feel good. People on the bike trail—runners, dog walkers, other cyclists, seem to be in a good mood. Positive projection, quite possibly. I go past an outdoor café with people chatting and laughing at tables. I go through a little nature preserve, where the trail gets dark and cooler, and up to 86th street, where I get off the trail and go over to Whole Foods, where I buy a baguette and some chips for dinner, then remount and head home. The trail in the woodsy part is quite dark and I’m thinking to myself maybe it’s a little too late to be out, but when I get out off the trail I see that the sun is still well above the horizon. I park the bike in the garage and am back home at about 


8 o’clock. I throw my sweaty clothes in the basket in the bedroom, change into some lounging-about wear, and make a sandwich with a hunk of the baguette and what’s left on a chicken carcass in the fridge, pile up some chips, grab a seltzer, and camp out on the couch, where I eat while listening to the Phillies-Braves game on my phone, projected through the stereo speakers. 


For the next couple hours, I entertain myself variously, sometimes listening to the game, switching to a spin of some CDs (Wayne Shorter, Steely Dan), watching TV. I bought some new stereo equipment recently and it sounds great. Later I watch an episode of Bad Sisters. I pop in and out on the game; the Phillies and Braves trade leads in a tight, well-played game until the 8th, when the Phillies’ best reliever gets pasted. By this time I’m starting to nod a bit, so I’m in bed by about 11 and fall asleep quickly.