Balance and an academic VLEMWy

This week, while working on study guides for the units I teach, I’ve been watching all the TED talks around human rights, and all the YouTube clips on methodology. All of them.

Some have made me cry more than others.

(Should you not be taking my human rights course this trimester, may I recommend Panti Bliss and Chris Abani – they are both heart-stopping in their humanity. Thse are the ones I hope my students watch where it changes something in them – it makes them remember and do, rather than just listen and forget.)

So, amidst the unit stuff, and drafts of grants due scarily soon, and writing that keeps on being put at the bottom of the pile, I’ve become a smidge distracted, even though in my deeply nerdy way all of this stuff is really fascinating. Anything that isn’t tied down to deep-seated routine has become subdued in the background and half-thought. I’m always careful about eating and Laks has a subtle way of reminding me that she needs attention (biting my ankles and/or my face) but other stuff can too easily fall away.

But distraction has impacted me this week. I’m forgetting more things than usual and morphing into a Mr Magoo. And when Laks plays her ‘Hooray it’s 4:20am!’ game, my mind is whirring too much to actually get back to sleep. I find the dark circles underneath my eyes really bring out their colour.(But then, when the words work and the draft starts pulling together…)

It’s something we talk about a lot – life seems infinitely stressful, and escape from the stress something that needs to be planned and worked on, not something that comes so easily anymore. And the 4-year-old in me rails against the idea of planned calm – a dictatorial meditation doesn’t seem quite right.

For that reason, I’m never quite sure about some of those articles you see that claim to show you ‘7 signs that you’re happy’ or ‘3 things all calm people share’. The anxious researcher in me thinks of it in terms of a checkbox – if I only get 6/7 or 2/3, then am I unhappy or un-calm? Is my happiness just a reflection of my denial? It’s all too much.

More and more, it feels necessary to find moments that are nourishing, rather than needing whole chunks of time that simply require too much energy to attain. Not so much trying to find balance (and then feeling bad if I don’t) but acknowledging that the right now is a time of imbalance – and this acknowledgement in itself feels like room to breathe because I’m not trying to be perfect but just peaceful being me in all her whirring-brained glory.

The right now is a space of working out how much I can do, and enjoying the bits if writing I can, until I find a few moments in the sunshine again to recharge. And given that I’m writing this in the grey and the drizzle, the sunshine can be metaphoric too.

More and more, while the right now is what it is, nourishment is best found in silliness, because it takes me out of my head, because it’s moments of laughter that doesn’t need to be pondered. So – playing mouse with Laks. Singing very loudly to terrible songs while making brownies. And QI because Stephen Fry simply makes me happy – and it leads me to more comedians – David O’Doherty being the latest one. He is adorable. He calls his comedy Very Low Energy Musical Whimsy or VLEMWy (and who doesn’t like an awesome acronym?).

So in my sleep-deprived haze, in the grim and the drizzle, in the imbalanced right now, I’m embracing a somewhat Monkey-Minded and Befuddled Academic Whimsy. I’ll work on the acronym later.

So, how do you find your whimsy in the imbalance? Or do you avoid imbalance altogether which does seem rather sensible…