Wednesday, December 13, 2006


This is a rough time of year, as nearly anyone will tell you. It is the end of semester for anyone living an academic life, and that means Everything Wraps Up Now (except meetings with administrators, who live a 12-month lifestyle, and thereby forget the deadlines others are sweating). It is winter, which makes for frequent dreary skies. It is the holidays, which brings all kinds of pressure, sadness, anxiety, topped off with a larger dose of bad traffic than anyone can experience while maintaining regular blood pressure. This is how the Furies punish those of us who get our summers off--by combining outrageous amounts of work stress with the expectation that we give to others of our time, hearts, and shopping energy. And on the eighth day, the Furies created the MLA--mwah ha ha. You thought you had a holiday break? Think again!

I am dodging the furious MLA this year, thanks be to the Kindly Ones.

(No thanks for the cold, Kindly Ones.)

Several years ago the PP and I were eating lunch with my grandfather and some of his friends in Assisted Living Land. You should know, for this story to be funny, that the PP has quite the receding hairline. Anyway, he was telling a story about something or another that was supposed to bring some virtuous end, and one of my grandfather's feistier ladyfriends leaned over the table and said, "But it doesn't grow hair, does it, PP?"

All to say, it doesn't make the traffic go away, does it?

It is about this time every year that I look at all my commitments and deadlines and wonder what I was thinking and how in the world this will all come together. (Insert tears of desperation.)

All to say, it doesn't get the Christmas card made.

estaminet late last night accidentally coined the perfect word for this feeling: "gibestkt." Indeed. It is the perfect word for it: you do not really know what it means, you have a hell of a time spelling it, but you know it is bad and makes you feel sort of ill. And it all sounds so Germanic, like a horrible syndrome. Or a monster from Beowulf. Or the actual name for the wolf in the Grimm's brothers' tales. Or something only Heidegger could have come up with to describe the horrors of Being in Christmastime, and you know what that means--all the philosophers who follow him will leave it untranslated in their texts.

All to say, it doesn't get the exams graded.

Perhaps this time of year brings out the small confessions from those of us who under the surface of competence have to exert a little more effort to keep it together. Ian's post for today is about the small correctionals, or what he calls "Tiny Corrections Over a Long Period of Time." (Thank the Kindly Ones he wasn't writing in German, so we do not have to leave his term untranslated.) He wonders what we can achieve not when we expect immediate results, but when we continuously make tiny changes and then wait patiently to see results later.

I am wondering whether this idea might offer some easing of gibestkt. You know, instead of clearing the decks all at once and saying, "Forget Christmas! Buy your own presents! Make your own dinner! No Christmas card this year!" we do not let it get that far. Surely there are little valves that we could open up at, say, midterms, or even earlier, so that the gibestkt does not all build up this much?

This is the question I will be pondering over the holidays, in anticipation of my New Years Resolutions.


estaminet said...

My goal now is to get Google to recognize "gibestkt". It really is evocative and accurate in a "wtf?" kind of way.

Rebecca said...

Even those of us who aren't in academics now (but will be back soon) are feeling it... You should see the pile of dishes in the sink! (By March, it might be cleaner -- or, at least, the dishes will hsve been used and put back in.)