Friday, June 18, 2010

Easy to think...

Easy to think of low points from today, what with the computer crash, a bill situation, classroom flashbacks, etc. Also realized, as I graded, that I've fallen into a new, glum habit of thought: when my students do well, I credit them or their prior teachers; when they do badly, it's my fault--a badly-designed assignment or lousy lecture, or something like that.

On the other hand--what? High points:

1) Watching R handle the computer crash w/o losing her cool. Lucky man, I am.

2) Giving a well-deserved "A" to a student who'd struggled with depression early in the quarter, then came back to write three elegant, thoughtful, witty papers for me. I didn't teach her to write like that, but I did keep her engaged with the course through emails and conferences, as well as the lectures themselves. If I'd really done as bad a job this quarter as I keep thinking, she'd have failed or dropped the class; instead, she aced it.

3) Cleaning the main floor of our house in time for R to meet with a prospective client--one who showed up at the house an hour early. Ha!

4) Hitting the "Post" button with those grades--a quick tap with the finger, before I could stop and second-guess (OK, fifth-or-sixth-guess) them any more. When I started at DePaul I had to drive to the office to file the grades; that's an hour of driving I didn't have to do, and a lot less worry, after.

5) Curling up in the afternoon and again after dinner with Steven Moore's The Novel: an Alternative History: Beginnings to 1600, while a line of thunderstorms swept through. Found that by accident at the public library...what, yesterday? The day before? Lively book, and part of the "scholarly base" I need (and want) to lay down this summer. More on both, anon.

And that, friends, makes five things that made me happy today.


Laura Vivanco said...

Good for you! Sounds like you had a productive day, despite the setbacks.

When I was a child and first read about Pollyanna's "glad game," I thought it was a bit naive and silly, but now I realise it's not. It really can help to focus on the positive aspects of a situation, and I think one can train oneself to see them more readily, rather than automatically having unproductive, negative thoughts. That's not to say that one should only have happy, positive thoughts and ignore real problems (that would be to play an ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand game), but I think that a version of the glad game is helpful for those of us who have a tendency to dwell on the negative thoughts to the exclusion of happier ones which are just as true (and sometimes more so).

E. M. Selinger said...

Exactly my goal, Laura. I didn't want my memories of the day to focus on the pitfalls & pratfalls & setbacks. Writing that post was, itself, a positive turn in the day, if only because it helped me to push back, consciously, against the blues.

It's funny that you should mention Pollyanna. My grandmother, who recently turned 102, fell in love with that book as a girl, and she's been living by it ever since. "The eldest hath borne much," but you'd never know it; she's better at maintaining her equanimity than anyone I know.

Today's high points, so far: watching Australia / Ghana with my son; keeping my patience with my daughter and coaxing her out of a vexed & pouty mood; scrubbing the upstairs bathroom so that I wouldn't have to do it tomorrow on Fathers' Day--and can now feel like I've earned the day off!

Laura Vivanco said...

"Writing that post was, itself, a positive turn in the day, if only because it helped me to push back, consciously, against the blues."

That sounds like a really, really good use of the blog. I can see how the focus of writing down the good things would be helpful. It's maybe a bit like having a "glad" diary, and having to make an entry in the diary reminds you to play the glad game.

I'm glad you're having a fun and productive day. If I do a bit of positive thinking myself, I think I could say the same of my own day.

E. M. Selinger said...

"That sounds like a really, really good use of the blog"--

I'm glad you like it! I read somewhere about a poet (Molly Peacock, maybe?) who pushed back against her own discouragement by keeping a "happiness journal" for a year. Every night before going to sleep she'd write down something--even if it was just a moment--that had made her happy that day.

The goal was to retrain her mind to be on the lookout for such moments, precisely because its natural inclination was to mull over failures, disappointments, frustrations, and the like.

Since I've fallen into the latter habit recently, and since private journaling has never worked for me, I thought I'd give the "happiness blog" a try.