Oh, but it's been a month.
I had put aside the month of May for the Finishing of Ye Olde Dissertation. It's now or never, folks. I've been trudging along in the grad school weeds for far too long and, though I officially took two separate leaves of absence from the university that don't count against my total PhD student time, even when I account for that time off it's been a fair few years. The move to Australia didn't help. Despite a supportive advisor, the process and turnaround time for feedback, approvals, and green lights, etc., from a committee of busy professors is made more complicated when you're a continent or two away. Anyway, I resolved that after Lauren got home and resettled from her mission in March and after our trip to the US in April for M's college tours, May would be my dedicated month. I'd do it like it was my job! (Oh, what's that you say? It kind of is my job? Hmm, oh yeah.)
Well, the universe laughed.
While we were in the US, we got an email from our property management company: the owner of our Aussie house was returning from overseas soon and (understandably) wanted to move back into his home in six weeks. Which is, inconveniently, our home at the moment. May suddenly became dissertation month + search-for-a-home and move-all-our-belongings month. And, a week or so later, recover-from-the-flu month. The universe positively guffawed.
At first I panicked. Then I was resigned to it but doubtful that I would realistically be able to get it all done. But you know what? I forgot about the power of constraints, pressure, and a deadline. Now that I know each day has to count, I am in tunnel mode. And writing this helps keeps me accountable going forward. Here are my methods so far, in case you are someone who googled "please help me, I'm a 45-year-old PhD student/mama/dilly-dallier who needs to find some self control and finish this big project and maybe move this month":
- I took myself pretty much off of Facebook for now (but, full disclosure, am totally still on Instagram. And look: I'm blogging! A girl's gotta connect.)
- I'm doing the pomodoro technique to structure my writing sessions, doing cycles of 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes off (using this howler timer app on my computer, which celebrates the end of each session with an awesomely victorious wolf howl). Although I've tried the timer tactic before, it's really working for me this time. And I'm evangelizing the heck out of it because WHY DIDN'T I DO THIS IN UNDERGRAD and all the ensuing years? I can do anything for 25 minutes and 5 minutes is the perfect amount of time to get more Cheds crackers and Diet Coke or throw in a load of laundry or do a few sit ups and stretches or check Instagram. After a few hours worth of 25/5 I take a longer break and Maddy and I go to lunch or take a hike or watch a show. This has been a game changer!
- Having Maddy around has been perfect, too. She's a willing errand runner and turns out I'm way more productive when someone's around. (I'm much less likely to crawl into bed with a book if someone else is going to be aware of my bad life choices).
- I'm letting the professionals take care of the move. G's work offered to hire a relocation agent for us and packers/movers. YES, PLEASE. So I'm 65% in denial and 25% just letting it happen when it happens and 10% going through and organizing things for our move. In five minute increments.
- I've pretty much given myself permission to fail in all other aspects of my life right now. This month, it's all about my family and this ever loving dissertation. It's minimum levels of maintenance on everything else because there's no other choice. (Sorry, body that wanted to be fitter for the summer reunions. Sorry, church calling where I could always be doing more more more. Sorry, fun side trips I really wanted to take. Sorry, fun writing projects. Sorry, nice homemade meals. Also, sorry about the perpetual twitch, left eye. Hang in there! I guess you're my canary in the coal mine.)
- Speaking of nice homemade meals, I've handed over the reins to the family. And they've taken them! WHO KNEW? Each of us makes one-two dinners a week (including shopping for their ingredients if necessary). We're eating better than ever. We've had made-from-scratch tortillas (S). We've had yummy butter chicken (M). We've had bacon-wrapped scallops (G). Turns out I've been hogging the reins and everyone's more than capable to take on shares of the cooking and house running. (Ditto driving and laundry. We're sharing! Everyone's leaning in! It's awesome.)
Still. It's still going to be close. And maybe I'm cursing myself by writing this (oh, the hubris). I'm probably about 5/8 of the way finished. The movers come at the end of the month, right about the same time when the final diss draft is due to the committee. But I think it just might happen!
In fact, it will probably happen no matter what. Things have been set in motion. My dissertation defense is officially scheduled and on the calendar for June 22nd in Boston at 10 a.m. My presentation is open to the public and you're invited. Let me know if you'd like to come and I'll pass along the details. Truly. I'd love to see you.