Weekend blahs

studyI didn’t finish my paper. I have a forgiving professor who’s giving me an extension. I was able to get a few hours of writing in yesterday, but today I’m in charge of the kid. We had three birthday parties on tap for the weekend, and made it to two. Outdoor summer kid parties are NOT MY BAG. I think I need to start carrying a really embarrassing parasol. I’ve never been a fan of heat or hot sunlight, but with my middle-aging body, extreme heat is just a no go. If I stay in the shade I’m okay for a bit. Texas in the summer is not a great place for me, obviously. Luckily my husband loves the heat, so he and my daughter spend a lot of time at the pool while I hide at home in the air conditioning.

I’m also feeling a bit left out, because I opted not to go to Fielding’s Summer Session, which is one of our twice-a-year conferences. It’s a good place to network with professors, learn about classes they’re offering, and connect with other students and alumni. I went to the winter one in Santa Barbara, which was fun, but exhausting. With teaching, wrapping up a class, and trying to get ready for fall classes, I didn’t feel able to blow town for a week. Plus, we’re taking Lillian to Disneyland in the fall (don’t tell her!) and I wanted to put some resources towards family time.

So this is the time of year when I feel a bit grouchy and shut-in and start daydreaming about sweaters and socks and longing for fall. Maybe it will come before November this year.


Morning Pages, But Interesting!

Morning Pages are the 3 page journaling requirement in The Artists Way to help free up artistic blockages. There’s also a website called 750 Words where users can do an online approximation (and the application keeps track of the word count and how often you complete–nifty!). I find I’m in need of a little something more when it comes to my writing these days.

I suck at journal writing, in the sense that I usually only journal when I’m really upset and need to get some stuff out of my system in a way that won’t hurt anyone. It’s a great tool for that, but never really seems to help me with school stuff.

School is hard these days. For good reasons (covering new material in far more depth and speed than in my masters degree) and not so good (feeling vulnerable to the negative opinions of others, financial pressure to get through it in the next couple of years). Fielding is hard in some special ways; we can design our own classes to a certain extent, so if one ends up not working, we have to hold ourselves accountable (even if “we” are a second year student who may not yet know what she doesn’t know).

One thing I’ve struggled with is processing so much information and spitting back out as original thought written in scholarly form. The 50% of me that is extroverted needs to talk about stuff. I need to talk through my ideas with other people who are studying something similar. I make connections and have all my little ahahs when I’m talking. I miss the classroom! <—Nerd  So, sometimes when I write for school it sounds a little more like conversation, and a little less like a peer-reviewed journal. I’ve published in those journals, but not while I’m still trying to process and understand the literature. I’m missing the middle two steps, which are talking about it with my peers and professor in a classroom setting, and writing reflectively and getting feedback on my thinking process as much as the format of my writing.

So, I’ve decided that my blog is a really good way to conversate (and make up words!) about my ideas. Regularly. Daily.

The last thing I posted was an essay I wrote for two classes I have been taking. I got reamed for not writing it like a journal article. Truly, I wrote it more like a well punctuated blog post, because that’s how I think through my ideas and make connections between sources. I tend to get feedback that I write more like a journalist (Which is a bad thing why? Clear and persuasive is good, right?). The reality, however, is that I have to learn to write like somebody with a PhD. So I’m trying an experiment where I get my ideas out on digital paper here, on my blog, where hopefully some people might want to converse with me about them, and then use my fully expressed (and hopefully somewhat vetted) ideas as the building blocks for the kind of writing I need to do to get through school.

Since I’m trying to do this every day, I’ll probably try to apply theory I’ve learned with my own thoughts to stuff like current events and popular media/art. I actually suggested this as part of a self-guided class, but it got shot down. So what! I know how I think, I know how I learn, and I know how I write. I’m tired of sitting down to write a paper and spending most of the time dreading how it will be received, or feeling incompetent and self-conscious. I have writing constipation. I know I’m a good thinker and a good writer; I just need some additional help to get from new material all the way to dry convoluted scholarly writing.

So, I’m hoping to write on this here blog seven days a week, though what with the 4-year-old I might give myself a pass on the weekends.

I hope you enjoy my new found zeal for blogging. You can look forward to me talking about heavy subjects like the re-interpretation of the hero archetype in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, why people love zombies, and how mommy bloggers are changing the world. These are my Morning Pages. Stay tuned.



My final reflection paper for Human Development

This metaphor occurred to me during my first semester at Fielding:

Each time I read a new textbook, essay, or philosophy, it is as if I am in the dressing room at a department store. My professors select certain outfits, which I dutifully try on. Some are too tight and constricting, others hang off my body unevenly. Some seem unlikely, but surprise me with flatteringly different textures and colors, while others fit like my favorite old pair of jeans on the first try.

Despite the difficulty and rigor that this class has required, it’s been a blessing during a particularly crazy time in my life. Maybe it takes an epic nerd to feel this way, but the perspectives I’ve had to “try on” to understand Goldhaber, Overton, Kegan, etc. have had a profound effect on how I approach my studies overall. I’ve learned to be more open and flexible. At first, I was all, “Positivism bad! Postmodernism good!” That lasted about a week.

I feel as if I’m walking the same path every week (how people develop over the lifespan), but with an improved set of glasses each time. It’s kind of like when the ophthalmologist sits you in front of that weird multi-lens contraption and says, “This one, or this one?” Each time I try on a new lens, my vision gets a little clearer, a little more discerning, and a little more inclusive.

The highlight of the semester was Kegan’s orders of consciousness. His framework embedded itself in my brain. It is changing how I teach, parent, and learn. His research helps me understand how aspects of my childhood have held back my emotional development back in some ways, and helped me develop in others. I had a hard time expressing his theory in my own words; it’s much easier to look at as a Buddhist principle: non-attachment. At each order, we let go of an attachment: control, emotions, relationships, and identity. No wonder meditating is so hard!

I still have questions, some of which I brought up during our conversations. I still think there’s a particularly large schism between the study of human development and the practice of psychology. Medical researchers study disease to help doctors treat patients. The gap between our studies and the work of therapists seems much wider, to the point that I can’t always find a relationship at all. If I was in a psychology program would I study a different selection of theorists, or would the foundation be the same? Or, is there a fundamental difference between the fields of Human Development and Psychology that I’m missing?

Another realization (leading to more questions): The very framework through which we are supposed to present our work–argumentation–is not conducive to fourth order (let alone fifth order) thinking. Overton demonstrates this by espousing relational metatheory, which takes a didactic, emergent approach to studying different types of data, and then proceeds to deconstruct split-metatheory by tracing its roots back to Plato and working his way forward! What? Didn’t he just say we need to stop attacking each other’s theories and start seeing them as all part of a larger whole? Ack!

I’m concerned about how I’m going to work through the implications of this in my research. How much flexibility do I have at Fielding? Do I really have to spend an enormous amount of time and energy thinking and writing about all the people who might possibly disagree with me, and why they are wrong? Do all journals expect this? If I’m espousing a move to fourth or fifth order consciousness, spending a big chunk of my paper deconstructing my “competitors” seems unethical on the grounds that it contradicts my stated values. I will be looking for guidance on this from my co-learners and professors, as I get closer to the end of my foundational KAs.

Okay, back to the class. I’ve loved interacting with my classmates, and I’ve loved getting your feedback, reading your papers, and exchanging ideas. I wrote this in one of my classmate’s threads, but I’m stealing her elephant parable: we all perceive different parts of theory (the elephant) most clearly, but by sharing our interpretations and clarifying them for each other, we start to get an idea of the whole. We each bring a little candle into the darkness, and together they create illumination. Dr. Stevens-Long’s feedback has been invaluable, and I am so glad that both our papers and her feedback were available for all of us. I learned a great deal from both.

To return to my first metaphor: Goldhaber is the outfit that I pull out for more conservative events. Lerner goes back on the rack. Kegan is my new favorite pair of jeans. Overton is a starched suit that looks nice, but isn’t very comfortable. And Stephens-Long is a stylish jacket that looks good with everything.

Thanks for indulging my questions, prodding, and flights of fancy! This was a life-changing class.