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2007-01-06 - 9:25 a.m.


It's a beautifully sunny day today, following yesterday's snow and wind storms. I decided that it was best to leave early from work after I tromped through a foot of snow between my office and the main building. At that point, the buses were not even running past my office on the mountain, and so I had to walk to the main bus terminal at the other side of campus. But all is well, I arrived home safely.

All is stressed again - I have to begin teaching on Monday and finish choosing reviewers for a special volume of articles that I am editing. My co-editor is moving countries and is having a difficult time keeping up with things. I feel nothing but sympathy for him. But that means that I am stuck with an excess of work on this volume, right over Christmas and into the new semester when I've started to teach. ugh.

I was hit with an overwhelming sense of insecurity and inadequacy on Thursday and felt extremely depressed. I feel that I have done next to nothing this year, in terms of my research career. And my flow of new and interesting ideas has dried up.

An email triggered this funk. A colleague sent me a paper in which she and another guy had essentially mined the same dataset that I have been sitting on for the past three years, and wrote a paper on it. I've wanted to work on this data for years, and haven't been able to because of teaching, moving, etc. Now I've been scooped. And rightly so. So I'm feeling rather sad. and pathetic, too. and stupid. and a fool - because I've advertised myself as someone who has these data and can work them up, and now it's been done by someone else.

I've been trying to find a way to recover. There has to be a way that I can still put my spin on these data and make them mine. At the same time, I haven't even been able to build up the fortitude to READ her paper to see what I need to build. My stomach still hurts when I think about it. It just makes me feel second-rate.

My dreams have been infested with work anxiety. I had one dream where I sat in a conference hall and everyone in my field turned to me and asked me, "so what have YOU done?" Last night I dreamt that I was in a bizarre world whose only history was the development of science. Instead of the world beginning, there was the scientific discovery of thermohaline circulation. The lives of my fellow scientists represented eras, their discoveries and contributions represented their whole lives, and when their ideas died, so did they. I was writing the religious book for this land, and defending one of the long-lived prophets - a scientist who trained me in my first years as a grad student - his ideas had continued to flow, and therefore he had a miraculous and extended youth. I was trying to describe his influence on the shaping of the world, and why I believed in him as a prophet. (this is very weird because in reality I'm rather wary of this particular scientist...I think this part of the dream must come from the fact that, even though I don't like him very much, I found myself defending his worth to the field at the conference in San Francisco).

Anyway, as I was mentally editing the 'St James version of paleoclimate' in my dream, I woke up remembering one of my most embarrassing moments back in 1990 in this "prophet's"class, when he asked me a simply question and I matter-of-factly replied "I don't know." He scolded me in front of 30 people saying that I SHOULD know. I felt myself blushing as I lay in the bed. I think I even started humming, which for some reason is what I reflexively do whenever I remember some horribly stupid or embarrassing thing that I've done in the past. And then what happens is that the door that locks up EVERY embarrassing moment in my life somehow bursts open, and I remember all of them. Then I reflexively switch from humming to murmuring sounds, to a few strangled noises that might be words in some unheard conversation that could have stalled my embarrassment... so I knew it was time to jump out of bed as quickly as possible.

Anyway, I think it's this horrible sense of inadequacy that makes it so difficult for me to sit down and work today, although I know that I must. I know it will pass. I know it will pass.

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