Discomforts started setting in by around day three. Sensations which I had long ago adapted to and learned to manage subconsciously were now very consciously noticed new sensations. I felt really overstimulated and mentally exhausted. And cranky and impatient.
In distant kinship to midwives and doulas, I help graduate student individuals and groups give birth to new ideas and new self-/group-concepts. It’s up to the person or group to decide what direction they want to grow in, and then I help them develop their capacities. That might be about having new ideas, developing a more complete understanding of a problem, nurturing compassion for difficulties, practicing new skills, or committing to a bold action.
I am entering into this new calendar year with more self-compassionate approaches to reflection and intention setting. What did I learn about myself for this year? What did I do for myself this year? What values do I continue to uphold and want to focus on for next year?
The turtle grandmas are shepherds, protectors, and keepers of space for the nestlings. They do pastoral work, watching over the nests and being present before, during, and after the turtles hatch. They facilitate the flow of nature.
I’m making everyday decisions with harsh critics watching over my shoulder. I act as if I have to have The One final outcome imagined with detail. What if making that one tiny decision IS the decision? The question: do I want to get these toes fixed now? Notice the question is not, will I get these toes fixed now, and who will do it, how, how will it feel, when, what if…, who will take care of.., and then what about…? Just the simple question, do I want to get these toes fixed now? The answer: yes, I want to get my toes fixed now.
I am today years old in realizing the extraordinary self-doubt I feel in my capability to discern “this is fine” from “this is not fine.” I don’t believe myself to be a reliable narrator.
I’m inviting friends to help me tend to my fears about pain, loneliness, and urgent need as best I can. I get to have new experiences of care from and with my friends. I get to expand my self-knowledge about what feels good to me. I get to learn more about the people in my community and what they like to do.
I want PhDs to be able to communicate about their skills, interests, values, preferences, and strengths: who they are, what they need, and what fulfills them. Self-knowledge helps PhDs make conscious choices in all aspects of their lives that are aligned; they will know why they are doing something and whether they are acting in alignment with their values and commitments. When graduate students and postdocs are consciously engaged in the curation of all aspects of their lives, their academic work can be in balance and harmony with rest, play, movement, creativity, friendships, family, and community.
Graduate students, postdocs, and colleagues are contemplating change, a process of dramatic and emotional self-examination, assessing their environment, weighing options, evaluating their aid systems, and assembling their supportive relationships. Their imaginations are wild with possibilities. They know they are approaching a choice to voice what they want for their true selves. They know they are preparing to, but aren’t quite ready to, decide whether to let a past version of themselves go and a new version emerge. I hold space for graduate students, postdocs and professional development coaches who are contemplating, considering, preparing for, and committing to change.
That late-summer evening in 2019, in cutting a snapping turtle free from lake weeds, I started the process of setting myself free from codependency and internalized oppressive mindsets.