Wednesday, March 29, 2006


March and April are the busiest months of the year for me. I advise 1,000 English majors (mostly by myself) and during these months they enroll for courses next year. A general panic sets in, no matter how much I prepare them, and my load piles high: 100-300 emails a week, appointments and walk-ins with at least 40 students weekly asking what they should take next year.

This would be about the time someone like me (responsible, devoted, organized) would work harder and longer, and as a result, start burning out. For the last four years, that’s just what has happened. By the end of April, I’m frustrated and crying, wondering why I stay in this job (that I usually LOVE).

This year I’m trying to work smarter and strike a balance in my day. When I begin to feel the stress mounting, my whole being try to check out and that I just want to scream, I know it’s time to stop, quiet myself, and find a way to fill up.

Yesterday, for the first time ever in this job, when I got to that point in my day, I walked across the street to Starbucks, ordered a macchiato, and read the New York Times. It felt meditative. I savored the coffee, chocolate and caramel in the drink. I focused on the labor protests in France. I was out of my mind (the part that was wrapped up in work) for 45 minutes, and it refreshed me.

Sometimes just closing my eyes for 5 minutes, going "inside", emptying all the stuff out of my head, is enough to relax and recharge.

I’m reposting Lar Braun’s sculpture “acrobat” because it illustrates balance. This time it’s been photoshopped with the “fresco” filter.

I wonder what other people do when they're out of balance?


Ginnie said...

It's interesting that you wrote about this today, Ruth, because I just read
post on balance from DailyOm. Guess we're all realizing right now how discombobulated we can get if we're NOT in balance. Moderation in everything. Balance. Thanks for the reminder. I loved picturing you going across the street to Starbucks. I would have loved to join you!

Ingrid said...


My name is Ingrid and I am a friend of Rachel. She showed me your blogspot one day and I just loved what you have been writing about.

It is funny that you should write an entry about staying in balance. I have been thinking about it recently. I go to university at ASU and study music therapy. Lately with the all of the reponsiblities piling high, it has been getting very stressful. I had an experience several years ago when I did not pay attention to my stress and the need for balance, it got so out of hand, I became physically/mentally ill. Since that time, I started exploring ways to keep balance and harmony even when facing stress. This past week had been a good example of one of those times when stress threatens to get the best of me.

For balance, I meditate. It brings me back to the present moment, just this moment is all we have and I see what it really is. I think this is the best method for me. It took awhile to explore the different options since we all have different ways of finding our balance. I also find inner balance in nature as I am an naturalist and love the outdoors. It is a little hard to find my backwoods here in Phoenix but I try to picture my woods from back home in Washington State.

Thank you and I will continue to enjoy the entries you post.

Ruth said...

Ginnie: And I would have loved sitting over coffee with you. But I love our connections here. I'm going to check out Mausi's post.

Ingrid: Welcome and thank you for visiting! It sounds as though we have much in common. Meditation and nature are probably my most common ways of finding balance too. Since we moved to the farm, I've been introduced to nature like never before. In fact it's the context for the growth I've had spiritually in the last couple of years. Yes, sometimes visualizing what nurtures me, if I can't be there, helps. I do hope you'll keep visiting.

Ruth said...

I must confess, after posting this post yesterday, I had one of my worst days ever in walk-in advising. I got frustrated, felt like being rude and wanted to lock my door so no more students could enter. I'm working on observing this state of frustration and annoyance and find a way to a) recognize when others mess up and b) not judge it. Sometimes people DO mess up. But it does not follow that I should judge, condemn, become annoyed or stressed. This is difficult!

Ginnie said...

Not to belittle the stress at all, Ruth, but it amazes me how much "power" the new moon solar eclipse seemed to have in my life as well. We ARE affected by the Universe--the heavens, nature, etc.--and need to be reminded of our connections on all levels. Hopefully we'll all have relief today. I do thus far :)

lesleyanne said...

mmm....that's so good mammas. you really do need to do that. one thing i have definitely learned from ccs is how to manage stress [[and i'm still learning apparently]].

when i need a moment to breathe i do one of a few things ::
-watch a movie
-go thrift shopping
-and yes when i don't have the time to do either of those things i will sit and close my eyes for a few minutes as well. try to empty my brain.
i do my best designing and creating when i am completely void of any stressful thoughts. and i've found that focusing on one thing at a time really really helps.

Ruth said...

I do too feel better today, Ginnie. Thank you for telling me about this, because rather than belittle the stress, it helps me understand it and not be quite so hard on myself.

Ruth said...

Les: Creativity comes out of emptiness! So you're right on.

I read somewhere the idea that God had to "contract" in order to empty space for creation to take place.

rachel said...

I just loved all of your posts! Glad to see you here Ingrid! I think it's so neat that Aunt Ruthy's friend is Inge and your are Ingrid:) Neat.

Funny about that eclipse, I had a very trying day yesterday, too! My students were completely off the wall. We are in a college atmosphere and sometimes I have to resort to Kindergarten behavior management techniques.

By the end of the day, I was so exhausted, and I had to still make my plans for the lecture this morning with them over the Anatomy of the Eye and Ears. I felt just like you did- I wanted to slam the door and not give a lecture- so I did!

I created a page of questions and a study guide that they had to get the answers from themselves!!! I split them into four groups- and made sure they were put in groups with people they don't usually sit by. Not only did they have to answer the questions, but I also made them get creative! Each group was assigned to prepare to act out the eye seeing, or the ear hearing during the last half hour of the class.

While they were all very busy working, I called them up one at a time and had a short conference with each of them to find out why they wanted to become massage therapists, and what their plans were after graduation.

One guy had me in tears. He told me his life story. He used to be into making money- he was a multibillionaire- had lots of properties and boats. But then he became ill- he became a diabetic. He virtually has no pancreas. Suddenly he didn't care about money any more.

During this time of being ill, one day, his daughter said to him, "Dad, you have touched me more times in the last six months than you have my whole life." It was at that moment that he realized he wanted to do something to touch peoples' lives- so he is becoming a massage therapist.

But wait, there is more! He is such an active student and always present- so I was asking him why he only scored a 4/10 on his first quiz. He explained to me that his diabetes is so bad, he has no short term or long term memory, no matter how hard he studies, he still can't remember! He got a 7 on his quiz today- so maybe there is hope:)

During the last half hour of the class, the groups got up and did there presentations. I was a little worried that it would be a flop (trying something outside of the box), but I have to say, I don't think any of us has laughed so hard for so long since this semester started! I had a guy acting as the light break-dancing through the cornea, iris and lense to the rods and cones of the eye! I laughed so hard I cried!

If I hadn't been stressed in the first place- we never would have had so much fun today- and I wouldn't have gotten to know all 45 of my students on an individual personal level!

Ginnie said...

What a great story, Rachel. I loved YOUR creativity in the context of stress. Wow. Well done!

Ruth said...

Rachel! That is so incredible! Thank you for sharing it all! You are such a good story teller. Please, please, please start a blog!

BTW, Ginnie made the connection (an article she read and posted on her memorial post about G'ma) between diabetes and Alzheimer's, so it totally makes sense about the memory loss.