Retreat with a difference

An alternative title for this post is ‘even slower’. I wrote and rewrote it several times. I sat with it and worried over its gloom. I thought about it at work, at home and in hospital with my daughter. She has been here for almost two weeks now, as we aim to get better understanding and control over her seizures. This feels like a positive step, but it has been hard to find a positive way to frame this post.

During this time, I have (mostly) been on leave from work—a big shout out to awesome colleagues who have taken over key responsibilities such as staff induction—but I have continued to write. I finished the first draft of a chapter (due today), submitted five abstracts for conferences and journal special issues (several of them with co-authors), and responded to some copy-editing queries on another book chapter. Some caveats: being able to take leave is a privilege. Hospitalisations looked very different when I was a casual staff member (student evaluation from that time: “I liked this course but I got the impression that Agnes didn’t really want to be here”). Writing has also been possible because I am not staying in hospital every night, but have shared shifts with my partner, mother and mother-in-law.

Last year I wrote a post on working during difficult times. These were (meant to be) short-term strategies. When the crisis situation continues for longer than anticipated, when normal is redefined, when you start to think that this might be your indefinite future, the strategies need rethinking. Things that suffer: the tasks and projects you know will improve your self and your life. Half tongue-in-cheek, these might include decluttering, trying new recipes, practising mindful listening, cultivating family rituals, or building a new habit. And the activities that require care, time and planning start to fall away (organising a party for a soon-to-be five year old, for example).

There are good things here: therapy dogs, clown doctors, volunteers who have mastered the art of small talk, thoughtful rooming that puts us with other 11 and 12 year olds with epilepsy, and a lot of time spent waiting. My writing has adapted to the circumstances. I have practiced a method of ‘thinking through writing’ or ‘writing along the way’—“writing that is intended to sort out what we think, why, and what the implications of a line of thought might be” (Thomson & Kamler, 2010, p 149). I have also been doing a lot of ‘reading alongside writing’ and finding ways to acknowledge the intertexts that are usually not cited. (This is also one of the ideas we talked about as the spirit of research —we also mentioned the music we listen to while writing).

This doesn’t look like an ideal writing retreat but, with a laptop, it works for now:

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Image result for westmead children's hospital

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5 thoughts on “Retreat with a difference

  1. I have only just read this blog. I have been wondering about your daughter the last couple of weeks and this is not the answer to my wondering I had hoped for.
    I hope all goes well.


  2. Pingback: Things I’m learning | The Slow Academic

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