Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In Praise of Bulky Women Writers

One of the disadvantages of being an administrator is that I routinely wake up in the middle of the night fretting over work problems and how to solve them. I do not remember doing that as a faculty member.  I might have felt irritated with students or sorrowful over their personal plights, but I don't recall that these issues haunted my sleep.

I wish I could say that I got up at 3 a.m. and spent my time productively:  writing poems or sending out submissions or turning blog postings into my memoir or into magazine articles.  Alas, no.

I did write an e-mail to a friend who teaches at a different school in a different state.  She's having issues with her department chair.  I wrote an e-mail about life from her chair's likely perspective.  Perhaps I provided comfort.  Perhaps she thinks I've gone to the dark side.

I should start a separate file of e-mails that might be useful in my memoir.  You may or may not remember that my plan for my memoir is to write a work that weaves together the strands of a quest to live an authentic spiritual life--which you may rightly say has been done to death.  But I want to weave that strand with a strand that explores work and how to live an authentically spiritual life when one must work in an office in a non-spiritual setting.  I haven't seen too many of those kind of memoirs.  How-to books, yes (and not many that I find useful, frankly).  Memoirs, no.

After e-mail catch up, I found myself reading about Susan Gubar's memoir of life with ovarian cancer, Memoir of a Debulked Woman.  I wept at this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  I am not ready for this generation of feminists, the ones who blazed the trail for me, to die.  I don't know that I would have survived grad school without The Madwoman in the Attic.  I spent money on that book; I knew how important it would be to have my own copy.  I fully expected it to go out of print at any moment.  Happily, I was wrong.

I listened to this interview with Gubar on NPR's program Talk of the Nation.  I found it both inspiring, depressing, realistic, and well, depressing.  The statistics on this disease are startling.  The many ways that treatment can go terribly wrong are horrific.

Again, I find myself thinking about work.  The issues that woke me up a few hours ago are not really important.  We have been losing funding for our stand-alone tutoring center for years.  If we lose it completely, we will all go on.  It will not be perfect, far from it, but we are running out of options, and we face many cuts to the budget.  In the long run, cuts to our tutoring program may be the trivial ones.

How I wish I could believe that these cuts will save us from the larger, more painful ones.

How I wish I could stop plotting and planning over these cuts that are handed to me.  I am not consulted.  I am not given choices.  I am wasting mental energy on this.  I will not have any say over these cuts or any others.

I should follow the model of Susan Gubar, who continues to work and to write.  We have no guarantees after all.  It's a good question:  what should our legacy be?

Gubar leaves behind work that was so important.  In 1986, I bought The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, edited by Gilbert and Gubar, not for a class, but because I felt like it was such a lifeline to me as a woman who wanted to be a writer.  I needed to know that it could be done, and that anthology was proof.  I still have it, even though it's currently in its 3rd edition.

I may only have a few decades left to write.  I may have substantially less.  What do I want to leave behind?  What haven't I written yet that needs to be written?  What story is mine to tell?

1 comment:

M said...

I love your writing. I look forward to the day that your memoir is available!