I recorded an aural letter to myself at Llanbadarn Church, while pausing on a run, yesterday. I suspect that it’ll be the first of many. It’s an intensely private mode of free-form self-reflection – a sonic snapshot of the heart and mind – and of conversing with those who’re in absentia.
6.00 am: A poor night’s sleep. Morning:
Floor exercises. 7.30 pm: A communion. 8.15 am: Admin. I made the decision to ‘defriend’ students on my Facebook and Messenger accounts. This was an act neither of hostility nor a slight. Rather, it’s in order to ensure that all have equitable access to me. Not every student uses these platforms. Furthermore, conversations of an academic nature require a ‘paper trail’ these days, and email is by far the best way to keep track of it. I also appreciate being able to separate my personal/private and professional/academic identities. There’s a danger of becoming an ‘open all hours’ shop, and of shrinking to the size of the job. From this weekend onwards, too, I’ll not be answering student or administrative emails from 5.00 pm on a Friday until 9.00 am on a Monday. This has become a fairly widespread practice in UK universities. I’m trying to redeem my ‘other’ life, by many and small means.
9.00 am: Wil ‘the carpet’ arrived to lay a new surface from the top to the bottom of the house. I poured tutorial times into this week’s dairy, before looking at the incoming responses to my PhD monitoring requests. 11.10 am: He accidentally cut through a cable to the alarm system. As a result, the house sounded like a high-security prison on lockdown. The alarm man were called. Wil carried on banging grip-type stables into the floor against the howling backdrop. Not a morning for sound composition, then:
As I write, the death of another member of Holy Trinity Church was announced. Words like ‘flies’ and ‘dropping’ came to mind. This will be a further blow to an already discouraged congregation. The older folk feel these losses most acutely. They’re losing friends of many years standing. As well as reckoning upon their own departure:
12.23 pm: Wil ‘the electric’ arrived to fix the broken alarm system. Now there were two Wils downstairs making noises. (‘Where there’s a Wil there’s a wail’.)
1.20 pm: After lunch, I popped over to the School (which is only 7-minutes away) to pick up a further monitoring form and parcels. Back at homebase, I pressed on. This was repetitive work that didn’t require either creativity or imagination. 5.15 pm: I made preparations for dinner:
7.30 pm: I couldn’t do much more with the monitoring until I’d received responses to my follow-up emails. My website’s annual MOT was due. I looked through it, page-by-page, in order to ascertain the problems that’d accrued as a result of serial updates, for the most part. There was a student reference and some church business to deal with, too, before I could sign off for the night.
There’re times when you when you must do something unthinkably desperate, painful, and hard for the highest good of another. (The sacrifice is a testament to the commitment.) There’re times when you should play your cards close to the chest. (Don’t let on!) There’re times when the lines of confidences become tangled and insecure. (Put the phone down!) There’re times when messages get muddled. (Stop corresponding, and wait for the fog to lift.) There’re times when one’s best intentions are thwarted and goodwill is in short supply. (Remain silent!) There’re times when the battle and the personal cost prove to be too great. (Retreat and bind up your wounds!) There’re times when no solution presents itself. (Draw a line under the problem, for now.) There’re times when you should admit defeat; for there’s a limit to how long you can struggle. (There’s no virtue in endurance, if the psychological damage sustained proves too great and irreparable.)
What do I fear most? I’ve pondered that question often over the past few years. I know now, without a shadow of a doubt?
Nil ardui est*
*For Amy Seed