Sunday, March 24, 2002

We are a sorry lot. Jill, Hilde, Lisbeth and me are all struggling to finish our Ph. Ds. A recent soul-sister in the struggle is Tinka, so eloquently expressing the angst we all feel.

I think Hilde is holding up the best. She's the sensible, healthy kind of girl, works steadily and well, exercises and has her notes in a good system. We all love her for her quiet humour and her self-discipline. Hilde is reliable and sane compared to the mess the rest are making of this final phase of writing.

Jill is talented. Brilliant ideas leap from her keyboard out into the academic community. A center of energy for us to tap into, throw ideas against, test theses on. And Lisbeth is just plain good - a thorough, classic danish humanist, well-read, imaginative and with a quick analytic mind. But they both have their bodies warning them, telling them that the strain is taking more out of them that it should: the pressure of writing is not just a mental barrier, but also a physical one.

As for me - I struggle. I am old and slow compared to the brilliant spark of the others, and my body is screaming for attention. But I am stubborn. The doctor gave me medicines to help me relax the muscles of my back, in the hope of stopping and perhaps turning the escalating spiral of pain, ease the inflammation and help me to breath easier, sleep better, walk stairs without pain and stand up without crying out because it hurts. But he had the common sense to believe me when he threatened to force a sick-leave on me. I told him that not working would not make me relax right now. He agreed, wrote out medicines and treatment, and gave me a lecture on exercising - once I have finished.

He claims my body reacts the opposite way of how it should because of the stress. If I try to work out while I am this stressed, I'll just end up worse off than I was at the beginning. I have noticed that before, but it's the first time a doctor has actually said it. Trying to release the mental tension through physical exhaustion won't always work. It's not really such a great revelation, but in a way it's liberating. I have been struggling to stay in shape in order to carry on. Seems like I can laze around with a clear conscience when I am not working. And that's an other thing - he told me to drop all the work which is not related to finishing. That means drop feeling responsible for the family, the house, my mother, all the other stuff. Preferably I should go away.

I already feel better. Not least because he freed my conscience. I can be ruthless - as a matter of fact I need to be ruthless and care about nobody but myself, and I don't need to feel that guilt, the eternal guilt of the bad mother, the bad daughter, the bad spouse... Just writing those words makes my muscles relax and the back feel better. I think I am not alone to carry this guilt with me - after all, we are girls, taught to care for others, accomodate others and be open and vulnerable to them. But right now, struggling to finish, it's good to stop being nice.

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