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As Dreams are Vapor.

28 January 2016

I didn’t sleep last night. Well, a few hours. But I tossed awake for as many as I slumbered. Selling my house is provoking deep and difficult anxieties. I finally sat up and wrote a note to my agent to send to the buyer using the words “water damage” where I hadn’t in the original disclosure. Then, talking with a friend this morning I was reminded that I had a professional contractor look at the problems, and he didn’t recommend any repairs beyond the ones I’ve already disclosed. And I did all the repairs he recommended.

This morning I searched in vain for flights that would get me to Spain to give my invited lecture. It’s just not going to work. The talk is the week before my home is supposed to close. I am giving another talk in New Orleans the day I would have to leave. Things are just not lining up the right way. I’m disappointed.

But I also a bit relieved. I’m not an expert on the topic. I wrote a one-off paper about a thought experiment I did in a computer. The people who invited me are all giants in the field of simulating social processes. I’m a putz who jumped fields to write one short research note. I shouldn’t pretend to be something I’m not. It was exciting to get noticed for a minute for some cool work I did, but let’s not start thinking I’m a real researcher with a major contribution to make.

I’m not a professor. I’m not a real scientist. I’m a mediocre engineer doing hospital quality improvement who publishes case studies to satisfy my vanity. I do that mostly because I have more talented friends who do exciting things and get public recognition and I desperately want to be part of that club. I don’t want to be insignificant or unimportant. I want to be more than I am.

This is my ego. My ego has desires and dreams and visions that are beyond my grasp. And so I pretend to be bigger and better than I am to try to satisfy it, and then I hope no one notices the rot in my soul underneath. People talk a lot about Impostor Syndrome. But I am, I think, and actual impostor when it comes to academic science. Yes, I’ve gotten a few small grants and written a few unimportant papers. But I frequently and deliberately inflate the value of my experience.

I am an alcoholic. I am a liar. My first impulse is to conceal who I am and deceive people about my abilities. I have to fight that impulse all the time. There is a terror about telling the truth when it means I might not get what I want. But dishonesty is toxic to my sobriety. It all leaves me uncomfortable and askew. Constantly battling one destructive behavior or another.

The last week I’ve had this cold, which is over now. I took Alka-Seltzer cold to relieve my nasal congestion. One side effect this has (though I don’t see it noted on the package, so it may be a placebo) is to make me drowsy. Last night I felt fine. But I still thought about taking the medicine, for the drowsiness. I didn’t. That’s the first step back in. Anxiety triggers disquiet. My alcoholic mind seeks ways to anesthetize myself.

So I went to bed and I tossed and turned until midnight. Then again from 2-4. Then I was up at 5. Today I’m weary and angry and anxious. I have no relief from that. This is what I endure, rather than using chemicals to assuage it. And I send another statement because I don’t want to risk my serenity. What serenity I can imagine having, though I cannot find it now.

I am tired and sick to my heart and I am sad. I want silence and green meadows and golden light.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Aimee permalink
    28 January 2016 11:21

    I’ll talk to you privately, but here I just want to say you do the fellow in Soain a disservice by assuming he can’t read your curriculum vitae himself and make his own judgements about the quality of your work and the interest of your contribution. Hope
    You sleep better tonight.

  2. 29 January 2016 19:08

    I am the mother of an alcoholic/addict (In Recovery) and you could have been writing about me. Great post.

  3. Beth M permalink
    31 January 2016 14:21

    We are also in the midst of home purchase, soon to be starting home sale as well. Sleepless nights, stress, flurry of activity. Your post gave me things to think on today. I’m extremely grateful to be maintaining food sobriety through this process. I, too, long for silence, and green meadows and golden light (how beautifully said!) at these times. Early dawn hikes are my solution, I’m fortunate to be able to take vacation days, and live near good hiking spots, even in the winter. I know you’ll find ways to feed your heart and soul what they need.

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