By Joycelyn Moody - JMoody's Musings
“There is no separate Professional Life distinct from one’s Familial Life or from one’s Personal Life or from one’s Social Life. There is only one life.”
“Meditation Moment,” Headspace https://www.headspace.com/science
So, I moved house at the end of March, as in after spring break, as in during the middle of the term. And since then I’ve been mulling over a couple of quotes that rotate among “Meditation Moments,” a meditation app called Headspace I get prompts from several times a day. Yes, I’m the kind of person who takes aphorisms where she can find them—you know, fortune cookies and tea bags. Risky and nerdy, I know, I know, but there it is. Anyway, one that keeps coming ’round regularly cautions against the illusion that somehow a “professional life” can be, or maybe actually is, discrete from a “social life,” and so on. Still, it’s a convenient fantasy.
I’ve felt more and more the truth of this maxim since I moved in with My Honeypot of twenty-one years a few weeks after the anniversary of our first date. I mean literally felt it. As in: I was moving a box of books to my upstairs study when I wrenched a muscle in my left arm. One of those godawful sprains when you both hear and feel the tear at the same time. All of a sudden, my lower left bicep was searing and I nearly sank under the pain stretching from my forearm to my wrist.
As it happened, I had a personal training session scheduled for a few hours later. I alerted my guy—a kinesiologist in training. Driving to the gym was agony. We worked the affected muscles. He advised ice and massage—healing forces I’d been too stunned to remember. The next morning, I sat for upper body reflexology—cringing, almost crying as the masseuse wrenched me even more. Three days later, the arm could hardly tolerate the weight of a sheaf of quizzes.
Which brings me back to the Headspace meditation proverb. In a heartbeat, the incident dispelled the fallacy of contemporary life as a set of controllable elements. The ache—and the inconvenience my injury brought on—affected every so-called aspect of my life. With this house move, I saw myself turning into deeper intimacy with My Beloved, after 10 years of career work had kept us apart (“romantic life,” “professional life”). Instead, I was dragging that heavy-ass box of books into my home study (“familial life”), where I am writing this blog, pretty much one-handedly (“career”). Afflicted with vertigo, I always take stairs with care but this time my mindfulness failed me (“physical health”). I was supposed to be meeting some of my Black and Brown women colleagues at a campus function (“social life”) when I was home icing an arm the size of a baseball.
As I explained the incident to My Heart, she looked sick and immediately took the blame. (I love when this happens!) The books actually belonged on a shelf in her own office, downstairs. Meanwhile, my arm still throbbed and my computer work went either undone or done painstakingly.
That box of books exposed the canard of a life lived in fragments, and showed me the interdependence of the components of human lives. We treasure the illusion of control over all parts of our lives. Truth be told, even we WellAcademic coaches often advise caring for our mental health by partitioning off our “professional lives.” And that’s advice we stand by: academics, particularly those from minoritized groups, need rest and respite from the challenging institutions in which we work. The worry comes when that advice encourages the fantasy of clearly delineated lives—when in fact, there is only one life. And if yours is anything like mine, it’s always some combination of beautiful, messy, draining, astonishing, surreal, jumbled, and when I am boldest, it’s utterly adventuresome.
A physical injury may reveal our intrinsic unity more than other disruptions—like a computer virus or an overdrawn bank account or a babysitter gone AWOL. So, it’s worth remembering the wisdom of fortune cookies and online gurus: Our lives aren’t lived in demarcated worlds. In the end, the only boundaries are those we can--and should—try to create, moment to moment, from space to stream, from desk to shout to couch to meal to kiss to wound to prize to thrill.
Until next time,