Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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My Life is So Different Now

Three years ago this week I made the decision to retire from Yale and move to Texas to live with and care for my dad. I don’t regret the decision but my life is so totally different; sometimes I feel disconnected, because there is no one here who has any connection to the professional life I led for so many years. Married people, people with children, usually have at least someone who has shared those experiences with them. I don’t even have my cat anymore.

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Yale Law Library Reading Room

I worked on college campuses for almost 40 years and there is an energy there that keeps things hopping. I started working in general university libraries right after getting my M.L.S. and moved to law school libraries three years later, never looking back. My career was in Technical Services, which started out as cataloging and evolved into management of all of the specialties under the Tech Services banner: acquisitions, serials, binding, cataloging, electronic resources, integrated library systems. I worked long hours at challenging work – You want a book from Singapore that was published today? And you want it when?  Okay, let me see what I can do. I lived in Virginia, in Maine, in Boston, and Connecticut, sometimes moving without knowing anyone else in the state. Moving was hard but I did it – and by myself.

My organizations allowed me time to be active in my profession, going to national and specialty conference such as the Innovative Users Group for users of the system I worked with for almost 30 years. Of course, that meant working late and on weekends to get my regular work accomplished, but it was a good trade off for keeping my brain stretched and making wonderful contacts across the country and around the world.  I spent five years on the IUG Steering Committee, including being education chair for a national conference, followed immediately by three years on the Executive Board of the American Association of Law Libraries. And three years later, I was education chair for the AALL conference, too. Exhilarating, challenging, hard, creative, fun.

I loved working out the bibliographic puzzles that went with my job. Figuring out what happened to serial publications that stopped coming or morphed into other titles without warning. Finding books requested by colleagues and faculty that came with incomplete or wrong titles. Resolving systems problems. Dreaming up new ways to explain old things to staff.

Ah, staff. I hated supervising. That was the only really hard thing about my job to me. I want to work in a collegial relationship with people who act like adults and pull their weight. Supervising people, and especially those in a tough union shop, made that difficult at times. And it was exhausting. I do not miss that one bit, though I do miss some of the people. Okay, not many of them, but some.

12108756_10208073611423764_1885628941810349569_n (1)I thoughtfully planned my departure from Yale, working to transition tasks and responsibilites to new people and writing endless documentation to explain how to do it. One week after I retired from Yale, I got in the car with the cat and my sister-in-law and drove to Texas. There was no time to process or grieve because new things were coming. I almost never hear from the people I worked with and it’s as though who I was and what I did there doesn’t matter to anyone except me. I’m forgotten and left behind. Which is appropriate; I don’t want them mourning me, either, but people I thought were friends apparently were just passing in the hallways instead. And that’s hard.

So I have a new life now. Instead of being an experienced, senior person, I’m a youngster in a retirement community. I work part-time as a church secretary, making bulletins, writing documentation, maintaining the website. I sing in the choir, play Mah Jongg, and have friends. I’m also primary caregiver for my 90 year old father, who is increasingly fragile and forgetful. Never having had children, I have one now in many ways, and it’s difficult. It’s hard to know how to take time away when I have to be at the church at 8:00 a.m. six days a week, plus care for my dad. I don’t regret being here but I haven’t adjusted.

I miss my friends and am grateful to Facebook, with all its problems, for helping me stay in touch with people who knew me in my other life. I miss my cat, who died last May. I need a hug.

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Sudden loss

One of my friends died suddenly yesterday, on the golf course in New Mexico while traveling with a group from our community. Although death is always a reality when you live in a place that has mostly 55+ residents, this one hit extra hard because it was so unexpected, because of where he was at the time, but mostly because he was so beloved by all. He had been a leader in the community and the church, but was also just a fun person who brought a smile to our faces.

We have a lot of memorial services here over the course of a year but most come after a lingering illness or simply from complications of age. This death was different and has made us stop in our tracks. Bob was a member of the choir and last night, instead of rehearsal, we spent time talking out the facts and reactions, and praying together.

It’s too soon to know anything else now. Logistics get complicated when a body needs to be moved across state lines and there are too many unknowns. What we do know is that we lost someone who mattered.


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My Head is Too Full of Words

Were you shocked by the Tucson shootings last Saturday?  I wasn’t.  I’ve been expecting some kind of violent eruption since the last election and to be honest, I thought it would be Obama who was shot first.  He’s gotten more than the usual share of death threats because he is Black, because the economy tanked and jobs lost – and because so many people are angry at the world and he is the president and epitomizes The Powers That Be.

The Tucson shootings captured and emotionally entangled me. I was obsessive in looking at more information, more analysis, more ideas to explain what I saw and heard.  It actually reminded me of my reactions to 9/11, and not in a healthy way.

All of the articles, stories, reports, videos, analysis, and prostrations didn’t help.  One article quotes another until they go in a single giant chain of links connecting one to the other.  And they didn’t change the innocent people who were dead, and the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords.   The left blamed the right, the right blamed the left, and talk show hosts decried any responsibility for anything.  Sarah Palin – well, don’t get me started there.

The problem is way bigger than why that particular mentally disturbed armed man managed to kill so many people at the grocery store – and there is plenty going on with THAT that will be dissected as we move on from here, hopefully not just with one party blaming the other.

Politicians and journalists analyzed and told us every single word, phrase, action, reaction, turn of the head, tone of voice, things done and things left undone until my head was full of words swimming in a big stew.  Our country is deeply angry at just about everything and looking for people to punish, and I’m afraid there will be a lot more violence and destruction before we get to a different place.

I don’t know how to change it and find that I isolate and just take care of myself (food, exercise, sleep).  More seems too much to deal with.  It’s not depression; I know what that feels like.  It’s more like chaos that’s too big to break down into pieces small enough to grab.  Though if my congresswoman has a meet and greet event in my area, I’ll definitely be there.

And in the meantime, I shovel.  We got over 2 feet of snow today.

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Obama spoke at the memorial service in Tucson not long after I wrote this, and I listened with tears in my eyes and a sense of peace and calm.  His words were Big and not Inflammatory or Partisan.  That’s what needed to be said, and what I needed to hear.  Thank you, Mr. President.