Saturday, February 22, 2003

Good news for a change: The first full-length paper, on sex determination in an inbreeding wasp, has been submitted to a major journal. We think it'll be accepted, although of course we won't know this for some months. I'm planning to go to work on the second paper, on the quantification of natural inbreeding in the same wasp species next week. Then I'll have to take a couple of weeks off to recover from my scheduled --er, body work, and then finish up the paper as soon as possible. I've also submitted an abstract for a presentation at a conference in Australia, although my ability to attend will depend on whether or not my proposed postdoc there gets funded.

I got a message telling me that I'm not on the short list regarding the application that I sent to the University of British Columbia. As disappointments go, that one's minor; UBC would have been a fun place to work, I think, but the actual work I would have been doing was not really defined in the job posting, and it would have depended somewhat on whether a prospective mentor was interested. At this point, I'm much more comfortable with the idea of lining up a mentor and a project before actually relocating anywhere.

It's amazing how clear it's become that working on the bug stuff is crucial to my physical and mental health. I've read a considerable amount of mind-body self-help stuff, and tend to take what I like and leave the rest; in other words, I'm skeptical of much of it but not all of it. It's fairly clear that I was already having mild symptoms of endometriosis a few years ago, but my body held it at bay until my last semester, when I took on a heavy teaching load much against my better judgment. I got whomped with increasing levels of pain starting in August, when things were beginning to go nuts; although the problem is hormonally cyclic to begin with, it was always much, much worse on teaching days. The one day, near the end of the process, when I had an argument (minor) with a committee member, I hadn't been in any pain until I got angry. Gladys promptly kicked in and did her best impression of a scraped knee for the rest of the night. And, after graduation, the pain began to increase in proportion to my boredom.

Now, when I'm back in the lab, I forget that I'm bummed out and apprehensive about having surgery. The writing and rewriting of the papers has been almost as physically effective as Vicodin; I cheer up by reminding myself that I'll be able to come back to the lab after two weeks or so and write again. Meanwhile, I sporadically read self-help books describing women (and men) whose health improves when they make positive decisions about their lives. Yes, it's anecdotal and subjective. All individual stories are. Many of the stories, at least for women, are related to resolving romantic or family relationships that have become toxic. I'm wondering now whether the most poisonous things in my own life have always been boredom and intellectual self-doubt. Yup, there's other baggage there, of course -- and much of it is related to having put my intellectual and creative life on hold, when I was younger, while remaining in less-than-functional relationships or mismatched jobs.

Now, in my forties, I'm married to a man who loves both me and my bugs (love you too, Rick, though I can't speak on behalf of the bugs!) I've finally completed the Ph.D. that I swore, at 25, that I'd never bother to get. I have friends in at least four different worlds (biological, Unitarian, quizbowl, and peace activism) which occasionally intersect. There are times now when I actually believe that even my mother understands me. :-) The musical part of my life is still missing, but that's going to take more work; I thought I was ready three years ago, but I've had to remember to give myself more time.

But the puzzle piece that's been holding it all in place lately seems to be a small, inconspicuous solitary wasp that hunts leaf-rolling caterpillars, nests in small holes, and, against all odds, mates with its siblings at a level that would be the envy of Egyptian royalty. My next project will almost certainly involve one or more different species. But it's going to happen, and it's worth getting healthy for it.

Sign-off time. Rebecca has arrived. She always knows how to keep me laughing. That's the other thing that keeps my body and brain together ....


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