© 2019 by Lisa Petty

What interests me.

(Also known as: My PhD Research)

I think in stories and entertain myself for hours on end following the trails left by my imagination. I learn in stories. When I struggle to grasp a new concept, I look for metaphors and similes and previous experiences that will help me assimilate the new information. I hear in stories, even when the narrative comes from instrumental music or the sound of the wind through the trees. I see in stories, like when diamonds glitter on the early morning lake. I problem-solve in stories, too, as happened when it was time to focus on a research question for my dissertation project and a friend needed a receptive ear. I found myself watching this story come to life:

“I should say ‘yes’.”

“Why?”

“It’s my job.”

“Is it?”

“Well, it’s expected that we do these things.”

“Is it really, or do you just think it is?”

“Oh, it definitely is. I think. Well…everybody does it.

Actually, not everybody does. John doesn’t. But most of us do.”

“Do you want to?”

“Not at all. Can I rant for a second?”

It was a rhetorical question.

“I. Am. So. Tired. I got no sleep last night because the kids were taking turns throwing up. My husband is angry with me because he had to cancel his meetings to stay home with them, but there’s no way I could miss today. I also promised to be home to relieve him by now – and I’m still here. Plus, my back is killing me and I’ve had to cancel two physio appointments in a row. Plus-plus, I’ll obviously have to miss yoga again tonight. Do you know I bought a membership three months ago and have only gone once? 

“Well, why don’t you go tonight? It sounds like you need it. Call a baby-sitter.”

“I can’t do that when they’re sick. Besides, I’ve had serious Mom-guilt for months. I do so much work at home that my kids are starting to hate my job, and my youngest has even started to pretend she doesn’t know who I am. You would think it would be funny to have a four-year-old do that, but believe me, it’s not. She’s breaking my heart. Then I get dirty looks at work when I show up 15 minutes late for a meeting because I had to put my kids on the school bus, even after I told them it would happen. So, I feel like I have to do all these extras to prove that I am contributing.”

“What would happen if you said ‘no’?”

“I can’t imagine.”

It did not take the gift of clairvoyance to see that she was on a crash course to a mental, emotional or physical breaking point. It was written all over her fragile countenance and her body, curled into itself from bearing the stalwart façade of control and glimpsed in a brief moment of brazen honesty. When the veneer dropped, there was recognition in the room. The midlife woman in me saw the midlife woman in her. I felt her story in my body as she told it.

 

Do you feel it in your body, too?

The purpose of my doctoral research is to explore how women at midlife make choices about the expectations placed on them, and how they support their personal well-being through self-care - whatever that might mean to them. It's a pretty complex question, when you think about it. And once I have some of the answers, I will share those stories, too.

Stay tuned.

P.S. If you'd like to learn more about my doctoral research, please click through here.