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Four weeks! (#1134)

Topics/tags: Autobiographical

It’s now four weeks since my heart attack. I figured my friends (and others who read my musings) deserved another update on my status.

Let’s start with my health. I saw my cardiologist [1] a week and a half ago. She said all seems to be good. My cardiac output is normal [2]. She doesn’t think that there was any permanent damage to my heart. I tried to convince her that my students say that I’m heartless, so it wouldn’t matter, but she didn’t believe me.

However, she did fully suggest that I have to work less. My therapist did, too. And my family has been telling me that for years. So, I’m working more on working less, if that makes sense. More on that issue to follow.

I’m exercising almost daily. Much of it happens during cardiac rehab, but I’m also taking walks on my own or with my family. Soon I’ll have the stamina to take walks with the many folks who offered to walk with me [3]. My one worry is that my joints are not all that happy with all this walking, which is one of the reasons I hadn’t been walking regularly. So I may be staying with the elliptical for a bit longer.

What else? My blood pressure is good; usually about 120/80 or 110/80. My 02sat is in the high 90’s. My resting pulse rate is in the 60s. All those are good signs. Of course, I’m on medicine to help everything be in those places, but the medicine is working.

That sounds like enough physical health for now. What about mental health?

It’s been strange. No, that’s not the right thing to say. It’s been good. After I finish dinner, I usually have to decide which of a huge list is the highest priority. Right now, I’m just focusing on my classes and my wellness. That means that after dinner, I can say things like I think I’ll take a walk or I think I’ll read a book. Deciding to take a walk or read a book or watch a TV show or muse doesn’t mean that I’m deciding not to do something that I have to do, for whatever reason.

I’ve started having the first happy for no reason [4] days I’ve had in a long, long time. Usually, happiness comes from something nice, like spending time with family [5]. But those days I just felt good. It took a while to figure out why. And then I realized that I don’t have those continuous worries in the back of my head; they aren’t my responsibility anymore.

What will we do with the likely over-enrollments in our fall courses? I don’t care; it’s someone else’s responsibility [6].

What will we do next spring, when we still have too few faculty to advise our majors? I don’t care, it’s someone else’s responsibility.

What happens if we go far over sixty majors this year, and we only have offerings for sixty [8]? I don’t care, it’s someone else’s responsibility.

Are we going to be able to offer our two-credit courses again? If not, how do we continue offering an appropriate range of topics for our students? I don’t care, it’s someone else’s responsibility.

I suppose I don’t care is the wrong phrase. I can’t care or I shouldn’t care would be better. If I cared about these things as much as I did before, my stress level would be high, my blood pressure would go up, and my health would suffer. I didn’t put us in this position, other than by trying to build a strong department. I’ve asked enough for help to get us out of these situations. But you know what? It can’t be just my responsibility or even the CS department’s communal responsibility; the institution should be taking some of the lead in addressing these kinds of problems.

What about those dozen or so important topics that the department is supposed to discuss, from formalizing our procedures and practices, to issues of diversity, to learning outcomes for some core courses, to long-term planning, to assessment, to other things I no longer remember? I may participate in the discussions, if it doesn’t add too much stress to my life, but it can’t be my responsibility to lead them nor to do the necessary preparation or follow-up work.

Should I be upset at failures of shared governance, about promises not kept, about disconnects between what we say we value and what we do, about a valued colleague who is giving up on raising important issues, about the host of things that usually upset me? Nope; although I have no designated successors for these things, I need not be the one to worry [9]. And I’m not going to muse or rant about them anymore [10]. As this paragraph suggests, I’m still a curmudgeon, but I’m trying to be less of one.

Anyway, it feels nice not to worry about work. I’m hoping I can remain moderately worry-free. Last week, I was upset about the administrator who was rude and then ghosted me [11]; this week, I’m not so worried, except that I’m wondering whether I can refuse to deal with them ever again. Oh well; that’s an issue for next year.

What about that argument with someone I highly respect? I feel bad for arguing with them; we’re meeting tomorrow and I hope we can patch things up. But that argument reminded me that I take things too seriously, and when I take things too seriously, it affects my health. So I’m trying to stop.

I finally got the grading done for my Spring Term One class [12]. I felt guilty about how long it took, but I needed the time. And I couldn’t have done it without my incredibly fantastic junior colleagues, who took on much of the load. It feels good to have that off my plate. Over the longer term, I need to find ways to cut down on grading [14,15].

Well, that’s enough about my mental state and workload. What else?

I’ve cut way down on salt and fats, which feels good conceptually, even though I miss cooking with salt [16]. I eat about three or four servings of veggies and five or so servings of fruit each day. But I need to move from eating right to eating less. I’ve lost fifteen pounds or so since the heart attack, but I’d say close to ten of that was just water weight or fluid buildup from a failing heart. In any case, losing a pound or two a week isn’t a bad plan.

I hate being on blood thinners. I’m used to getting small nicks while gardening or cleaning or whatever. Now I bleed profusely when it happens. I don’t get bothered by the sight of blood, but I do get irritated with the necessary cleanup, and I don’t want to scare people. So I’m trying to carry around enough bandages to handle those situations.

I’m more tired than I’d expect. I seem to need at least ten hours of sleep per night. Of course, it felt like I needed ten hours of sleep before I had the heart attack; I was just less good at giving myself that much time to sleep. And I’m not always sleeping well; I’m not sure why. But I think these things will get better, too.

In the end, I think I’m doing the right things, at least so far. I’m exercising. I’m watching my diet. I’m paying attention to stress. I’m saying no to things. I’m taking more time for myself. I know that I need to step back even more from my non-teaching work. Doing so will reduce stress, give me time to spend on relaxation and wellness, and help me get and stay healthier.

But I’m making progress on that end, too. I’m not worrying about big new projects. For example, I was considering putting together a group to draft an NSF proposal on equitable grading. I’m not going to worry about that any more.

I think that the TL;DR is supposed to come at the start, rather than the end. But I think I’ll put it here. It’s a conversation I’ve had a few times lately.

How are you Sam?

I’m alive. I’m great.

Postscript: I’ll post another follow-up musing in a few weeks. Feel free to drop me an email if you want to know how I’m doing.

[1] Well, she’s a Nurse Practitioner in Cardiology. I think that still qualifies her as a Cardiologist.

[2] I’ve mentioned that before.

[3] It’s fine if you want to withdraw that offer or add that offer.

[4] Other than I’m alive.

[5] Okay, it’s almost always spending time with family.

[6] I did get to participate in our conceptual discussions of prioritization [7] today. Leading that discussion and carrying out those rules would have placed me under undue stress.

[7] E.g., which group gets cut first from each category of class.

[8] Three sections of CSC-301 can serve 60 students. Three sections of CSC-341 can serve 60 students. Four sections of CSC-324 can serve 64 students, which is a bit better. Two sections of CSC-213 and two sections of CSC-211 can serve twenty-four students who want to take one of those courses and thirty-six who want to take both. I guess that last pairing is one place we have some slack.

[9] Sorry, Michelle. You were right. I should have listened earlier.

[10] Well, maybe once in a while. But if I don’t muse about them, I don’t need to think about them.

[11] My therapist suggests that it’s not the particular situation, but the broader issues it represents. He’s right. I’m trying not to be upset about the broader issues, either.

[12] A week ago.

[14] Escaping from the horror of terms will help.

[15] Of course, I’ve been trying to find ways to cut down on grading for decades.

[16] Throw the fresh broccoli in the steamer. Sprinkle salt on top. Cook until done. It’s so straightforward and tastes so good. And that holds for so many other things I make with fresh vegetables.

Version 1.0 of 2021-04-19.