I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where my deadlines come from

From Network Newsletter archives
I woke up this morning in tears, dreaming that the Newsletter would be discontinued because I was planning to retire from my job of thirty years. In my dream, I cried and cried because I would be leaving my friends and work behind, and because I didn't know who would continue to do the job that seemed essential to me. And then as I became more conscious and came back into the present day, I realized that I have already been retired for four years, and the place where I worked during those decades is gone forever.

It's funny how dreams can seem so real, but it really makes me wonder what brought on this one. Was it the deadline of the Sunday post for Eye on the Edge? I contemplated what I would write about this morning, and it weighed on me. Yesterday I found a picture from my two-month-long excursion to Peru in 1981 and was considering a post about that exciting trip, but the dream has changed all that; now I am thinking I have finally found out why I create these deadlines for myself. It's a reminder of those twenty years that I compiled and wrote that newsletter. It was published four times a year and began when my old boss Mickey came back from a conference in 1984, and decided we needed to create a way to get information out to interested people. Even people in developing countries could learn about the latest scientific theories, what had been created, you name it. Of course, all that is obsolete today, when anyone who has a computer can google whatever interests he or she may have.

It was Google that led me to the online archives of the Newsletter. I remembered that we had begun to put them on line, and it takes an act of strong intention to get things off the internet. I figured nobody had gone to the trouble, and once I realized that our old Annual Scientific Reports would continue to be archived at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), it was easy to find them.

When I was a lowly secretary at NCAR, I worked for a wonderful woman, Maria, who was the administrator to Mickey Glantz. She was the person who put the newsletter together for years, and I followed her lead. She gathered the information and wrote short articles about the things she felt would interest her readers. Mickey was the editor, she was the one who compiled it, and I was the one who got it into a structure and mailed it out to our thousands of readers. This was in the days before everything was on line; the newsletter started in 1985 and continued until 2005. When Maria retired, I took over the writing and editing part of her job and in 1999 was promoted from administrative assistant to writer/editor.

As the years wore on, I realized that I had become an integral part of Mickey's life, and he of mine. We traveled together, he relied on me and my skills more and more, and he would call me day and night. Mickey is a very creative person who generates ideas in great profusion. During our heyday together, he would get some hare-brained scheme and insist that I put it into action. At least it would seem hare-brained to me, but many times the collaboration between us, the idea generator and the person responsible for getting the idea into a realistic framework, created unique contributions to the world. If you go to the link I provide to Mickey's old home page, you'll see links to many of them. His home page and much of the online contributions stopped being updated when I left. Before long, everything stopped, as the entire section I had worked for was discontinued less than a year later. Mickey moved from NCAR to the University of Colorado, and what happened to most of my colleagues I just don't know.

It was partly because of our deep connection that I felt compelled to move away from Boulder. In many ways, I knew that Mickey would never be able to replace me, and if I stayed I would not be able to fully retire. It makes me smile to realize that I have created deadlines in my day-to-day life so that I can continue to have that structure without Mickey to drive it.

It was a huge part of my life and now it's completely gone, not just from my own world, but from the world of all those we worked with. It reminds me that the sphere of existence we move in is in flux, constantly changing from one storyline to the next. Now I sit with my laptop and write in another part of the country, for other reasons. We all have ways to cope with our situations, and my drive to create something out of nothing continues to have me driven by deadlines. Nobody is going to lose any sleep if I fail to write this, but something would be lost inside me.

Sometimes I miss Mickey and that life, but not often. My life today is full of activity as well as thoughtful reflection. Smart Guy and I share our day-to-day tasks and have created a pretty darn good life here in Bellingham. We chose this place wisely, although the rain would not be everyone's cup of tea, the cool climate and lush greenery make the drizzly days worthwhile.

I found this picture of Mickey at his desk, taken by me, back in the days when we were working together. When I look at the picture, I know what is on that bookshelf because I needed to know. Many of the reports we wrote together. Now I write for you, dear reader, and for myself alone.


June said...

That's a lot of very impressive work by the two of you! Funny how the rules we live by for a long time in one area of our lives carry over and carry on in other areas.
If they don't make you crazy, deadlines are good things: they keep you on track. For me, they're anxiety producers much of the time.

Sandi said...

Wow! I clicked on the link and was impressed with the depth of the newsletter! I am interested in going back and reading some of it on global warming.

I try to have some form of timeline for myself, as that is my motivation to get things accomplished. When I have an actual deadline, I'm usually anxious until I get the project completed, so I tend to work on those projects exclusively, ignoring the world around me. Not always the best approach, but it usually works for me!

Anonymous said...

Deadlines: I had many of those as a legal assistant. Imagine prepping for trial and having subpoenas issued to witnesses, filing briefs at court before it closes, etc. etc. I sure don't miss that life! Lol.

Now, as a retiree, I don't have many deadlines. My blog? Nah! I write when I feel like it. Sometimes daily, sometimes not. No one cares.

Trish said...

Fascinating. Just as I was reading your post, your comment came through on our blog. That deadline part of you? It's that Virgo rising!

Linda Myers said...

There is something about a deadline that both motivates and produces anxiety. I've learned in my retirement that some of my deadlines are self-imposed, and I can disregard them.

I'm relieved to have let go of the deadlines from work. So often they were arbitrary and imposed by others.

Rita said...

I think the fact you missed a deadline a little while ago has been haunting you...and now you know why. The self-imposed deadline's meaning to you is something special and unique. It's almost like retaining a little piece of your work-a-day life that you loved so much...that no longer exists out there. Has to be an odd feeling. Time passes and the world shifts under our feet before we know it. *big hug* :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, all of us who read you are so privileged that you write for us now because there is a wisdom to your writing that always makes me stop and think. And there is also a sharing of your journey that makes me appreciate my own.

I, too, lived with deadlines--for thirty years--deadlines and publishing schedules. And even now, 11 years after retiring, I still need to do some scheduling of my week so as to get anything done. Perhaps that means that I've truly never retired. I don't know. I just know that the day is not complete without writing.

Peace to you, DJan, as you look at the life you have now and embrace it while cherishing the life you used to have as a memory that has helped shape your being.

Retired English Teacher said...

I loved how you gave us a glimpse into your life before, the one that was filled with deadlines. I sometimes look back on those days of deadlines with a bit of nostalgia myself, but like you, I am glad to have left that life behind. I love this line: "We all have ways to cope with our situations, and my drive to create something out of nothing continues to have me driven by deadlines." Now we don't have deadlines set by others, even though while you were working, I'm sure you really are the one that had an internal drive to always reach deadlines that you felt were important. It is freeing to focus our energies and mind power on other pursuits. No one does this better than you.

Linda Reeder said...

First, let me say, you write so beautifully that if you hadn't been a writer as a part of your job, it would have been a waste of talent.
And then I have to tell you how much I identified with your feelings of leaving a job where you know you couldn't be replaced. My job didn't end when I left, but for years, the staff at my former school would ask "What would Linda Reeder do?" when contemplating the next move in the reading program I ran. I know because they told me when I saw them socially. After five years it fell apart and was abandoned, but I knew I had to stay away and not look back. My work was done. It was for others to carry on, or not.
I still set deadlines for myself, although now most of them can be adjusted as I choose, since I am only imposing them on myself. But I am more efficient when I have lists and time lines, even when the list says "play, no work today!"

Jackie said...

I love the difference between needing to know and wanting to know.
I am thankful for the wisdom you have and that you share with us, Jan.
Dr. Glantz is a wise man. Thank you for sharing the link about him.

The Broad said...

Your post really resonates with me. In my working life I did a lot of editing and was always under the weight of a deadline. While that was some time ago now, I have found that I accomplish more if I impose a deadline on myself. Though I adjust this as the need arises. I have set myself a 'goal' of 10 post a month and thought that would be easy enough for me. However, I was only successful for the first 3 months of the year and June was my least successful! But at least it doesn't matter to anyone but me! I do find that this kind of pressure, no matter it is self-inflicted, can become part of my pattern of dreams or can keep me awake at night ...

Gigi said...

I HAVE to have deadlines....or at least To-Do lists otherwise I just spin my wheels and nothing gets accomplished. Especially now. With the advent of the Internet, I find that I can waste lots and lots of time - hence the need for deadlines and To Do lists. I feel sure that when (or IF) I ever retire those self-imposed deadlines will still be necessary.

Bragger said...

I tell myself I do better when I have deadlines. The challenge for me becomes completing things BEFORE the deadline.

Having deadlines can backfire on me sometimes, though. I insist (to myself) that I write in my blog every night, but if I get tired and want to go to bed, I don't always do my best writing. Perhaps in retirement my goal should be to do the writing early in the day. :)

Red said...

The dream is interesting. The older I get the more I dream about the past and it gets rather tangled up. people from different generations appear.
Funny how our wok shapes our lives. I went by the bell for 37 years so I still have a tendency to break things into small chunks of time.
As usual, good post.

Arkansas Patti said...

Interesting as always post. You do trigger our thinking button.
I know deadlines make me more productive but I am so grateful that I have reached a point in my life when I really don't have that many. Today, I really do enjoy going with the flow instead of swimming up stream. Phew.

Grandmother said...

I like your musings about your life, past, dreams- all of it. I had the opportunity recently to go work full time at Crossroads where I had worked before retiring. I found I disliked the deadline of start time each morning and longed for the more relaxed lifestyle I've created of self designed days with activities that are important just to me. We're blessed.

Honest Abe said...

Very nice post. It made for an interesting read. It also reminds me, somewhat, of old daily diary entries I transcribed for a place called Carriage Hill Farm.


Star said...

I'm catching up over here today. Funny, I had a similar dream last night too. I didn't wake up crying, but I woke up agitated. Similar situation, I think, i.e. not wanting to let go. I'm terrible at letting go of things. I find it almost impossible. I know we have our memories, but sometimes wouldn't it be nice to go back in time and live a week as we used to do?

CiCi said...

Apparently you do well with deadlines. Some people thrive on self driven timelines and some just get stressed out. It shows what a strong woman you really are. And have been.

Good for you for taking the emotions awakened by your dream and writing about it, walking yourself through the possibilities.

karen said...

For me deadlines have always been an asset. They bring out the best in creativity pushing toward it...When given a certain time frame, it seems the thinking cap goes into full gear more than when there is no deadline.
Thanks for sharing a most personal and interesting part of yourself with us. I am going back to check the links to your newsletter...thanks DJan.
Dreams are such an important part of understanding ourselves better. Pretty cool.

Glenda said...

For years I worked in jobs with deadlines. While they make me produce, I am stressed out until I meet the time and date required.
Now I'm a retired writer and teacher and still wait until the last minute to do my lesson plans, to mail out a submission. I don't think I can change my ways at this age, but if I could I'd like to be the first person to submit a story or pay a bill, not the last.
I always enjoy your blogs, and the photos on the other one are lovely today, but the thought of hiking so far wears me out.