19 August 2013

Changing the colours in the chapel (and learning to communicate)

"Hello, this is Matthijs writing a guest blog. Brenda has been working on her PhD thesis for the past few weeks, which is now in the critical phase, and that means lots of other things move down on the priority list. Including this blog. This is why news has been scanty for a while now. 
For those of you who have no experience with completing PhD theses or anything of the sort (or spouses trying to do so): this is not fun. Almost everyone gets thoroughly fed up with their topic, having already spent years working on it. Writing up a defensible academic line of argument proves harder than expected. Supervisors are not always available for guidance or are not even interested any more. And, now that the end product slowly comes into view, matters that seemed less important now become more urgent. How will people react to the finished thesis? Will it be academically acceptable? Will it make any difference at all, and what comes next? In sum: will it have been worth all this effort, when the sun is shining outside and the grass is green, or have I been mad to start it all?
For all these reasons, in such situations spouses AND friends and family should be ready to offer support when they can, or disappear from the scene when they are standing in the way. Just so you know. In my personal case, the attitude that is required involves, among other things, understanding that what appears to be Brenda’s personal to-do list lying on the table is not in effect Brenda’s personal to-do list but mine as well, without being told so; and graciously accepting a bout of undiluted grouchiness when I do not appear to fulfil the tasks mentioned on the list, even though there did not seem to be any particular urgency to them."

from Brenda: Blogging was on the do list - and I wasn't expecting Matthijs to do that! but I'm really glad he did. It's been good to get to see things from his perspective. I hadn't meant to make it a communal to-do list - well, sort of - but it was more to make clear in my head what I wanted to be done and not so much a "you, Matthijs, need to do this" list. But, as Matthijs clearly points out, I didn't exactly communicate what was perfectly clear in my head. And I think that this learning to communicate well - especially knowing what is perfectly clear in my head but would be very much not obvious to the other - has been one of the greatest challenges of being married. At the same time, it has probably been one of the most important things I've learned. 

And as for the PhD, well, the stress is mostly related to my wanting to get it done, and NOW! Perhaps another day I'll write about that but for now I'll go back to working on the dissertion. I have a week left of working hard! (And tomorrow more on changing the colours in the chapel.) 

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