Hello all! I decided to blog again. I think our unique class warrants one more reflection from me. The talent in our room is astounding. I learned from each and every one of you fantastic people. I was always eager to hear about your projects and many of your presentations led me to make changes in my methodology. I learned to free write more to generate ideas, categorize my thesis themes and color code. These were very important and beneficial aspects of my process.
What cannot be duplicated (ever) is the experience in the classroom every Thursday night. Even though we were remote, I felt everyone’s energy and was so appreciative of the time that we spent together. I will say it again: you are all so talented. And Dr. Zamora, you’re a gem. I just do not want to exit. So I will do the respectable thing and not think about it (Scarlett O’Hara said she’d think of things tomorrow…Good philosophy). I sincerely wish all of you much health, success and prosperity. I have faith that we will meet again in person! Be well! Best, Medea.
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Winter is setting in and I like that, apart from the fact that full dark encroaches at about 4:00PM! This week I finished recording my thesis and transferred it all to a USB drive. What an experience! It was physically and emotionally demanding. However, I am glad that I did it. Of course, it is not perfect. I’m going to have to get over my hang-up about that.
I also cleaned up my MLA citation in my literature review. Additionally, I went through my literature review one final time to make sure that I was happy with my phrasing and grammar. In the upcoming week, I will take one final look to see if I need anything else, article-wise. I will need to have a think on it this weekend (as Dr. Zamora and he Brits say).I do feel that it is robust and fully encompasses my memoir.
And now, for the bittersweet part of the blog. I am so happy that I delved into myself and wrote this piece and accompanying literature review. However, I do not want this program to end. I was joking with Meagan today: can’t Dr. Zamora add in a few more credits? I am in serious DE NILE. As Dr. Zamora said, there aren’t any markers for the occasion, like a Winter Symposium or even just a meeting with hugs all around. I can’t imagine flipping off the “leave meeting” button on December 17th and that being “it.” I’m going to remain in denial for a bit. I do know that I will want to be a part of this program in some fashion. If your Zoom rooms get bombed in January, it’s me! On a serious note, I am so glad that I got the opportunity to learn with all of you. I look forward to physically reuniting with all of you. I have a gut feeling that it will happen!
This week (so far) has been spent in recording parts of my memoir. It took me a long time to nail down a format in which to record. I have to thank Professor Alan Levine for helping me and suggesting the program Audacity. It works beautifully. Here’s the rub (there always is one). My Mac’s sound output was beginning to work, so I chanced it and started the project on that laptop. Then poof! no more sound output. The Computer Doctors in Union cannot fix it unless I give them my unit. Allll of my work is on this Mac, so I can’t afford to surrender it when we are this close to the end.
Backup Plan: I re-recorded the Prologue and Chapter 1 on my HP Pavilion (bought specifically because of the pandemic necessity of ZoomLife). I also recorded up to Chapter 3. Fine, good, right? No. Nothing is ever easy. It is incredibly difficult to record. I lost air and my throat closed up, necessitating retakes. Now I know why famous singers like Celine Dion don’t even speak before a big concert!
My memoir requires a lot of animated expression and I had to create a rule in order to preserve myself. I’ve decided to record only one chapter a day. WARNING- the final results are not perfect and this is not an audiobook. I know I will need a re-do if I decide to publish. The perfectionist in me chafes that the recordings are not A plus quality. I know that I have stumbled over some words here or there, despite my best efforts. I really am giving it my 100% best.
I was able to find two very good sources regarding resistance to therapeutic care, which is something that I explore in my memoir. I read them carefully to include in my literature review.
I plan to continue recording one chapter a day (6 more days needed). I will also do a clean-up of MLA citation. Those are my goals for the remainder of this week.
I look forward to learning with you on Thursday. Be well!
I have spent considerable time this week (so far) combing my memoir and literature review. I was surprised to find that there were better ways of phrasing things in both. It’s all like tightening tennis racket strings so that you can be ready for optimal game performance.
In the upcoming Thanksgiving week, I will spend time trying to fill in any gaps in my literature review. There are still a few areas I would like to explore regarding my reactions to professional care for my mental health issues. It has been difficult to find articles on such issues, but I’m not giving up.
I still need to go through the literature review to determine if the different categories are placed in the correct place. I did not alphabetize them because I felt that I needed to include issues in their order of importance, as it relates to my memoir. I hope that this is acceptable, Dr. Zamora. Additionally, in the next coming weeks, I will have to check that my citations are in proper MLA form. I am used to the APA citation format and I only re-learned MLA last year. I have a great book for checking proper citation form so I do not think that the process will be arduous. It will just take time.
I hope that everyone has a great Thanksgiving! Be well.
Well, the danger of getting swept up in a tornado like Dorothy has passed, although it is still pretty windy. Does this means that things are perfect? Most certainly not. Does it mean that my stressors have magically disappeared? Again, no. Everything single thing is still there, but I did remember to breathe after Thursday night, when I felt like I was at the apex of a spiral. Thank you Dr. Zamora and Jesus!
After class, I breathed deeply and repeatedly. I also prayed to God in a very conversational way. It helped a lot. In the past two weeks my prayers about life’s knocks have been short, demanding and desperate. This is hyperventilated prayer, not well-considered prayer. I then drafted a few emails to others, realizing that trying to step outside of yourself and help others is a great way of getting out of your own head. It’s a healthy thing to do. After this, I switched gears and finished my elit homework. This was important for my recalibration! Again, these are all things I know intellectually, but that I have to actually put into practice more often so that they become part of my mental muscle memory.
After doing all of this, I sat on my couch with my battered notebook and a pencil and I wrote down some specific terms I wanted to research regarding depression, as it relates to my memoir. I took my time, rather than aggressively pounding on my keyboard. Pacing yourself is really important (again, thank you Dr. Zamora for reminding us of this). I then let this steep, read a book just for pleasure and eventually fell asleep.
Early Friday morning, I embarked upon the work of my literature review. Slowing down the night before paid off because I think that my depression section is now complete. I’ve been working on it steadily for the last two days and supplemented what I found last week. I also found an article regarding left-handedness and I included it in my literature review.
My plan for tomorrow and the remainder of the week is to go through my list of themes and see what is missing in terms of literature review. Again, my goal is to winnow things down and crystallize my concepts. The process really is recursive!
Regarding my memoir, I’d like to take look at my conclusion with fresh eyes and see if something is missing. Endings and beginnings are crucial. I have also reached out to a friend and asked him about how to best record my memoir. We don’t have definitive answers yet. I’d really like to pursue this since the idea was well-received when I did my presentation. There’s a time crunch, so I may not be able to record everything, but I’d definitely like to get started. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them!
As always, I look forward to learning with all of you. Be well!
This is a famous scene from Moonstruck and it is what I have been attempting to do this week. Things got weird on Wednesday (before class) and deteriorated throughout the week and weekend. It’s fine. I handled it, with minimal sleep. But then I got to thesis and I felt that it was handling me. When I reserved time to work on my literature review re: depression, I kept running into looping searches where my terms just would not yield useful articles. You all know me, right? I’m not afraid of rolling up my sleeves, but when it yields minimal results, I get stuck and frankly, I feel guilty.
I did finally find a few good articles, but I didn’t get as far as I wanted to. Time is pressing forward. “Show me the money!” Well, show me the relevant work, search engines and Library Commons. I really need to get over myself and snap out of it. I switched gears and tweaked my chapters, adding in some key details.
I know that I have a great work ethic; but I need to keep reminding myself that this is only a bump in the road. This song does that for me. It has always been a great motivator and it serendipitously coincides with Veterans’ Day:
I hope things go better today and into the next week. I’ve still got life (wish there was a pause button) and classes to deal with, but I expect better from myself. I look forward with learning with all of you this week.
First of all, I’d like to thank my peers and Dr. Zamora for being so welcoming and helpful during my presentation last week. It was truly a blessing! I will take all of your feedback to heart. Right now, I am focusing on hammering in the fence posts to my project to make sure that the structure is sound. I went through my literature review and revised it for maximum clarity.
I also engaged in a variety of activities. I think that I finished my Anxiety literature review section. However, I want to leave the part that relates to law school under its own category since it is very specific and unique. I have articles that are cogent to this part of my memoir and I am in the process of culling the best ones. Supplementation may be needed.
I also added the anecdote of my mother asking the yeshiva officials if they could accept me as a student. It did not fit well within my first chapter, so I added it to the Preface. I really considered the best placement for it and I think I found it.
Now, for the big part of the week (so far). I forgot to include precisely why the law school process was so anxiety-provoking in my memoir. Yes, I said reading cases was like reading a foreign language. But I did not elaborate on the case method approach and the Socratic method. Let me begin with the case law method. The way things work in the first semester of law school is that there are very few statutes to learn. So what do you do? As I explained in my presentation, you read many cases (with no prefaces). Why is this done? This is because the American common law system develops by a process of accretion. Precedents evolve and are applied. So a law professor can’t just give you the appropriate rule of law for you to apply because it is necessary for you to figure it out for yourself. This means that you see lots of trees before you ever even know what forest you are in. I cannot stress this enough: law is not just a set of rules. It has a plasticity to it that first years must learn.
Then there is the Socratic method. This is intellectual tennis. Your professor interrogates you for a class period to ask you about the case’s components (facts, procedural history, issue at bar, analysis and ruling; you prepare these beforehand in a “brief” but it is often very difficult to pull out the salient details; therefore, novices like me had very unwieldy case briefs). But it doesn’t end there. He or she asks you if you think that the case could have come out another way under a different set of facts.
Here is a good quote I found that sums up the process:
Typically, the student responds by announcing what she believes to be the fairest or most just outcome between the opposing positions of the particular parties. At this point, the student is asked by her professor to give the principle that would support this outcome, and here the characteristic plan of Socratic inquiry begins. By a series of patterned and well-planned hypothetical examples, the professor challenges the student’s initially offered rule, with the aim of demonstrating that the rule that would generate less just fair, or otherwise less satisfactory results in other cases. And in taking the chosen victim through this series of uncomfortable applications of her initially selected rule, the professor attempts to get the students in the class to understand that the best legal rule may be one which produces better results in a larger number of cases, the result in the present case notwithstanding.
Schauer, Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New Introduction of Legal Reasoning. Harvard University Press, 2012 (page 9) (emphasis added).
Even Hollywood has gotten in on the Socratic Method, as depicted in the 1973 film, ThePaper Chase:
While my professors were always congenial and nothing like the cold-blooded, patently rude Kingsfield, the concept of the Socratic method still holds true. I know that this does not pertain to my memoir but here is the million dollar question for me: Should we do away with the Socratic method? No. I think that it should be supplemented with explanatory lectures and that students should be taught how to prepare for class. A large part of being a lawyer is thinking on your feet and there’s nothing like the Socratic method that primes the pump, so to speak.
Once I included a shorter, much more relatable explanation of what scared me as a first-year law student in my memoir, I started to think that it was appropriate to include the law school section in my literature review. That is what I will be doing in the next few days. I will include the most salient articles I have.
After I do this, I intend to fill in a few more gaps by researching issues related to depression, body dysmorphia and some other dysfunctions that are present in my memoir. Before I do this, I will go through the process of re-sifting, i.e. going through my chart to narrow down the topics further. And I am pleased to report that I started free-writing before researching. Thank you Elbow!
As always, I look forward to learning with all of you!
This was a mixed week for me. I had several joys. I revised my “Prologue: The Primal Yell” to include several key facts and anecdotes that I had forgotten. Although I was not recounting fun facts, it was useful for me to engage in catharsis. I think I like the introduction, but I look very much forward to everyone’s feedback tomorrow, which is presentation day for me!
Another joy was finishing my presentation slides and devising my plan of communication. I never practice presentations ahead of time because I do not want to be rehearsed, but I did bullet what I want to talk about and show my colleagues and Dr. Zamora. I found it to be time well spent. I’m a bit nervous. I hope that I can communicate the heart of my project to everyone and that it is clear. I welcome all criticism though.
And now for the dark part of the program (cue the rain). I am in the midst of researching articles about anxiety and it’s giving me anxiety (perfect, right?) Why? It is very difficult to wade through the articles and understand them. It is also very time-consuming separating the wheat from the chaff. Furthermore, I’m a literature person and not a mind-body, mental health expert. I am never afraid of hard work, but I’m also not the nicest to myself when I do not produce immediate sources. It’s part of the process, Dr. Zamora would say and of course, she is absolutely right! She’s the mentor on my shoulder when I get too hard on myself.
This may sound like a small thing, but I’ve implemented Meagan T. Mentor-inspired color coding in my articles. It is such a relief to mark an anxiety article orange and an Italian culture research article red, etc. I even have a file holder so that I see my work standing up on my table! Why didn’t I ever do this before?
I also went back to my chart of themes and winnowed down the topic of anxiety into smaller chunks that are researchable. I’m going to keep doing that with every topic going forward. It does ease the stress. I think I need to start free writing again before researching. It worked well with my creative writing.
Right now, I’m knee-deep in articles, my toner is kaput (I have backups!). I pray to God my HP printer doesn’t jam. There is WORK to be done and it must be done well. As always, I look forward to class and learning with you beautiful people!
This week, I spent some time putting my presentation together and I have to say, it really heavily engaged my brain and emotions. It really hit me how much this memoir means to me. I finally have a title, which came to me in the middle of the night. I am saving that for next week! So much of my heart and soul went into this passion project. When I started this process, I said to myself, ok, here will be a little ditty (insert sarcasm) about anxiety and depression. Lots of people suffer from these things as they are trying to navigate the world and the people around them. But, as you will see, so much of my story is steeped in culture and family. It is not the most comfortable thing to talk about, but since you have all have shared so much, I am walking the line with all of you. Your presentations, ideas and feedback have been a true blessing to me.
I also worked on my literature review. I dug deep trying to find scholarship about why Old World Italians are they way they are and wow, was I in for a surprise when I delved into the country’s history. Mind you, this is history that I knew, but that did not come alive until I did the research with my own hands and eyes. Italy was not a country until 1861, when it was unified by Giuseppe Garibaldi. Before that it was a set of disparate kingdoms. There is a really great PBS documentary on Italy’s past!
The Spanish Bourbons had previously oppressed southern Italians and Sicilians. Things did not get better after 1861. The northerners looked down on the southerners and kept them bound to a fuedal-like system. There was just no way to get ahead and no one to trust. Enter southern Italians being very close-lipped with any one outside of the immediate family. My mother met my father when her dad was transferred to Sicily for work. During her formative years (twenties and so on), she spent her time in America with her Sicilian in-laws. Mind you, my Florentinian side of the family is quite tight-lipped too. I understand myself better and the experiences in my memoir are rooted in a traceable history. Lightbulb!
Furthermore, the concept of la bella figura (a good form) is an important one in Old World Italian families, like mine. We are called to make a good impression in public, even if we are crumbling on the inside. This is well-explored in my memoir. That is how I lived my life until quite recently. This has its history too, which I knew, but didn’t know deep in my bones, until I did the research. Many early Italian immigrants were discriminated against, seen as criminals and even convicted and killed for crimes they did not commit. You do not want to cut a bad figure (brutta figura) with that kind of history. It is in your best interest to act your best, keep your nose clean and be an upstanding citizen.
The pain of rejection is generational. I was flabbergasted to make this connection. I know my grandfather and my father made conscious efforts to be seen as Italian Americans and not wops, or dagoes. They hated those terms and from the day that they stepped on this soil, they were determined to be productive, despite the fact that they arrived with nothing but hope. They fought for better lives, which could not be had where they came from. They also cherished their eventual citizenship.
I know that I am going beyond the scope of what I am wrote in my memoir (since it deals with anxiety and depression), but stay with me here. Just like my relatives did not like stereotypes, I too am incensed my them. Shows like Jersey Shore inflame me. Guido doesn’t equal Italian.
So, I have continued in the path of my ancestors and done my absolute best not to make a brutta figura (bad figure). That is amply documented in my memoir. But it did hurt me in the end. Keeping my anxiety and depression at bay, away from anyone who could see it, was too much of a burden for me. With help and the grace of God, I have improved. I know that I will never be Zen or fully adjusted, but I’m going to be just fine because I know have tools to deal with problematic issues. I also have a whole new appreciation for the world around me.
This week was enjoyable in terms of thesis progress. Before writing my last chapter and conclusion of my memoir, I went back through my manuscript with fresh eyes and read it carefully, with keystrokes towards ruthless editing (Peter Elbow) and critical revision. It took a long time and I am perfectly fine with that.
I was able to see the work from an objective point of view, since I have spent time away from the text. With that I was primed to write my last chapter and conclusion, with which I am happy at present. They may require revision in the near future. I find that giving a little distance between the writer and the text is so important for maintaining a fresh eye.
I am particularly pleased with the conclusion because it ends on a positive note. It isn’t sunshine and roses, but it is real. It shows anxiety and depression as journeys, but there is always room for hope to break with every day. The title of my conclusion is “Reaching for the Morning Sky.” It was important for me to end on this note.
I also engaged in more literature review, specifically about OCD-traits and birth order. I am really happy with the sources I have gained. I feel I also explained how they meshed with my project.
Now, for the really (unexpected) hard part! I spent the last day and a half marinating the memoir in my mind so that I can write a really excellent Prologue. I did not think that it would be as hard as it would be. However, it definitely is. A good beginning to a memoir is honest and gripping. It isn’t just a summation of the chapters to come. That is what I call borezone! I had been going through several introductions to pieces about anxiety for inspiration, but I was not feeling it. So I did what I usually do: turn to music. I was really inspired by Matchbox 20’s “Unwell” and “Bent,” both of which can be interpreted to be songs about personal adversity and mental health. Boom! I got an idea.
What makes my story unique is that it is steeped in Old World Italian culture! Unfortunately, the research in this area (anxiety and Italians) is really thin. I think authors really must be gripped by omertà. Well, that’s where my story comes in: to fill in what Dr. Nelson calls a “gap.” When she was in her early sixties, my paternal Nonna Antonia would get these awful headaches and she would literally state that she was dying. In reality, she was suffering from the after-effects of menopause and an iron deficiency. Well, what happens when a very sensitive seven year old (me) hears this: she freaks out. I was so frozen in fear that for about a year, I prayed fervently to God to let my Nonna live. Now my mother was never a hypochondriac for herself, but boy did she think that everything was dangerous for us kids (especially me, since I was quite sickly as a child). This is the gold: my anxiety as framed by culture. Culture and family play crucial roles in my memoir. The maxims of my youth (make sure you show your best face to the world) inform the way I have lived my life in anxiety. These maxims are creatively depicted in my memoir.
I feel ready to take on the challenge of writing the prologue (and giving it a good title). I won’t lie: I am still trepidatious about the literature review since time is ticking. I am looking forward to another week of learning with all of you.