Sidelined


Well, that was an interesting start to the spring.

In slightly over a fortnight, the entire GMM Project research team came down with COVID-19.  For me, it meant cancelling a much longed-for research trip to the British Library 26 hours before the flight left Montreal. My test went positive so quickly (less than five seconds?), I thought I’d confused the test line for the control line. No such luck.  For all of us, it meant being bodychecked by tiredness, aches, fevers, and all the rest you’ve heard of for people who, thankfully, didn’t need to be hospitalized.

I knew things weren’t great when I forayed into the kitchen for tea only for the room to dissolve into black spots and spin around in odd patterns.  My memory is that I made it back to the bedroom as if I had become a new team member on Floor is Lava

It probably looked much worse in real life.

So, thanks to COVID-19, many aspects of the GMM Project came to a standstill just as we were about to get new momentum with the end of the academic term.

The good news is that we’re all more or less recovered now and we have since received the wonderful news that our related project—“Mothers in the Time of Cholera: Motherhood, Migration, and Pandemics in the Canadian Colonial Medical System, 1817-1867”—has won a four-year SSHRC Insight Grant, which is tremendously exciting.

What was more distracting this spring—even more than COVID—was the threat of burn-out.

I’m not alone in finding the past semester to have been one of the hardest I’ve known.  I’ve been teaching for over a decade and this past term was the first time when I had to start making some hard adjustments because I could feel the tremors beginning beneath me.  It wasn’t easy for anyone—students, staff, or professors—to come back after nearly two years on Zoom, and then to be hit with the Omicron variant before we were even out of the gate.  One-fourth of the winter semester was suddenly online, followed by a fast pivot to the classroom again—and I had loved being back in a real classroom last autumn.  Now it felt strained and uncomfortable.  Campus was an unwieldy mess of masks-yet-no-masks and social nervousness.  University academic service was back in full force, but most things had to be done through Zoom…and I started to feel there were too many fires and not enough water in the world to fight any of it.

Of all things, it was a bloody Disney song that was the key revelation.  I didn’t think that my reaction to watching Encanto with our son would result in a sudden over-identification with a song that had nothing to do with not talking about Bruno:


My personal victory of the year—beyond winning the Insight Grant, which was already a banner headline—is that I caught myself in time.  I backed away from time-sucks, focused on the things that needed to be done instead of what I felt I should be getting done all at once…and now here we are.  A summer of research and recharging lies ahead, and a new surprise project is already finished and being turned into something that I hope will be amazing (more on that in posts to come). My soundtrack in the car has switched back to The Band and David Bowie rather than anything from Disney+, which has to be a sign of things getting back to ‘normal’.

But the pressure, no matter what you’re doing in life, can tip from motivating to immobilizing in a split-second.  Even (especially?) for those of us who normally thrive on it.

With that in mind, there will be a few more blog posts this summer and some exciting Research Radar Revisited interviews, but the team’s goal is to write, research, and come back in the fall rested, recovered, and ready for more.

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