Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rejoice with me

The anniversary of my father’s death falls on 27 February. I don’t always remember the significance of this day when it comes around, but this year I did.

From time to time on Monday last I reflected on the fact that thirty years earlier when my first daughter was only ten days old my father died.

Strange then - uncanny even - that on 27 February this year, 2012, I had word in the form of an email, that I have passed my PhD.

Yes folks, rejoice with me. I am a happy soul, at least for the moment until the thrill wears off. After all, one of my motives in beginning this thesis, one of my less noble motives, as I have written elsewhere, was to prove myself to my father, who in my mind did not believe that girls could ever amount to much in the academic sphere.

Boys had the brains, or so my father believed. Girls were good for making babies, keeping house and I dare not spell out the rest. Misogynistic for sure.

But I shall not belabour the point here. In any case, this part of my journey is almost done, and once I wear the floppy hat at the designated ceremony, whenever that happens, I shall be able to use the honorific, too. What fun.

I have spent the best part of my life trying to get over the idea - deep-seated in my psyche - that I am an unintelligent, ignorant soul who cannot think. There are many reasons for this view as I now understand but the little girl in the picture below did not. I have exonerated her. She stands here on the left with two of her sisters, unaware of what the future holds.


Thank you, my fellow bloggers, for all your help. There is a section in my thesis dedicated to you all and to blogging as a form of expression that connects with what I have written about elsewhere and here earlier in this blog as a desire for revenge.

I trembled at my decision to include it. Blogging is not usually considered an academic pursuit, though theorising about it can be.

And so my blog life features in my thesis as do so many other aspects of the autobiographical impulse.

I now feel exonerated in my decisions to write as I have done, experimentally in many ways, at least in a thesis, but those three good people who examined my work were happy enough with the results to give me a pass, accompanied by some useful and positive comments, and some more critical as well. To top it off I don't need to make any changes to the thesis as I submitted it for the purpose of getting my PhD, and this is such a bonus.

Now begins the difficult task of turning my thesis into a book that might be read by others outside of the academy.

The examiners' comments make sense to me, and so I go off on my day with a load lifted from my shoulders. Rejoice for me.

85 comments:

Molly said...

Congratulations! Hard to believe that one who writes so well could feel in any way worthless. I don't think that when we first become parents we realize the enormity of the task before us. How we do it can make or break the people our children become.....But whatever it was for you, you've overcome it in style!

cheshire wife said...

Many congratulations! I am sure that your father would have been very proud of you.

Phoenix said...

I think it's a neat little revenge of its own that word of you passing your PhD comes right around the time your father passed away. That's the best kind of revenge - an empowering one. Congratulations, Elisabeth. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I am so very proud of you. What a fantastic accomplishment.

Perhaps this victory will also silence the little child inside that petulantly yells "I'm not good enough!" I have one of my own - and I have to be careful what I feed her.

sarah toa said...

Wonderful news Dr. Elisabeth. I'm definitely rejoicing with you!

oceangirl said...

Sometimes I am thankful to blogging, but sometimes I think it can be dangerous at time of my vulnerability. But whatever it is, I am grateful for fellow bloggers, who somehow I feel, had been there for me and with me.

Kirk said...

I think this blog alone proves you're not an ignorant, unintelligent soul who can't think. And even without the PhD, you're a professional psychologist, right? You must have passed something somewhere that only an intelligent person could.

Nevertheless, congratulations. I just hope you'll keep on blogging. And, once your thesis becomes a book, your tour brings you to the USA, preferrably Cleveland, Ohio (our rivers no longer catch on fire, trust me.)

susan t. landry said...

congratulations, elisabeth! this is fantastic news...and richly deserved. i can almost see, even from here, the silvery aura that sparkles around you....and casts a glow for the rest of us to follow.

Rob-bear said...

Well done, indeed, Dr. Elizabeth. No corrections, or anything. (You don't have to doctor your dissertation.) So very well done.

Revenge? Hmmmm. Strange word. Likewise exonerated. Empowered is likely good. Blogging not an academic pursuit? I need to think about that.

So rejoice all you want! Doing a Ph.D. is a HUGE amount of work. And you've done it and done it well.

Who could ask for anything more?

Kass said...

So happy for you. I'm wracking my brain right now to come up with a word other than revenge. You've accomplished so much more.

How about succussenge?

persiflage said...

Rejoice indeed, and many congratulations. As soon as I saw that word I thought "It's the PhD". I am so glad, and think it is indeed a very significant achievement. One which will continue to give deep and abiding joy and satisfaction.
Growing up in those days, expectations for females were indeed very different and much more limited. When I think how much women have achieved, despite the rearguard and sexist attitudes which are still difficult to overcome, I am filled with gladness.
For me, too, 27 February is a significant date - my mother's birthday.

rosaria said...

Whatever the motivation, you made this goal for yourself, and went ahead and pursued it until you achieved it. That is most impressive, indeed.

Your personal challenges instead of weakening you, made you more determined, more conscious of motivation and persistence, more open to criticism as well as aware of what damages criticism imposes on the object of that criticism.

Congratulations! Feb. 27 is doubly important to you, as your quest was no ordinary quest at all. It was doubly hard, and so the prize is doubly sweet!

Anthony Duce said...

Congratulations. I have enjoyed following along as you progressed and wrote about this.

Windsmoke. said...

Congrats on passing your PHD exam we'll now have to start calling you Dr. Elisabeth PHD. Your father was definitely old school and was brought up to think that way, some people i know even today still think the same way. Writing is writing no matter what medium you choose to write in whether it be newspapers, novels or blogging as long as there's communication :-).

The Elephant's Child said...

Congratulations. As someone who was in her thirties before she realised she was not stupid I do understand some of your motives.

rraine said...

what kass said. i don't know the word that encompasses the rejoicing that i hope is taking place in your heart. theorising only goes so far. you went, and continue to go, the distance.

Maggie May said...

Congratulations to one of the most deeply thoughtful and intelligent bloggers I've had the pleasure of reading!!!!

Elizabeth said...

Oh, my god, I am so excited about this and congratulate you profusely. What labor -- just congratulations, Elisabeth.

Thank you for the honor of letting us read your brilliant thoughts in this humble form -- I must admit that of all the blogs I read, I am continually surprised here, struck by your unique sensibility and provoked into thoughts that I've never had before.

Christine said...

That is quite right too. Congratulations and congratulations on passing without changes. A great load off your shoulders. And do I call you doctor now?

jane.healy said...

Congratualtions Elisabeth - I understood exactly what you meant about girls only being good enough for breeding and house-keeping! Except that was my mothers attitude and not my fathers. I'm not sure why but she firmly believed that men were more intelligent than women, that they deserved the education because they were always goign to have to work - all a woman would have to do was find one suitable enoug to marry and bingo set up for life. When one of my sisters was studying for her degree (as a mature student) my mother actually said "Isn't being a wife and mother enough for you?" How very sad that she couldn't shake of that very Victorian attitude.

Love And Enterprise said...

Wow, a PhD, that is tremendous Dr. Elisabeth. It can be difficult to banish those feelings we have about ourselves, that came from our parents, but unpacking the feelings and discussing them sure can help.

Kath said...

Dear Dr Elisabeth

Well done! I will indeed rejoice for you and hope that the little, uncertain girl in the photo now feels justifiably proud of herself and her efforts.

We are!

Kath xo xo xo

Andrew said...

Well done you! I never really thought about women's self worth if they are of a certain age. Although obviously older than you, my giddy, silly vague mother is actually extremely skilled at people manipulation, without ever upsetting anyone. She would be good in business.

But to be brought up to be a child rearing housewife and stepping out of the role is quite an achievement.

steven said...

elisbaeth - gender has never really interested me as a descriptor of possibilities or abilities and so i say i am so happy for you rgardless of what your achievement "proves" because it is part of the process and experiencing of you. steven

Laoch of Chicago said...

Well done!

Ruth said...

A big and hearty congratulations to you. You persevered, and you excelled. Fantastic!

Robert the Skeptic said...

There are some of us among the male population who both seek and appreciate the company of the female intellect. I would not be nearly as successful today if not for teaming with a very bright and talented woman. I am grateful.

Mim said...

All the best! What good news, Doctor!

Warm regards from South Beach

Elisabeth said...

Thanks, Molly. I agree the burden of parenting is a heavy one at times. For ll its joys it's easy enough to pass our own difficulties on.

Elisabeth said...

I'm not sure that my father would have been proud of me were he alive today, Cheshire Wife, but hopefully he'd have improved on his misogynistic ways. Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Yes, Tracy , we must take care not to feed that critical little child within who finds it hard to be satisfied with our achievements. And thank you for your good wishes. It is a type of revenge and as you say empowering in many ways, more than I had ever imagined.

Elisabeth said...

Thank you so much for your good wishes, Sarah Toa.

Elisabeth said...

Anyone who blogs seriously, as do you and I, must have some respect for our blogging friends however vulnerable the process might cause us to feel at times.

Thanks Lisa, at Ocean Girl.

Elisabeth said...

It's funny how the early negative experiences stick, Kirk. I can still remember the nun in my sixth year at school telling me that she had thought I was bad but not that bad when I failed mental arithmetic. Somehow the idea seems to have stayed at that level.

I would love to get a book out Kirk and one day even me, non-traveler that I am, to arrive there with said book at the banks of the Ohio.

Thanks, Kirk.

Elisabeth said...

I hadn't noticed a silvery aura, Susan, though there's certainly a lightness in my step that wasn't there last week. Thanks, susan.

Elisabeth said...

No doctoring of the dissertation, Rob-Bear, as you say, but a great many changes needed to turn it into a book that others outside the academy might enjoy.

Thanks Rob-Bear.

Elisabeth said...

'Successenge', Kass, now that's a word. funny how people tend to baulk at the word revenge. Having been under its shadow for the past seven years I no longer see it as the bogey man that many others see, but still I can understand why you might think there's more to my PhD than simple revenge.

Thanks, Kass.

Elisabeth said...

I imagine the date of your mother's birthday brings up sweet memories for you Persiflage, at least I hope it does. She, like my mother, was presumably a woman of the generation where women were even more downtrodden than today. Thank you for your good wishes. I am pleased with myself big time and relieved.

Thanks, Persiflage.

Elisabeth said...

The prize is doubly sweet, Rosaria and yes, the journey has been fraught. It's heartening to know that others are aware of my struggle to arrive at this goal. Thank you so much, Rosaria, for your good wishes and thoughts here.

Elisabeth said...

And it's not over yet, anthony, but this PhD is certainly a positive step along the way. I thank you for sharing part of the creative journey with me, Anthony, as I enjoy sharing yours.

Elisabeth said...

I'm with you on the communicative importance of writing, Windsmoke whatever the genre, and as for those old school attitudes of my father, I recognise they still exist but they're not as entrenched as before. These days we can challenge them.

Thanks for your good wishes, Windsmoke.

Elisabeth said...

It can take us such a long time Elephant's Child to realise that we are not without those intellectual capacities. Sad that it should take so long.

Thanks, Elephant's Child.

Elisabeth said...

I agree, rraine, theorising can only take us so far and living is far more important. To me life comes first; theory comes second; and theory is such a construction. It's good to be able play around with it.

Thanks for your kind wishes.

Elisabeth said...

Such a compliment, Maggie May, especially coming from such a wonderful writer and thinker as you. I blush. Thanks so much.

Elisabeth said...

Elizabeth, my dear blogging friend, you compliment my work in ways I can only reciprocate and pass back to you. Thank you for your good wishes and kind thoughts.

Elisabeth said...

I don't think we are supposed to use the title doctor until we have gone through certain ceremonial hoops, Christine. But that shouldn't take too long.

Thanks, Christine, you know already how much I appreciate your invaluable help.

Elisabeth said...

I think it would be far worse to have a mother who holds these Victorian attitudes Jane H. How horrible it must have been for you.

Despite my mother's difficulties, she has only encouraged her daughters to pursue academic work. I'd like to think she's as proud of me in that regard as she might be about any of my brothers.

Thanks, Jane H.

Elisabeth said...

Love and enterprise, your blog title says it all. Thank you for your congratulations. We both enjoy a bit of work it seems.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for sharing the pleasure in this achievement, Kath. Blogging with people like you has made the last several years of my academic journey so much easier to bear.

Thanks, Kath.

Elisabeth said...

Women of my mother's generation and to a lesser extent my own learned young to become arch manipulators. It did not do to ask directly. You needed to be subtle in your approach. And what more subtle approach than manipulation so that you never have to bear the pain of disappointment or rejection. If you never ask outright, no one ever says no. And although you might not get what you want or need at least you don't have to have the loss noticed by anyone but yourself.

Thanks, Andrew,

Elisabeth said...

I agree, Steven, the PhD proves nothing in the terms I describe and yet it feels like that to me. I'm very grateful that these sorts of gender related issues have no bearing for you though, and it shows in the sensitivity of your work. Thanks, Steven.

Elisabeth said...

Thank you, Laoch.

Thank you Ruth,
and

Thank you Mim, for such generous comments.

Elisabeth said...

I know that there are many men, like you Robert who value the rest of the population that does not describe itself as masculine. We all work better together when we share our qualities, our strengths our vulnerabilities and our differences, whoever we are.

thanks, Robert.

Jim Murdoch said...

I also grew up in a misogynistic environment, Lis. As my sister is six years younger than I am—and was therefore pretty much oblivious to me until she got to be about thirteen (and only then because I’d moved out and my parents dumped her on me for a week one summer to give themselves a break from her rebellion)—I’m really not sure how hard my dad pressed her to succeed academically. Like my brother and I I know she made top of the class at some time in her time at school so she wasn’t a daftie and probably didn’t need to be pushed. Carrie—who is ages with you—does talk often about how she was treated as a second class citizen; the irony there is that she was the one who did good and became an engineer like her dad and now she is the one they lean on in their old age. Cold comfort but you take what you can get.

Unlike you I’ve always been made acutely aware that I was clever and that’s a burden too in its own way because it was only ever going to be a matter of time before I let people down. It took time because I worked hard to keep up the illusion—never one to disappoint—but eventually and inevitably I’ve let everyone down. At least that’s how it feels to me. I was once introduced to someone by my then boss as “the cleverest person he had ever met” and that really is a terrible thing to be lumbered with. I feel it online all the time, the pressure to perform, to be wise, in fact I’m pottering around with a post on wisdom at the moment.

As for your impeding PhD, all I can say is: wear you doctorhoodness with pride. How much more vindication do you need? None, I’d say, but a book would be nice.

Mary LA said...

Congratulations Elisabeth! Ah, the synchronicity of significant dates.

You may find you are writing a new book in places because academia has strayed so far from readable non-fiction. But please don't leave it too long before you do it. And I have helped several friends transform/transmute their theses into publishable books, so please feel free to call on me as a Beta reader.

Zuzana said...

Congratulations dear Elisabeth, what a beautiful and ambitious achievement. It is that milestone in the road of our life, that seems so overwhelming when it occurs and leaves us at times with that bittersweet anticlimax.;)
I am happy you disproved the stigma that saturated most of your life.
I do indeed rejoice with you dear friend.;)
xoxo

Claire Beynon said...

Ah, yes! Rejoicing for and with you, Elisabeth PhD - three letters that express so much, including (if I may) -

P - Pluck. Persistence. Perceptiveness. Purpose. Poise
h - humanity. humility. hanscombe. hearing. heart.
D - Determination. Disclosure. Discretion. Distinction.

and much more besides.

Warmest congratulations!

Rose said...

Congratulations Elizabeth! Savour every minute that you spend on writing your book - What a wonderful achievement well done and well deserved I say :D

Elisabeth said...

I think the book will be harder to bring off than the PhD, Jim. Somehow despite my concerns about my intellect I seem to have mastered aspects of the academic way. I feel a tad disrespectful when I say that aspects of the academic way to me are bullshit but only the extreme and rigid aspects, such as language that obfuscates, language that shows off and seeks to impress a small elite group but does not to, my mind at least, advance knowledge.

As for you having to bear the burden of being considered a borderline genius - my words - I can sympathize. I've seen it in a couple of my daughters who are considered very smart. They too find it hard to live up to expectations.

All this is the opposite for my husband who is also highly intelligent.
When as a young man he received an Exhibition for Australian history prize, a prize given to those who scored highest in the subject in the last year of high school, his parents did not even recognize that the award held any meaning. To me that's worse than anything. Disinterest or down right ignorance of the significance of these achievements can be unbearable.

Thanks, Jim.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for your generous offer to read, Mary. I may well take you up on this offer to read my transformed thesis, especially when readers/writers who can find time to offer suggestions can be hard to find.

Elisabeth said...

It is a journey, Zuzana, this writing life. Why a PhD? I ask myself. And the answer comes: my father,myself and now there is still more work to do.

Thanks my kind friend, Zuzana.

Elisabeth said...

Claire, you, too, are so kind. All those wonderful words. I blush and then remember the words I read just now at Mary La's blog, Letting Go: http://louisey.wordpress.com/

Visit Mary La, if you have not yet met her, I urge you. She is a wondrous writer. Here she quotes Audre Lorde, after the writer's diagnosis of terminal cancer:

'In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences.

Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence.

And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into perspective gave me great strength.'

Thank you, Claire.

Elisabeth said...

I shall try to enjoy the writing of this book, Rose, along with the re-writing and revising. Thanks for your good wishes.

Linda Sue said...

YAHOO! I have been saving this bottle of grape stuff for an occasion! Your news will do! YAHOO!
I do love the photo of you and your sisters, so adorable and clearly highly intelligent...Well done, you!

aguja said...

Mega congratulations!!! And so well deserved. I am so very happy for you - great achievement!

Lally said...

May I add my congratulations, as well as understanding for missing those who are gone. I look forward to reading the book Elisabeth.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

If it becomes a book I will want to order it immediately, there is a very good bookshop here in Venice for foreign books.

All my best,
Davide

Elisabeth said...

Enjoy the grape fruit, Linda Sue and thanks for whipping it out in honour of my success. I'm chuffed.

Elisabeth said...

Thank you for your good wishes, Aguja.

Elisabeth said...

And thank you, Michael Lally. Now I have to start worrying about the so-called book. But hopefully it will be more of pleasure than of pain. Thanks, Michael.

Elisabeth said...

If and when my thesis is transformed into a book, Davide, you'll be among the first to know of it.
Thank you.

Claire Beynon said...

Dear Elisabeth

Thank you +++ for introducing me to Mary La's blog - I have been admiringly immersed in her writing this past hour. So many resonances, and not only because we hale from the same place. I am grateful to you both. . .

I, too, am greatly anticipating your book.

L, C

Dominic Rivron said...

Congratulations!

My dad died in February too - here, fifteen feet from where I sit, come to think of it. It'll soon be 20 years.

JeannetteLS said...

My dad died on the 26th of February. Hmmm... Anyway, back to YOU. Unintelligent and you do not belong in the same time zone, thank you very much. When I have accomplished things my parents said I'd never do, I do something very mature and you might want to do likewise. I stick my thumbs in my ears, waggle my fingers and sing, "Na na-NAH na NAH NAH." It works very nicely, doc.

The book will be a joy ... and a heartbreak to read.

Me, I'm planning on being the oldest dual ingenue alive--62 and with her simultaneous first book release and major art show.

Agism, sexism, misogyny, abuse. Feh. Here's to women AND to men who finally find their seemingly limitless abilities and who drop kick gender nonsense out the door.

Gary L. Everest said...

Dear "Dr." Mueller,
May I be permitted to add my most hearty congratulations to the ga-zillion you've already received.
Reading your post touched a few of my own memories, not quite as negative as yours, but still less than happy.
Anyway, I won't waste this opportunity to celebrate your triumph by cluttering it up with my past. You obviously are proud of what you've accomplished and most definitely should be. To overcome parental prejudice at such a level is truly a monumental achievement.
I salute you for climbing such a tall mountain.
Sincerely,
Gary.

A Cuban In London said...

Congratulations! You must feel so proud of yourself despite your father's opinion of women. Well done.

Greetings from London.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Congratulations, Elisabeth!

I toast thee!

Elisabeth said...

Mary La's blog is stunning, Claire, and I'm glad you've found it to be so, too. She writes like a dream. As for my book, all in the fullness of time, Claire. Thanks for your good wishes.

Elisabeth said...

So your father died twenty years ago, Dominic, and not far from where you sit. That's pretty amazing, the proximity of it all, not in time but in space. I expect his spirit stays with you. Thanks for your good wishes.

Elisabeth said...

You're so right, Jeanette: 'Agism, sexism, misogyny, abuse. Feh. Here's to women AND to men who finally find their seemingly limitless abilities and who drop kick gender nonsense out the door.'

It's time we all, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, ugly and beautiful etc etc rejoice in our idiosyncratic capacities and recognise the same in others, however seemingly small or large.

Thanks, Jeanette. It's lovely to see you again and to hear of your success.

Elisabeth said...

It has been a tall mountain, Gary, and I'm not yet at the top. I suspect I may never get there but it's good to rise above whatever difficulties life has dished up. For you too, I expect. And I would be interested to hear more about your past adversities and the ways in which you have risen above them - with a name, blog name or otherwise - like Gary Everest.

Thanks, Gary.

Elisabeth said...

I am still feeling proud of myself, Cuban, though the immediate excitement is waning. Thanks.

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the congratulations, Glenn, you of the cryptic prose. I'm glad to hear from you so clearly.

erin said...

congratulations, elisabeth)))

xo
erin

Isabel Doyle said...

Congratulations Dr Elisabeth, if I may call you that. Good luck on the next phase of the work.

Isabel x

Elisabeth said...

Thanks for the congratulations erin, and Isabel, I gather I'm not supposed to take on the title till I submit hard copy to the university, which I'll do tomorrow and maybe even then not until after I graduate, but who cares. A few friends have sent me letters with the honorific. It's fun.

Thanks, Isabel.