Thursday, April 17, 2008

For what it's worth

We had lunch today with a professor from college, who I really, really like.

He speaks with a New York accent, has a ponytail like my dad and stands up for what he believes in.

Plus, not only was he an engaging teacher, he cared about his students. A requirement of each course was a mid-semester meeting with him. At mine, I remember we talked about running and life more than we talked about English.

So today was the first time we'd seen him in about two years. He was in town for a conference and invited us to lunch.

It was like seeing an old friend again, someone you really care about but who you've sort of lost touch with.

At our wedding, the professor read a poem/essay Dane had written about circles and how they play out in life. I remember being so moved afterward. And I remember he was so nervous beforehand.

So today, as usual, he asked those questions he's so good at asking: How are you doing? But it's not the simple, casual question asked by so many. He really wants to know how you're doing, and he wants the below-the-surface answer.

He also listens with compassion, concern, care.

And he talks honestly about life, the world and its problems, his problems, those of others.

I felt sad when he told us about his partner's failing health and the burden of care that has placed on him. I had no idea his partner was even sick. At 55, though, some life changes and Type 1 diabetes have taken their toll.

Our professor has started driving again after years of not having to. He's reading books about caregiving (and cringing at most of them) and he's just dealing with things no one ever really wants to handle.

I always hate it when the good guys get hurt.

Still, I left the lunch feeling great that we'd seen him and just a little more vulnerable to what life will someday throw our way.

As usual, he gave me several points to ponder. And I think they're worth sharing.

He said:

--Take time to keep yourself healthy. Make exercise and eating well a priority. If for no other reason than to see your children do all the things you dream of them doing -- and more -- do this now.

-- Continue to try to make a difference in the world. It is hard, he acknowledged, and there are many things that often get in the way. But don't give up thinking about how to make a change, or working for it. Do little things. Do something. Realize who you're impacting and don't belittle that.

-- Live in the now. This one is a very important reminder for me. Too often, I'm thinking about what comes next. It's because life trains you to be this way. When you're growing up, the message is constantly about doing well in school, looking ahead to the next year and the next and writing paragraphs for your guidance counselor about where you see yourself in 10 years. It's all so goal-focused, and while I believe in goals, I do think we get swept up in the mindset of achieving and climbing ladders and looking ahead constantly. So much so that many of us are in danger of never actually just living. So be content, he reminded me today. You have good lives, and be OK with them for now. Take comfort, if you want, in knowing that you will not be in this place forever. But for this point in your lives, enjoy where you are. Take it all in.

And today, in the midst of a really busy work day, I felt -- genuinely -- that I enjoyed my job.

I still felt guilty when I was five minutes late picking up Rye. But I reminded myself he probably didn't know the difference. And he was still just as happy to see me when I got there.

Those hugs -- I'll keep those in the now for as long as I can.


Chris said...

People like your professor are the type of people this world is lucky to have. When you were describing him, I was thinking of similar people that I've known who genuinely care about you. And they want to know how you are no matter the number of years since you've talked with them. Sometimes I try to be that type of person, although it can be hard when you get lost in the shuffle of daily life. I usually try harder at this after I've talked with someone with those genuine characteristics. They are motivating people.

And I love reading your blog. I wish I could write half as well as you do. :)

Veronica said...

Chris, thanks so much. Sometimes I feel like I'm writing these things and they really don't matter much to anyone else. So I'm glad you like it!

And if we're comparing skills, my math skills are far, far inferior to yours.

Jeannine said...

Nothing can compare to genuine kindness mixed with wisdom.