Persevering
Beach + Bikes + a Friend

Equanimity

Our favorite beach

   Most days   I teach in a very classroom-y sort of classroom, desks in bland colors in rows, fluorescent lights, weary linoleum, dry erase boards. But Fridays I teach my Intermediate Latin class in my college's Honors House, which is an old wood-frame house with a porch and a basement and a long flight of stairs. The students (it is a small class) sit at a lovely oval table of polished wood and there is a kitchen so you can make tea and sometimes a dish of candy.

All of this is necessary to this post so you know why I had a (college-owned) laptop hooked up to an LED projector on the table in front of me, the laptop being a kind of all-in-one way to project the Catullus poem we were translating, a map of ancient Italy, images of ancient vase paintings of Sappho and the Muses, the metrical scheme for the Sapphic stanza. I was talking about one of the (or maybe none of the) above when, over the laptop screen, I saw the face of one student metamorphose into something like a horrified look. At just the same time, a student sitting beside me jumped out of her seat and reached forward.

'Dr. Chew! Dr. Chew! Your laptop!'

Just under the lower right corner of the laptop screen, I sighted a stream of what I realized was water. My phone was on the table but on top of a folder of papers and just out of the line of water. Another student was running to get paper towels, just I grabbed the laptop and then my phone.

And was instantly met with queries and then laughter from my students, baffled that I had sat so calmly in the face of inundated electronic devices. As we mopped up the water on the table and floor (and I assured the student who had knocked over a cup of said liquid, and so set the whole scenario in motion, that all was fine), and as they remarked again about how non-reactive I had been I explained, as succinctly as one can, that such unexpected potential disasters sometimes involving damage of appliances, equipment, furniture, walls, windows, etc., is, if not exactly commonplace at my house, not unheard of, along with various, often non-verbal, sounds of loud distress.

I tried to explain how, after years of really difficult moments with Charlie, for Charlie, I have learned that, for me, keeping a very, if not totally, placid and blasé demeanor in the face of what you could call crazy---

broken dishes, broken windows---

It does not help at all to reveal the worry, fear, anger, devastation, disaster, terror, etc. that one might feel on seeing chunks of the wall on the rug, not to mention hanging from cracks in said wall, and elsewhere. If your child is upset, and mine has always been so at such times (or sometimes giddy with giggles that turn quickly into severe and haunted weeping). There is a mess and it needs to be cleaned up. And there is a child, there is your child, and you have got to help him back to peaceful easy-feelingness and equanimity because you, and probably the wall, can take a lot, but for this round, it havs been enough.

I probably didn't do the best job of explaining this but I made the effort and then slipped back into pointing to the screen and the third stanza of Catullus' poem 51 in which, overcome with jealousy and feeling on seeing the woman he loves (Lesbia) talking to another man, Catullus feels his body literally go to pieces.

I didn't (which is not to say I have not ever done such). After class, I hurried out and got stuck at least four times in non-moving lines of cars. I told myself that Charlie's bus really does seem to arrive until almost 4pm and got home in time to put my bags down and books away and fold some laundry.

Charlie had done well, only seeming frustrated at the very beginning of the day, perhaps because he was hungry. Jim had taken the train up to Albany to give a speech and so Charlie did not have his customary afternoon bike ride. He clearly missed it, looking up the street to where Jim might be walking home from the train, and assented to the poor substitute of a walk with me.

It was cold under the white circle of the moon. We walked through piles of crunchy, and slimy, leaves. We sometimes did break out into a run, which felt like just what the evening called for.

We were peaceful-easy feeling as when the tide is low and the waves gentle, all the way.

Comments

Storkdok

Kristina, you have nailed it again! I guess I've gotten really good with my "poker face" when my neighbor told me she had no idea I've been so upset over personal things for the last month. You just say it so well, gracefully!

May you have a peaceful weekend!

feebee

No sneaky hate spiral for you? http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/05/sneaky-hate-spiral.html

Jill

Well stated. People have feelings, often tumultuous ones; that's what they take priority. Things, after all, are only things.

Melanie Harper

Exactly so - the calmer my face and tone of voice is, the calmer The Boy will be. I subscribe to the Southern Belle theory of freakouts: when I have the time "tomorrow at Tara", then I will have my private freakout where The Boy can't see me.

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