Art of Persistence

"The art of love ... is largely the art of persistence." -Albert Ellis

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Good Day

I woke up an hour before the alarm went off this morning, looked at the clock and was shocked. I had slept through the night without waking up in the wee hours to lay there and wish I were sleeping. This is a really huge deal for me. If you suffer from persistent, intractable insomnia, you know what I mean.

"I've got an hour before I have to get up," I told myself, "so I'll just lay here." And I did. But as my mind began to chew on the day ahead, I realized that I wasn't going to go back to sleep. And I felt really good! So, what the heck, I got up. I took time to say my prayers, the whole shebang, not just the hurried Our Father that I perfunctorily offer up most mornings with an embarrassed, "Sorry, God. I'll try to do better tomorrow." I was just finishing when the alarm went off.

It felt so good to wake up with a full night of drug-free sleep in me. The sun was shining. I was having breakfast with my wife, feeling optimistic about school and work. And did I mention how good it felt to have my first good night's sleep in I don't know how long?

As I began my morning commute, I paused to thank God once again for a good night's sleep. When that first song was over and the annoying commercials started, I turned the radio off. I thanked God for being able to turn the radio off. And that started a flood of things that I was thankful for. It was a good commute, uneventful, sunshiney and hypotensive.

I had a good day at school. The sun on my skin as I walked to class made me feel alive, warm and happy. My initial apprehensions about starting grad school eased by a comprehensible lecture on a fascinating subject.

I had a good day at work. My students were attentive. And why shouldn't they have been? I was articulate and focused. I controlled potential disturbances, gave encouragement and got good feedback.

I had a good homeward commute, a delicious, healthful dinner, and a productive evening of homework.

And now I'm going to bed, very sleepy but thankful and happy.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Letting Go of Anger

A few weeks ago, a former student stopped by my office to talk to me. Since I had been her teacher for more than one class (and one of those classes was very small) we had gotten to know each other well enough that we could talk about more than just math. From the time we started talking I was aware that she seemed more relaxed and happy than I had ever noticed her before. She was almost sparkly.

I made the comment that taking the Summer off from school really agreed with her. She replied that, yes, that was part of it. But, after five minutes of back story, she said that the really big difference was finally being able to let go of the anger that was spilling out all over her husband, children and friends and threatening to ruin her life.

I don't think she realized how close to tears she had brought me. Our back stories were different, but I saw that I too was full of anger and frustration, and that it was threatening to destroy my life. I knew then that I had to get rid of it. But how?

I've been chewing on that ever since, and I still don't really have a complete or clear answer. Part of it, a big part, is that I have to decide that I want to stop dwelling on those things that make me feel angry or frustrated. But this is difficult in a world where I still have to make a living, starting over in yet another career, and struggling with finances and grad school. How can I help but be reminded that I will never be a Dad when I see children playing in the neighborhood, or hear coworkers and friends talk about their kids? I know that I'll never be able to keep these thoughts completely out of my mind. But I think Saint Paul had a good idea in his Epistle to the Church at Philippi: "...whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."