Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Happiness Check

Of all the wedding photos I could choose to share, it might seem odd of me to pick this one of my son, captured by the professional photographer as he was getting dressed, just finishing the lace-tying on his fab new shoes. But what mother could resist seeing her beautiful son so obviously happy. So. Happy. 

Much as I was dragging my feet about returning to classes this week, I've been splashed by joy a few times lately and thought I'd better share.

-- I answered the phone to hear Nola say "Nana, I'm back from Nicaragua now, so I'm ready to come to your house. When can be my visit?"  With her parents over the last few vacations, she's been making her way through Latin America, and earlier this year, when she'd talked about wanting to come visit Nana and Granddad "at the beach," I said we'd surely arrange that once she was back from Nicaragua (where there are vans that take you to see spider monkeys and you have picnic bags full of food from the people at the hotel -- I have it on the best authority). Apparently, there's no time like the present. We're currently consulting calendars, although this weekend is taken up by a shift at my Mom's.

-- I finally got to see a big chunk of the wedding photos. We've been trying to get together with my son and daughter-in-law in front of a computer to view the professional photos with them, and somehow this hasn't yet worked out. So we set up a Dropbox account, and I've been living that beautiful day all over again. Surprising how much joy can be found in a trip back to last August and beach nuptials. See above . . . (and I suspect I'll unfold a few more of these in this space over the next while).

-- I teach a small 1st-year class with a high proportion of "non-traditional students," many of them First Nations students whose earlier experience in the classroom was not always positive. For our first class back this week, two students gave their first-ever oral presentation in which I'd asked them to open and unfold a poem (by a wonderful First Nations poet Philip Kevin Paul). Both students recited their poems and spoke about them with such feeling, commitment, and obvious understanding as to move me close to tears. This class knows that I've been having a tough time with my Mom's illness and approach to her end, so I told them what an antidote their engagement was for me. I told them I'd been feeling a bit low over the Reading Break, that sometimes I wonder whether what I do in the classroom matters enough to keep on -- not to whine about, but to let them know that moments like that day's class were the moments that make it all worthwhile. It was a very good class.

-- And then to make it even better, one of those students sent me a very moving e-mail detailing the difference this class made to her. She told me a bit about her very difficult background which involved being on her own, as an escape from abuse, from even before high school. More than a decade later, she upgraded her way into a university classroom with much trepidation, and the two novels she has read so far with me are the first she's ever completed. She's gaining confidence, beginning to learn what she likes and what she doesn't, and is determined to keep reading with the newfound "reading stamina" she tells me she's developed -- and, if you can believe it, she gives me quite a bit of credit for it. As you might imagine, I've printed out the e-mail, read it over a few times, and will place a copy in what one of my colleagues calls "The Ego File" -- the file of positive letters from former students we keep to pull out when we need a reminder of what we do well. . . .

-- I'm running out of time and I haven't even finished listing all the week's good stuff, which is a happy problem to have, right? Before I finish, I must include one last very important item:  We booked the overnight "trainhotel" trip (on Elipsos) from Paris to Barcelona. I'm already imagining lying in that berth, bumping and swaying in and out of sleep, the sounds of dark French countryside and flashes of city turning into the sounds of early-morning dark Spanish landscapes, the stop at the border, hearing our passports being checked while we try to turn back into our dreams. . . .

I hope joy is catching you unawares from time to time as well. If so, and you care to share, I love to read your comments. . . . Oh, and speaking of comments, check out the conversation around retirement in my post before last. Wow! the joy I get from knowing that so many wise, wise readers care about me. Crazy!

17 comments:

  1. What an uplifting post...
    mater your son is extremely handsome! I'd frame that image if I were you.

    It must be so rewarding to have such an important role in your young students' lives...that email would have moved me to tears. Just thinking about how much courage and strength it would take to rise above the adversity that young woman has endured already in her young life is staggering.

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    1. I do have to frame up some of the wedding photos, and that one is a favourite. I think he's a pretty good-looking young man, but I might just be biased. . . .
      As for the role we play in our students' lives, it's very moving indeed, when they let us know it matters -- and there may just have been a few tears on my part. . .

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  2. How good to be reminded just now that what you do makes such a difference! Love the wedding photo too.

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    1. The reminder came just when I needed it, I have to say!

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  3. They say happiness is a choice. In some ways I agree. In many other ways, I think they're nuts:). But however it happens, I am glad to hear you are feeling some.

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    1. I share your ambivalence, but I do think that those of us who can glimpse it even when we're feeling low do better if we look a bit harder . . .

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  4. This post has put a big smile on my face. Your son's picture is wonderful, and there's no question why it would be your favorite. Pure. Joy. Knowing you've made a positive difference in someone's life...is there anything better?

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    1. I'm glad my own smile is contagious, Sue!

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  5. Your son looks very happy and your little Nola wants to see you. Simple reasons to be joyful. It is always rewarding when someone cares about we teach. It sounds as though your train trip will be fun.There are lots of reasons to be happy.

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    1. Many reasons indeed -- as for you, I'm sure you're grinning as you buckle up your suitcase. . . .;-)

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  6. Your son looks fantastic in that photo! I love it. And I'm thrilled to hear that your student reached out to thank you for the meaningful teaching you've provided. That really is everything. Some of my most meaningful relationships have been with my teachers. I am eternally grateful to them for inspiring me, supporting me, enlightening me, critiquing me... The job you do is tremendously important. It shapes consciousness as, from time to time, you can very clearly see.

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    1. I'm sure you must have engendered some very positive feelings in your teachers. I've had a few, as well, who continue to inspire me, and to think I might have similarly influenced one or two students is really gratifying. Thank you!

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  7. I love that guy! I think Harriet and I could give you some smiles this weekend if we can catch you! Xoxo

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    1. Harriet's going to make all my readers smile tomorrow -- you'll see. . . xoxo

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  8. So much heart in your post and keep the photos coming! So happy that your work is being appreciated by those who count the most, your students.

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    1. Thanks, Duchesse -- tomorrow's photo is partly for you!

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  9. Your son is a handsome young man!

    It must feel good to know that your hard work is appreciated and is making a difference in the lives of your students. That puts everything in a different perspective, doesn't it?

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we?

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