I am sitting at the computer desk at 2:19 PM in my flannel green plaid pajama pants and my lastest thrift store find - a lovely oversized Woolrich sweater, green wool. I have a rather large glass of wine beside me that I am sipping.
Here's the wonderful thing. Classes are done. Those finals are out of the way. I was shocked to find that I may have screwed one up, badly, but I don't think that I'm anywhere close to failing the course. I picked up the last of my graded assignments and read the teacher's comments walking down the hall. On a paper I'd written on goal setting, the comment was: "I appreciate your honesty, candor, and willingness to look at yourself. However, I want to tell you to be kind to yourself, allow mistakes, and to experience joy."
I pondered that as I headed to my next final. That final was a hand written essay. I do not compose well with a pen and paper. I need the computer. My fingers fly as quickly as my thoughts, and I rearrange paragraphs and rechoose the words, I study it, and change it again. To write with a pencil, to formulate what you are trying to say and then write a coherent essay...well...there were lots of erasures. It's not my best work. Writing is not how I think. I need a key board. Remember that essay? That last one that I had agonized over for a couple weeks, finally rewriting it after work, sitting up until 3 AM to finish it, heading to school at 8, and then doing a days worth of classes on little sleep? The essay, if you care to be reminded, was on the marginalization of men. That teacher had commented, "Maybe it's the pendulum thing; it swings farther in reaction that it will when things settle down. Great paper." And I received my final A in the class.
I finished that written essay for the final exam, and then I headed out the door to the last exam of the day. I was supposed to have taken that on Monday, but could not. I had arranged to take it on Tuesday, but school was closed, and so I took it today, because tomorrow, I have to work. When I finished that, I walked to the library to e-mail Tim and let him know I was on my way home. I then walked out into the heavy snow, and I went to my car, and for the last time this year, drove home from college.
I thought on things as I drove. The teacher's comments, school in general. I take school very seriously, but there is another part that perhaps the teachers do not see. There is joy there, real joy in me. Joy that I can, and am, doing this thing. Joy that while I am learning a profession, I'm also learning a heck of a lot about myself. I have been encouraged by the honest assessments of my teachers. I have begun to view myself as a writer, because they tell me that I am. One teacher's quiet discussion made me see, for the first time in 53 years, that my job is not to be the 'mother of the world.' I don't have to take care of everything, or fix everything, or help everyone. All these things...they bring me joy. So much joy that I've got tears, and it's not the wine.
On Monday, I missed class. I had a court appearance to determine negligence in a 3 1/2 year old car accident. I was terrified, because strange decisions come out of the court room, things that make no sense to me. Although I had been rear-ended by a truck, that driver insisted that I'd not had my turn signal on. That impact pushed me into the path of another truck, and I was hit once again, at 55 mph. It was a violent crash, and still, all these years later, turning left in heavy traffic sometimes leaves me shaking.
What do I know about myself? I know that I use my turn signals, consistantly. It was an awful feeling, to be accused, but not able to do more than to offer up a weak, '...but I always use my turn signals...it's my habit to do so. It's one of my pet peeves..." I listened to the young boy who had been behind me say that he had not seen my turn signal. However, he also stated that he did not see any brake lights, at the same time insisting that I'd slowed so suddenly he did not have time to react. He wound up his testimony with the words, "I looked up, and I was on her..." His attorney insisted that he'd 'bumped' me, and that I chose to drive into the path of the truck. It began to seem a little like Alice in Wonderland. His lawyer even argued that the swamp I was visiting was 'waaaaaay over here somewhere,' as if my choice to be on this road was the cause of the accident. Long story short, it was determined that the negligence was not mine. This nightmare is now behind me. There's another joy, right there, although, I feel dreadfully for the young man.
I had, for the first time, the opportunity to speak to the man in the truck that had hit me head on. I said to Mr. G, "I feel sorry for the young man. You and I, we've a lifetime of dealing with hard times. I've a notion that this is Mr. A's first experience with hard time, and I don't think he has the experience to keep this in perspective. This is probably very traumatic for him, way more for him than it even is for us." Mr. G. agreed, which led us to a talk about hard times and what is learned from them. There was joy there, too. Not just in the verdict, but also from the conversation itself. In the excited hug and squeeze that I got from my own lawyer when the verdict was read, and my head dropped in thanksgiving. In the big sweeping hug that I got from Mr. G's lawyer. "We knew it," he said, "We knew that this was not your fault." I did not see young Mr. A or his bristling angry mother leave the court room, but my prayers went after them anyways.
All these things...there's joy here, real joy.
I sit here, and the trial is done. The semester is done. I have a glass of wine, and you know, I can do what I like. If I wanted to take a nap, I could. If I wanted to work on my column, I could do that. If I want to read a book, I can do that too, for the weather outside is truly frightful, and this lady is not leaving the house tonight, because she does not have to do that either. This is my night. I am free to do what I choose, and the luxury of that, oh my God! the luxury of it brings me such great joy I can not tell you!