The difference of a Year

IMG_0663Hello from Wendy’s,

I am learning to be patient or being reminded to be patient as I wait on a student to give her a ride back to campus. The hour plus that I have been waiting as she finishing some training has totally screwed my day because the things I needed to get done before a 3:30 meeting are nigh impossible now, but I have been able to actually grade and respond to things on my phone, so the time is not completely wasted. I also had the opportunity to speak to my great-niece and catch up with her. It is interesting to see classes from her perspective. I need to try to call her back again today. It is actually two weeks later and that gives you all, again, an idea of what my days have been like. I am swamped beyond description at this point. Some tell me I like this. There might have been some truth to that statement at one point, but I think I can say without doubt or even an ounce of reconsideration, “that is no longer the case”. I do have some significant work to get accomplished this weekend, and a 30th birthday to help someone celebrate, but it will need to be a “nose-to-the-grindstone” sort of time. At this point last year, I was finishing up some tenure things and then it was a waiting game. It was a tough fall on me because of some of my own stubbornness and my need to understand what it meant to allow someone to be who they were. While there are still moments I think things could have gone differently, and perhaps should have, the most important thing from last fall is what I learned in the process.

As I was considering the difference of 30 years, which would be the time someone was merely a few days old, I to was in a different place. I was their age (30), by a couple of months, and I was back at the seminary and Susan, my former wife and I had just celebrated a first anniversary. We had gone to Stillwater for the weekend and actually rented a bed and breakfast and when on a river boat on the St. Croix River. I had bought a CD of music by Patrick Ball called Celtic Harp, which to this day has influenced me because I think it began my appreciation for my Irish heritage and their music, particularly. Little did I know that the Crohn’s, which was a relatively new issue in my life would begin to create such changes in my life. Little did I know that this beginning Dominican family, who was learning to manage a newborn would become such an important part of my life. I have looked at the pictures of that little house where they lived in La Vega would be somewhere I would visit and through that visit begin to understand more about their background and how hard they have worked to come to this country and become the family they are. I am so blessed to learn from them. The relationship that was forged from a classroom, a myriad of interactions, and a willingness to communicate (in more than one language) has done so much to teach me about so many things. Most importantly, again, I have learned about myself.

This morning I was hit with the reality of how much the loss of those I have loved has affected me this year. From the time I came to Bloomsburg, I have worked harder with the dentist and with others to manage my health than ever before in my life. I am realizing that the lack of actual dental appointments in my life (probably due to finances) has affected me. I am more likely to stay away from the dentist versus working with them regularly. However, for 5 1/2 years I worked with them carefully and diligently. The past year, since Lydia’s passing, I have struggled to manage almost all aspects of my life, at least in the way I have been working so hard to do since I came to PA. Well, this morning, bright and early at 7:00 a.m., I was in the hygienist chair as well as getting an exam and X-rays and all the other updating. If you have read this blog over a period of time, you will know that I had LANAP done. Well, my lack of following through over the last year has seem to undo most of what I had done. That is unfortunate for a couple of reasons. First there is the going through the procedure again. Then there is the cost. Foolish on my part. At this point last year, I will still managing this, but it seems with the new year and all that has happened, I can see yet one more way that I have pretty much fallen on my face (pun intended). It is frustrating to me, but then again, perhaps I should not be surprised. There is so much I know about my propensities and my weaknesses. While others might not see all of them, I do, and they drive me crazy. The fall has been much more demanding and stressful than I anticipated. The house project has been a lesson in small town politics, project management, economics, and more than I could have ever imagined. The work on the program and all the things that go with teaching, which I have known, somehow seem more overwhelming this semester than previous. Managing daily life and all that has come into the scope of daily requirements has caught me more off guard that it has in a very long time.

That being said, there are still so many positive things. I feel like I am in the middle of a lament Psalm at the moment. Just in the last few minutes one of the students from the office stopped in and we caught up. The students who work in the office are so amazing and they work so hard. . . . back to a blog that was begun in October. The last day has been a tough one, there are persons for whom I care deeply who are hurting so much. One is the student that I was waiting on as a began this blog some weeks ago at Wendy’s. Trying to manage college is more work than anticipated and learning how to manage the expectations, and that is beyond merely the academics, is much more demanding than they expected. As I noted in my last posting, there is so much to managing college. In this case, it has sort of been like being a parent again; I am not always sure how to manage letting them fall on their face, to a certain extent, and when to step in and help. I also imagine there is no set recipe card for that. Each person has a different threshold and as such a different way to interact with them. It is really no different than trying to consider what students need because they learn in different ways. It is not possible to made radical changes from student to student and I think it is probably the same when there is more than one child.

This gets me to the topic of the post . . .  where are those places where I see some common thread from last year and where I am this year? Where have I grown and changed. In spite of being older and into a new decade, what I am well aware of is that we are always changing and learning. Where have I learned the most. I think what I have learned most significantly is how to care, but to not be intrusive or overbearing. That was one of the most difficult lessons, and perhaps most painful, I have ever learned. Tengo que agradecer a Melissa para esa lección. No estoy seguro de que me gustó en su momento, pero era sin duda necesario. Lo que he aprendido acerca de mí mismo es que estar solo y no tener hijos probablemente me ha afectado más de lo que creía. Tal vez sea porque me estoy haciendo viejo; tal vez es porque me importa tan profundamente acerca de los que me rodean; tal vez es porque quiero evitar que otros lo que tienen que pasar por lo que yo hice a veces. No estoy diciendo que todo lo que me ha pasado es malo porque yo ciertamente no me siento de esa manera, pero lo que sí siento es más cercano a lo que mi amigo y hermano, José, dice. Todos tenemos que mostrar el amor y recibir amor a cambio. Sin ella, nuestras vidas son huecos.

What I have said here in Spanish is that I am grateful to a particular person for teaching me how to care in a way that is healthier and more reasonable. It was a difficult lesson for me. Perhaps it is because I am getting older that I worry about a sense of loneliness. Perhaps it is because I have learned that it is more about what I needed myself and how that affected me. Perhaps it is because I have this deep-seated care for those around me. What have learned along the way is that my friend and brother, Jose, is correct when he notes that we need to love others as well as be loved. What I have learned more importantly if you love someone, it is freely given and without a price tag. I think more than I have realized or certainly intended, sometimes I expect more in return for the care of love I give. Perhaps that is our humanness, but I want to be less human and more truly giving. I am so much more fragile than I show on a daily basis. I am more affected by those for whom I care than most see. I think a good pry of this comes from my continual struggle to overcome the idea that I am not good enough to belong in someone’s family or home. Perhaps that is why I try to make my home welcoming to others. It still haunts me that I cannot shake the demons and struggle with a sense of worthiness. Once again, I wonder if I am being too open for my blog? I think what Lydia provided was a sense of being needed as well as perhaps I needed to be needed by her. I have mentioned this before. She became my parent and I became her son. I miss her deeply and perhaps because it is coming up on a year, I am more acutely aware of that loss.

This fall I have, for better or worse, pushed myself harder than perhaps I ever have to advise and help students. When they do not get to where they should, or I hope they could, I feel I am failing them. Fortunately, one of my previous students reminded me I am more successful than I am feeling at the moment. As I have come back to the last final weeks of the semester, it is a crunch time. It is always this way and it does not really matter how much you prepare, you are never prepared. I know the remainder of the semester and actually the remainder of the year is going to be a zoo. It really never changes. Back to work.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

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