Saturday, April 23, 2016
Every now and then I do more than I should--given my health, age, etc. The last couple of weeks are the best evidence. On April 8, I delivered a speech (50 min in length) at Western Reserve Academy--part of their annual lecture series that honors former WRA student Keir Marticke, who died on a visit to Vietnam before graduating from Brown Univ. I remembered Keir from my first year back at WRA after a 20-year absence (2001-02 school year). Although she had not been in any of my classes, she was a real presence on the campus--in the classroom, on the athletic fields. Anyway, I wanted to make sure I properly honored her--and the occasion--so I worked very hard on that talk, printing out and revising 23 different drafts. Also, the tension of talking in public (for me) has intensified over the years. I felt enormous pressure--none at all from the school, all from Mr. Conscience and Ms. Insecurity--and I could feel myself weakening, physically, as the date neared.
It was only a few days after that when I drove to Hartland, Michigan (I've written in earlier posts about those experiences), where I spent a day and a half in their fine middle school delivering eight illustrated (PowerPoint) talks to groups of seventh and eighth graders, each group about 90 or so. Yes, I spent about 30 years working with middle school kids, but I'd not done so since January 1997, when I retired. So I was nervous. I'd also expended massive amounts of energy preparing for those presentations--all about writer Jack London. My obsession with London had sort of tailed off about the time I was retiring from teaching: I'd gotten interested in Mary Shelley, and her story would consume me for the next decade.
So ... what I'm saying ... I had to spend a lot of time "catching" up on London scholarship, on retrieving from the ever-darker recesses of my memory those facts and stories about his life that had once lived on my tongue. I was reading recent books about London, re-reading some old ones, re-reading The Call of the Wild, which was the subject of my talk my final evening there at the Cromaine Library in Hartland. I have published some annotated editions of London's classic novella, but those appeared back in the late 90s. So I had some additional retrieval and reading to do before I began my drive to Hartland.
I had a wonderful time there--kids and adults were great--but I could feel myself weakening, fading like an old photograph.
I'd been home only a few days when--as I recently posted here--I got to experience the joys of a colonoscopy: the preparation, the worries, the procedure, the worries, the relief afterward.
And by then--when all of that was over--my photograph looked fairly blank. Faded away.
I took to my bed.
But I had to emerge on Thursday afternoon because one of our grandsons (Logan, a fifth grader) was going to perform in a play at Green Intermediate School. I felt lousy--enervated, frankly depressed, sick--but I could not miss that. Joyce drove us down there (behind the wheel, I would have been a danger to all), and I had a good time seeing Logan act and sing and dance as an Elvis-wannabe in his role as a (failed) suitor to a princess, who's seeking someone less ... self-absorbed.
By the time we got home, I was ready for bed again, and there I've pretty much stayed the last couple of days, rising only to eat and to take a quick run to Kohl's for some new cross-training shoes and to get a much-overdue haircut.
I shut down Facebook, stopped blogging (both blogs--this one and Daily Doggerel), and lay around feeling sorry for myself and seeing Darkness in the brightest of lights (at which I'm very good).
Now I'm sort of up and about. I'm thinking about going to the health club later this afternoon. If I do, it will be the first time in a week--very unusual for me.
So ... what have I learned?
Probably nothing. As I gradually feel better, I'll once again grow overconfident, will do too much, will slide into darkness and bed, log off Facebook and bloggery ... then, later, emerging, write about it. Writing, for me, is the surest of therapies, the most effective of self-medications.