“No point arguing” he would say calmly. My litigation skills gave me a distinct advantage. No need for him to tell me I was wrong. He simply showed me.
John and I loved each other. We shared deeply held values. We also approached life differently, and I had a lot to learn.
On Fridays, John joined friends for a happy hour. I eked out a few more emails after everyone left the office for the weekend. I silently claimed the moral superiority of a staunch work ethic.
“You’re welcome to join me,” he would say when he headed to our little getaway in the country. I took it quite personally that my presence was irrelevant to his level of enjoyment and that he would just as soon be with me as be away from me.
When I did join him, I would set about doing chores nonstop. Dusting, pulling weeds, stocking the woodpile. He would water the trees, feed the birds, mend a fence. But unlike me, he would regularly pause to watch the wild turkeys or simply study the sky.
“It’s me, Susie,” he would say when I became unnecessarily defensive. It was his way of reminding me I was no longer in a prior relationship filled with constant criticism that left me often shutting out feedback of any kind.
John died on the 14th day of September seven years ago. Though I pride myself on being a sterling student, I never boast of being a quick learner. I am only now beginning to grasp the lessons for which I would have gotten a failing grade throughout our years together.
While I tried desperately to prove my worth through work, John easily loved life and everyone in it. While I surrounded myself with people whenever I could, he understood one’s essential need for solitude. While I raced while he knew not to rush through this precious life we have.
John taught me that life was more than achievement. He had plenty, mind you. Launching multiple businesses, growing gorgeous gardens, succeeding in three careers. But he knew it wasn’t everything.
He knew that what mattered most were people, and it didn’t take his terminal cancer diagnosis to teach it to him.
John taught me that rest for rejuvenation is essential for being your best self. He showed me that being alone with yourself can be transformative if you listen to the silence. Since his death, I’ve had plenty of homework on being alone.
John taught me that my present was not my past. I continue to study this teaching, knowing not to need an A while seeing a passing grade is enough.
Who are the teachers in your life?
What lessons are you willing to learn?
What have you learned that you are most grateful for?