This weekend, I got a chance to experience, yet again in my entirely lucky life, how much the gently insistent support and steady affection of a wise friend can do to turn me around at exactly the second when I need to be turned around. Two days of running dialogue behind the scenes of my life made it possible to sit still and grade, to sit still and read, to get up and walk the dog for miles, to sit still again, and even to attend a party without feeling too much as though I wanted to unzip my skin and crawl out of it, leaving it behind to make some small talk and have some hors d'oeuvres. My impatience has seemed to vie with something unfamiliarly like apathy for big parts of the semester, but a weekend of reflection revealed to me that both the impatience and the apathy are actually most likely a couple of facets of sheer and pervasive exhaustion. My students are falling to mono one after another all of a sudden; I think that three of my current students and two more of my advisees have been diagnosed in the past week. I've taken to devoting the first three or four minutes of my younger students' class to trying to ascertain and bolster general state of mind, as I watch eye-circles get darker and deeper and mouth-sets get tighter and tighter. If I can score a stupid joke within the first five minutes and make everyone laugh at least once, I figure that I've done one version of my job. I have often thought that my role as their teacher and their advisor is something like being the hand just beyond the small of their backs, not quite holding them up but ready to do so if needed or called for. It was a greater relief than I can say to find, this weekend, that someone (or, I should say, yet another person) is waiting at my back, too.
During my blissfully meeting-less lunch hour today, I strode home to check on the puppy, who slept through the entire time I was in the house. On my way back to campus, I passed someone's glee about our overnight snowfall.