Just when you think you have a handle on everything, that things are moving forward, the call comes and you're thrown back into it.
A science teacher this time. John argued about the answer to a question. It got personal. He got mad. He raised his voice. He ignored signals to calm down, to leave the room. The other kids were scared, and didn't know what he was going to do.
All the kind words and promises in the world won't do a lot of good at times like this. Talking to the teacher I feel like I'm talking someone down off a ledge, all the while feeling like I want to crawl out there with them.
It doesn't help to realize that this is happening less-and-less. It doesn't help much to realize that, when John came home that day, he was filled with remorse, angry at himself. He didn't want to hear my words. He had heard them too often. They were playing in his head all day.
Yet in some ways these are the best of times. We got a letter last week inviting John to apply to Yale. I have on my desk an invitation from five top schools, including Harvard and Penn, for him to attend a seminar on going to one of them. It's like being the parent of a top basketball prospect with iffy friends. He might become a star or he might fall down completely.
I've been going through a similar dance with myself. The last few days I've done some fantastic reporting, and come up with solid insights on all the blogs I serve. I've been able to help some people move their own businesses forward, and there's the prospect of a reporting trip next month.
So why do I feel dead inside?
Aging isn't just about pain, I've learned. There's tiredness to consider. Exhaustion in the middle of the day. A desire each morning to just go back to bed. A feeling that coffee will be no help, that exercise is just tiring me out, that all the good intentions in the world are just leading me toward my grave. I look at the calendar. I'm 53. In less than 12 years I'll be 65. My god.
Politics has me a little down. It shouldn't but it does. It is always true that, in a time of crisis, the old Anti-Thesis is tougher to kill than the old Thesis. The old Thesis falls of its own weight. The old Anti-Thesis thinks it is the natural successor. And usually it is. Nixon came from the Eisenhower Anti-Thesis to the Roosevelt Thesis of Unity. FDR came from the Populist Anti-Thesis to Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Thesis. Lincoln was a Whig.
The talk of politics is hiding something more important, a new warning about ADHD drugs which I fear will be counterproductive. The health effects of your own ADHD anger is far more dangerous than the risk of a heart attack taking Ritalin. On the other hand I managed to get into Rice with no knowledge I even had ADHD, while John continues to have trouble regardless of what we do for him. He's not presently taking medication: should he be?
Think about that and you welcome trouble. As though there were a choice.