Every once in a while I'll head over to Satish and Danta's house early on a Tuesday morning to eat breakfast with the boys before it's time to drive them to school. Lucky for me, their oldest sister, Amita, was there last week and we chatted a bit while Satish played on the computer and Danta finished his slice of bread with peanut butter and chocolate chips. Amita's graduating this year and is actively applying to colleges. Soon she'll have to make a decision about where she'll spend the next four years, but last Tuesday, I was more interested in how she's faring during her last semester of high school.
"It's still really hard," Amita admitted.
"Yeah, I remember my Senior year being like that, too," I said. "What classes are you taking?"
As she rattled of a list that included the letters A.P. (Advanced Placement) after nearly every class, my eyes widened. "That's a lot of work!"
"It is," she nodded. "I thought it might get easier as we got closer to the end of the year, but it's not."
I told her about my A.P. English class which challenged me right up to the last day, the Accounting class I took with my pal, Rick, and how Civics bored me to tears. "But my favorite class that last semester was Human Relations because I loved my teacher, Mr. Oberle," I said. "One day we were talking about male/female relationships and he asked the class, 'Why isn't love enough to keep people together?'"
Amita's eyebrows lifted, so I went on. "None of the kids in the class answered, and I wanted to say something, but was afraid to because in Mr. Oberle's class, you had to stand whenever you spoke."
"What did you say?" Amita asked.
"I told him that love doesn't pay the bills or do the chores. He nodded and asked me to continue, so I said that while love is all well and good, you have to have trust and commitment and a willingness to work through stuff, even when you don't always love each other...which sometimes happens when you're mad or hurt or whatever."
I remember feeling my heart pound in my chest while I stood there, all of the kids' eyes fixed on me as my face burst into flames. But Mr. Oberle gently nodded. "Very good, Katie," he smiled. "You've got your eyes wide open."
What a wonderful thing to share with Amita as she crosses the bridge from being a teenager into being a young adult. And what a wonderful thing to know that, even though I've walked through some situations with my eyes wide shut, I can still remember Mr. Oberle's kind words...and other profound lessons I learned in his class.
On the first day in Human Relations, Mr. Oberle introduced us to a little doll he called Buster. He said that each one of us has a little Buster living inside that keeps us from being happy and healthy. "Your Buster has two problems he needs to face," Mr. Oberle explained. "One is fear of the unknown and the other is negative feelings about yourself." In nearly every class for the rest of the year, somehow, in some way, Buster always surfaced in someone.
Mr. Oberle often reminded us that anything in life that's challenging, anything that causes stress or anxiety or an unwillingness to change can be traced back to either our fear of the unknown or some type of negative feeling we harbor about ourselves. Whether it be lack of self-esteem or believing the shadowy things we may have heard from others about who they think we are, our responses to life are based on limiting viewpoints and an endless inner chatter that only recycles experiences until we have the strength to embrace our little Buster and reconcile ourselves with the child within.
Since I began the journey into consciousness during my late twenties, I've dealt with my own Buster again and again and again, so it's not difficult to recognize the stages of ego development in the world around me. I'm delighted to discover that after all the time, energy, and effort I've put into the past twenty years, I've progressed to the integrated stage where I lead not with my unconscious impulses, but with compassion and a willingness to make peace with myself, another person, or a situation that has the power to create a deeper recognition of my destiny.
All of this sounds pretty heavy, and it can be at times, but whenever I feel overwhelmed by emotions or life's endless opportunities for growth, I remember to check in with my little Busterette to see how she's doing. These days I often call her Ramona (as in Ramona Quimby) as there's not much she's afraid of (except rush hour traffic and earwigs), and I've been mirrored with so much love and kindness, my self-confidence grows stronger every day. How blessed am I to have friends who know me well, who've watched me evolve over the years, and don't hesitate to remind me to keep moving forward, creating my own footsteps, not walking in the wake of someone else's.
John Grisham once wrote: Don't compromise yourself. You're all you have. This realization continues to challenge me to let go of being afraid of what I cannot see or know or experience right now. One that encourages me to trust myself, commit to who I am and where I'm going, and act with a willingness to work through anything, even if that means doing it on my own.
A while ago, I thought, that like the second half of my Senior year in high school, life would get easier, but I've found that it doesn't.
It only gets deeper.
So bless you, Mr. Oberle, for teaching memorable lessons of a lifetime...and for showing me by example how to embrace my little Buster with love, empathy, and kindness. Only then was I able to grow into the woman I've now become...and still allow my often naughty, but childlike self to playfully dance into the light.
|Mr. Oberle and Buster, Bowsher High School|