Dr. Dino Zanini mentored me towards a certification in group consulting through the AK Rice institute. Dino had a twinkle in his eye that expressed his singular and signature joy. He would sing his sentences with an Italian accent, calling me “My Dear Rabee.”
As is the way of good teachers, his lessons extended well past the topic at hand.
After Emmett was born, we stopped our monthly two-hour discussions, and I promised to pick them back up when my life became more manageable.
Shortly thereafter, I got a call from him telling me a fantastical tale – a story which ended with a revelation of his terminal condition. His death would not be imminent, yet it was certainly not far off.
I remember the following comment that he made in a subsequent conversation. I don’t recall if he made the comment in person or on the phone. I have a vague memory of being on the phone in my old bedroom in my mother and father’s apartment, although it seems unlikely that I was there when I heard these words.
I remember it as this: I remember telling Dino, through tears and a heavy lump in my throat, how much I would miss him. He listened and then remarked, “You are crying for you. All your tears are your own. They are not about me.”
Dino was a prominent psychiatrist and analyst. He was sharp, like Sherlock Holmes, picking up on details many would miss.
Let me give you an example of his style. He might have said to you, the person reading this article,
- I wonder if you noticed that my friend, the dear Rabee, referred to me as a prominent psychiatrist and analyst. I wonder what you make of the additional word, prominent, to describe me and how that colors your understanding?
Then, after asking your opinion, he would wait. He would listen. He would listen because he’d really want to know what you thought. Dino did not hold a fixed view of reality. It was constantly changing, like the clouds, and he was there to interpret what it could – collecting data with an open mind.
Our tears are our own.
Well, they are – of course – our own.
Who else’s tears could they be but ours?
But there is something much deeper and more profound here.
I was weeping about his imminent departure because of my own sadness; my sadness was about my loss and not about him.
We weep our own tears.
A fuller understanding
Dino’s comment was a seed that, over the past 10 years, has grown into much fuller teaching: my emotional response to reality is valid even if it is not mirrored.
If I’m sad, it’s valid, even if the person on the other end is at peace.
If I’m joyous and the other person is not, that, too, is valid.
We are each entitled to our own emotional response to this world.
And, so, if I find myself joyous, I am joyous. If I find myself sad, I am sad.
I love you still, my dear surrogate father, role model, teacher.
I love you.
I thank you.
– Your dear Rabee