Under Pressure

“…I’m an old lump of coal.”
“Yeah, I know, and I’m hoping if I put enough pressure on you I’ll get a diamond.”

I have had a rough few weeks.

School, for teachers, began three weeks ago. I spent the first week stressing out about whether or not our school would have enough children registered in kindergarten for all four of us on the K team to keep our jobs (for many, many days, we sat at 12 kids/classroom) and wondering if having a full-time intern was actually a good decision. I’ve never had an intern before (or done a teaching internship, for that matter) and the idea of a full-time, “I’m-there-when-you’re-there” person seemed so much less overwhelming in April when Caity was hyping me up for it. “You’ll be so great! I’ve learned so much from just being in your class for 30 minutes a week, your intern is going to be so lucky!” Now that my intern was actually there with me, I felt really inadequate and worried about whether or not she’d learn anything useful from me.

The second week for teachers was the first week for students. Most of the kids I’d seen at Meet the Teacher came back for Day 1 of school (one registered for kindergarten with us, filled out the paperwork I had at Meet the Teacher, and subsequently moved to a city 30 miles south of us. I’m choosing to see those as unrelated events). The problem with Day 1 of school in kindergarten is that it is literally the first day of school that some kids have ever had. It is nerve-wracking and difficult and thankfully, my principal understands that. He told us that as long as we get them to the right rooms, make sure they eat lunch and send them home safely, we’ve been successful on Day 1. No one cried, everyone ate lunch, and they all got home safely. Win.

This past week I tried to remember that I can’t compare this year’s kids to last year’s kids. Including the obvious reason that they’re just different kids, I remember last year’s kids at Day 180 and these kiddos just haven’t had the chance to get to that yet. They’ll learn the routines and procedures and so far, they’re soaking it all up. We’re learning Kagan structures, independence, and kindness. We know why we have rules, we know who the boss is, and we understand the consequences of not following directions. And for only being 10 days in, that’s pretty fantastic.

This past Friday I planned to drive down to spend the weekend with Andy, help him with a project and have good quality time. The past few weeks have been pretty stressful and he promised me a relaxing Friday night, which I was looking forward to. Only when I woke up Friday morning (late) at 5:45 a.m., the first thing that happened was the filling my dentist had put in a little more than 12 hours prior fell out. Literally, I was still in my bed. After the wave of panic subsided, I left a message for the dentist explaining what had happened, packed my car and headed out for work.

I should explain that when the dentist did this particular filling, the root/nerve/whatever it’s called of my tooth became exposed. He put a covering on it and explained to me that in the future, it would be likely that I’d need a root canal but that this would help delay that process.

Did you know that an exposed nerve + coffee = pain? Or that an exposed nerve + air = pain? I tried to teach my class on Friday. I really, really did. I had plans and goals and everything but about 30 minutes in, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. The office found a sub for me and after a few phone calls, the dentist’s office set up an appointment for me at noon to have an emergency root canal at an endodontist‘s office.

[This is the part where I am reassured that I picked the right boyfriend.]

At this point driving up 13th Street, I had a meltdown, pulled over, and texted Andy. He had offered a few hours prior to scrap our plans and I had (pridefully) written that idea off because I had planned to go down and help him with his project. He had told me he could come up here instead and when I finally called him to ask if he would, he told me he’d run to his house after work and drive up.

Right now, we’re sitting on my couch. He’s been working on fixing my phone issues and I’ve been finalizing lesson plans for next week. He showed up two nights ago with flowers and fancy bacon from Lucky’s. We’ve had great conversations, cracked jokes, and fallen a bit more for each other. Peeking up at him over my computer monitor, I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am. The past few weeks have been stressful, but I have an amazing man who will change his plans to support me when I need it. Having him in my life is a blessing that I plan to not take for granted.

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Fifty One Percent

“You’re going to write about this, aren’t you?”

I spent last week exploring Milwaukee with my Boy, his sister, and his sister’s husband. We ate far too much at their favorite local places, curled up in soft blankets and slept in a bit later each day, and danced, concert-style, to bluegrass, rock, and soul bands at Summerfest. I got to see both condos he’d like to buy if he lived in Milwaukee. He indulged my request for a photo of us which, since he is anti-selfie, meant he set up his fancy camera equipment in the middle of a park and raced across the bridge and up the steps to where I was sitting before the 10-second timer elapsed and the image was captured. (Some of these pictures are more flattering than others.) He held my hand while we drove and I met his people, an eclectic group so warm and welcoming you’d think I’dve known them for years. And when we sat on a bench outside of the Colectivo Coffee that overlooks Lake Michigan, all I could think was “yes. This. For the rest of my life,” even when he quoted the first 5 minutes of Forest Gump line-by-line (something I actually really enjoyed). Because that moment, sitting with that man, knowing that he respects me and values me and chooses me, was perfect.

That moment, though, was vacation. It was five days that I got to spend with my boyfriend and without responsibilities. That gnawing reality of we-live-in-two-completely-different-cities was absent; I kissed him goodnight and then good morning hours later. When we had some of our more serious discussions, I was actually able to look into his eyes. You don’t know how much easier it makes those conversations when you can actually see the face of the person you’re talking to.

But then, suddenly, it was Monday and we were packing again. One of Andy’s major “plus skills” is the ability to find an amazing deal and for this trip that meant staying at three different hotels. Since I had extra room in my suitcase, I nabbed the random things we had both purchased and packed them with my belongings, just like I had the last two times. This time, though, was different. We weren’t just packing to go to the next place, we were packing to go home. To our individual homes, in cities that are two-and-a-half hours apart. His shoes and Penzeys spices would need to wind up with him after we got off the plane and before I started my long drive home. And then my eyes welled up because I realized that he wasn’t just packing his socks and toothbrush into his suitcase, he had parts of my heart in there too, parts that I hadn’t planned on giving away to a man I’ve only known for 6 months, especially not one who is just so busy and far away.

When we first started dating, Andy told me that the absolute hardest part would be distance. Long-distance relationships were something he had much more experience in and I didn’t doubt him. I don’t think I understood exactly how hard it would be and why it would be hard. Besides the typical “I just like being with him” stuff, there’s the “I don’t actually need my anxiety medicine when I’m with him!” part. And the “I want to take care of him” thing. And because of how well we connect, because I see glimpses of what it could be like when we’re together, it’s even harder to drive away from him at the end of the day. To feel like you’re closer than ever to something you’ve wanted your entire life and to know that you’re still not quite there yet is painful. For this season, however long it winds up being, I have to be patient. And, harder still, patient with a positive attitude.

It’s hard. Really, really hard. And I know there are so many other people who have much more challenging situations than I do. I’ve heard stories from people who have happy, healthy marriages after spending chunks of their pre-marriage relationship apart from each other. It is inspiring and humbling. I wish that those stories made it feel easier but for now, this is just something that I have to walk through as it happens.

One day, I will have someone who comes home to me after work, who I can cook for and talk to about his day. Someone with whom I can build my life, raise children, and grow old. And though that day is not today, it is ever-closer.

And I told you to be patient,
And I told you to be fine,
And I told you to be balanced,
And I told you to be kind.

154 Miles

About a year ago, I started doing life coaching with my friend Kate. Mary, #bff extraordinaire, had been working with her on growing her freelance business and I thought, “hmm…I wonder if Kate could do life coaching with me for building up my concept of self-worth.” See, while I had (and thankfully, still have) parents and friends who clearly loved me while I was growing up, I never really connected with that whole “you have value independent of the tasks you’re able to perform” thing. That’s where Kate came in, asking questions that made me look at myself a different way. And after a few months of intentional, pointed conversations, it was clear that was I growing so I took a big step and plunged into online dating. I spent my Sunday afternoons chronicling my “adventures” on this blog for several weeks, partly because they were so ridiculous that they became hilarious, and partly because I wanted to help show all of my friends who are considering online dating that it’s actually not all that scary. And while I met more than a few, umm, special people, I got connected with a pretty great one. We’ve spent the past several months learning more about each other and having 8+ hour dates. He brings me flowers and I send him little care packages to his office. And it’s great.

Only, he and I live 2 1/2 hours away from each other. Our lives are busy and complicated and I only get to see him every 3 or 4 weeks. After I hang up the phone from talking with him, I think through these things and that’s where I stop: with sadness that for the time being, the bulk of my “time” with this man isn’t in person.

Today, though, I had a revelation. See, on one of our last phone calls I was explaining how everything just feels so crazy right now in pretty much every area of life. The Boy pointed out that as long as my foundation is solid and made up of what actually matters, I’ll always ultimately be ok. Things around me can get shaky and feel like they’re crashing down but if a strong foundation has been laid properly, I can rebuild whatever falls. Today I connected that conversation to these moments, when I’m sad because what I want more than pretty much anything is just to be able to actually look into his eyes when I talk to him and I realized that I can see the distance as a huge burden or as an opportunity to lay a solid foundation. I have no idea whether I’ll marry this guy, or the next guy, or the guy after that, but I do know that I want a relationship rooted in good communication. Having 90+% of learning about someone happen over the phone is an insurmountable task if you don’t connect with that person communication-wise. So today, I’m choosing to see a blessing in this.

But don’t me wrong; long distance still sucks. A lot.

I’m not sure I would’ve been able to handle a long-distance relationship with someone in a healthy way if a good friend hadn’t helped me learn more about the value I have. I definitely have moments of doubt where I think (and typically text these questions to this patient man I have found) “why is this guy even with me!?” but those are undoubtedly fewer and farther between than they would have been 18 months ago. I now know a bit more about what I bring to the table in a relationship. The man I wind up marrying will be lucky, indeed.

And I’m positive I will be, too.

Five Dates

Hey there, kids!

So, remember that guy I told you about? The one I first mentioned here, went on a date with here, and deactivated my online dating accounts for here? Well, in case you hadn’t gathered it via my mentions of “the boy” on social media, we’re officially together. If we lived in the 1950s, I’d wear his letterman’s jacket to our high school football games. Only I’m 29, he’s 34, and I don’t think he had a letterman’s jacket. Plus, I was in the marching band so I didn’t get to sit with non-band nerds. I also don’t think he ever would’ve gone to a high school football game. This metaphor is getting away from me. Moving on.

When I was in high school, I would grumble to my friend Christine (among others) about not having a boyfriend. Her response was that she was confident that I’d only have to have one boyfriend and he would be “the one.” For a long time, I believed her. When I didn’t date in college, I held onto that statement for dear life: one boyfriend and I’d marry him. [Andy, if you’re reading this, please don’t freak out.] But now that I’m actually in a relationship, I cling less tightly to that idea. [Told you not to freak out.] I mean, I wouldn’t be dating this man if there were red flags flying everywhere – I do want to get married one day. But truthfully, I wasn’t the type of girl who could’ve handled a relationship with someone knowing it was, more likely than not, just temporary. I’m still not that type of girl. Which brings me to the crux of what I want to say: there is nothing wrong with being 29 and just now pursuing a relationship.

There are those who are masters at recognizing that some people are only in our lives for seasons. That most relationships have an expiration date of sorts and that when it happens, you accept it and move on. It doesn’t mean they’re detached or not fully invested in their relationships, just that they understand this as a fact of life. I am not one of those people. I mean, I still miss Carly, my best friend during kindergarten. I do not let go easily or well. I pretty much do the opposite, grasping as tightly as I can to someone even when I know I’m supposed to let go. Could you imagine me “casually dating”? That could not possibly end well!

So, ladies (and gentlemen) out there who may be wired similarly, please don’t be discouraged when your Facebook newsfeed shows you that your friend Jenny is “in a relationship” for the third time this year. She’s built differently than you are. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. And, most importantly, believe me when I say that there isn’t anything “wrong” with you for not involving yourself in casual relationships. You and I were made purposefully, intentionally, and beautifully. That’s something that’s taken me the better part of 29 years to learn – I hope your learning curve is faster than mine.

Happy Weekend,
Kyla