Quarter-life crisis or continued exploration? I couldn’t say.
I have a student who speaks badly about women, swears when he shouldn’t, and reacts poorly to perceived criticism and the consequences of his actions.
I ask him casually in the hall how his day is going and he keeps walking without even looking in my direction. I sit down next to him in class to check in and I have to say his name half a dozen times before he begrudgingly acknowledges me. I try to have productive, relationship-building conversations, and he actively shuts me out.
Then he grabs some chalk and writes insulting messages on the chalk boards.
And then he gets pissed off and storms out when he gets in trouble.
But he’s still my student.
For the past few days I’ve felt a burning desire to spit fire and blame at my former fiance. I couldn’t explain it, and I was reeling against myself for wanting so badly to push all the blame on him. I shared these feelings with a close friend of mine, and while she could empathize, she assured me these urges were natural and that if I felt I should tell him something, then I should.
The year 2016 is my big Year of Re-creation, and the magnanimity of this statement only grows with the realization that I won’t be recreating myself as a husband, but as a single man again. And that’s okay. Perhaps painful at the outset, but all change can be.
In any case, it’s been a while since my last shot of stress, when I took that first step from Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress to finally make stress my friend.
It should be obvious–as a three-year relationship ends and I set out to begin my summer teaching training–that stress is paramount right now. So it’s time to go on.
This past Wednesday, things between my fiance and me ended. Part of me had expected it, and to be brutally honest, it wasn’t the first time this year when I had thought our relationship would end, but it still pierced my heart when it finally did.
I moved quickly from injury to recovery, having already prepared a path in my mind for where I would go next, what I would begin to do as a truly single man. One friend called me to ask how I was doing, and he told me I had already grieved the loss of our engagement, that the end of our relationship was not the start of my grief, but its conclusion. And in many, many ways, he was right.
Yesterday I began reflecting on some recent challenges in my relationship with Harel, and it’s a topic I’d like to return to. I feel it’s worth mentioning that although I can’t describe exactly what’s going on without breaching Harel’s trust and confidence in me (he has not said if I may share what’s going on), the general motion is that the circumstances within which our lives are suspended have shifted, and despite no change in our love for each other, it’s unclear if a long-distance relationship can be sustained in the way these new situations would require.
It is, ultimately, an ongoing process we’re both trying to figure out.
So while this post won’t, and can’t, address the details of what we’re going through (and ultimately, I’m not sure I’ll discuss those details publicly, even with Harel’s consent), what I wish to return to is a discussion the strategies I’m using to get through it all.
Because after two years of being engaged, news like this isn’t easy to digest.
Chaos is not disorder. Chaos is order so precise and sensitive that the slightest misstep at the start sends us far from where we intended to be.
Water is, as it tumbles over rocks and flows between our fingers, a creature of chaos. And so is life.
We drift along, pulled between rapids and brief moments of pause, seconds of tranquility that split time into austere fractions that enclose us and confine us. Solutions (and the problems they supposedly solve) seem suddenly clear, and then the water draws us away, and once more we are left without recourse and direction.
This is, I am afraid, one of those times.
A year ago I mailed our application for a fiance visa to the U.S. government. I had thought by now my fiance would be my husband, that we would we living together, figuring out how to live together, while I finished my master’s degree.
I was wrong.
We were sitting in the bus last August, shuttling from terminal one to terminal two, and we promised it would never again be a full six months apart from each other.
We were wrong.
I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to spend sixty percent of your relationship just trying to be able to live together in the same country, in the same house. But “difficult” isn’t even the right word–the paperwork is overwhelming, but after a few dozen hours of reading, it’s more time-consuming than anything else. The bulk of the process has been given to waiting, which is annoying, but you get used to it.
For a long time I was burdened by generalized anxiety disorder without diagnosis. It took three different prescription medications to make me realize what it’s like not to constantly be under high levels of physical distress. I was used to the tightness, the racing thoughts, numb to the unmanageable excess of stress I experienced.
Numb like I’ve become numb to the distance between us. Sometimes two weeks pass and we don’t say a word to each other beyond liking statuses on Facebook. We’re so accustomed to thin lines of communication that when life demands homework and research papers and teaching hours and travel times, there isn’t time left for each other.
At least if we lived in the same house, hell, even just the same timezone, the overlap in our schedules would be easier to manage. I don’t even know what it’ll feel like waking up next to him, saying goodbye before we part ways to go to work and school or whatever, without that counter in my mind ticking down and telling me I need to hold on, I can’t let him go, because there’s only a handful of days before we’re apart again.
There was a time when I thought Harel would be moving up here last August rather than me flying back from visiting him. There was a time when I thought he’d be here for New Years, or at least before classes began. There was a time I thought he’d be here by spring break, but now I’m not even sure if he’ll be here before summer begins.
But who knows, maybe I’ll be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Harel and I are fundraising to help cover some of the costs of his coming to the US. With my being in graduate school and the moving costs to join Teach for America later this year, the financial demands of this journey have been no small burden, and we are grateful for any support you’re able to offer.
Please make a donation and share our GoFundMe page or these TBT posts to help.
My phone is Harel’s when we’re together: He has an eye for angles and alignment more than I ever will. He snapped this picture in a plaza in Queretaro, and it’s still one of my favorite photos of all times–the color balance, the simplicity, its subtle complexity.
He also has a fondness for statuary. We once went to a natural history museum and he wandered off while I tried to read a lengthy description of Greek and Roman deities (it was in Spanish, but my familiarity with Greco-Roman mythology allowed me to piece together its meaning). By the time we drifted back together, he had taken pictures of literally every statue in the exhibition hall. Seriously. Each and every one of them.
I have a bad habit of taking too many pictures to remember something and then realizing later, as I look at my pictures, that they don’t really, can’t ever capture the moment like I had wanted them too, and instead of living it more fully, I had lost myself in the momentum of trying to catch it in pixels.
When Harel takes my camera, it’s hard to get lost in something I can’t have–somehow it frees me to be more present in the moment. And when I finally look back through my camera roll, I get to glimpse the experience through his eyes–what were the things that caught his attention, that drew his gaze, that made it memorable for him?
Even now, looking at the pictures he took for me, for us, it makes me feel closer to him.
Lately I’ve been using Thursdays as a way to remember special moments with my fiance in our journey together toward marriage and the relationship we’ll be able to build on the other side of our immigration journey.
But tonight there’s another couple I want to remember.