In the morning, I go back to school. Like last year, I’m hoping staying ahead with my planning will bolster my work performance so that Charming matters won’t interfere. Last summer ended with my post “Four Days Without Charming” detailing a break-up and swift reconciliation. Twelve months later, the end of another summer in Hampton Roads means four days left for me and Charming.
After all, it’s been two years. What do you do when the vast number of items in the “For” column are unequally weighted against a couple baggage violations on the “Con” side? We’ve had an incredible journey. We’ve navigated a dozen or so decision points about the future of our relationship, and the uncertainty and risk remain far more daunting than the fantastic lure of forever with a great love and best friend. In counseling last week, Dr. Huff asserted that choosing a marriage partner is a risk. He saw no reason we shouldn’t move forward in terms of compatibility, and he reaffirmed the importance of honoring God with a relationship.
Saturday involved some serious post-discussions about the upcoming decision point. It’s the critical moment we agreed upon in the spring when my biological clock was triggering unwanted alarms every day. We were blessed with a summer in my neck of the woods while Charming took a ten week class, and with the benefit of couple’s counseling, we thought it reasonable to conclude we’d have a handle on our future course by this weekend.
That’s just four days away, and I can’t imagine after all our misadventures in recent weeks adjusting to my ADHD diagnosis and medication overhaul that he’ll be whipping out the perfect engagement ring. So do I prepare for that outcome? No, that would keep me up at night. And there are plenty of other things to keep me up at night.
Like missing the magic pill that used to give me glorious sleep for 8 hours straight every night for eight years. Trying to find some combination of new sleep strategies, natural and medicinal, ruling out various options after a week and a half of sleepless nights. Adjusting to the crash after the ADHD medication wears off and discerning when I’m not in a good place for a deep conversation. These are the current things, like the MRI tomorrow night that’s going to confirm my partially torn rotator cuff from the Italy trip needs surgery. Most important of all, school starts tomorrow for teachers, and two weeks from today I’ll be greeting my next class of major investments.
I’ve often wondered if other teachers have trouble sleeping the night before like I do; regardless of pre-existing conditions, we’ll have a lot to think about tomorrow. Maybe others opt not to procrastinate and just go ahead and start worrying about schedules and preps and balancing meetings a few days early. I’m ready for my department meeting Thursday apart from a few forthcoming details from other invested parties. My classes will be tough this year. We’ve dropped one whole section of yearbook, which means we’ll have to produce a quality product to live up to last year’s standards with half the time and fourteen fewer staffers. I can think of a myriad other concerns some of my friends might juggle instead of counting sheep tonight.
It’s not just about work though, it’s our lives. As they unfold, amidst all the beautiful portraits revealed in the virtual gallery of our lives, relics and ruins punctuate the pristine halls. It was that way in the Vatican museum, restored and vibrant pieces alongside broken remains important enough to keep on display. And really, the ruins only made the undamaged prize pieces more glorious and worthy of pilgrimage. In Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius loomed triumphantly across the horizon as I glimpsed the petrified body of a baby and a sleeping man taken by his might centuries ago. We’re sobered by the remains of what was great.
I think that’s why, if I dare to glimpse through the halls of my own virtual gallery, all about me, I’ll see a sea of beautiful moments captured, framed, sculpted into perceived permanency. Musical leads, degrees, ribbons, awards, all in cases. If Google Drive’s analytics suggested the best current showcase, it would be a collection of my dates with Charming. We’re so good together; it’s hard to look away from all the shots we took. We’ve achieved dreams and goals together. Will there be more?
Great things happen, and we amass our trophies, certificates of merits and marriage, personally taking inventory of all we accumulate as we achieve dreams and goals. Somehow, they stand tall against the ruins of things that that were destroyed, like Mt. Vesuvius. How can we be impressed by its grandeur while we’re standing amidst ruins it created? Somehow, people still live in Pompeii. Is there any certainty Mt. Vesuvius won’t spew volcanic ash? That’s a pretty incredible risk to take.
I wonder if marriage for Charming is like Mt. Vesuvius, having claimed so many personal treasures and turned them into relics in his own virtual gallery. I can understand his hesitancy to take a risk and choose to marry an inactive Mt. Vesuvius in the hopes it won’t erupt, even if the current candidate has been tested safe for cohabitation. How could he be 100% certain when he’s experienced the collateral damage of the associated mountain I want to climb with him?
I’m not sure whether to worry about this weekend’s decision point or school starting, but a beach day with Angel on Sunday brought some necessary clarity. I was sitting in the shallow water at Ft. Monroe playing with the sand. I was telling Angel and her husband, Rob, that summer was ending, and I was feeling it all slip through my fingers like grains of sand. I’d written about that last week.
As I started to demonstrate, I realized the wet sand didn’t slip through my fingers at all. The water acted as a bonding agent between the individual particles, creating a malleable mound like clay; however temporary, I laughed as I merged my open palms into a heart-shaped mold, and the moisture let me hold onto it. For a little while in the surf, neither summer nor love wasn’t slipping through my fingers.
I believe that Charming and I are fallen and broken people saved by grace and walking similar paths to honor God with our lives and our relationship. We could have some beautiful family portraits in a shared virtual gallery. The relics and ruins will be there too, but we’d only see more manifest excellence in the permanent fixtures and additions. I’m not sure what will become of the Google Drive photos and current showcase in my gallery if the fear of the risk outweighs amassed treasures and future potential.
I realize it’s cliché to say that God is the glue that holds the marriage together, but it makes sense. It’s like He’s taking uncooperative grains of sand, going between them to hold love together, an eternal seal that keeps the heart intact. Do we really believe that perfect love casts out fear?
Yesterday, Charming took me to the shooting range on base with some of his friends. It had been a long time since I’d shot my pistol. It was on our first date, actually. Giving the impending decision point, it seemed fitting that one of potential last dates mirror that one. Watching him handle a Beretta, I remembered the first time in Richmond. I knew that day that I could marry him, despite knowing the painful sting of divorce myself.
We’ve taken a lot of shots in our two years together. These sleepless nights have given me ample time to remember why I love him and why I chose to wait after four days without him last summer. One more counseling session, a Goo Goo Dolls concert, and Charming packs up and goes back to the Pentagon. We have four more days, and I’m going to enjoy every moment with him.
We all have worries that keep us up at night, ADHD or not. Tonight, I’ll try not to think about schedules and new teachers. One thing at a time. One day at a time. One precious hour of sleep at a time. In four days, I can start processing the beginning of life without Charming or forever with him. For now, it’s time to turn off the electronic devices and initiate soothing bedtime routine.