This particular stillness strikes me as unusual. After a planning block helping other teachers plan, I facilitated three classes back to back, each requiring a different version of me. I swiftly swapped the school lanyard for the wedding tiara, chatting so long with my parents that Chuck gave me a silent farewell in the parking lot before leaving me to trade in the tiara for tennis shoes and a boring workout.
Today unfolded like many Tuesdays to come. After sweating it out, I’ll shoot home to prepare for the next day. Position coffee mug and pills. Replenish gym bag. Lay out clothes for next day. Set morning alarm. Put away clutter. Ready laptop for writing night. Head to my brother’s house for dinner with the family. Come home and write until I prepare to entice my elusive sleep cycle into permanency.
Yes, I recognize, that was a series of fragment, indefensible unless treated irrationally as commands; the concrete repetition is positioned best syntactically to unveil the shifts in role, function, and responsibility throughout a typical Tuesday. And though I’ve chatted about our upcoming “royal nuptials” with family, coworkers, and even students, I probably won’t hear Charming’s voice until just before bed. That’s a weekday challenge when you live apart.
Two years swapping weekends, and I’d rather adjusted to our atypical dating routine. We worked during the week, tried to avoid scheduling obligations on the weekends, and reserved our face-to-face time for what amounts to a hundred day honeymoon interspersed between five times as many days living, working, and breathing in relatively single existences.
God’s answered my greatest prayer with Charming. He’s going to marry me. He’ll be my husband, and I’ll be his wife. During his proposal, I witnessed an expression of love I’d never expected, creating an authentic fairy tale engagement. There’s no oxymoron. He made it possible because every detail was connected to parts of the very real story we’ve been writing for a couple of years now. He gave me the Prince Charming of my blogging nights and made me his Cinderella for a day.
The rest of my life is with him, this commitment the beginning of our happily ever after… yet alone on my front porch in my favorite place, I miss him. We’re weighing factors, polling people, balancing preferences, predicting potential issues. There’s the wedding – when, where, who, and how? Then there’s leaving Hampton and moving into our own home together, accompanied by a similar set of questions. Leaving halfway through the school year isn’t ideal; the cost to students, teachers, admin, writing scores, and the yearbook weigh on my professional conscience.
Though I haven’t seen the film in years, a famous When Harry Met Sally line has been highjacking my subconscious lately. Harry is confessing his love after many years, and he passionately exclaims to Sally, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start now.” I can relate to that now. Charming and I have been living our lives in tandem, and now that we’ve made the decision to unite, the interim becomes an altogether different waiting room than I just left.
Oh, it seems we are always waiting for something. For the right guy, the right sleep solution, the commitment, the job, the kids, the house, or that unanswered prayer only God truly understands. I’ll admit I’m not always at the top of my personality game, but the accumulated sum of sleepless nights hasn’t broken me. Rather, I find myself in daily prayer… mostly nightly, but I’m silently calling out to God in moments at work when I would have tried to brute force my way through before.
When I can’t sleep, I seek out soothing piano hymns or sermons. If the right monotone preacher can’t facilitate the induction of sleep, then these wakeful hours are pretty bearable. Driving to and from work, I’ve been opting for a mix of Christian contemporary and worship songs from the nineties. Where there can be peace, I want peace. Whenever a major change is to come, it makes sense to hold tight to the peace that will last once everything else is overturned.
I face my waiting rooms with a plan. If Charming wasn’t ready by the end of this summer, I would begin the new process of finding a suitable partner to protect my dimming prospects of having children. Agreeing a decision point before the summer allowed me to settle in to him and set aside all those other concerns and worries. Now that we’re engaged, I’m not waiting for the rest of my life to start. I’m not worried we won’t get the chance to try for babies. That two year waiting room had an expiration date, too.
Now, we wait for the official beginning. Charming likes to face his waiting rooms with a plan, too. After a trip to his jeweler to make some arrangements for my engagement ring, Charming took me down to the Riverfront in Alexandria, like old times, just with a pad of paper instead of a book. We spent a few hours discussing all our possible options. We had some initial conversations with parents. I made some Google Forms that will allow us to input our personal preferences and award us with line graphs and pie charts to serve as a framework for planning the start of the rest of our lives.
We don’t have many answers, to be honest, and yet, the simple act of doing what you know to do and are able to do provides this alternate waiting strategy – add my name to the list, give me an ETA, and text me when my table is ready so that I can spend the next hour doing something worthwhile and skip the waiting room. I’m not sleeping well, but doing research to help identify and understand the specific brain activities that might be causing the problem gave me a sense of confidence, not in my own control, but because the intricacies in the Central Neural System, the production and movement of neurotransmitters that inhibit or enhance production of other neurotransmitters is just too great a design not to trust the Creator.
Whether I’m resting in Charming’s arms on the weekends, or praying on the front porch Tuesdays at three AM, I know eventually all our nights will be together. Even this past weekend discussing all the major decisions on our radar, I had the reassuring sense that we were already operating as a team. I’ve missed playing the role of full-time girlfriend like we had this summer, and this tiny glimpse at fiance has me excited about exactly where we are right now.
Tonight before dinner, I brought out the princess crown and glass slippers Charming gifted me during his proposal. Katarina and Theresa tried to find matching pairs of their own crowns and shoes. We played princess, and I played Auntie La La. In a bittersweet reality, when I assume the role of Charming’s wife and likely move to northern Virginia, dinners with P.J.’s family will become rare.
When my mind reminds me of Harry’s famous speech, I can’t help but find a different response, gleaned from a different perspective, birthed in a fairy tale proposal, following two years of incredible adventures. The rest of our lives together already started. That “A Year with Charming” scrapbook I made is just the first installment in a living record of our story. Maybe the rest of my life started in Smith-Traber dorm when I first laid eyes on him so many years ago.
The point is, it doesn’t matter when we get married, because this season in between is a gift for us, too. We’re learning how it feels to face decisions as a couple, like picking out Charming’s new TV at Best Buy together and hooking it up. I’m walking into Kecoughtan every day determined to leave it all on the field, to know when I leave its halls the last time for Charming’s home that I invested all I could. I’m hugging and kissing those babies, cherishing every new word, storing up the memories I’ve loved making with P.J.’s family in my three years in Hampton. I get to be Auntie La La a little bit longer.
And in this season, God will prepare us both for that official start of always and forever, the next part of our lives where we’ll assume new roles like husband and wife. We’ll figure out the 5 W’s of the royal nuptials, and then I’m skipping the waiting room. Get a date on the calendar, and I will look forward with passionate expectation to the next chapter of our lives.
After two years of prayers that seemed to go unanswered, after two years trapped in a self-imposed waiting room, I found that God not only answered but went beyond the scope to provide and meet my needs, and that as I waited, He was working on me, preparing me for the next stage, and that refining will continue to manifest itself in new ways. In the meanwhile, I’ll savor every opportunity to live fully in my current life in Hampton as a teacher, Auntie, friend, gym partner, neighbor, and long-distance fiancé all week long. Come the weekend, Charming and I will be together in alternating houses as always.
And that’s how it will be until two become one, and then Charming will hold me while we sleep in our bed, in our home, in our always and forever until death parts us, and all the stages and roles and adventures in between.