Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Out of Body

Two days ago the moment we've all been waiting for happened. The news. The news I'd been hoping and wishing and praying for. The news that I had made a secret pact with God that if I knew I would be forever indebted. The news that I could start planning the rest of my life around. 

Houston: we have a release date.

With the good news, however, came bad. My boyfriend called me Monday in the middle of class and when I saw the phone ring at such an odd time, a small part of me knew. This is what we've been waiting for. I couldn't contain myself and had to call back the minute I left. Then he laid it on me. In a even toned, never wavering, calm voice, he told me: release has been set for August.  I exhaled. Finally, I thought, this is what I needed. And then I heard what I wasn't prepared for, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. "The bad news," he said, still never wavering, "is I will have to go back on the ship. I will have to deploy to Europe. For four months."  It came like a violent storm, like waves. Bad news. Crash. Ship. Crash. Deploy. Crash. Europe. Crash. Four months. Crash.

Silence. Say something, I thought. Anything. But I couldn't. I was breathless. Confused. Nauseous. Out of my body. I tasted salt on my cheek before I even knew I was crying. On a bench in an empty lecture hall. This couldn't be happening. This wasn't part of the plan. Deployment was not an option, it was never on the table. It doesn't make sense. 

Anger came first, followed by an overwhelming sense of selfishness. Before I could even process words to come out of the mouth, my mind flashed forward. To all the things that were now gone, robbed. As much as I forced my mind to play "worst case scenario", when I pictured our summer, there he was. Waiting for me when I crossed the finish line at my first half marathon; proud, cheering, excited. Meeting my new baby niece with me, finally able to get to know the family I had told him so much about. Picking out our first apartment together; comparing, arguing, but ultimately coming out with something perfect for the two of us. Selfish, yes. But my first thought was that all of these things were gone just as quickly as they were imagined.

After gathering the few details he had, we spoke briefly and I headed home. My head throbbed. My heart was heavy, my head in a cloud. I knew the first person I had to tell. Someone who had survived. As much as I wanted to vent, I felt guilty. That my sister, someone who had sent her boyfriend away for a whole year, would have to listen to my heartbreak about a deployment one third the duration. I was self conscious. But she told me everything I needed to hear. That it was ok to be mad, and angry and upset. That I will mourn the loss of this time we'll never get back. That it will be hard, but I will come out clean on the other side. And most importantly, that its ok to talk to her about this stuff, even though its only a fraction of what she's been through. "It doesn't have to be a comparison," she told me, "we can both feel sad."

Within a few hours, I'd calmed down. And within 24 hours I could breathe again. And now? I'm doing the only thing I know how to do. Staying busy. Diving into the details. Travel plans, moving arrangements, nitty gritty details that need to be ironed out before deploying in 5 weeks. I have to let it consume me, or I will have too much time to think. To pity. To mourn. To avoid revisiting that place I felt trapped in a mere 48 hours ago. 

I also have to force myself to look at the silver lining. I now know what lies ahead. I have my eyes on the prize, and I have to get to August. August is good. We can start living. Although there will be times, milestones, places where I will miss him, there are plenty more ahead. Spending the end of summer together, moving into our first place, our first birthday together (his), our first family holiday together (Thanksgiving, mine), and celebrating our third New Years together, where for the first time there will be no goodbyes after. There are silver linings because there have to be silver linings. Because without them I will drown in this deployment. Without them this deployment wins. 

There is no more looking back, only forward. This is a good thing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Defense Rests

A few nights ago my boyfriend and I found ourselves in a familiar conversation. Back between a rock and a hard place. 

To say it very mildly, I am a planner (for synonyms please see: control freak, neurotic, compulsive). I like to need to know what the future holds, even when some things, like my boyfriend's release date, are simply not known. This familiar conversation we find ourselves in usually consists of me asking, "Well when do you think you'll be done...", "If you had to guess, what would the date be...", "What does it realistically look like..", "Do you think you'll be here for the summer?"  And on, and on and on. But despite how patiently and calmly he forecasts his best guesses, I always get frustrated. Because as much as he tries to give me some sort of ballpark, its never right. Its unknown. It could be tomorrow, it could be December.

While we were talking about possible scenarios for the upcoming summer, I found myself trying with every muscle in my body to not have this same conversation again. I knew the answer. The answer was no answer. But, I had to. As we talked more and more about what lies ahead (eventually), we both couldn't believe that life has been this way for nearly a year and a half. Although its been aggravating at times, this has always been our life. Our normal.

As I have shared with all of you (numerous times), our predicament is very challenging at times. But as our relationship inches closer and closer to looking completely different, I think about how much has changed. How much I have changed. How much this relationship has changed me.

When I entered this relationship, given the circumstances, I felt very self conscious. I knew people were going to think our relationship was odd, talk about it, not believe we could make it. We'd spent a very short period of time together before heading separate ways and essentially kept our fingers crossed and hoped for the the best. I began to expect the looks, you know the ones I'm talking about. The looks you get when you tell someone your boyfriend of X months lives 3,000 miles away. The "do I have two heads or something?" look. 

To be fair, our relationship didn't fit my perception of "normal" (I cringe even writing that). I'd been surrounded by girls as early as high school in long term relationships. Years of experience in the trials and tribulations of being boyfriend and girlfriend. They were my examples of what normal couples looked like. And why not? They were happy. You saw your boyfriend this many times a week, you solved problems this way, you interacted this way, and the product was a "normal" relationship. Being less experienced in the relationship department, I believed this to be true. So when my new relationship didn't fit the mold, I grew nervous. I was unconsciously always defending my relationship.

"Yes he lives far away but we Skype all the time..."
"Yes its a weird way to start a relationship, but we're just working backwards.."
"Its a learning experience..."
"Sure we only see each other every two months, but when I'm there we're together all the time.."

Wait a minute, who was I convincing? Them or me?

Now I know so much better. One of the most intangible benefits of being in this relationship is the sense of confidence and empowerment its given me. I've created my own rules, boundaries and guidelines that are unique to my relationship. I've learned that relationships are not one size fits all. I'm doing something that someone else may never be able to do. There is no "normal." Man I hate that word... normal. I've learned that normal is just a setting on a dishwasher.  

I am now so confident in my relationship, in my partner, that I'm done defending it. To be honest, I'm too busy enjoying it. It is what it is, and while not ideal, it just works. It feels good to say. 

So finally, the defense rests.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Alexander Days

Today was an Alexander day: 

Well I guess I should be fair and say that it started out as an Alexander day. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. You know what the worst part about a bad day is? When you're mad at all the littlest things that sound foolish even exiting your mouth. Its like once you finally explode and word vomit all over someone to tell them why you're acting like such a bitch sour puss, you can almost read the look on their face that usually says something like this:  

"Really?! That is why you're so frightening today?" This is usually where I want to reply, "Shut up, its my bad day.."

Take me for example. First of all, I woke up and it was Tuesday. Strike one. Tuesdays are almost as bad as Mondays. But I got a cup of coffee in me and was all ready to work on my paper I had put off until the last minute decided to revise in the morning. And what do you know? No freaking Internet. My Internet has been spotty the last couple days, working primarily in the evening, but refusing to rouse in the morning. In better terms? My Internet works only between the hours of 12 and 3 on the third Monday of the month, when the sun is highest int he sky, after turning off and on approximately six times and dancing in a circle around my computer. Or at least that is what it feels like. And have I called Comcast yet....? No, because I'm "too busy." 

Now, since my Internet will be down for the morning I decide to charge my iPod. Non-Internet activity. And what happens? My computer freezes, and my iPod, my BABY (especially now during my half marathon training) freezes and goes black. Wont turn on... wont turn off. Just, nothing. Kind of like that time Carrie got the sad Mac face on her laptop. Shit. 

Once I get all worked up about my iPod, it gets me fired up again about my Nike+ (another should-be staple in my training) and a gift from my boyfriend for Christmas which I have used approximately 2 times and now it is guessed it, kaput. Another thing that I have failed to follow up on because I'm just sooooo busy. Did I mention its only 10:00am? 

Rounding out the morning from hell, I have been trying to sell my boyfriend's iPad case (another Christmas present... we are really terrible at this) on eBay and use the money to put towards his new case. Good news: we have had two separate offers for almost face value. Score! Right? Bad news: Constant PayPal issues= no one can get us money!! So now its roughly 11:00am, and not only am I pissed that technology is clearly against me, I will never run another day in my life because I've decided my iPod is set to blow up any minute, but now I have a light bulb moment and realize I am throwing money out the window on wasted Christmas presents and Internet service that cooperates 25% of the time....
I was ready to pack it in for the day. Work... no thanks, uh... clearly I have bigger problems in my life. And as it always does, my frustration turned emotional (the cherry on top). Because now I wasn't just pissed. I was upset. Upset that my day started off so shitty. Upset that something so stupid had gotten me so riled up. Upset that I couldn't at least look forward to a big hug from my boyfriend upon returning home. Upset it wasn't Friday. Upset the semester won't end. Upset about the paper I got back the other day. Upset about getting so worked up before I'd even digested my coffee. So I did what anyone would do. Allowed myself the next 90 seconds to feel sorry for myself, and forged on. Poured all my misplaced emotion into being productive. And getting through Tuesday. 

We all have Alexander days. But just because its natural every once and awhile doesn't make you feel any less guilty about them. But I hope that by actively trying to make my day better I scored some good karma. 

If not? I guess I'll just move to Australia...

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Girls

You know those girls who say they never really got along with girls? Who find themselves much more comfortable surrounded by guys than the tiring, endless, overwhelming drama that girls are often genetically predisposition to? Well, I'm not one of them. I have actually had great luck with girls. I mean, yes there are the few that my life would have been all the more blessed had I never run into, but I have been fortunate enough to have a rock solid group of girlfriends through all the stages of my life. 

All relationships are different. Your parents, your siblings, your significant other. But few things compare to your best friends, your girlfriends. From high school, through college and even in my short time here in Philadelphia, I have managed to find some really great ones. Listen to me sob at 2:00AM beer tears friends, tell me I'm doing the right thing friends, pick me up when I'm down friends, pee your pants laughing friends, pick up where you left off friends. My mom calls them "refrigerator friends." The technical definition, for all of you without the latest edition of Websters, are friends that can come into your house and rummage through your refrigerator without asking. The maximum level of comfort. And I've got lots of them...

Tonight I got off a long overdue phone call with a friend I'd been meaning to catch up with. A refrigerator friend. An "all of the above" friend. She'd been having a bit of a tough time the last time we talked, but I was happy to hear she'd made a complete 180. It got me thinking how genuinely happy I was for her. For all of my friends. You know that you've surrounded yourself with the right people when their successes are yours and when you can almost hear the smile on their face when you talk about your own.

Our conversation made me think about the women in my life. The women I've surrounded myself with. Strong, compassionate, driven, smart, funny, beautiful friends all unique and inspiring in ways I'm sure they don't even know. Women grabbing life by the balls horns. Women starting over. Women saving the world. Women making sacrifices. Women making brave discoveries about themselves. Women pushing through making lemonade out of lemons. Women who believe in themselves. Women I am lucky enough to call my friends. 

One of the weirdest things about this whole post-college real world life that we've all been forced into is the overwhelming change. My friends are starting to establish homes, and lives, and jobs. So long are the days where we all leave in August and return in December for a month, head back to school and return for the summer. We are starting lives. Careers. Journeys that are taking us to all corners of the country, and for my amazingly, talented, smarty pants friends, the world. It is naturally a bit of a downer, to know that as exciting as the paths we are all embarking on are, we are losing a little bit of the family we've developed over these past years (or decades). But there is a special bond there. A special connection that won't ever die. I'm learning how gratifying it is to witness how hard your friends have worked to find success and happiness. And how you celebrate their accomplishments as proudly as you would your own. 

The real world may create a natural roadblock, but to be honest, I'm not worried.  Because my refrigerator friends know how to pick up right where we left off, like the months and (eek!) years, were only just days. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Irish You a Happy St. Patty's Day

May your home be filled with laughter

May your pockets be filled with gold 

And may you have all the happiness

Your Irish heart can hold

Monday, March 14, 2011

Learning Along the Way

Back from vacation, and back to reality. I guess it had to happen sometime. Like most of you, I find that with each trip I make (for whatever reason), I always manage to learn a little something new. So while trying to survive a 3 hour layover, I took a minute to think about what I learned from this latest one.

I learned that I love me some Southwest Airlines. I am the kind of customer that airlines hate. I have really no loyalty, I just go based on price. But I think I may have found a match in Southwest. Not only did I love picking my own seat, but the employees were noticeably more friendly than my previous flight experiences, and the free pita chips and water nearly saved my life on the trip back (more on that later).
I learned that I still cannot sleep on planes (fail).

I learned that I will still pay upwards of $10 to stock myself with trashy magazines for my in-flight entertainment, even though I probably have already read everything inside. 

I learned that I really do have the ability to abandon leave my work/school life for a whole week and enjoy every minute of vacation. What else did I learn? I'll hate myself for it on Monday.

I learned that I would do anything for my boyfriend. Case in point, the hundreds (this picture does no justice) of people we so patiently waited in line with for two hours on Friday to purchase the iPad 2, only to be about 50 people short of getting one. 
What else did I learn? I hate the way disappointment looks on his face, and I will do everything in my power to never see it again. 

I learned that patience is a virtue, one that I am still working on.

I learned that playing house is such a tease.

I learned that it really is possible to love someone more and more each day. 

I learned that I am so lucky. Lucky to have found a best friend and a partner. Someone who puts up with all my craziness and emotional outbursts. Someone who loves me. Someone who will hold me tight at the airport, as the tears appear almost on cue, and will tell me everything I so need to hear. "This is hard", "We will make it", "We can do this."  Someone who for two minutes will let me disappear in sadness and will be strong enough for both of us. 

I learned that appearances are MUCH less important when traveling home (aka you should have seen the hot mess I was coming home...homeless is the first word that comes to mind). 

I learned that you should never, ever, EVER travel home slightly hungover (nevertheless when you have 10 hours of travel ahead of you), while on an empty stomach. You will think you're dying, and you will contemplate jumping out of the aircraft. 

I learned that coming home is still the hardest part.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cry Me a River

For those of you just getting to know me, I'll let you in on a bit of a secret. I'm a bit weepy at times. Yes, in addition to being a baby, I'm also a bit of a cry baby. 

Ok, so maybe that's a bit of a stretch. But lets be real. I know that I am not the only one out there who gets a little misty during a good episode of Oprah, or an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (seriously, EVERY EPISODE, how do they do it?)... But for me, its more than that. Graduations (misty eyes), reading heartfelt letters from friends and loved ones (misty eyes), being asked to be my soon to be niece's godmother (tears). And although I've been the first to acknowledge that this whole blogging thing has been a therapeutic experience, I have even found myself once or twice reflecting on some of the heavier topics with a bit of a wet eye. So what is going on here? Am I regressing backwards in some Benjamin Button-like universe where I cry more and more as an adult? What's next... a diaper change and a bottle? 

But in all seriousness, I have been finding that the misty-eyed syndrome (lets call it the MES) overpowers situations that I would have never imaged that it would (let me rephrase that: never imagined it still would). 

What I've learned about myself recently (in some situations more embarrassing than others) is for me anger=tears, fear=tears, frustration=tears, guilt=tears... Uncertainty, doubt.....tears, tears! I guess you can chalk it up to differences in the way we all deal with things, but I'm finally aware of the fact that its not the most appropriate (or healthy) way to address these often stressful, frustrating, heart-heavy situations. Shit Tears happen, but in my case (and maybe anyone else nodding their head and relating to any of this), I feel like my MES needs to be addressed head on. Because behind those salty tears, are things that need to be dealt with before they get to the tipping point. My eyes are tired; I need a new way to deal. 

Let's face it. No one wants to be that girl in the office, the classroom, or even at home for that matter. We're not 8 anymore. So I challenge you to throw out the Kleenex, take a deep breath, and just start dealing with me... unless of course is Sunday night.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring Break 2011: Washington Style

Ah, spring break. And where I am? #1 spring break destination: Oak Harbor, WA (its an up and coming destination)... I'm alive and well, and enjoying every minute of it.  A big part of me thinks I'm not really ready to leave school anytime soon because I can't wrap my head around the thought of a job that doesn't have two breaks built in, in addition to a hiatus that spans the entire summer (not looking forward to that reality check). 

But this vacation is extra special (weird... I don't think I've mentioned that at all yet), because I get to spend it with my boyfriend. While we had the weekend (and the week ahead) to explore the city and spend a few nights out, there are still plenty of things I appreciate even being back in his small quiet town. Maybe this should be alternately titled, "why I will never leave school love vacation":

1.  No schedule: Those of you who know me know that this really isn't my strong suit. I die for schedules. Routine is my friend. But I have sort of become this new version of myself on vacation (think when Urkle goes into the machine in the Winslow's basement and becomes Stefan...) I have become more relaxed about schedules, or really--the lack of. What do you want to have for dinner? Eh...lets figure it out at the store. Where should we go for dinner? Lets just walk around and find something. When am I going to get a run in? Lets just see what the rest of the days looks like. So not me... I know. But no where in there did I  *insert panic attack*. Welcome to vacation.

2. No sense of time: I guess these two kind of go hand and hand, but I can't tell you how much time we've already spent in the car (mostly because there isn't a ton to do around here). But I could care less. An hour each way to the movies... why not?! Three separate trips to the grocery store? (Deep breath) Fine by me... Getting around to making dinner at 8:00? I guess so! I mean, it makes sense. I'm on west coast vacation time! 

3. Mindless activities: While my boyfriend has had to put in some time and work this week (which I was fully prepared for), I have spent the last few days filling my time with absolutely nothing. And unlike weekends at home I really mean nothing. No school work. No reading. Nada. And while I know this won't fly all week, I have totally loved it. Yesterday, I pounded out just shy of 2 hours on the treadmill. Two hours--THATS ALMOST A WHOLE MOVIE! But, I didn't have anything else to do.. so I just kept running. Also, I caught a Bethenney Getting Married? marathon (ok we'll just pretend thats a special vacation activity..). However, I think I was caught red-handed with that one when Bravo was the first channel to appear on the TV in a house full of 3 boys... 

4. Spoiling: Being alone in this big house all day has given me the opportunity to do things for my boyfriend that I'm sure he'll appreciate. I make the bed in the morning (something that seldom gets done when I'm not here), I try to help out around the house and today I went on a domestic BINGE (remember people, this is a judgement free zone). Mostly for myself, but also because I knew it'd be appreciated. 

Exhibit A: Fresh pan of Mary's fudge brownies (although these were 99% 75% for me):

Exhibit B: Dinner all ready to go for tonight at approximately 1 pm (does this still count if its what I was hungry for?):

But its Fat Tuesday after all... So really, lets just chalk it up to being festive and not being a Real Housewife of Oak Harbor..

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coming Home

This is what I live for. The day of anticipation, followed by the night of anticipation. Packing. Making lists. Checking. Double checking. Laying out everything I'll need for the next day. Setting not one alarm, not two alarms, but five multiple alarms, because I'm that anal (scoff as you may, but I've always been told I'm quite punctual...and I've never missed a flight).  

It's time. The countdown of the months, that have slowly crept into weeks, that before you know it have turned into days, which are now hours. Minutes. Moments. I'm finally going to see him.

The day before a big trip is filled with lots of activity. Part of me goes into auto-pilot trying to stay busy with everything and anything I can get my hands on, so as to avoid the sleepless night ahead of me (this includes cleaning, vacuuming and organizing my shoebox of an apartment, which due to its size takes about 30 minutes). And when I finally slow down, the reality sets in. In time that I can finally measure in hours and minutes, it'll all be happening. I will get to see him, hug him, kiss him and pretend, even if just for ten days, that this is how life always is. That life is always as great as this moment.

As this back and forth travel nears its end (sooner rather than later I do hope), I can realistically reflect on how exhausting these trips are. But to be honest, the 6-10 hours of travel are nothing compared to the emotional jet-lag I often face upon return.  These trips, while a great escape,  have taken on a whole new meaning over the course of the year. Its less about where we are, what we do, what we see, how many pictures we I take, how we fill our days and more just about fulfilling a sense of normalcy we've so greatly lacked. I have realized how satisfying the most mundane tasks are--grocery shopping together, making dinner together, watching a movie together, enjoying a meal together. Key word: together.

Truth be told, I travel 3,000 miles and each time I see that face awaiting me in the airport terminal, I've never felt a greater sense of coming home. I could be anywhere...all that matters is I'm home.

"I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can't tell fast enough, the ears that aren't big enough, the eyes that can't take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone."  -Jonathan Safran Foer

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

'Tis the Season

Actually, 'tis the season(s) I guess. 

No fools, I am not talking about the holiday season (we were just there, try to keep up). If you watch nearly as much brain-rotting television as I do, you'd know that we my friends have just hit a JACKPOT season!! As I was planning out my week of TV shows  to-dos, I quickly realized how jam packed my schedule was looking.That's right.. too many Teen Moms, housewives, and top chefs to keep up with. On top of that, I just had Bethenney come back on Mondays and a double dose of Real Housewives season premieres, (although lets be honest, who else is a little bored by Miami... way to let me down Latinas). Now if you haven't lost all respect for me, or think you've just  gotten increasingly stupid reading this, let me explain. 

Bravo, MTV and E! The trifecta. Think of them as my NFL, NBA and MLB. And please...don't bug me on game day (whichever nights lineup looks the best for the week). I'd be a lot more interested in fantasy teams if they could be on my terms. To be honest, I think I could create a whole fantasy team out of the cast of Teen Mom 1 & Teen Mom 2. 

-1 point every time Farah breaks out the ugly cry
-1 point every time Debra hates Farah
-1 point every time Gary made a cameo in a too small Aeropostale shirt 
-1 point every time Butch goes back to the slammer
- 5 points just for April & Butch period (love. love. love)
-1 point per hickey that Jennelle shows up with on her "gahd dahm neck"
-1 point for every zinger by Barb

Oh my god. Am I going straight to hell? 

Before you all start fearing for my well being, I know that these aren't pictures of reality (for America's sake lets hope not). But good god are they entertaining. And I do have my favorites now. Because part of me would kind of die for some of these people to be my real life friends: Andy Cohen, Bethenney, VanderPump, Dina Manzo, Rachel "I die" Zoe...and just to shake things up even some NeNe. Can you imagine? I think we'd all get along... 

Until then I'll just have to sit back and watch the madness unfold through my TV Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday....