airport life

I spend a lot of time in airports, relatively speaking, and I have discovered a few things in my travels.

There are nice airports, crap airports and airports. I’m very glad my usual layover is in a nice one when I fly to Home State.

Making a little bit of an effort on the appearance goes a long way. I’m all for comfort but I always enjoy flying much more when I’m dressed decently (read: not in yoga pants and a sweatshirt). It’s a mental pick-me-up, I guess. Today’s outfit: leggings, swingy top, boots, scarf knitted by niece.

Airport friends are a nice way to pass the time. Ever noticed how people will talk pretty easily in airports? I had lunch with a random man today; he didn’t have to talk to me – I just needed somewhere to sit and he was willing to share his table – but we had a pleasant conversation over our food anyway and went our separate ways. It’s like stranger bonding.

It’s nice to have someone on the other end who’s looking forward to seeing you. Family, friend, doesn’t matter: it’s nice to be met at the airport with a smile. I suspect I’ll get more than a smile today, however, and that’s quite nice, too.

kind of a long week

Having something to look forward to should make time pass a little faster.  I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t.  The days were long (I was up until 4am Tuesday night), as well as cold and grey.  The hours were long, despite having more than enough to fill them (it didn’t help that my two closest partners in crime were out of town this week).  The nights were short, since I was getting to bed so late, which just made the days longer.

But I’m off tomorrow for my weekend with TA.  It was ridiculous trying to pack tonight; I don’t spend as much time trying on clothes when I’m going to conferences, and those clothes actually matter.  Well, these do, too, since obviously I want to look nice but it’s not exactly a matter of life and death.  It turns out, I don’t really have “going on a date” clothes.  I can do casual – jeans and long-sleeve Ts: check – and I can do professional – slacks and blouse: check – but neither are exactly what I want for a weekend in the mountains with a handsome man.  In the end, it’s jeans and sweaters, with one half-dressy outfit of a tunic and leggings for the nice dinner we have booked for tomorrow evening.  I have to keep reminding myself it’s a casual weekend – and that there’s a good chance he could care less what I’m wearing.

*******

There was one of those moments in my graduate class this evening that really just added to the length of my week.  One of the students – a very thoughtful, articulate, intelligent young man – used a phrase in answering one of my questions that, in the context in which it was offered, could have been misconstrued – sort of a connotation vs. denotation thing – but the continuing discussion clarified what he meant.  Another student, however, just couldn’t let it go. This young man is also very thoughtful but not as well-versed in “academese” so he’s struggling a bit in class discussions; he participates (too much, actually) but he’s not always on point. I should be more sympathetic, I know, but he’s just that sliver of irritating that makes it difficult to remain patient when he’s off on a tangent.

And his comments tonight were following a tangent that was leading to a potentially unpleasant location.  He was so hung up on the phrase that he missed the actual discussion, so he kept circling back to it, and because it’s a small class, he kept coming back to the student who used it in the first place.  To his credit, he wasn’t angry or rude, just insistent. I’m all for contention in the classroom; sometimes you need a little friction to get students out of their comfort zones during a class discussion.  But there’s discomfort and there’s uncomfortable, and we were quickly headed toward the latter, particularly as the disagreement was pointed directly at the first student.

I think it was the misrepresentation that bothered me the most. I knew what the first student was trying to say; he just didn’t get it out accurately on the first attempt.  I knew how the second student was coming to his conclusion; he just wasn’t coming to the right one.  So, finally, I stepped in, perhaps not as pleasantly as I could have, to get us back on track (and quiet the second student):”Hold on a minute, I have to correct you. You’re saying X = Y and that’s not what Student A was saying.  Student A, I’m going to paraphrase what I think you said earlier so you need to correct me if I have it wrong.”  I paraphrased, the first student nodded, the second student said, “Oh,” and onward we went.

Here’s the kicker: The first student emailed me this evening to thank me for “helping to find the right words.”  I don’t know why that tickles me so, but it really does.  Here I am, focusing on how I’m going to help the second student participate without annoying the crap out of the other students, and one of those other students is focusing on my “understanding” in our discussion tonight.  It’s all about perspective.

we interrupt this romance novel with actual work

While I would love to continue the narration of my budding relationships, I do actually have a job.  And it is keeping me busy this week.

For some reason, I decided to apply for a teaching award this semester (well, I know the reason: I got straight 5s on my evaluations last semester so I thought I had a shot this year).  Putting together the application is intense, since it needs to include a teaching statement, letters of reference, course evaluations, course syllabi, publications and assignments.  The statement alone has taken me hours – and I’m revising one I wrote a few years ago; if I was starting from scratch, it would take days.  I’ll submit everything tomorrow, though, and cross my fingers.

Teaching two literature courses makes for a very different semester.  I don’t have as much written work coming at me (collected my first set of papers today) but I have so much more reading.  It’s good stuff, because I know how to put together a reading list, so it’s enjoyable work but it still takes time.  I managed to get through about half of the texts over the break but that still leaves quite a lot of reading to manage this semester – as in, by Thursday, I need to push through roughly 200 pages.

I hate writing reference letters.  Hate. It.  Supporting my students is a good thing; providing written support of my students is not.  Even with all the experience I’ve had by now, it takes so long for me to write a good letter.  I spent about three hours, total, on one yesterday – before realizing that the application didn’t actually require a letter, just the names of references so they can call for a reference.  I actually told my student he’d better apply for another position, because this was too good of a letter to waste!

Chapters for my edited book are starting to come in now, which means I need to set aside time to review them.  That doesn’t have to happen right this minute; since I’m not a complete idiot, I gave myself a few months to do this. However, months have a tendency to pass very quickly, so I really should get this on my calendar now.

Why am I always surprised at how much I don’t write during the semester?  I have it on my to-do list; I have intentions of crossing it off my to-do list.  But then I decide to apply for teaching awards and submit fellowship applications and write reference letters and respond to emails.  There went my writing time!  I know, I know: make time to write sacrosanct.  It seems so much easier than it actually is.

Aside from work stuff, I’ve been keeping up with my efforts to exercise.  Last night was yoga; tonight was the gym. I can tell I’m getting better at both, while still having a long way to go.  My accomplishment tonight: running about 8 minutes of my 30 on the treadmill.  Obviously I have lost my mind if I’m running without something large and toothy chasing me. Blame it on the weight loss: I want to keep it off.

some people are just special

I want to state, unequivocally, that if I could watch my life from some third-person perspective right now, I would have to laugh.  It’s certainly not getting simpler…or maybe it is.

The plan yesterday was for TB to arrive around 7:00 for our date.  Yes, an honest-to-goodness old-fashioned go-out-for-dinner date.  We’d talked; we’d established that we would like to see each other again; he assured me he didn’t feel like I was twisting his arm; plans were made.  And the plan was that he would come, we’d go for dinner and we’d see where things went from there: no expectation that he would or wouldn’t stay.

So, I decided to go to a nearby city yesterday for a little shopping.  I know myself; I’d try to get some work done, fail miserably because my mind would be skittering all over the place and end up stressed to death by the time he arrived. Some retail therapy seemed in order, especially since I’m still changing shape and requiring clothes to match.  I scored a fantastic pair of boots, a few dresses, several tops and a pair of trousers before I hustled back home to get ready. Naturally, I was running later than I wanted to so I was hitting frantic level when TB texted to say he was running late.  My first thought was “of course” but that was quickly followed by “be glad, woman, you’re nuts right now” so that worked out nicely.  I had time to get ready, finish folding my laundry, do a little cleaning and be sitting on the sofa reading a book when he arrived.

That initial interaction is always the trickiest – until it actually happens.  As soon as he stepped in the door, we both just smiled, he pulled me into his enveloping hug and everything was fine.  I had dressed up a bit, as I’m wont to do; he was in jeans and a t-shirt, so I laughed and went to change.  Again, there was that flicker of irritation and then there wasn’t; that’s not how we are.  We’re casual and comfortable: jeans and a sweater it is.  Because this was a real date, he drove (and opened the door for me) to dinner, and we had a lovely few hours over our sushi.  We didn’t talk about anything important, just laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.  When we left the restaurant, I offered that we could go elsewhere if he didn’t feel like going back home yet; there was a very long pause as he looked at me, then said how about going back since he’d brought a DVD we’d talked about.

Turns out, he wanted to kiss me in that pause, standing on that corner under the street lamp.  He related that fact a little later when he pulled me in for a hug: “I wanted to do this outside the restaurant but I was too much of a coward, so I’m going to fix that now.”  As soon as lips met, sparks flew, and I knew he wasn’t going anywhere.

There are many things I like about this guy but one thing that just melts me is how he pulls me into him.  When he hugs me, I’m enveloped in arms the size of my lower thighs (seriously) against a chest as solid as a tree trunk.  When we sit on the sofa, he reaches out an arm and gathers me up against him.  When we’re lying in bed, he tucks me against his chest while we talk; when he’s asleep, he has a hand on my shoulder or an arm around my waist. Somehow, that physical connection seems to embody the connection we have in this relationship.

We talked a lot last night and this morning (amongst other things).  Many things were said, many of them important things, but one of the most important was this: We are drawn to each other, we have amazing chemistry, we enjoy each other’s company but, over everything, we are connected as two people who care deeply for each other.  He realized during our conversation this past week that he didn’t want to lose that, that I meant too much to him to lose that friendship.  After telling him not to freak out, I told him that I’ve loved him for a long time; I’m not in love with him – huge difference – but I care for him so very much (don’t worry, he got it).  Part of my frustration with his constantly breaking our plans was that it was symptomatic of how little he cares for himself, and he deserves better than always depriving himself of what he wants by putting everyone else first.  And then I followed that up with my other big observation: he’s so lonely.  Not single, not alone, but deeply lonely and somehow isolated.

He said what I have always felt was true: I know him.  So very well.  And he finds a comfort in that, in knowing that I see him for who he is, without judging him for his (often imagined) faults.  He lets his guard down when he’s with me; he stops fighting so hard and just relaxes into the space we occupy.  In some funny way, I think he finds a sort of peace with me.

And so, he left around noon today, with an assurance that he’ll see me again.  And he will, whenever that might occur; I believe him. It doesn’t matter when, really, and I won’t pressure him one way or the other.  Because I’ve found my footing in this relationship, interestingly enough.

TB is very special to me.  Whatever does or doesn’t happen, that won’t change.  I care about him; I want good things for him; I worry about him; that won’t change, either.  Somehow, nine years ago, this boy found a chink in my heart and he hasn’t shifted in all these years.  We’ll eventually go our separate ways, and that’s perfectly fine; it won’t change how I look back and think of him.  That all may sound ridiculously overblown, I know, but it’s how I’m making sense of the last 24 hours.  And I think I’ve finally got it right.

well, I wouldn’t want it to be simple

TB and I had a much needed talk tonight.  And that should be the end of the story but that’s much too simple.

He texted late this afternoon to say hi and inquire about my week.  I sat on that for a bit, trying to decide exactly what I wanted to say.  My response was a bit snarky but, as he knows my sense of humor rates high on the sarcastic scale, he laughed it off. We had a bit of banter before I decided enough was enough.

There’s a reason I call him The Boy.  He’s so damn young…  He shouldn’t be, given his age, but he certainly is when it comes to relationships (or maybe it’s women that confuse him or maybe it’s just me: regardless).  I was quite blunt – not mean, that’s not my MO – in my assessment of the situation.  I was also quite clear that I deserved better than last minute cancellations and convenient conversations; standing up for myself isn’t my MO, either, but there’s obviously something in the water these days.

It sounds much more hostile than it was; as I told him, I’m not angry, just disappointed.  And I realize any fervent reaction may seem ridiculous, given the embryonic state of whatever was going on.  The thing is, though, we’ve had a relationship for nine years; this latest version may be brand new but caring about him isn’t.  And aside from the obvious reasons for not wanting him to disappear, I do care about him.  His inability to manage our “relationship” is symptomatic of his approach to life at the moment, and it pains me to see him so lost. I want him to realize that going after what he wants, rather than deferring to other people, isn’t a bad thing.  It’s not that he needs to want me, although I realize that would seem to be my obvious motivation; I just want him to want something for himself that makes him happy.  (Does that sound condescending? I really hope not.)

And here’s where I give him credit.  He owned that he was making some poor decisions when it came to a potential relationship.  He apologized and agreed that I didn’t deserve the way things had played out. I was expecting that to be the end of things; we’d cleared the air and we would part on good terms.  Then he said we should figure out where things stood.  I thought it was quite obvious, and said as much, but he didn’t go there; he went with the fact that he does like me, he wants to make an effort and he’d like to see me this weekend.

I’m not a complete idiot: I said I’d think about it.  I said he should think about it, too, because I’m guessing there’s a good chance he’ll change his mind in the clear light of day.  Maybe he’ll surprise me…  So, we’ll talk tomorrow and see where that goes.

I know, I know: this is all way too serious for a casual fling.  I suppose I’d just like some closure after all these years; whether we see each other again or not, I want to make a conscious choice on what happens next, not just let things wander off into nothing.  I would like to see him again, though – yes, because I enjoy his company, but also because of TA.

TA is not young; he is clearly an adult who knows what he wants and makes an effort to get it.  Right now, he wants to talk to me, so we talk on the phone every night; he wants to see me, so we made plans to spend a weekend together. It’s not that he’s pursuing me, per se; he enjoys my company (all aspects of it, I might add) and that means making an effort to enjoy it from a distance. I appreciate the clarity, frankly.  I like him; I enjoy what I know of his company (all aspects, I might add); and I’m looking forward to next weekend.  It’s going to be fun, I have no doubt, and it might be enlightening (but I’m okay with fun!).

It’s not that I’m comparing the two, really, because these gentlemen are so very different in so many ways. I want the perspective, I think, the chance to figure out what I’m thinking about either of them by spending time with the other. And fun; I want to have fun!

I’ve been single six months now.  I’ve lost 40+ pounds.  I’m enjoying my teaching.  I’ve won a fellowship.  I’ve published a piece that turned some heads.  I’m feeling better about my family, my future, myself.  I’m standing up for myself in large and small ways.  I’m actually happy!

So, I want my interactions with men right now to make me happy.  I’m willing to do a little work for that – they aren’t just going to fall into my lap, after all – but, really, I just want to enjoy myself for awhile.  This is very new territory for me, truly, so I want some time to explore it.

so excited!

I found out tonight that I’ve been awarded a university fellowship.  I’m so excited!  I literally squealed when I read the email!

The fellowship gives me a semester’s teaching release so I can study a new area of interest.  I also get a stipend to use in my study efforts.  I had to offer a general plan in the application but I’ll actually work with another professor to develop what amounts to an independent study.  We’ll develop a reading list, identify any classes I might attend, and meet a few times to discuss my efforts.

And what will I be studying, you ask?  History!  Specifically, I’m going to focus on the two world wars.  We teach a great deal of literature that deals with war in some way; our approach is usually confined to presenting the war as a setting for the story or the impetus for the creation of the story.  My argument is that war is a character – fully fleshed, specific, integral – and should be studied as a construct in the story, not a backdrop to the story.  So, I want to study these wars in order to develop the depth of understanding necessary to teach them from this perspective to my students.

I am so. excited.  I love history – I seriously considered applying to PhD programs in history – and I’ve always been fascinated by these particular events.  The idea of reading on this subject for an entire semester sounds heavenly to me. I can visit a few relevant museums that are within decent driving distance.  And I am totally using my stipend to support a trip to the battlefields in France and Belgium. Beyond excited!

stretchy me

I signed up for yoga again this semester; Neighbor Friend and I went tonight for the first class.  She was more comfortable with the beginning class so, even though I wouldn’t mind a slightly higher level, I don’t mind enough not to join her.

Wow, am I out of shape!  I suppose the last time I did an actual class was last fall, and it certainly shows.  I know the poses, so at least I don’t have to focus on the instructor quite as much, but my body has forgotten how much strength I need to hold the poses.

Yoga is one of those things I wish I could get into the habit of doing everyday.  There are so many little things I’d like to build into my routine, when I stop and think about them, but I just don’t get around to doing them.  The road to hell is evidently paved with my intentions, because I have good ideas for good intentions that I never bring to fruition.  Wouldn’t it be nice if I got into the habit of 10-15 minutes of yoga in the morning?  I’d probably feel better; it would certainly help with my upper body strength; and my back would likely thank me for it, with so much of my day spent immobile.  See, I know I should; now I just need to convince myself to do it.