School’s Back for Fall

This time of year is one that creates a mixture of emotions within me. My summer is over, and I’m back at work, getting my classes ready for the upcoming semester, and generally recalibrating my mind and other parts of me to what I’d grown accustomed to over the past few months.

Teaching at a college, I got out of school in mid-May, leaving me a week or two on my own until little L got done with her school and E’s year also came to a close within the next few weeks. Hence why it’s only August 11 and I’m already days into the end of summer and staring the beginning of classes in the eye.

But like I said, this brings with it a veritable cocktail of emotions. It’s great to see my colleagues and work friends, most of whom I haven’t seen since school let out, and even those I have, it’s only been in passing. I’m fortunate to work with people that I really like, and many of whom I’d count as friends, making my working environment that much better during the school year. But there’s also the fact that the rest of my family are still at home, enjoying the reminder of their respective summers, both of which are close to ending, but not over like mine.

On top of that, my daily decisions are no longer solely mine, at least not to the extent they have been over the summer, leaving less time for much of anything else, forcing me to be much smarter with my time than the summer forces me to be.

And while I’m happy to be back in my classes and look forward to meeting new students and teaching again, that comes with the requisite work.

So yes, I know: teacher problems, right? But I’m not here to debate about the merits of summers off or to hear about how everyone else has to work all year long, the fact of the matter is that this is part of my career, and so this transition is one I face all the time.

All this to say: if I seem distant or off over the next few weeks, I do entreat you to know it isn’t you. It’s just the changes.

A few more things of note to close things out here.

First, I’ll be playing an event on September 14 called SteveFest. It’s put on by a former teacher colleague of mine, and ticket proceeds are going to help Classroom Central, an organization in Charlotte that helps out low income families and their teachers with school supplies. You can buy tickets through the link on their Facebook page, which is linked above.

Second, I’m really taking it upon myself to get into a better place health-wise. While things like CrossFit have helped a great deal over the years, I’ve been up and down with it in the past, so I finally caved and bought a Planet Fitness membership. It’s not as intense as CrossFit, but I think it’s something I can make myself do on the way home from work or later in the day. So I’m slowly hoping to see signs of change, as I’m also looking more at my food consumption and other things I take into my body. I just want to get to a place I can maintain and feel comfortable.

Third, I might soon be getting myself into a dual podcasting gig. Myself and another Niner Noise writer are going through the early stages of working on a Niner Noise podcast, so I’ll be sure to pass that on once it actually exists. In the mean time, I’ll still be doing Things That Matter (To Me), although the frequency is to be determined at the time.

I’m looking forward to another school year and all that entails. Yes, it’s going to take more focus on my part, but honestly, I could do with a little more of that these days.

Vacation (Or Why I’m So Bad at this Lately)

I’m just not even going to acknowledge the elephant in the (virtual) room. I’m sorry I’m bad at this lately. Time is a suck.

^*^

It has come to my attention over the last few years that there are essentially two ways to vacation. The first type of person points to a map–maybe randomly, maybe with slightly more intentionality–and selects a place, maybe somewhere he’s never been before, and then he books the trip, telling himself that the details of the days spent in this new place will be worked out later. In this case, the act of getting away is the point.

The second type of person has ideas in his head–like “I want to see the Eiffel Tower” or “I’d like to experience authentic Italian food” or maybe “I wonder just how hot it can get in Israel in the summer?”–and then sets out to get himself to that place. There’s an itinerary, there’s lots of preplanning, even if working in “down time” is part of that. In this person’s mind, the destination is the point.

I believe I’ve always known this about myself, but it’s become clear to me lately that I am cemented into the latter category. Furthermore, it’s also obvious that I married into the former category, and I mean that of almost the entirety of my wife’s family.

This isn’t a judgement thing. My preference is for the latter, and so of course, I also find it to be the best choice (“Why wouldn’t you have a plan to do specific things when you go somewhere?” I’d ask); this doesn’t mean that people don’t get plenty of good out of the dart board method.

The problem is that when these two methods of vacationing clash, it’s a very oil-and-water like scenario. I can say this with certainty because in the past few years, I’ve experienced it enough to feel as if I can refer to myself as a bit of an expert on the subject.

Most recently, my wife, daughter and I joined 12 members of my wife’s family (and a few longtime family friends) in Curacao for six days of vacation. If you’re thinking to yourself right now “Where is that,” don’t worry, you aren’t alone (it’s probably the most frequent question we got leading up to trip, so much so that I just started anticipating it when telling people where we were going). It’s basically here:

curacao-location-map-min

Yes, it requires two zooms to see it, seeing as the first level zoom only places it, but there’s no indication if its actual location or size. It’s small (roughly 171 square miles, less than the metro area of Charlotte), and decidedly melting pot in its cultural background. Part Caribbean island, part South American influences, partially still Dutch, it’s certainly one of the more interesting places I’ve ever seen in that regard. However, it also uses its main features–namely the beaches and other water-based attractions–as tourist draws, and justifiably so.

The problem being, at least for me, that I’ve never been a big fan of the water in any form, least of all the ocean water. So that put me in a bit of a troubling place as far as that was concerned. The second part of it was the fact that it was during the planning of the trip that I realized how much my in-laws and I differ on vacation philosophies.

Again, this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just preferences colliding. We were offered to join on the trip, we said we would, and it was only later that I realized the trip wasn’t for any reason other than just to go and be around the family. That’s all fair, it just isn’t my preference.

So while everyone else spent much of the week going off on excursions and seeing as much of the island as they could, I did a lot of reading in the house we were renting. While everyone else went to the beach, I tried to see if I could finish all the books I’d brought with me from the library. Save for one trip, where my father-in-law, two brothers-in-law and myself went golfing, and non-water related trips to Willemstad, I stayed at the house, and was mostly okay with it.

The golf was cool, though. Check this out (and please, correct my footwork here if you can be helpful):

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This wasn’t my chosen method of vacationing, so I made the best of it by doing what I wanted to do while I was there, which was basically to enjoy the opportunity to do nothing for a few days. I didn’t concern myself with what was happening at home too much, mostly because I couldn’t. And that was fine.

In an ideal world, I’m starting to realize more and more, I’d be able to check off my list of places to see: Goodison Park during an Everton match; the rest of Liverpool; San Francisco as an adult, including Levi’s Stadium for a 49ers game; Rome because I didn’t make it there before and to see all the sites there; Seattle because I’ve been told that the city fits my personality; more Cubs games at Wrigley Field, but also in a few other stadiums throughout the country; Scotland to explore the place where my family came from all those years ago. And those are just the ones that immediately popped into my head. I’m sure I can think of more.

Needless to say, if I never return to the Caribbean again, I’ll survive. Nothing against the Caribbean or its islands, they just aren’t my ideal. And I think that’s got to be okay in the same way that other people might think, “A vacation full of doing stuff! Why would you want to do that?” and that’s good for them.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just looking to maximize the experiences for myself (I think our one-year anniversary trip to Chicago supports that fact). And maybe that’s selfish. But I suppose that’s how vacations work, isn’t it? Everyone is trying to get the most out of it for his/herself, and that works out nicely if everyone is pretty much on the same page.

I suppose, then, it’s up to me to figure out how to maximize the experiences, even if the situation isn’t necessarily the one I’d have chosen.

^*^

As for why I’m bad at this, it’s the same old list: summer classes, vacation, writing for Niner Noise, my podcast, and general lack of ideas. I just have to get over that. 

Updates…again

For better or worse, this site has started to become a life update blog rather than being as  kept up to date as I originally planned. I think I can do better, so that will be an aim for the rest of 2019 and beyond. Here’s to that.

Summer started for me a few weeks ago, and I turned 35 that weekend, which was a great time with family and friends. As I’ve often noted, however, these transitions are always interesting, as I spent a week mostly on my own while little L finished up her last week of preschool, and then the last few weeks have been mostly she and I looking for ways to pass the time.

She just turned 5 and starts kindergarten in the fall, which is crazy to me, and at times she appears to be a fully-formed, if still pretty physically small, human being. She has a lot of opinions, interests and curiosities, and it’s often fascinating to watch her work through things. She’s also taken to watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lately, so I bought her a DVD of the original cartoon that I used to watch as a kid, and we’ve been sharing that together. I guess time just keeps circling around.

Wrigley has been part of our family for nearly half a year now, and while having a dog again brings its own complications (making sure we’re not gone all day too often, having to consider what to do with him if we want to leave town, keeping his ever-busy jaws from eating everything in sight), he’s mostly a sweet little guy who still possesses a lot of puppy attributes. He’s curious and loves being part of what’s going on in the house, and in spite her insistence otherwise, loves his mom the best, but I am always glad he’s part of our family.

E is wrapping up her second year of teaching, and I am certain she grew massively over the course of the first year, which didn’t always mean that everything was easier in year 2, but I saw her handle the whole year with grace and a sense of confidence that she justifiably lacked during her first year. I’m looking forward to seeing her continue to grow at work.

At home, we’re also closing in on our second anniversary and just over six months of home ownership (has it only been that long!), even though we’ve only been in the house less than half a year. It’s often been frustrating, as little problems like leaky pipes coming from our water heater or faulty electrical wires are now our responsibility, and the adjustment from just having to call the landlord hasn’t always been fun, but in many ways, having a house of our own, where we know we’ll be for the foreseeable future, is really fantastic. We’ve already upgraded in several areas, and while I’m sure we will continue to (E starts to get antsy when things are the same for too long), I think we’re settling in pretty well.

This summer will be pretty busy, with E and L heading off on a camping trip with her parents next week (no thanks on sleeping outside, even if there is a nice camper involved), and then we’re all off to Curacao the first part of July, just after our anniversary on July 1 (don’t worry, I have a plan for that, too). Mostly, I think we’re all just looking forward to doing a lot of nothing. I’m teaching a few classes, but those don’t take up a lot of time, and I’m keeping busy with the new podcast, doing some writing, and watching a lot of baseball (Go, Cubs, go!).

In the mean time, enjoy some nostalgia with me. Unless, of course, you aren’t old enough to have seen it the first time. Then just enjoy it now.

https://dai.ly/x2glv75

Oh, where have I gone?

You may have noticed that I’ve disappeared over the last several weeks. I don’t want to make excuses, but it’s been a wild like few months. Between Spring Break–where we visited family in Tennessee, spent a few busy days at home, then were in Columbia for a family zoo trip–and finishing up the semester, there’s been a lot going on.

On top of that, I’ve taken on a new role as a contributor to Niner Noise, a website that’s part of the Fansided network, writing about the San Francisco 49ers. It’s a volunteer position, but has been cool to do something I always thought I wanted to do, which was write about sports. I’ve already written several pieces, one of which was read over 30,000 times in just two days. For someone who teaches at a small community college, leads worship at a small church and writes a respected but little read blog, this kind of readership is, well, it’s insane.

The bulk of this particular post, then, is just to remind people that I’m still alive, although my reasons for the disappearance make me think: am I doing this again? Am I spreading myself too thin?

It’s something I have a tendency to do. I’m always looking for something else to get myself into. I started this blog. I started writing for Niner Noise. I started a podcast. I still want to finish that confounded book. And write more songs, record another album. I still have work, church and my family to prioritize.

Seriously, how I get anything done at all is fairly incredible.

The trick, I’m starting to realize, is not make myself feel guilty when I can’t keep up with everything. Priorities are a real thing, and those elements of life that matter most must be given precedence, even in those times where they feel like the biggest struggle. It’s also probably true that the pieces that matter the most take energy away from the other things, for better or worse.

But again, I can’t let myself feel weighed down by what I’m not doing or what I don’t have time to do: instead, it’s better to focus the energy in a positive way to make the most of what I can do.

So maybe the blog suffers for a few weeks.

Maybe the podcast isn’t as consistent as I want it to be.

Maybe that book remains 3/4 finished.

Maybe songs come slowly, but eventually.

But I know that I’ll eventually get around to them as I find myself invigorated by each project again. That’s what gets things done and done well.

Closing Time

This is the time of year where I feel a cool rush of air across my face, and it isn’t just the blustery winds of late fall in the Carolinas, but that recognition that the fall semester at South Piedmont Community College is nearing its close. Sure, the days leading up to the last day can be as stressful as any days at work can be, what with all the papers (digitally) piling up, all the boxes to check and hoops to jump through before I’m officially free. But the reality is that once I get where I am right at this moment–where all the papers are graded–the calm sets in and I realize just how close to vacation I really am.

I’m a big fan of this time, even as the holidays threaten to complicate those feelings (something I’ve written about extensively before this), mostly because of the extended opportunity to reconsider my life, a statement which sounds grander than it actually is. As an educator, reassessment is a vital element of what I do on an almost daily basis. I give a lecture, I immediately have to consider how it went (or sometimes how it’s going) and what I can do next time to make it better. Same for every assignment I give, as I am expected to be sure that the expectations match what the students actually get out of what they’re doing in my classes. Evaluation, then, is part and parcel of what I do for a living. It’s only natural that it would seep its way into other elements of my life.

And so the week or so between the end of the fall semester and when Christmas truly begins in earnest tend to be bizarre reassessment rituals, usually dressed up as doing very little. I know. That’s super strange, but step one is honestly just to allow myself not to think about it. That’s step one, but it’s also vital; it’s decompression.

To be sure, life continues during those weeks, and in some ways it’s unfortunate that the best opportunity to relax and refresh comes during one of the wildest, categorically least calm periods of the calendar, but each year, especially over the last three, I’d like to think I’m getting a little better at handling the whirlwind. That’s the point, really, to keep reconsidering and reassessing until I’ve got it down, even if it’s one of those skills I’m likely never to quite get right.

The Wait is Over

Over the course of the last month or so, I’ve been keeping you, lovely readers, up to date on the happenings at our house. If you haven’t kept up with the saga, I encourage you to do so now. I’ll wait.

 

Okay, so now that we’re all up to speed, I can finally announce some good news: we are all moved in! It took many weeks of exasperation, true moments where I was thinking nothing was ever going to get done, and some help from various places (namely both mine and E’s parents), but all of our stuff is moved in and mostly in place. This is truly something I never hope to have to experience again.

There are certainly some upsides to what went down. We have great new flooring in the downstairs and fresh, soft carpet on the stairs and in our bedroom. It gives the whole place a new feeling that seems vital given the circumstances. This place is ours, and we’ve already gotten the chance to make our own mark on it. It also increased the rate of  unpacking, as after all this time with our stuff in boxes piled up in the otherwise empty house, I was rearing to get everything out of boxes and into place. Still, if all that could have happened without the lengthy delay, I would have appreciated it more.

And that leaves me with a sense of disappointment.

I know, what a strange thing to say given the fire we just walked through, especially since we came out pretty much unscathed. The disappointment stems from how worked up and worried I often found myself during the ordeal. I didn’t really allow myself to remember that I wasn’t in control of any of this, and that freaking out because we didn’t know what was going on all the time didn’t help matters. And the main reason I’m disappointed about that is because I feel like I keep having to rehash that lesson, and that I appear to be unable to actually retain the learning.

It’s ironic, really, considering I spend my professional life trying to get people to learn and develop writing and reading skills, and I get frustrated when I repeat myself and they don’t seem to ever “get it.” I can only imagine how angry I’d get if I were God, sitting up-there watching me get this same skill wrong over and over again. Yet another reason why it’s good that God is God and I am not. How fortunate are we to have a God who loves unconditionally, and although He expects growth and our moving towards maturity, He always loves us. In the middle of situations like we just walked through, where I often found myself angry and frustrated and taking that out on other people, I’m finding myself, as I stop to reflect on what happened, thankful that God doesn’t respond to me like I would if I were Him.

I’m also quite thrilled because the house is coming along nicely and starting to feel like home. It’s strange having two floors to worry about (I woke up last night in a frenzy because it suddenly occurred to me that there were lights on downstairs, and quickly went down to remedy the situation), but I really enjoy the space of it. Unlike our apartment, our house feels roomy, especially downstairs. I am also realizing that I have ideas, albeit small ones, for upgrades and continuing to make it feel like ours. Just yesterday I replaced both shower heads and hung a curtain to divide the space between L’s room and our office (all thanks to some supervisory work from my dad), and the overwhelming feeling of it all is accomplishment.

This is much better than disappointment.

Sure, I imagine homeownership is going to have its downsides, but in general I think I’m going to like the ability to make choices and, for the first time in my adult life, making a house really feel like home.

Running the Race or Why Patience Isn’t My Bag

I’m not a runner, but I’m starting to experience something akin to what I think the euphoria of finishing a marathon might be. There’s a sort of exhausted jubilance to seeing the finish line within your sight, and even though you realize there are still many more steps to take, they pale in comparison to all the ones you took leading up to that moment. And so you dig deep into yourself and pull out every ounce of remaining energy, you know you’re almost done and it feels great.

I just got off the phone with Tom, and he’s the man who is essentially standing between me and our finally being in our new house. Tom tells me the materials have been ordered and that they hope to be able to get to work on Monday; and while there’s no real timetable for completion–I’m assuming within a week or so–something about this feels fantastic. But I also feel like I’ve been repeatedly run over by a dump truck.

See, I was ready for change when we started the house buying process; that’s sort of the part of that particular course. What I wasn’t prepared for was packing up our entire apartment, moving most of that stuff into our uninhabitable house, taking the rest to my parents’ house to stay for a few weeks and all the minutia of finally getting to the point where “we’ll start on Monday” felt like finding a million dollars in my jacket pocket.

To be clear, I’m beyond thankful to my parents for offering us space at their house. It’s made a lot of elements over the last few weeks actually a little easier, which is good because adding more complicated things to all of this would not have been a good thing. It’s also cool that we’re getting almost all new flooring/carpet in the new house, I just don’t care much for the method by which it was delivered. Really, this has just been a delay in getting where I thought we’d be a month ago, and that isn’t quite something that sits well with me.

I’ll just say it: I’m not good on waiting and I’m even worse at dealing with unforeseen forks in the road. This situation has granted me both, and I’ll just say that I haven’t always been great at dealing with either, let alone both at the same time. It also seems like things happening with this much ferocity is the way of it in my life: it’s either a storm or clear skies, and sometimes I’d prefer a little rain to mist than either extreme.

In my mind it certainly makes sense why things happen this way. This is how we grow and mature, by engaging with the pain and finding God in the middle of it. But to be honest, I sometimes worry that I’m not getting any stronger, like the muscle is being worked but I come out on the other side of each opportunity just worn down, but having learned nothing. That’s more frustrating than having to experience the trouble in the first place, like suffering through an excruciating work out and then eating half a dozen donuts immediately after. And maybe I’m just missing the improvement because it comes in small alterations over time, not massive upgrades all at once.

So while I was writing this, Bill, who works with Tom, called to tell me that they’d be in on Tuesday to get the drywall and other preliminary work done, and that once they floors came in, he’d call to set up a firm time line for completion of the job. There it is. That cool burst of fresh energy. The finish line is near. Just need to push a little harder and we’ll make it just fine.

The “adventure” continues…

Last time out, I hopefully didn’t bore anyone with the trials and tribulations of buying our first home. That was early enough in the process where it didn’t seem like anything was happening. Here we are, nearly 10 days later, and I can safely say that my emotions are starting to look more like this guy:

Image result for mind blown gif

I wish I could report good news, is what I mean, but unfortunately I’m left with not the worst possible thing, but very nearly that. I’ll summarize in bullet points because that feels appropriate.

  • Our realtor–who is insanely awesome–spent a few days trying to make contact with the realtor of the unit next to ours. His response after a day or two of that was that she was proving to be less than helpful.
  • To sum up: she wouldn’t give us the name of the owner’s insurance company, so we can’t move forward. That was last Thursday, with a hurricane slowly moving in our direction.
  • Schools are closed Thursday and Friday, and then Monday, eventually.
  • On Saturday, we go by to show my parents what’s up and find a note from a local restoration company. They already came by and “as a courtesy” were letting us know what happened in the unit next door. Which means they were not told that while the water had originated next door, it had leaked into our house. This smells fishy to me, I report to our realtor and a contact for our insurance company.
  • Finally on Tuesday, me back at work, I get the reason for the shadiness: the other owner’s realtor was told she was being dropped, and so decided the water damage “wasn’t her problem.” My understand is she’s being reported to the state board.
  • Later that day, we FINALLY get the insurance company’s name and a contact there. Our insurance contact kindly explains the situation to him. On Wednesday, we’re informed they are denying the claim, but they’re reminded that liability is a thing. I’m told to set up an appointment for someone to go by and assess the damage in our house and get an estimate, just for safety.
  • I do so. There’s someone there within two hours. I have an estimate in about 12 hours (goodness, it’s a lot of money). I’ve got another company coming in the morning to check it out and get a second opinion. These seem like the only two things that have happened, and I have a sneaking suspicion that money is going to exchange hands and that it might be mine.
  • The insurance guy comes back and is still denying the claim, during which our insurance contact reminds him of a thing called vacancy negligence, since that unit has been empty for a long time now. As of this writing, still no response there.

And that, my friends, is where we stand. Nine days ago I was looking forward to a blog celebrating our new house, complete with a picture of E and I standing excitedly in the threshold of our new front door. I’ve been to our new house a few times in those nine days, and each time I feel more and more dejected, because increasingly it’s starting to look like either a) nothing is ever going to get done, ever or b) if something does get done,  we’re going to have to get it done ourselves. I’m not sure legally what our options are, but I do know that legality aside, this entire ordeal has proved a reminder of how unethical people can be when it benefits them. It’s been suggested to me several times that since the unit next door has been empty for so long, the insurance policy may have lapsed or it needed to be changed and never was, meaning the main reason for the hardball is directly related to the fact that the owner of that house would have to pay, not his/her (maybe) non-existent insurance.

I’ll allow Mr. Neil Patrick Harris to express the emotion for me:

Image result for disappointed gif

I’ve been disappointed in my life, many times, but this–and maybe it’s just recency bias–feels like the worst time of all. And that’s with all the other disappointing things that have already fallen upon me this year. This one is different, I suspect, because it’s not as if I can shrug it off and tell myself “there’s always next time;” this house is ours now, and this damage has to be undone no matter what. It just sucks that I might literally have to pay for something I didn’t do. All I’m asking for is a little human decency, for understanding; while I recognize that the owner of this other house didn’t do anything wrong on purpose to cause the leak, she/he is now exacerbating the issue and purposefully skirting responsibility. The stacking of a conscious decision on top of an accidental occurrence makes everything worse.

And yet we’re forced to press on. We’re out of our apartment at the end of the month, which still needs to be cleaned out and scrubbed down before then, meaning we have to clear out according to our pre-water damage plan. And so we’re taking our stuff over to the new house and putting what we can upstairs, hoping we’ll start to see a slither of light leading to resolution in the coming days. It likely means, barring a miracle and the fastest insurance claim/restoration work in recorded history, that we’ll be crashing somewhere else for a while until the house is move-in ready.

Still there’s a strange sense of calm amidst the storm. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a person at which to direct my rage, or maybe I’m actually learning to trust that everything is going to be okay even when it seems like it’s not; either way, I feel okay. The move on Saturday might be good, allow me to flex muscles and wear myself down physically to match the mental exhaustion that has been this nine-day stretch. We’re going to get where we intended to be, I have to keep reminding myself. Even if the path is proving to be a lot more complicated than expected.

Unpacking the 6

This is me, according to the Enneagram Institute’s website:

Type Six in Brief

The committed, security-oriented type. Sixes are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Excellent “troubleshooters,” they foresee problems and foster cooperation, but can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious—running on stress while complaining about it. They can be cautious and indecisive, but also reactive, defiant and rebellious. They typically have problems with self-doubt and suspicion. At their Best: internally stable and self-reliant, courageously championing themselves and others.

  • Basic Fear: Of being without support and guidance
  • Basic Desire: To have security and support
  • Enneagram Six with a Five-Wing: “The Defender”
  • Enneagram Six with a Seven-Wing: “The Buddy”

Key Motivations: Want to have security, to feel supported by others, to have certitude and reassurance, to test the attitudes of others toward them, to fight against anxiety and insecurity.

The Meaning of the Arrows (in brief)

When moving in their Direction of Disintegration (stress), dutiful Sixes suddenly become competitive and arrogant at Three. However, when moving in their Direction of Integration (growth), fearful, pessimistic Sixes become more relaxed and optimistic, like healthy Nine.

I discovered this whole Enneagram thing through a few friends of mine (namely Aaron B) and my wife has really gotten into it lately, looking at it as a way to try to understand herself better and, by some extension, me.

She’s a 9, which if you’re paying attention, is apparently the healthy version of me (and, ironically, my 6-ness is the unhealthy her), and that means there’s a lot to unpack just in the context of our relationship. But for my purposes here, I’m a little more interested not just in my interactions with her, although those matter a great deal, but how they impact my dealings with people everywhere else.

So that’s the modus operandi to be taken on in this space. I’ll take a look at who I see myself in my various contexts, and see how my 6-ness (a term I picked up from the Road Back to You podcast, which E and I soaked in on our drive to and back from Chicago) impacts those areas. Obviously this remains a curious exercise, and an on-going one at that, but maybe writing it down will allow things to kick into gear a little better.

Home: I fudged a bit. I do want to explore how my 6-ness plays out at home, but less so in terms of my relationship with E, and more so in terms of how it plays out with little L. She just turned 4 in June, and so her personality is coming out more and more the older she gets, even if it does sometimes manifest in manners I’d prefer it not to (such as whining or crying about things that, to my mind, should no longer be handled in that way since she’s fully capable of expressing herself through words). Obviously she’s too young for me to pinpoint her on the Enneagram (although at her age, I’d say she’s got a little 4 in her, but I also see from 5 and 8, and, on rare occasions, her mother’s 9), but I definitely would count a certain amount of our interactions together as stress inducing. She’s a toddler, she’s pressing issues and pushing buttons, trying to test her limits to see what she can and cannot get away with. On top of that, she’s got multiple living situations she finds herself in and out of, so there’s a lot of transitioning going on. She probably feels the stress as much as I do; but she’s 4 and isn’t good at expressing it in a way that makes sense.

Which brings me to my own situation as it plays out with her. Her pushing on me definitely brings out the 3 in me. It becomes a competition, and there is no way I’m letting a 4-year-old beat me at anything, especially when the game is Listen to the Adult. This impacts my effectiveness as an authority figure and a parent, because it becomes less about explaining what I need her to do and why and more–nay, completely–about my winning the battle. The more she pushes, the more I press into the you are not going to win this parenting style. In other words, no good for anyone. But there is something enlightening about seeing it written down–when I get stressed it taps into all my insecurities of being incapable, and so I’m fighting against those feelings as hard as I can. Unfortunately other people have to deal with me, and I am left, usually within a few minutes, ashamed that I’m not better at realizing my flaws and working them out in the moment.

Work: My professional situation is a lot different from almost anywhere else. While my years as a 7th grade teacher often left me beaten down and exhausted, for the most part my time has a college instructor has allowed me to separate the home and work situations pretty effectively. Sure, there’s some overlap, but my work time is work time, and home time is home time. That said, my 6-ness often comes out in its best light when I’m at work. I’m fiercely loyal to my job when I’m there, and work hard at doing my best job. Pretty much all of the characteristics listed on the “In Brief” section above come out when I’m at my best at work. That said, there’s still often an impending sense of “am I good enough” that can bleed into things, which can lead to a fear of venturing outside of comfort zone and taking on new challenges.

That has made the circumstances of the past semester all the more difficult. It’s hard for me to put myself out there and to reach out for something that might change my daily interactions with my job, and yet I did it over the past two years, only to have the message returned to me and sound like this: “Don’t bother. It won’t be worth it. You’ll just get used up and then sent back to where you came from.” It that isn’t the fearful, pessimistic side of my 6-ness coming out, I’m not sure how it manifests itself better. I’m still grappling with the repercussions of that, and it’ll probably linger over me throughout the semester as I reintroduce myself to life without additional, non-teaching duties. My hope is that I’ll lean into the opportunities it presents, seeking the optimism and relaxation promised in my move towards healthier version of me, rather than the competitiveness I can feel stirring up in me from time to time.

Other relationships: Obviously this is a wide open context, as it depends on the nature of the relationship, but I’ll settle into the area of my close friendships, especially with those few friends I see on a regular basis. I think all elements of me come out at various times with my best friends. On one hand, I’m intensely loyal to them, and have always been to most of my closest friends throughout my life, which explains why one of my groomsmen in my wedding was my friend way back when I was 12 (and remains so). My friends are idiots sometimes (as am I), but it would take a lot for me to just jettison them from my life, because that’s the type of person I pride myself on being. The element of needing security and support really plays out here, as do both the 5 and 7 wings. I will defend the honor of my friends when they need it most, and feel like I’m generally a good buddy because of my ability to settle into my 7-wingness. My move to more healthy 9-ness is vital here, too, as I often feel much more relaxed with those people who know me best and with whom I can fully allow myself to just be with, regardless of how I actually feel in the moment. It sometimes manifest by my negative side coming out, by my allowing the fear and indecisiveness to come out, but that’s only because I feel comfortable enough with these people to let that come out.

And yet the unhealthy 3 stuff comes out with my friends a lot, too. I sometimes feel a need to be better at them at things, and this nagging sense of discord often accompanies seeing a friend accomplish something. This is an awful way to be, and it makes me sick to my stomach when it happens; I’m also working hard at pushing away those sentiments, trying to find the 9 (or even a healthier 6) in me during those times. This, I understand, will be better for everyone, as it will allow my friends to get what they need from me, free from my own hang-ups and lack of contentedness.

Faith: This is a complicated one. It worries me, too, because my 6-ness screams something about me that I don’t like: there’s a chance I’ve stuck to my faith out of a sense of loyalty. Now, I don’t believe this is true all the time, and I don’t believe it’s true at this point, but I do think there were times when I was in college where I had a chance to turn a different direction, but didn’t out of a loyalty to what I’d always believed. Over time, I’ve made it my own, and the loyalty stems from a sense of knowing who God is, rather than one that is bent upon not wanting to disappoint my family or something more along those lines. But there’s still that creeping sense, and it’s something I need to work to develop as a I continue to get older. In other words, the more I feel connected to God, the less it feels like I’m part of this family of faith because I feel like I should and more like it’s because it’s what I know is right. Most of the time, it’s the latter, but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that the former rears its head from time to time. Sometimes more often than I’d like.

And so I seek to find a place where I realize where my ultimate security comes from, and I think that’s the whole point of this Enneagram thing anyway. I’m supposed to remember that, above all else, I am who I am because that’s the way I was made, and that the Creator, not only of me but of all things, loves me just as I am.

Back to School! Or Changes and how they impact me

It’s a funny thing about summertime. As an educator, people talk all the time about how nice it must be to have summers off and how much I must accomplish during that time period where I have no responsibilities. To be fair, yes, it is cool to have an extended time where getting up and going to work isn’t something I’m required to do; however, it’s also true that all the extra time means that you have to be more clever in terms of how that time is filled, especially when you’re working with the same income you are during the year (nothing helps to curb spending money quite like being at work all day, it turns out). And to be honest, these last two summers have been far from filled with days of sleeping in and doing nothing, seeing as having a 3 (now 4) year old around really adds to the need for entertainment.

All that to say this: I usually go into the summer (it’s been something like 7 or 8 summers now since I started teaching) with great plans for things I’m going to do–projects to complete, places to visit, etc–and usually get to the Sunday night before I go back to work with very few of those things having been done. Don’t get me wrong, these past two summers have been fantastic–I got married and went on a honeymoon to Punta Cana last year and celebrated our first anniversary with a trip to Chicago this year–and there have certainly been things I’ve gotten done, but as I ready myself to launch into yet another school year, I can’t help but carry a little trepidation on my shoulders.

For one, my job has changed a little bit, and I’ll be moving from a hybrid classroom/administrative role back into a role that essentially puts me back into the classroom full-time. I did this for my first two years at my college, but it’s been a while, so I’m not sure I remember how to handle the six class load nor do I fully look forward to teaching all those classes. I loved the duality of my previous position, loved knowing that my days were generally going to be different throughout the week, and I just don’t get the impression that I can do that without adding on to my load by taking on further responsibilities. It’s as conflicted as I’ve felt since starting here, and it makes the return to work a little bit bittersweet in a way it hasn’t in five years.

The second bit–and this is an announcement of sorts–is that E and I are in the process of buying our first house, and we close in the early part of September, which means we’ll be knee-deep in school and all that entails, all the while trying to finalize paperwork and getting our apartment ready to be vacated AND then actually moving and setting up the new place. Add to all that the general sense of “I don’t know what I don’t know” feeling that I get regarding the house buying process, and you’ll maybe understand why I’ve been of two minds since I got back to work on Monday. E is doing a great job sorting everything out while she’s still at home, but she’s had other things to contend with too–namely a precocious 4-year-old–and it isn’t fair to ask her to do everything. On top of all that, moving is a very expensive proposition, and I’m not a fan of things as they pertain to money, so that adds another level of stress to the proceedings.

As you can tell, I spend a too much time worrying about things I don’t know about or can’t possibly control. I am excellent at this, actually, and I’m not one to count myself exceptionally skilled at anything. Thankfully I have two great things at my disposal when I find myself wrapped up in the throes of concern. For starters, my wife is wildly optimistic about most things and is generally quite excellent at reminding me not to lose my mind over things (sometimes she is not successful, but that’s on me). I am certainly blessed to have her, as she balances out my crazy. The second element is those rare moments where my mind clears, life seems to slow down and I remember that I am loved beyond words by a God who presents me with grace beyond measure. Even typing those words released something in my mind like air out of a ball.

I’m not always tremendous at doing this. I’m constantly battling my own neuroses and hang-ups, a war that I seemed destined to engage in for the rest of my life. Knowing for me isn’t half the battle; in fact, it barely factors into the equation at all. I know a lot of things, can easily tell you what I believe is truth, but incorporating them into my psyche so they absorb into me and become me is another thing altogether. It’s a fight between my heard and mind, as Aaron Marsh of Copeland once wrote, something I feel down to the very core of who I am.

And all this meandering just because I started work again. But that’s how the mechanisms of my body work, and the more I realize what I need in order to survive in that, the easier it’s going to be to handle situations like changes at work, buying houses and other curveballs–whether self-inflicted or otherwise–life tosses me.