Friday, February 22, 2013

Year of the Snake: Shedding of the Skin (Part 1)

I normally don't pay much attention to the Chinese New Year, meanings behind the differences between the Ox, the Rabbit, the Dragon or the fact according to the Chinese, my husband and I aren't compatible with each other. Although fascinated with the entire celebration, the closest I have ever come to education about any of it was through reading those paper menus with all the Chinese horoscopes/zodiacs on them in restaurants and what I see about the New Year's Celebration in movies. I do know from all the History classes I took, Native Americans associated the shedding of the snake's skin with rebirth.

Rebirth was what I longed for the most.

I have fought with "where do I go from here?", "What path am I supposed to take?", and the ever haunting "Is this is it? This...the rest of my life?" This has been an ongoing issue with me and really my husband too. So here we are, in a stand off in the OK Corral looking down the barrel of life not knowing who was going to pull the rug out from under us first. In our mid 30's, you never really think this is where we would end up. I imagined 401s, retirement, social security after 65 if it was even there anymore. We imagined retirement traveling in a motor home, possibly fussing at each other to eat more fiber or cheerios, and bouncing grandchildren on our knees. But this? I wonder if all of us are going through this after the fifth year mark? Is it the 5 year itch for our lives so to speak?

These past six months have been a struggle for me. One Facebook fan (Z) wrote to me and asked "You ever have those days when u feel emotionally porcelain, the slightest thing goes wrong you can smash someone's face, yet u feel tears welling up behind your eyes? My skin feels like its literally crawling over my muscles." I thought this Veteran's comment was dead on cue of how my husband felt but, even I felt that way and could relate so much. Some days I felt fractured, emotionally pulled away from my own mind and body and just so tired of it all. Other days, I wonder how I don't keep from smacking someone. I began to start resenting a ton of things, anger seeped through my pores and I just wanted to walk away from it all and never look back. I think all of us have felt this way at one point or many other times in this life. I worried that I was facing a mid-life crisis, early menopause, or hell, I even considered possession. (Sorry Horror Fans, I am completely demon free) I just could not for the life of me get my shit together. I needed a break.

I have plenty to keep me busy; much more than I can actually handle but I found myself not following through or my attention just wasn't fully in it. This part of it aggravated me more than anything as I am usually pretty on top of things. My brain was on overload, I was sick to death of records and conference calls, and even hearing the words "Medical Board" or "Independent Medical Review" would be equivalent to me, as someone raking their nails across the chalkboard. The kids were stressing me out, my husband has been in his usual mode of hot and cold, then shutting me out completely. To be honest, I felt like I was living alone when I had all these people around me. I was starved for just well, people.

I hated looking in the mirror and not knowing who I was anymore. I started to feel like the drudge at the house. You know that scary, non-made up face, that usually terrifies your children and husband in the mornings? Yeah...that would be me. My clothes? Let me tell you that I have put Salvation Army on high alert for rejection and no matter how cutesy my t-shirts and house pants looked...I don't think they would be making a video or writing a song about me like they did "Thriftshop". I would always sound so confident and sure of myself over the phone, all while donning a 1980's t-shirt and a pair of flannel house pants. I felt like I wasn't noticeable anymore, not sexy, or hell even close to attractive. For whatever reason, this year's impending **hack, cough, hack** 38th birthday has been weighing heavily on my mind. Our eight year wedding anniversary on the 25th, has been bothering me too. For whatever reason, every year since he has been home, our anniversaries got ruined by the PTSD beast. I got kicked in the ass pretty hard when I couldn't even keep up with my fellow bloggers on the "Positive List" as I mentioned in my last blog. It's rather pathetic when the most creative thing I could come up with was "this list positively sucks ass". It just felt defeating all the way around.

If you read other blogs, follow around on Facebook will see some Caregivers to Wounded Warriors testing themselves with 101 things in a 1000 days challenge or something like that. I ignored this because I couldn't even list three things a day on my list of positivity. I would be scared I would set myself up for disappointment if I did try this 101 things. I know there is nothing I can't probably do once I put my mind to it. I have, come this far on my own, and that's something to be pretty proud of. Yet, this nagging, wander lust of life and unfulfilled emptiness kept eating those steps forward. I found myself making excuses of why I couldn't do this or that. I created obstacles from guilt of leaving my husband behind to go do things on my own. Then there was the "why the hell am I having to do this shit on my own anyway?" eating at me. The idea of doing things on my own also bothered me terribly. I mean, we spend most of our time with our family members and Veterans, yet we feel so alone when we are with them. I just could not see myself going to see a movie by myself. I think that would be rather depressing in itself right there.

After a good cry, a long talk with a friend who reassured me I wasn't losing it completely; it was decided I would act upon the Respite care program under the VA Caregiver Program and go out west to see my sister. My sister was so excited and being the girly girl she is, I knew I could not be in better company than her with her spontaneity, goofiness, and  a sense of humor of that of a professional comedian. I longed for laughter and I mean belly busting, almost crying, pulling muscles you didn't even know you had, laughter. How long has it truly been since we all just laughed? When was the last time we selfishly did something for ourselves? I bet it's been a long time just the same as it has been for me.

Plans made for travel taken care (Thank you Air Compassion for Vets) and bags packed, I took off and I didn't even let the door slam shut before my car was backing out of the driveway. I don't know what I was running away from but, it occurred to me on the plane, perhaps it was me I was running from. Once on the plane though, my gut hurt and my heart started to pound. I felt guilty, lost without all my family and had a dual argument with myself about being selfish and not feeling guilty about a damn thing. I knew everything was put into place, everyone would be ok but still, I felt like somehow I had let my family down. Why did I have to feel guilty when I am allowed to do something for myself? Why couldn't I just once say screw it, do it and then have no remorse? Maybe its in the Virgo nature, maybe its in our new normal of a life, perhaps it just me. At the same time though, the still sane part of me knew if I didn't take this break, I would be letting them down more if I ended up losing my sanity. Due to a storm that hit the East, I got put on standby but it was nice because I had time to think, clear my head and have a cup of coffee without the words "mom, mom, mom" or "do you know where I left my hat or what are we having for breakfast/Did I even eat breakfast?".  Due to the stand by, United Airways placed me in First Class as an apology and for the first time, I smiled. I realized, I might just be on my way of starting that 101 things in a 1000 days list after all. Prior to my leaving, I finally conquered the Nano Ipod I got for Christmas in 2011. That was a task in itself for a technologically challenged person such as I. So there was another crossed off my list.

First class treated me quite nicely with plenty of drinks, so by the time I got to my sister's, I was completely relaxed and very very tired. Literally, I shed about 30 pounds of stress just getting off the plane. I felt free, felt alive and excited about the six days I would be gone from home. There were no plans, no appointment times, no meetings, no interviews, no mandatory sight seeing; it was just absolutely whatever the wind blew our way. I slept, as the NyQuil commercial advertises, like before I had children and all the rest. My third to add to my newly list of 101 things to do, was to change my hair. I might get it done twice a year, more if I have upcoming events. Much of the time, you will see the tons of gray peeking through. There is something fun about going to the salon and getting dolled up. My sister made me an appointment, complete with eyebrow waxing, hair mask and extensive treatment and coloring. So the decision was to have something fun, spunky, and something that would force me out of the house every 4-6 weeks to make me keep my hair up. There was my first step forward into doing something for myself and after this choice, I really have no alternative to let it go. After consulting with the most enthusiastic beautician I have ever met, I went with a dark brown, magenta and violet highlights. Not too punk rock, not soccer mom friendly and definitely not Sharon Osbourne but just enough to say WOW. I love it. After the colorist checked for skin tones, and what would work well...all I could think was "let's do this!". Four hours later, I felt like a new woman and man, the compliments kept coming from all over the place. It was strange coming home with it and not getting the compliments I was getting out west. All I heard was "wow, I have always wanted to do that but didn't think I could pull it off". Yeah well, neither could I but I just did it and you only live once.

If they only knew it was a hostage situation and my hair was the negotiator to get me loose from my own prison.

After that, it was nails and toenails which are now purple to match my hair. Then on to makeup with things I normally don't wear like eyeliner, eye shadow and lipstick. I even splurged and bought me some lip gloss that has snake venom in it, that makes your lips plump. Weird I know but it is after all, the year of the snake right? We sat in a hot tub, downed more glasses of Moscato D'Asti wine than I care to really admit to anyone. We watched the craziest, dumbest but hysterical movies I have somehow missed like "Drop Dead Gorgeous", "House Bunny" and finally (my teen son was so very proud) "Zombie Land". I slept some more and didn't have to worry about cooking, cleaning up, or doing anything more than just breathing. On Saturday after sitting out under the stars, with wine and a fire pit going with my sis and brother in was decided we were heading to Las Vegas the next morning. I envy my sister and her spontaneity to just get up and go somewhere like that. Only six hours away, it was mutually agreed and let me tell you....I floated up the stairs due to excitement....or the wine. Take your pick. Late night packing with the couple of items my sister placed me in, some crazy jewelry, a few dollars in my pocket and we were ready to go!

That night, I cried myself to sleep. Guilt hit me badly although I know it was unneeded. I guess being around my sister, her friends, and just being out in public was out of the norm for me. I missed it terribly. I also wanted my husband there. I wanted him to feel that excitement of heading to Sin City for apparently no reason, no plans; just get on the road and go.  I wanted him to live a little like I was doing. I also cried because it was nice to see myself in a mirror and say "Aha! There you are!". It was nice to have a reason to get dressed up, even if just to ride around. It was nice to blare the music in the car and sing along, nice to ride without having to worry if someone on the side of the road is there or "isn't there", or someone cussing because of someone driving too slow. For six days, I could be just me.

You don't really realize how much this life can suck out of you until you walk away, even for just a short period of time. You don't really realize how far you have fallen until you walk away completely and look back at what you left behind. It scared me to think of all I left behind was going to be my only legacy. Every day a mass confusion of phone calls, paper cuts, forms, military related medical board stuff for my husband and then dealing with the three kids on top of it. For a short while, I was me. Not mom, not caregiver, not secretary, not advocate, not anything but just me.

I will write part two to this because I don't want to bombard you but, my point is this.....sometimes you just have to get lost to find yourself again. In this life, we may not realize it but yes, due to guilt of our wounded veterans we tend not to do things for ourselves. Loneliness keeps us from doing things on our own and we seem to find excuses or reasons why we can't do other things. We tend to overlook ourselves, not take care of ourselves like we should and we have no reason to get dressed up or do something spontaneous because we have learned to push all that back. So I decided this year, although the start of 2013 hasn't been kind to me, this would be my shedding of the old skin and my rebirth. I would embrace the few moments I had, try some new things and make plans for new ones. That's exactly what I did...........

Kill the snake of doubt in your soul, crush the worms of fear in your heart and mountains will move out of your way. ~Kate Seredy

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