Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Setting Things Straight About "Burden"- Pay Attention Veterans and Family

"The will is a beast of burden. If God mounts it, it wishes and goes as God wills; if Satan mounts it, it wishes and goes as Satan wills; Nor can it choose its rider... the riders contend for its possession.” ~Martin Luther King

After the last couple of posts, it amazed me to see a few of you comment more this time around and to see my posts got shared which led to new readers. Hell, if I had known that....I would have posted more about Tyler Perry's Madea and Dragons since that seemed to spark some interest. Normally, I don't honestly have much time to answer comments especially those that are emailed rather than posted online. After a few minor frustrations this week, kids being sick and the fact I may or may not have called our attorney representing us a few choice names; it got me to reading the comments and publishing them in between. Two things stuck out and, it's always the same two statements that I am asked or stated to. So now it's time for me to set those two things straight and hopefully it will help ease some of the unanswered questions. Here is what is often asked: "How do I speak up? How do I find my voice? How do I get into advocating? How do I get my spouse to start speaking up and fighting? How did you start to speak up? How do I not be a burden to my family? How do I stop being a burden? I am a burden but, don't know how to stop. My wife says I am a burden. My family thinks I am a burden." Since I am short on time today, I am going to set some things straight first in one post about burden. Nothing grates on my damn nerves like that word. Stick me in a room full of chalk and I will give you thirty different words to use....anything but, the word Burden. As my teen son says, "Mom can go from 0 to Exorcist in less than 20. When she starts to turn her head slowly? You need to RUN". The usage of burden and my hearing it is as equivalent of me doing this in this clip that you MUST watch. (plus it tickles the hell out of me every time) This is me, especially when things just piss me off; I even have the head turn down pat. Hey, "behaved women rarely make history" right?

 “The burden of the self is lightened with I laugh at myself.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore

Veterans seem to want to view or label themselves with this word as well as spouses. Media uses the word flamboyantly, casually and easily. I figure and it's probably only because a) they don't "get" it and b) they apparently do not own a thesaurus. The VA uses the word "burden" to the caregivers under their general maintenance terminology, stress scores, and to judge whether they can or can not address their needs. Let's just be honest here....they don't know what our burdens are BUT at the same time, we don't understand their burdens as an overloaded system. We all know there are some shitty systems out there; we are up to what? Twenty-six VA systems now under fire? Yet, no one stops to think about the good people that do work there, do their job and care or how some are Veterans themselves. So back to the word Burden. As defined, it is "something that is carried: load, duty, responsibility, something oppressive or worrisome". "The bearing of a load-usually used in the phrase beast of burden". Also defined as "the capacity for carrying cargo-a ship of a hundred tons of burden". I can see why Veterans use this word to express their concerns about their health and home warfare taking its toll on their family members. However, that word needs to be taken out because its a negative, condemning, deflating word that brings even more of a load that you think you are placing on another person and it's also placing yet another label on yourself. Lord have mercy! We have enough labels as it is. So let's say no go, Ghostrider on the usage of the word Burden and let's leave it up to the Rolling Stones to sing about.  (Lord help the young ones who ask "Who are the Rolling Stones?) 

   “Remember, the burden of sorrow is doubled when it is borne alone.”

 ~Goran Persson

 I don't know about anyone else but, life burdens me at times. Sometimes the kids are too damn much; hovering around and asking "what are we having for dinner?" when it's breakfast time when they know that at the first cup of coffee, there is a line of "Do you have a death wish" written in imaginary ink clearly written on the very top of the mug and clearly across my face. Then there is "Mom, mom, mom, mom" and then "Dad, dad, dad". Bills when the eagle flies? Holy crap, burdening it is because you realize how much of a broke ass we are and it is worrisome. I have a female dog and, she got pregnant because the wreck happened. I had to put things aside like spaying because well, we didn't think our infantile Chihuahua would be such a stud muffin. Yeah, its an issue. Life happens. So does shit and Murphy's Law. Shit happens all the time to me and, that can be a burden. Dealing with the VA, Military, family, weird people in Walmart, the thought of having to You Tube tutorial on how to deal with newborn pups, and the scary, creepy guy at the produce market can often be a burden but, you know what? We deal with it. We are Military. There is a reason why the term FUBAR and BOHICA came to be. EMBRACE THE SUCK. What made you think being out, disabled, retired or anything else would be different? For the record? I have been frustrated enough to graciously admit that there are times where I want to stick a fork in the back of my husband's head and scramble his brains but God help me, I love him. There are times where my husband in anger has said "I wish you would just go to sleep and never wake up". Well, we have to watch what words we use in war because some can never be taken back and can wound deeply. However, in ANY relationship you can love someone and not like them. There are days where I get on my own nerves and piss myself off. Taking care of my Veteran would be the same as taking care of my children or elderly parent, or like my guys that I often take to the doctors just so they aren't alone. I have never used that word burden referring to my husband and, never will to describe ANY Veteran. It is a blasphemous word in our home, in our car and anywhere else that you can use it.

After being around Veterans and listening, watching and paying attention; want to know what I think why they want to lean towards the term of Burden? Because once you take away hope from a person? There is nothing left. Imagine having to lose all they did, coming home with beasts upon their back and demons chasing them through the night. Feeling lost, struggling living with a world that time didn't stop for them while gone? What is facing them is one door after another closing in front of them, hardships, financial struggles, guilt and so much more. Once you take that hope away, they are simply left for the birds of prey to pick apart. Does it mean it's the end though? Absolutely not! I am a huge quote and history buff (can you tell?) but, one of my favorite military members is General Douglas MacArthur. He once stated brilliantly "We are not retreating-we are advancing in another direction." I try to use the mind of a warrior and their way of thinking to navigate this life we lead and in all? I have learned a lot; a lot more than I ever got from anyone's book, words of wisdom or training. So how did our family navigate this life? We didn't retreat, we didn't throw the white flag of surrender; we simply went another route. We did it together. If your spouse, whether it be male or female, ever refers to you as a burden? Say something. "Hey, that word bothers me". If you say nothing, then they go on and keep doing it. If you feel you are a's a good day for an exorcism

Once you realize as a family, or as a single individual that you can't focus on the "can'ts" but the "cans"? You are going to be able to lift any burden or weight that you have. I think it's a cop out excuse because in war? Hell yeah, that was burden. Every day, walking in moon dust, and wondering whether this was your day to die? Burdening. Trying to get through the day of warfare, death and troubles all while trying to block out thoughts of home, family and safety? Most definitely a burden. Here you are though....home and, it's time to unload some of that weight. You aren't dealing with this by yourself and by calling out your best energies with a little help? That's the only way you will ever be able to step away from that word. If you feel you are a burden as some Veterans wrote in, in regards to how they feel they are on their families....what CAN you do to help out? Let's take a moment to chew on that shall we? Let's look at what you can do. Can you roll and match the ungodly amount of socks? Pick up your glass or newspaper and put it away? Unload the dishwasher? Listen to your spouse if she is venting? How about taking the trash out or reading the kids a good night story while your spouse takes a bath? How about stepping in and saying "hey, let's talk a while or play some cards". Little things can make huge differences. The only way to battle the feeling of burdening is to see the reason, compromising and working as a team. I know you Veterans see that reason too. If you didn't, you wouldn't think you were a burden. For the spouses? You need to learn how to use the right words. Be smart, educate yourself, research, trial and error, realize that when a man's ego is deflated and all is taken away? The problems become so much larger than they really are. As for the VA, well I know many read this blog. Let's hope they take the hint. 

So how did we get around these stigmas, labels, terms, "media sensational duct tape words" to stick and trap America's readers for ratings? I embraced the hell out of them. Veterans use the words "expendable", "trash", "cast away", "used up", "broke dicks", "no good for Uncle Sam", and so many more. I hear so much of this not just online through social media or emails etc but, in person too. It's sad to hear those words of someone who just needs the way to change their thinking and coming from someone who had the courage and the guts to sign that dotted line. Not everyone chose to take that job. The Media recently referred to our children of families like ours as "Collateral Damage". Yeah, at first my head began to spin just slightly. However, I started thinking about that. Collateral's the damn sad truth. More labels, more titles, more stigmas. We have wasted so much precious time fighting them. Why not use reverse psychology? "Hey, don't blame me for forgetting; I have brain damage!" Bet many of us have used that joke or heard it a time or two. Better yet "Hey haven't you heard? I'm crazy. Got VA papers stating so". Am I feeling the nodding going around the room?

 We used our sense of humor which ALL of us have still in us, we just forgot how to laugh. If you have been through the sewage system of life and all that floats, pass us by; the should haves, the could haves, and the crap that we waded have a sense of humor. So we created that family motto I previously blogged about and, we use it daily. I put a sign in my bathroom that states "Changing the Toilet Paper Roll does NOT cause brain damage", we created teamwork by splitting chores among the kids and my husband and I. It may be small tasks for my husband but the word I haven't heard from him in a long time? Is the dreaded word, burden. I use the heck out of a fridge magnetic/dry erase board for my husband because he needs to do things for himself. If we do it all for them? You are impending them just as much as the rest of the world views us as useless. Make yourself a plan of warfare, sink that battleship, learn to focus on the goal and set your path based on those goals and those only with the knowledge you are NOT in this alone. Laughter is truly the best medicine, music is therapeutic, changing the way you think about things is just well, amazing and most important of all? Sticking with it to see it through together, as a team. Burden is merely a word that you can either use by mouth, or use by example. Which will you choose? 

We Chose This and Proudly So

Take hope from the heart of man and you make him a beast of prey
At the root of all these noble races, the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast prowling greedily in search of spoils and victor y, cannot be mistaken.
At the root of all these noble races, the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast prowling greedily in search of spoils and victor y, cannot be mistaken.
At the root of all these noble races, the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast prowling greedily in search of spoils and victor y, cannot be mistaken.
At the root of all these noble races, the beast of prey, the splendid blond beast prowling greedily in search of spoils and victor y, cannot be mistaken.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Dragon for Mother's Day

 "A dragon's heart burns fiercely, even in the face of evil."
~S.G. Rogers

I've had a rough couple of days, well for a little while now. Not just in the advocate world but, just in general social media. I've been sitting on a few things that have not sat very well with me and between last week and yesterday, it became clear quite clear a few things that really pissed me off due to cowards who have nothing more to do than to cause problems. After several messages, deletes and arguments I was able to clear up at least a few things and removing myself from other problems. Facebook is a great way to communicate but, you always have a few (well a lot more than a few) to cause havoc, stir the proverbial shit pot and are just malicious to be so. It's a shame that we depend on it so much for communication with families such as ours but yet, sometimes you want to just secretly admit you are adopted and lay no claim to those people who say "we're family". Sometimes my husband and I will peruse and wonder, how does one just sit there and, do that all day long? I actually feel very sorry for those types of people. That causes toxic waste to be dumped in a few places and, I know that if my friends knew, it would hurt them. Protective I am; probably my biggest downfall and fatal flaw. Outspoken? Yeah but, I wasn't always. I'd like to thank and blame Uncle Sam for that one and War, because I never would've said half of what I have, had I not waded through years of crap, excuses and getting mad. Sometimes, the combination of the two makes me settle in easier with men than women. Perhaps it's because men are just simpler. Cut to the chase, land the damn plane and quit circling the airport. You might piss your buddy off a time or two but, guys just get over it. Maybe it's because sometimes I call it as I see it and, perhaps that peep into reality is scary. I will be the first to admit to not only you but to myself, I no longer play well with others. I am completely okay with that statement and it's one my husband jokes that the grasshopper has learned quite well. Yesterday, I tried to sit outside and think about home, family that has gone on and, getting back to what I know best.

The war between what is right and wrong is a difficult one to battle no matter what the situation is. I chose to speak up because it went against my principles and beliefs. In doing so, as always, it was the wrong thing to do apparently to many. No matter how much you defend a group or one person, if you have no back up; you are immediately viewed as the problem rather than the actual problem that needs to be addressed. In my heart though, no matter the cost, true friendship is a gift. Trust is also a gift and combined, both are precious ones because in our lives that we lead now, it's very hard to hold on to friendships. I've had some friends for more than seven years and, some even longer. Confiding in me, stays just that....with me. I still like to believe in brotherhood, sisterhood but, some have really made me question whether that is still regarded as a belief anymore or if anyone still gives a shit about it period? Am I the only one left who still believes? The military brat in me was raised with more than one father. I had many and would watch in awe how they conducted themselves and, the bond of brotherhood. I cut my teeth on black polished boots, a sea of BDU's, respect, honor, integrity and faith. It's something that has always stuck with me. Trust was drilled into my head early on and, my Southern Belle mama would always say "trust and true friends don't come easy so when you do have one, don't let it slip. Don't fight without making up because in the end, that silly fight will seem so little compared to the greatness of the friendship. " "Never betray their confidence especially when it comes from the heart because you are simply taking their heart and tromping on it. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." All of us kids would roll our eyes and say yeah, yeah yeah. As I get older though I think back on all these things and know now what my mother meant. Days like these I wish my mom was still around to comfort me when I second guess myself. There are probably only a few in my life who truly "get" me.

“There can be as many wrong reasons to do the right thing as there are stars in the sky. There might even be more than one legitimate right reason. But there is never a right reason to do the wrong thing. Not ever.” ~D. K. Paul

Last night I spoke to a dear, dear friend and vented because I wanted to say so much and defend myself but, even then...that would have violated others in the process. So I was stuck but, I had others in the crossfire and stuck some more. It's a tailspin you are trying to correct without any sense of direction and wondering how do I fix this without betraying one or the other? This places one in an awkward position because no matter how you handle it, you are the bad person when really? It had absolutely nothing to do with me what so ever and I don't even remember now how the hell I ever got dragged in the middle of it! I felt better talking and laughing but, got off to check my messages and, to my dismay found a harsh one that started me saying something to begin with. Yet, here I was looking like the fool all while trying to protect what is dearest to me. I deleted without responding. There isn't any point and lately, I have come to some decisions in my life that I do not belong with some, others are debatable and if they don't accept me, flaws and all....what kind of friends are they really? Did it hurt though...yes. While strong, I still have feelings and bleed just like anyone else. Some are advocates and nothing irks me more than not standing up for yourself but, expect changes. If you can't stand up for yourself, how does one stand up for others? If you say nothing, how do you plan to change anything?

Late last night my husband was dropped off and came in to find me crying over yet, another nasty message. This made 39 in less than 48 hours many of which had nothing to do with me but, friends spatting with each other. He opened, he responded, he deleted and, he turned off my computer. He said "come sit with me a spell and wipe your tears they ain't worth it". So I dried up my tears and he said "When I was at war, I took several stands for the men in my platoon and even though not a single one of them would stand up with me; it was worth taking the back lash because in war, there were lines crossed by some that should have never happened and what is right, is right. The best leaders take care of their men first and put them first always. Even if that means you standing out all by yourself. It's how they earned your respect. Those were true leaders. Same for medics, you may be wounded but, you treated everyone else and wait til last for yourself if you ever got the chance. Sometimes standing up is the most courageous thing you can ever do especially when it goes against your raisin' and what's right."

He handed me a tissue wrapped gift. Inside lay an ivory carved, five clawed dragon sitting on top of antique rosewood. Underneath it has Japanese symbols (going to assume the carvers name) and Nagasaki, Japan 1944 etched and worn. He said "I saved a little out of my spending money because she had layaway and I know I missed a lot of Mother's days. The lady at the antique store I purchased it from said the five clawed dragon symbolizes strength. You showed more strength than anyone I know. Benevolence, when we had no more to give but, you gave it all including your heart to many. Power because somehow you fought off my demons and kept right on fighting. Renewal of life is another one. You take care of me and I know that I am hard to handle. You saved me along with others though even when it meant it took everything from you so I guess that means you renewed life in some. Lastly, the five claws she says means imperial royalty and an, outstanding person of accomplishments and leadership. It was a well wish that most would be born under the sign of the dragon. Your leadership has turned many heads and you do outstanding work and I would have followed you into battle anytime anywhere. I bought this not just because it's an antique and know you would appreciate the history but, more importantly to help remind you that true leadership means doing the right thing and, to remember the accomplishments you have made. I know you have struggled trying to figure out your life and still juggle the family. You are all these things and more which is why I chose to give you a dragon for Mother's Day. I know you struggle but, you can either be who you are or be someone who you aren't." He said "I was so excited to finally pick it up but, then to come home to see your heart hurting made me think it's time for the grasshopper to see she's really a dragon. That, and I will more than likely hide it and forget like I did the other two I still can't find. I thought you could put it on your desk so when you write or you have self doubt, you can look up at that dragon sitting there and hopefully remember what the hell I said because I probably won't. Now go find a pile of gold and promptly put your ass on it and guard it fiercely like only you can" .

These are the moments that make fighting off those demons worth it and man, did I hang on to every word he said. There was no need for saying anything more, no need to agree to disagree...just simple intimacy and holding me was all I really needed. Someone who understood my inner battles and struggles, and to know who I really am as a person and appreciates every quality. Just knowing for one moment there....the demons were at ease and I had a moment with my husband.

I stayed awake all night long last night, tossing and turning on some decisions. Should I kill off Uncle Sam's Mistress and not blog anymore? Should I leave some things and some people behind because I just don't fit? Where does the square person fit in the round sphere of life or do you just stand on your own and alone? Mostly though, I thought of my husband and how he viewed the things that I needed the most to hear all while battling his own struggles. While to some, it might be the strangest Mother's Day gift ever been given but, he knows the inner part of me that sees both sides of the fence and that includes the man or woman who carved this and roughly polished, etched his/her name and knowing the atom bomb dropped just a year later. (Picture doesn't show all it's nicks and rough cuts nor does it do justice but it was 4 a.m.) Knowing perhaps a Veteran carried it all the way home or someone who came from a home that was war torn and ravaged and how far it traveled. Just breathing it in smelled of history and it's a smell of familiarity and one I adore. The fact he remembered Mother's Day and his sense of humor about his brain injuries meant the world to me. While all this was put into the thought, his gift of simple words and awkward show of emotions that he could pull out for me for that short time period, was a gift in itself. Sometimes I know he feels the same as I do and as such, we are the kindred spirits although we are the exact opposite. Two lost souls trying to find that one place of solitude and peace in a world that we once belonged in but, no longer are welcomed nor do we fit. In that one moment though...suspended in time, we found something in each other through a dragon that had no home; mutual respect for each other no matter how war and it's impact changed us as individuals.

I mulled over his words for a long time, and got up to take notes so I could remember. I sat and watched the sun come up over the mountains with my moo-cows and the more I thought of it, him and my friends; the more I realized that I'd be better off alone than be someone I'm not in a crowded room. What friends I do have, I will cherish and continue on with but with some, things have changed. What really is important is who is left standing and takes you however you are..... even if that means you are that roughly polished, hand etched by your beliefs, nicked, cut up person who has traveled a few thousand miles. The same goes for our Veterans who are also weary, scarred inside and out and left trying to find their way through their own struggles on top of everything else. I think we all need to find our own way to become that inner dragon and finally just accept that we are who we are and leave the rest up to our own chosen paths.............

To attract good fortune, spend a new coin on an old friend,
share an old pleasure with a new friend, and lift up the heart of a true friend 
by writing his name on the wings of a dragon. ~Ancient Chinese Proverb