Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. Used To Be

I know I am jumping out and all over the place with my writing. I promise to sit down and write Part Two on my last post. However, the purpose of my writing was to provide a silence I need and give me my secret shelter at which I could run for cover when needed. I am struggling this year. Maybe a lot more than I ever have before and I know my husband is thinking similar thoughts. When all the fights are done, and some battles won and lost; there seems to be a void that you face and the question of “What do I do now?” This question is not just hard on him solely; I am plagued with the fact I am  supposed to have the answers for my Veteran and my children as they all look to me as that cornerstone that pulled us together and held the world at bay. Sometimes I wish I could shuck that responsibility as easily as I do my old sweat jacket and run care free.  

 My health I mentioned earlier isn’t that great and, that has played havoc on both of us. The worries, the stress, the tests, treatments, the meds, and so much more that the summer blew past us like a freight train. There was no time for fun in the sun in which I was riddled with guilt for my kids, no time for rest and no relief on the stress. I tried to lie, tried to cover and hide but at the end? My poker face merely crumpled. I thought this time; this time I have no choice but, to take care of me. That is the one area where I am terrible at. I backed away from the world and hid for a while. I don’t mind saying that I probably pushed a lot of people away and most of all? I lied to myself thinking that I could handle all of it. I think a lot of it had to do with my husband’s incapability to show any emotions and, his inability to show he cares for me. He can smile for the VA and maybe laugh but, in his eyes there is a distance that no one connects. I see and hear the falseness that lies in an empty laugh or a hollowed out joke. He is the master of “what is supposed to be” for everyone….for everyone but me. 

In all honesty, my mind knows the areas where he is doing worse and where there are major changes. I am educated on every aspect of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries because I chose to be. Even with the head trauma of the wreck, I knew more than the damn doctors did. Part of me knows that he just simply can’t take care of anyone and you would think that me…..I would know that it just isn’t going to be the same as the battles I have faced before. Even as much as I read and study on PTSD and TBI, doesn't mask the hurt I feel sometimes or the loneliness. So I dealt with the blows, the ups and downs and smiling through the pain even though the other parts of me were let down and heartbroken because he was so cold, distant and just not there. I feel sometimes robbed that I can’t be weak or show that I need someone and how do you tell someone you need them when they need you more? Then I fuss at myself when I see him stomping up and down, yelling, screaming, and rambling on and on about nothing in particular but, just to be mad at the world…and I wonder why I could ever want that fake side of him to show me a little compassion or maybe not need me so much because I just was too weak to give more? I guess I wanted any comfort that I could get. These are the times where I miss my husband who never came home. 

We had the car wreck last year in which I think covered and masked a lot of the demons that come around September to April. Much of those demons were exorcised by anger fueled determination to get home, to get back to me and sheltered, to get out of the wheelchair to walk again and for a while, I was grateful that the demons were busy and their focus was on the wreck. On anything really as long as it wasn’t me. This year snuck up on us and, Hell opened its doors with new demons we don’t recognize. It used to be “Ahhh there you are, you Nasty Son of a Bitch! Come on! Bring it! I’ve batten down the hatches and know how you play your games!” It wasn’t like that at all this year. I had forgotten just how bad this time of year can be. I was reading one of the social media outlets and another wife’s comments of “it seems to me that a certain time of year he becomes this way or that way. Will it be this way every year?” She was new to this life and I realized how simple of a question it was but yet, so damned complicated. I started to answer and on automatic mode say “YES! Yes, it does. Every. Single. Year. It does get better in some areas but, worse in others. It changes. Most of all, it’s not so much as they get better, you just get used to most of it and then sometimes the “pod person” throws you a curve ball that knocks you out of the game at the first inning. She also said it wasn’t that bad just out of the ordinary. 

I have to be really honest here. I felt ashamed for the post I had written as I sat here with my finger on the mouse ready to hit “post” and, I have to say that it was the tears I noticed dripping onto my shirt that stopped me. I didn’t have it in me to give her something positive because my years with my Veteran doesn’t seem to get any better but, I see so many that do. I am sincerely happy for them but, at the same time wonder why we’re so different and mine can't be one of those that eventually sees that light at the end of the dark ass tunnel? I didn’t have the words to give her; my answer was choppy, riddled with hurt and, so I deleted what I said. Just because I was having a bad day didn't give me an excuse to be so blunt and show no compassion. Hell, I know what it's like to start asking questions and everyone looking at you like "Sigh...here we go. A new girl". I didn’t hit post; I didn’t do anything at all. I don’t know what I was ashamed of for offering our story just in case. A part of me was just ashamed I didn’t have the answers to that great elusive question we all seek.  I know some who are like us and every year brings new struggles but, it’s hard when you don’t see them post or talk much. Then I wondered what if I had told her of our story and, hers was not as bad? What if he got better and that when they got to their eight year mark as we did, nothing came at all anymore?
 All I could do was walk away and say “I should have told her things change"Two words in our lives that is about the only thing you can count on “but, even then? It still felt wrong to say it. This is where things get tricky with sharing one person’s story. What may be good for one person may not be for many others. What’s good for many isn’t good for one. I’ve never been one of jealousy but, I have to say I had that feeling that day. I wished that I could merely just say “Hey, he has moods that are sort of bad and I was just wondering”. Instead, we as a family are seeing different things every year. The challenges become harder, obstacles are bigger and we all keep it a secret. It’s as if we aren’t allowed to speak of such things. 

I spent the last eight years trying to find a way to keep pieces back in their respective places which is the most daunting thing one can undertake. While wielding my sword of what was important and right, I laid patterns, routines, structured environments.... just anything that would help him. I didn’t want to impend him from getting better because God, I needed the break and I wanted him to overcome. I don’t know which one of us was counting on that the most. I think it was him of course. Honestly, it does help setting up routine, structure and, it was the last chance I had to keep our family together. Stable was really one of the hardest things to take on and to keep adjusting it until you got to the right setting where “stable” was just that. It’s hard to try and put forth independence and success for your veteran time after time, day after day, when sometimes all you see is that all your efforts led to failure. It hurts me to see that again, I failed him once more and I see the anger flare up in him. Its hard to see the disappointment or see that anger directed at you because these "success set ups" let him down.

I often wonder as I watch him toss in his sleep or dreaming, does he resent me for trying to show him he can do things or he is successful if we could only find the right thing? That he has so damn much to be proud of?  Some nights I lie awake and just study his profile in the shadows of night. His face and jaw line relaxed, and I wonder if he knows how much I truly, truly love him because even though it’s not my whole husband, I still see parts of what he used to be. It was enough for me to keep at it, to keep trying to break the cycle, to give him a new life even if meant to forsake all things. I wonder if he knows that I somehow would always give when I knew I would receive nothing back in return?

For us, we use that structure and routine as our mode of operation to meet day to day needs and, there were some dark ones. Some of the hours seemed to stretch as far as I could see; second hands on clocks would seem to drag. I wonder if I am doing the right thing at times with providing this structure or am I setting him up for failure one day? This world seems to keep knocking us down and the last thing I want to do is see him flail around….lost with no way back. It is the only way that we can function with my husband. Things run on time, same place, same date, same day…repetition was and will be our closest friend. The downside to all that is that if that balance gets off, it really screws with the whole universe. I have a dear friend and fellow Blogger who feels a million miles away but who truly “gets” me which is rare. I am actually very much a loner but, maybe that’s what brought us together. She is seeking new things like I am semi-doing and she said once “I firmly believe you get what you put out in the universe”. I really pondered and chewed on that for a while. I wish I had her gumption to keep finding things to give back to that universe. There are days where my entire body fills empty and I’ve not anything to give back to that universe except my words.I admire her determination which never falters like mine does at times. 

Our relationship/marriage has changed drastically. There are some days where I feel I don’t know who he is, days where I don’t recognize myself anymore. The relationship is built on the same grounds but, the dynamics feel weird and unbalanced. We go through bad spurts, and all I can do is start shutting myself down, building walls high to brace for the storm and begin to build that safety net around him. After a while, you begin to start feeling numb and everything becomes predictable with him. This Fall, I tried to step back and give him a gentle nudge off the tree limb to see if he could spread his wings and fly like mothers do to their baby birds only to see him fall further. I sit and wait in the shadows to catch him if he falls. He was angry with me for everything even when everything meant nothing that had to do with me. I get it though. I am the one who is here and his sounding board. Sometimes though, that starts to wear you down a little. One morning last week after a month of really, really bad times….he woke up on his own early, came out to the kitchen and just threw his arms around me and started crying.

I was at a loss of what to do, what to say....what to make it stop because it broke my heart further to see him sobbing. He told me he was really struggling this year and, he didn’t know what to do. He didn't understand the "whys". I said “I know you are but, you can’t push the kids and I away when no matter what, we love you and we’re here. You had the wreck to focus on last year so this is going to feel all new again”. I hated to see him this way but, at least he was communicating with me in the only way he knew how. It’s like watching one of your children being mistreated by someone and unable to say or do anything. I sometimes get angry that I can’t make things easier or hell, even just acceptable to meet his needs and wants. There are times when what I do, seems like the biggest mistakes ever in his eyes. 

Our biggest challenges right now are filling that “void” I mentioned earlier. The last eight years, we had mutual enemies, the same causes, the same battles, and God, the same pain some days. Now we don’t have that. It’s like everything has been on fast forward for the past eight years and now has suddenly stopped in slow motion. We are looking at each other and noticing the changes in both of us and to be honest, that scares the hell out of us. He doesn’t want to be known as a Veteran, a Wounded Warrior, not even a military member. I can understand that but, he shouldn’t be ashamed of his service, or his disabilities. I meant what I said about truly understanding him. I wake up every day thankful I can still move my tired body and have enough strength to get through the day. I am ashamed I became very ill and the futures not looking like what I wanted it to be. In his eyes, it’s a different thing though; in mine it is somewhat comparable in frustration, dreams crushed and some hope lost. I try to understand him some days and, I just can’t. He tries one thing, stumbles and then gives up. Then, because he can’t get one thing he just gives up completely and starts to look for another…..purpose. He says I don’t understand but God, I do. I understand him now more than I ever did before. It’s because I am facing the same dilemma.
Purpose…..The very definition of what we are supposed to be doing and that is one thing that there aren’t any answers for. I wasn’t a very good advocate but, I tried. Some days I am the worst dual parent in the world. I did a lot on my own but, he always was cheering me on and, to see him sigh with relief gave me enough courage to keep going. I did a lot on my own but, together? We made a pretty good team and, we both had purposes. While he is looking for his "now" after so much has fallen through, the angrier he is and, he starts to notice more things wrong with him. I see desperation in his eyes as he looks at me to solve these riddles all while I am struggling to find my own way too.  He wants more out of his life, I want more too. I got up on the worst days filled with sickness and smiled through it just to show him he can get up too. I tried new things like cooking and cracking some restaurant recipes that we always wondered about. The purpose of that was to lead him, to encourage and while he reveled in my successes and laughed with me over my epic failures…..it still didn’t work. Caring for someone can come natural to many women as we are born nurturers but, in these tough times? Trying to help someone find a purpose in their life is torture.

I did take some time for me though which is something I am not nor is my family used to. I began to read books I said “one day I will read” and never did, tried new things, started on projects in our home, caught up on old films and sitcoms that I never got around to do, that was just for me. With that, it pulled him closer and he was able to come out of the shadows and enjoy it with me. Then just as we laugh and talk about something that we just saw.....the light switch gets thrown and the dark mood appears. It's so fast some days that it's very difficult to navigate in that. 

I wish we were millionaires to meet his ideas that suddenly come from nowhere. His emotions are really screwed up but, I see the glimmer of excitement which is rare. I also see that at times he gets those ideas that are just not available to us and while I never say it, I see in him the sudden switch that remembers that we can’t do those things. At the same time though, I wonder if we did have it, would we burn through it just to seek one single purpose. It reminds of how many “purposes” we have gone through like model cars, puzzles, and much more sitting in boxes collecting dust; cast offs of anger and the inability to complete. So we keep searching for one more and more would pile. He said “I wish we were rich and I could do what I want to do!” I shake my head in understanding but, at the same time I feel like I can’t give him the answers to what he is seeking and at this point he couldn't tell you what he is wanting to do or why he wants millions of dollars. 

Would we find that one single success finally or would we just buy ourselves more mistakes, failures or more let downs and anger? He has always worked his entire life, even during high school. To suddenly be medically retired, disabled and not be able to handle but, very little on his own, has to be so hard to try to grasp. I always worked myself and both of us had life goals, dreams and all that was taken from us leaving all that in pieces on the ground. So we started new things and with my mind telling me that he wasn’t the only one that lost everything. Now, these new purposes are starting to fizzle out, can’t do them due to his disabilities or the frustration that makes him so angry he walks away. I just can’t keep up the pace anymore and I get mad at myself because I can't find the strength to keep that pace.
I sat out on my back porch with a cup of coffee one morning after a really bad night and thought, this is it. This is what we are now. “Mr and Mrs. Used to Be”. There isn’t romance, there isn’t a marriage, there is no sign of life of getting that back or anything that remotely looks like what was before war, post war and well, just post everything. Somehow the Caregiver and the Wounded Warrior suddenly found ourselves away from the same team and looking at a huge void in between us. There is trust on his part I will always care for him, faith that I’ll always figure out a way to clean up messes, help him when he falters, make the standard apologies and knowledge that I will find more outlets or purposes for him to dabbled at. Most of all, he counts on me not to give up. In my eyes though, I don’t know who we are but, we are two different people trying to work together in a mutual relationship of awkwardness and silence facing ourselves in the same mirror and not knowing who we are anymore. 

I have never sky dived before but, I have seen it on television. You know how they jump from the plane and multiple people have to time it just right to grab on to the other person’s hands to create this formation? I feel like that. Falling at a fast pace and the both of us trying to reach out and grab each others hand but, we just can’t seem to get a good tight hold. I can go to bed at night knowing I did my very best that I could. I cared for him and sheltered him from the outside world even when I needed the shelter the most. I sleep some nights because the weariness goes so deep inside and other nights I lie awake and know that we will wake up and start all over again in the same structure, same time, and same channel seeking new purpose for the day for him, setting up successes and dealing with the fall outs. There are moments of sheer laughter, delight or pride in our children, days where a hug means everything, desperate tears and a long hug with silence gives us a suspended moment of just mutual unspoken understanding, and some days where words can slice open the old wounds again. 

We have so much in common, he just doesn’t see or understand it. Yet, it still feels we're sitting on opposite sides of the river with no way to cross. We both don’t fit into any certain category with others which make it lonely sometimes. We just get by with our sense of humor which has stayed intact and do the best with what is left. I still cling to the hope that “used to be” will turn into something we can look back and say “look how far we’ve come! And here we worried this was permanent”. I am starting to wonder if this is a premature mid-life crisis. I think stopping, with it all, just made us realize how empty our lives were and for him, he is "ok" with things but, not satisfied as a disabled person. Funny how words or terms can affect you so much. Labels and phrases can be so detrimental to someone. 

We want to move forward together somewhere, somehow and to a mutual plateau that we can finely get a firm grasp on each other. One where there isn't a leader, one that doesn't have any mountains to climb, and one that accommodates our needs. I wonder if there is such a place or if there is.....will we find it? I hope that I am not alone in thinking all this. I do know that we have been through worse and much harder times so I feel complaining isn't fair but, somehow I just thought if we could just get past A,B, and C.....then everything would be alright. You don't see much of the other families talk about "What do we do now?". For what's it worth, I know we are extremely hard on ourselves, myself especially. I have always said my own worst enemy, was myself. Well, we are past all that and now things just feel out of place and we're just trying to do the best with all that we have left. I can deal with shedding our old selves but, I am desperately seeking the life that we can live that was part of my goal of move forward and letting things go. I know the wreck, lawyers and litigation has weighed heavily on us mentally and financially. I worry every day about things. I can deal with blows and some I would probably laugh at screaming "is THAT all you got?" So here we are at point whatever, and no guide post to guide us from here. How does one guide another when you don't know where to go yourself? It's a hard thing to carry a family and still maintain your self confidence.

I still laugh and shake my head when I think back to post deployment when the Army told us that our soldiers might exhibit some "sleep issues" when coming home. Hell, I thought it just meant jet lag or time differences. We've come so far, surely this can't be all there is..............

Wishing There Was A Light For Me On Somewhere,

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Advocacy: Part One (How to Find Your Voice)

"Norma Rae" Movie based off of the life and advocacy/organizational work of Crystal Lee Sutton

I get asked a lot of questions solely on advocacy, how to get started, how to land "important" roles, how to become a "power house", how to change the world, how to speak up, how to get on all these trips, how to voice your opinions or story when you are scared and well, the list goes on.....

In truth and honesty....I don't know how the hell I got here. 

I have had to take a brief hiatus from many things due to severe health issues. I will do this in several posts because I know, I am long winded and I tire myself out these days. Honestly, there is no answer of the right way but damn, there is a sure fired way list of doing it wrong! I don't know if it's just me or if it's always been there but, a few things I have seen on social media networks while down, have left me sort of not wanting to write this particular post because I am surprised, embarrassed, and shocked at the behavior of some. However, I did promise my readers I would respond. How can one give you suggestions with so many doing some things wrong? Kind of hard in my opinion but, there is just too much misinformation being handed out like pills, stupidity, ignorance, petty jealousy, fierce competition, power struggle and much more. I guess I always thought we were teams in my "all for one" method of advocating but, the hard truth? It's simply not that way in many areas or people and, there aren't any letter I's in that word but yet "I" keeps popping up everywhere. It's probably been the last six months that I have honestly admitted that I don't play well with others.

But I digress......

So after thinking long and hard, I am going to try my best to give my honest view, thoughts and hopefully in that and my own sense of humor and ways; an answer for all those who asked. One that will help mold the right person, to fight as an advocate and a damn good one. This may include examples of what not to do, some weird examples, thought provoking and help you find the answer.Truthfully, we all have it in us; we just need someone to point it out.  I will possibly piss a lot of people off in the process which is fine too. I figure if they take this personally, then they have done the very thing I am speaking of and in my words they are merely finding their own reflection. First, I never really looked at myself as an advocate until others began looking at me and telling me face to face that I was one. I'll be honest, if I am one? I am probably not a very good one but, I never left anyone behind and I never not tried; that counts. I have the balls to admit that I am not that great. Since we were National Guard and Army Reserves Combat Wounded, I stuck to what I knew and in the areas I researched for my fight only. By that, it meant my coming forward with our story, fighting for our family, advocating for my husband solely and willing to take chances and risks. You have to stand tall, be willing to voice your story and in a way that is going to catch someone's attention but, not in a way that is so outlandish like a "shock and awe" method that you don't stick with. Sometimes that means drawing outside the lines, finding ways around the system in crevices that no one chose to look because it was harder and willing to break the rules every once in a while all while still following the standard procedure. Sharing your story is where it begins and it's a large step. I will caution you that it is vital one that needs to be discussed as a family and agreed upon by both the Veteran and family members because once it's out there? It's there. You will be scrutinized, comments will be made good or bad, you will be judged, you will be praised but, at the same time? It can be like releasing a pressure cooker lid off if you can find a way to share it and, your rewarded with the ones your story does help because like you....they are sitting there wondering how they start too. You aren't just speaking up, you are creating movement. Think about that.

The "Yodas" Of This and Past Wars

I chose to blog under an anonymous name in which the anonymity is about gone but, I never thought anyone would read it in a million years but, ya'll proved me wrong. That anonymity gave me a shelter I felt when I was scared, a mask where I could find the courage to face the open world and one, that I could take refuge in if the fight became too much. It took a few years matter a fact before I even touched the uncertain waters of helping other soldiers and that was just by accident. Seriously.... and, only because I talk to everyone.  However, I didn't just jump in with head first without looking to see if the pool was filled. I have seen a lot of that lately and unfortunately, that is giving some really good advocates a bad light and scaring off some potentially good ones. The new ones are floundering around, flipping out business cards and telling everyone they know it all but, when it comes to push and shove; they run to someone else for answers. Or they start asking the "Yodas" of a particular area/war all while badmouthing them as they try to look good in the spotlight and, I see a lot of mistakes being made mostly due to pure ego. Yep, I said it. EGO.  I have to give my UPMOST respect to the "long timers" as we call some of the long term ones with experience and years under their belt. Some I look to as my mentors, my heroes and hope that I can one day be as stoic and amazing as they are. 

They have been through a lot of hell but yet, even though they probably want to say snarkily "PATIENCE you must have, my young Padowan. Now piss off you must" they instead gracefully and elegantly, share what they know; even to those who ask a lot of questions yet do the freaking opposite of what you told them. This can lead to detrimental backfires, frustration on both parties, wasted amounts of time and people who look at all advocates as "just another one". Secondly to this, the "Yodas" are running around and trying to contain the fire because some are playing with matches. This can lead to major burnout and many of them have backed away trying to find their sanity again. Lesson in this, research your stuff, fight your own battle first, ask questions and take notes, listen to what they are saying because we are all in this together many of us believe and it's why we want to help. You never know what might pop up in a conversation that may help you down the road; even years later.

Did you know that most of us advocates, bloggers, writers are just like you here reading and, many of us still fighting our own battles all while juggling home life and  advocating for others? It truly and honestly all boils down to this, the "Yodas" as I lovingly refer to them, are probably the wisest having to go through so much crap because there was no help. Even myself, going into our eight year, am amazed at how much there is out there. The thing is though, no one wants to hear the sacrifices, the hardships, the tales of warfare they went through alone, or even acknowledge that because of these men and women, you all have what you do now. THOSE are the stories that one can learn from and unfortunately, some want to jump from A to Z and that leads to uncaring, uneducated, no lessons learned from the "school of hard knocks", advocates who **think** they know it all. You can stay on the computer 24 hours a day reading manuals, transcripts, medication sites, VA website and still don't have the "grit". Truth is, you don't know anything unless you pay attention, walked those miles and can learn from those who stood up so many years ago when there wasn't a voice at all. Those men and women are ones you can learn how to begin finding your place. Lesson here? Start by researching your own stuff, take the stories from those ahead of you and follow in their footsteps. I am always learning new stuff all the time from people and am like wow, it's amazing how much they knoooow! A to Z at 160 mph is only going to leave you looking like a screaming, wailing, unstable family member who gives up because B-Y showed you how to do everything else.

A Room With A View

In example from an email I answered not too long ago (Thank you C for allowing me to share), "I am too scared to speak up. I don't want to get in trouble by sharing but, we have to get our benefits and his retirement. What if we get in trouble? What happens then? It's much easier to give up my husband says and just worry about it later but, I know that would be wrong right? I would love to be more involved as an advocate but I don't know how to speak up. So how did some of these ladies do it all?". As I told this young lady, she made the first move by thinking/feeling she wants to fight it. She is weighing the pros and cons, she is faced with two dilemmas; do I fight or give up? But, at the same time....she didn't know the "later" part and once it's done, it's done with Uncle Sam. There is your start and a good one. She has already begun the the thought process. She just wasn't sure what the repercussions of it would be and could she handle the pressure? She is also looking at handling too much at once. I explained first you have to play your own game and learn your style. Not every advocate is the same. I know of one from the Carolina's who has the most beautiful smile, Southern accent, one I always referred to as "Yoda", but when it comes to her stuff? Man, that smile can turn into shark's teeth and she will tear someone up to advocate. You can almost by phone hear the Jaw's theme song playing while she is calculating and running it through her mind. Duh dum...duh dum....duh dum duh dum and then BOOM she has the answers and fierce about it. Another one in Alabama that I found many years ago who has the softest voice you ever heard. It's almost angelic with that twang and kindness. However, these two women were responsible for many many of the things now we have available or pushed and shoved til they got what they set out to do. But, they did it by learning their own way.  There are some men and women responsible for major changes in this war. BUT they had to fight their own battles. They walked their own path. So I give your questions this hypothetical scenario because it's a good example of what you are to embark on.

There are only two ways out of the room; a window and a door. No, the house is not on fire, no major weather dangers, you are merely just trying to leave the house. But you have to leave fast, get out your way because there is no one to ask, AND there are a few surprises waiting for you. Who knows what the surprises are? You are only armed with your body and intelligence. Door would be easier wouldn't it? You can just turn the knob, open and walk until you are facing a dark stairwell only to find no light or light switch. Or.... you could go to the window and think "if I can shimmy my ass down the side of the pipe, I could probably get away faster than taking the door and using the creepy stairs. Or I could just drop, tuck and roll. I could possibly make the jump without any major bones breaking." You can see you have clearance, you see no major issues unless the height scares you. Notice how one automatically thinks of many more options when you can physically see something?

 Sooo....Which one is REALLY the easiest?

Survey says many will answer "Window" as many would choose a room with a view to the dark stairwell any day. (Unless you are a bad ass Ranger or Spec Ops that can kill with one pinkie finger) Why? Because you think you see everything. Who knows what lies at the bottom of the darkened stairway? There may be another remake of Friday the 13th, part 28 co-starring Kim Kardashian with Jason waiting for you! Her ass might be blocking the light from the window (Hey Eminem said it first) and you may not see Jason as he lies in the shadows waiting. Don't know do you? You may get out the window and jump down, run away and all is done. However, even with a clear view, you may not land where you wanted right away but, how far are you willing to jump is the question? What if you land on your face, will you give up? Will you cry and want to quit? What happens if you misjudged the distance? What if you tuck and roll straight into a tree and a wasp nest falls on your head? Same goes for Jason and Kim down the stairs. You probably could push Kim into Jason and he hacks her all up while you make your clean get away BUT here is another thing one of my students pointed out... if they were down there together to begin with, they may be partners in crime. I would be suspicious because something isn't right if Kim is still standing and he's waiting on you.


It's harder to leap into the unknown isn't it? Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what life throws at you; problems and, it's up to you to find the viable solutions to any problem at any time on any given day.  There may never be an easy way out. It's a corny cliche scenario I just gave you but, one I used to pose to my History Seniors when they said "Is there an easy way to learn all this crap?" (except thanks to my son who pointed out that most don't know who Jason or Cyndi Lauper is so we had to change that due to generational gaps). You think finding your voice is scary, try teaching World/U.S. History to a bunch of High School seniors who popped gum, didn't listen and gave you more headaches than your own children and definitely more reasons to use birth control. The lesson here is when faced with dilemmas, how will you face those objects, hurdles and can you provide yourself options? When faced with a problem, can you provide several ways out of that house we talked about? Start there. Always have a game plan. Even when it comes to yourself and your family, always have a plan B up your sleeve. 

Fear is something that holds all of us back. Mostly because of the Unknown factor that shows its ugly face in the game. You have to take the reigns on that one, weigh the pros and cons, the results you wish to set as goals and the consequences of doing so. For some, just the latter scares the hell out of them. Here is that wholesome honesty ya'll like; you can't advocate for anyone else unless you can stand up and fight for yourself and your Veteran. If you can't speak up, or voice your story but, expect to get into advocacy of the same nature it's not going to be easy; sort of like looking at one high dive into that empty pool I mentioned earlier or say, having the aspiration to become a stripper but, afraid to take your clothes off. Once you are comfortable in speaking up, test the waters on the reactions you receive from sharing just yours, then you move on to other areas. Now how does one learn to find their voice? That is hard. I guess in a way it's the anger, the frustration that you feel all through your body and its when you've simply had enough. I don't know how to express it (and forgive my comparison as it's gross) but, it's the best I can use in layman's terms.

It's more like the sickness when you contract food poisoning or a stomach bug. Probably not the best examples I have used but, when you are that sick, you get pissed, miserable, questioning why today? God, I'm going to die! Why me and not my boss? Or my nosy neighbor? Then you want to rest and tell yourself you will get better later. You just want to be done right? You want to get through it, you want to get better, you want to move on. You want to fight against it. You may even start by sipping that Coke and one saltine cracker the old school nurse used to dole out and swore by. Your mind says "FIGHT it, you can do it" but, your stomach is saying "Oh my God, HELL noooo!" and you still get sick. BUT... you STILL took the chance didn't you? You were able to stick your foot and feel around to see if you can do it. I guess the answer lies in your own intuition. If you are asking how do I find my voice, then you are already two steps in the dance. What are you sick of? What is it that you want the most? How far are you willing to take it to grasp that swinging rope? How far will you look for that rope or other options when push comes to shove. When you get there, can you handle the pressure and hold your head high? Most of all.....how much do you want it?
Breaking Dishes
I think personally you get pissed to the point where you can't contain it, you explode inward and from that self combustion....comes a small sound. It may happen during hidden tears behind the door, in the shower, in the car or hell, anywhere. It's that small feeling of relief that you get from the "ugly cry" and freedom of release...well, that's the breath you want to inhale to begin to find your voice. Then you simply build on, brick by brick. You may have to go back and change a few layers, you may falter and fail, but you just keep building. Ever just gone literally psycho for one single minute and thrown a plate or glass into the sink and watch it shatter? I may or may not have done that and, can neither confirm or deny it. However, for all parties involved....let's just say that I appreciate the Euro tradition of throwing plates and glasses at weddings probably a lot more than I should. I *would* call it creative destructiveness, a moment of one's self acknowledgement in an innovative manner, a clever and prolific epiphany, or a visionary, stimulating way to express your feelings in a beautiful mosaic formation. Sounds much better than psychotic break down or moment of insanity. Kind of like when they call over the loud speaker at the VA "CODE BLUE" which probably means "We got a RUUUUNNNER"! (I have nooo idea what Code Blue means but I do know many family members do a head count and check to see if their Veteran is with them) Matter a fact, I would like to see breaking dishes recommended as a source of unconventional therapy along with some serious angry music at least once a year. 

(Warning because there is always that one person: USM is not responsible for any actions and by no means encourages you to break shit and hurt someone or yourself. Please use thinking process, sanity, logic, safety glasses and use a large range of personal safe space to do this and I, will deny everything. I mean everything!

Getting that Voice Out There By Using the Police
I had a great professor in a speech class that I was forced to take in college. He was pretty innovative and I always appreciated his unconventional teaching because it stuck with you. He once told us to get over the fear of speaking up was to write. Just anything on a piece of paper, notebook, back of a book or online as a journal or blog. He said once, the greatest writers were the ones who never thought first about what they wrote, they just did it. Even if it didn't start the beginning or finish the ending, just anything that came to mind. If it was "F*CK A DUCK" and that's all that came? It matters because it came from you and that was just you only. I have always written that way ever since. I don't have to think about it. I might sit down with a topic and it just goes wherever like this one even though I hope you are learning something in a fun and creative encouraging manner! Blogging, a journal, writing anything is a GREAT way to start because you still have that privacy of the screen, you still have that feeling of security but, at the same time you feel freedom, relief, and you got it out of you. Now talking in front of people freaks anyone out. Lord, I've seen some excellent speakers who you would have NEVER known got nervous but, they were sweating, anxiety rashes, blood pressures up, shaking like bad people in churches. Hey, we aren't perfect! Same professor gave us an assignment every night. He told us to go home and pretend we were cops in front of the mirror. Practice it over and over again. "Police! Put your hands up!", "FBI! FREEEZE SUCKER!" or "Get down on the ground and keep your hands where I can see them!". Might explain why my neighbors always thought I was going to the police academy. In that first few weeks, we were expanding our vocabulary to the Miranda rights, learn the poker face, telling ourselves "You ARE a BADASS! You can knock this out!", learned some new tactics and by then? Even the mousiest, quietest man in the room was able to perfect the absolute firmest voice that we were still stunned. I think now looking back, that was the first time I heard him period because I am legally deaf in one ear. He used Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood as his police mantra. If you squinted hard enough....he sort of did take on the Eastwood look. I still to this day get nervous about speaking up and have that little shake in my voice especially in a room full of my peers. Strangers not so bad but your peers? Holy shit, they scare me! People just don't realize it because of that poker face most of us have developed and plastered on. Seriously though? It helps. When I had to make several speeches locally, I would always hold up my hair brush and take the stance. The Professor like I said was, unconventional but his point was this. If you had a room full of people, and you HAD to get everyone to hear you in an emergency? How can you do it by being mute or whisper? However, you say "FBI! GET DOWN! GET DOWN " well, everyone is going to stop and listen. It also boosts your confidence and makes you stand up straight. Trust me, watch a few shows on Cops or Dog the Bounty Hunter....you won't see anyone slouching unless they're the bad guys. HUGE difference from beginning to end of the semester. We were able to discuss recipes in a debate method, or look at something we absolutely were against and talk about the pros of it.  Use a Water gun if you want to have some extra fun.

So that, is a very lengthy long talk about speaking up. Unconventional but, who said I was normal anyway? I am not discouraging anyone, I am merely using the "Wax On,Wax Off Method" for young grasshoppers, lessons I learned from my youth, the "Yodas" and, from my very own mistakes. Some great tools too are music. Music can gear you up and make you want to fight. One in particular right now I am loving is "Burning Gold" by Christina Perri. Listen to the lyrics. It's a good song about being tired, wanting a change, believing in yourself and a catchy tune. So I will sign off for now and work on my next really unconventional thoughts on how to be a damn good advocate. BUT first, I challenge you to some movies. Some are hard to find but, they can be found online, netflix, Xbox etc. Movies; Some great ones to revisit or watch for the first time for that "get up and go gumption" that you need. All these are based on true stories except for a few. 
Wild Horse's Can't Be Broken
Norma Rae
Working Girl
Erin Brocovich
The Heat
A League of their Own
Cool Runnings
Schindler's List
Dangerous Minds
Lead the Way
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Pay it Forward
Freedom Writers
Taking Chance
Lean on Me
The Monuments Men
Now You See Me
We Bought a Zoo
The Blind Side
Shawshank Redemption

Mostly these are for the women but, if there are any men out there who are looking into stepping out, still a great way to see options, game changes and plans, overcoming disabilities, adapting to changes, opening your eyes to new things, new challenges, working together as a team. There will be times where you can't work with someone or just absolutely can't stand them. (trust me, I have my share of those who don't like me). BUT, when push comes to shove, some of these movies show how to work together, the effort and time put into it, going against all odds, against adversity, working when there is no credit given (Monuments Men) and having that escape plan. You will find failure, mistakes, faltering but, still getting up, dusting off your ass and keep going. 

So this will end Lesson One. I will follow up with the professionalism, manners, courtesy, compassion and more in my next plan. If you got this far, then you have made the first steps and already bought your ticket.

Remember, It just takes one voice to create one large movement.

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 burden....it'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 Damage....it'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 through......you 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
Read more at http://quotes.dictionary.com/search/beast+of+burden?page=1#HR6Oz1KlG6UqJamf.99
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.
Read more at http://quotes.dictionary.com/search/beast+of+burden?page=1#HR6Oz1KlG6UqJamf.99
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.
Read more at http://quotes.dictionary.com/search/beast+of+burden?page=1#HR6Oz1KlG6UqJamf.99
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.
Read more at http://quotes.dictionary.com/search/beast+of+burden?page=1#HR6Oz1KlG6UqJamf.99
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.
Read more at http://quotes.dictionary.com/search/beast+of+burden?page=1#HR6Oz1KlG6UqJamf.99