Monday Memoir: The Loser

 

Those of us who have been in long-term relationships and/or marriages know well the ups and downs that occur.  Some are more challenging than others.  My marriage to Jay is no different.

Jay comes from a dysfunctional family.  His Dad, a Vietnam vet (served in the 101st Airborne) who came back a changed man, became an alcoholic and abuser of his Mom (of which he witnessed several times).  They divorced by the time he was six (his younger sister Marcy was a year old); but then became mired in vicious child snatching schemes (before it was ruled illegal) that went on for a few years.  His father remarried, and Jay and Marcy went to live with him in another state, and Jay wouldn’t see his mother again for many years.

Jay’s step-mother was a drug-addict (addicted to pain meds) who was physically abusive to his sister, and vindictive towards him (at times she tried to have him arrested for stealing his own stuff).  His half-brother, Walter, was born during this time.

By the time I first met him in college, his father and step-mother was in the midst of a nasty divorce.  He wanted to help and protect his little brother, Walter, but in the end would lose and never see the kid again for a number of years when the step-mother split with more than half of his father’s earnings.

Right from the start, Jay and I had a connection even though at that time I didn’t quite understand it.  He had a girlfriend, Heather and I was dating his best friend, Shaun.  But, he and I became close friends.  When Heather suddenly broadsided him with vicious lies when he refused to sleep with her, he became depressed and well, lost.  I tried to be there for him, but in the end, he left college at the close of our freshman year to join the Navy.

The year was 1990.

I returned for my Sophomore (and final) year at that college for the fall semester.  It was either late November or early December, Jay came to the campus to visit his friends.  He stopped at my dormitory and we visited for a few minutes.  He had on his Naval uniform under a dark gray long coat.  I can remember thinking how handsome he looked.  At this time, there were rumors circulating of a possible war in the Persian Gulf, and they were anticipating high casualty counts. Knowing this, Jay wanted to see as many people as he could before heading overseas.

I wouldn’t hear from him again for the next eight years.

The training he chose while in the Navy was in the Meteorology and Oceanography field, and he was placed on an aviation crew on board a battleship. Since he also had combat training (was in the Army Reserve prior), once he reached the Gulf, he was assigned to a Marine unit that headed to land (to participate in the land assault called Operation Desert Shield/Sabre) after a period of air assaults. To this day, Jay doesn’t talk in detail about what went on during these days.  All I know was that he was with the Marines on Highway 80 (aka Highway of Death), and was responsible for calling in airstrikes on the trapped Iraqis on that road.  I also know that he went with the Marines after the airstrikes on a reconnaissance mission, and saw first hand of the carnage he had a hand in creating.

He was only 19.  Still just a kid.

 

Not too long after the end of the Persian Gulf War, Jay was sent to a Naval base on the Philippine Islands. As “luck” would have it, he experienced the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991. He and along with others participated in the search and rescue efforts, and then in the recovery.  From there he went on to Guam, and then to Alaska.

In Alaska he found solace in the rugged landscape of the Aleutian Islands where the base was once located.  Now fully entrenched in his military career as a Meteorologist for the aviation crews, he felt he’d found his true calling.

In October 1993, all that changed when his sister, Marcy (at 17 years of age) was involved in a serious single car accident where she sustained major brain injury, and was in a coma near death.  For this reason, he left behind his blossoming military career and went home to help his family and to be there for his sister.

Between 1995 and 1999, he came close several times to re-enlisting in the military (Navy and Army), but certain life events always interceded.

In June of 1999, we reunited, and then in September, we were married.

I encouraged him to return to the military; but he felt that I would not be happy living a military life. So, he decided against it.

Marcy survived, but has permanent brain damage, and must live in a group home setting.

I’ve always regretted not pushing him to go back to the military as he has never truly re-acclimated to the civilian life. He was also a different man than I knew when we were freshmen in college.

More serious. Cautious

It’s no wonder though given what he’s gone through.

Also given his family background, he was always considered by certain family members (as well as old high school and college mates) as the “loser” who would never amount to anything.

Instead of allowing this and all the past dark experiences break him, he fought back.

One of the things he did was to go back to the same college where we first met, and finished what he began in 1989.  He graduated with double degrees in Psychology and Therapeutic Recreation with a GPA over 3.0 in December 1998.

He worked in the Therapeutic Rec field the first years we were married, but being a relatively young field that no one took seriously, he decided to get out of it.  After working odd jobs for a few years, he went in to the Banking industry which he hated (Corporation ideology).  From there, he was a middle school teacher teaching all things Science which he absolutely enjoyed in the beginning.  Then everything became so bureaucratic where the teachers ended up spending more time working paper works than actual teaching, plus the salary went no where, so he opted to get out.

Jay tried working at a credit union for over one year before being laid off due to the recession.

Enough was enough, he said.  He decided to go back to college, and earned another double degree in Bio-pharmaceutical and Environmental Science Technology, and graduated with high honors in 2014.

This guy never ceased to amaze me.

Everything he tried, he’d master it, and then excel.  It doesn’t matter how much he struggled, he just never gave up.  He’d had this “prove them all wrong” mentality that blows me away.  I so admired his spirit, and tenacity, and secretly wished I could be the same way.

I mean, this guy basically came from nothing, and became a someone.

He’s my inspiration to never giving up on myself.  The reason why I decided to keep trying no matter what obstacle stands in my way.

So, here we are, living up in North Dakota, on a small farmstead in a rural community full of great people.  Jay now working in the USDA, but is getting ready to make a major move to an entirely new direction that excites the heck out of me, in a direction that pulls all his past life, work, college and military experiences together in to one package.

Life works in mysterious ways.  Never count yourself out.

 

 

 

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#IWSG: The Ultimate Writing Goals

Click on the image to access this group’s official page

 

This month’s question: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

 

Ultimately, like many other writers, I’d love to have a book published. But, fearing that I’d be penalized by Social Security (am on disability benefits for my progressive vision loss-called Usher Syndrome) I can’t earn very much so I’ve tabled that…for now.  In the meantime, I write poetry and short (as well as flash) fiction of which some are published in various zines.

Another one of my goals is to learn the playwriting craft, and attempt an one-act play.  I already have a title, just need to write it.  I then would love to see it performed through a local Council for the Arts performance group. Having moved to North Dakota back in 2015, I haven’t made too many friends yet; I figure what better way to get to know people in the community than through the local arts.

I don’t think my writing goals have changed much over the years (started writing seriously in 2007) since they usually involve being published in some capacity which I have done with several of my short works.

 

What about you?  What are some of your biggest goals that you would like to fulfill?

 

 

Monday Memoir: Searching For Happiness

 

After Aaron’s death, I pretty much became a hermit, retreating to my tiny, one-bedroom apartment for the next three years. I slowly withdrew from his family as their daily pain in losing a son and a brother was too painful to witness. The only thing I accomplished during this period was graduate with a B.S. in Physical Education which, as I’ve said earlier, I had no intentions of using.

 

I spent my days watching romance-comedy movies, and cried.  I didn’t give up on my running or biking though.  I bought a mountain bike and rode that all around the town.  Other times I’d ride eight miles to the nearby walking/running trail and ran three miles, and then bike back home.  Exercise was pretty much my only outlet.

At least, it was something.

By the end of the three years, I decided that I had enough of being alone.  I felt ready to return to the “world.”  I’d been living in an apartment complex for the elderly where they accepted me because of my disabilities, charging me only a small percentage of what I received in my monthly social security benefits.  But at the age of 27, I felt that I still had enough of my vision remaining to go back to work, and not rely solely on them.

So, I took a big leap of faith and moved out, and into a regular apartment in the nearby city of Ithaca.  I got two part-time jobs; one as a clerk at a video rental store, and the other as a fitness trainer at the local YMCA.  I struggled financially, but the bills still got paid and I had some food in the pantries.  I slowly weaned myself off of social security.  I regained my independence as I now was in a place where I could either take a bus or walk to pretty much anyplace I needed.

For the first time in a long time,  I felt content.  Happiness still eluded me though.  I still had the gaping hole in my heart, and my chest would ache so, especially at nights as I lied in my bed.  I couldn’t escape the loneliness.  I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was missing something.

Monday Memoir : The Darkness Continues…

 

Okay, I was partially deaf and going blind.  I’d given up on my athletic dreams.  I hadn’t written in years so why start now.  Life dealt me the bad deal.  How could it get worse than this?

The worse was yet to come.

I was declared “legally blind” by Social Security and began to receive disability benefits.  I did continue to work towards my P.E. degree even though I really had no intentions of using it.

Then, I met Aaron and fell in love.  We were married within a year after our first meeting (through a church’s function).  We had so many things in common.  We loved rock n’ roll especially the 80’s rock and early 90’s alternative music.  We both loved sports.  He was a soccer fanatic.  He not only played in various local leagues, he also coached boys’ soccer teams in the town we’d lived.   His dreams were to not only coach kids, he also wanted to be a teacher.  He began college to pursue both.

I like to say I was the good wife.  I can’t.

I was manipulative.  Verbally abusive to him.  Why?

Jealous because he was able to play soccer?  Resentful because he took me away from my family to live with his own?  Bitter because he knew exactly what he wanted to do, and was able to do them?   Envious because he made friends wherever he went and I couldn’t?

Name it, and I felt it.  Then, I punished him.

I became the psycho-bitch that mothers would warn theirs sons against.  And I hated myself for being that way.

I wanted to change.  For him.

But, it was too late.

One cold day in March, Aaron was killed in a car accident.   He was on his way to pick up our pastor to take to the hospital because he didn’t want to take the ambulance.  I decided not to go at the last-minute.  Aaron was going too fast when he lost control of the car, and crashed into a dumpster truck.   The truck struck the passenger door, and because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt…well, you get the idea.

The heartache I felt that day was unlike I had ever felt before.  It was unbearable.  And the guilt…

That night I attempted to take my life by overdosing on certain pills, but something stopped me.

How could I be this selfish?  To take my life after what Aaron’s and my family have just gone through with his sudden death?   I hated myself for the way I’d treated Aaron, but I could not do this to them.

So, I decided to live with the pain and the guilt.

Monday Memoir: The Darkness Begins (Part One)

 

I thought living with a hearing disability would be difficult enough.

I was wrong.

Photo Credit: Pixabay Free Images

By the time I was twenty, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with my life.  So I pursued a degree in Physical Education with the hopes of going on to earn a masters in Exercise Science.  I wanted to work with college and professional athletes.   Being an athlete myself, I competed in cross-country, softball, as well as soccer.  Sports became my passion, and I’d wanted to make it my life.  Around this time I learned (finally) how to drive, and attained my driver’s license.

I was ready for the world.  To pursue my dreams at full speed.

Then, everything changed.

At first to me, it seemed pretty minor.  Getting around in the dark was growing more difficult.  I kept bumping into things (and people).  Stairs became more of a challenge.  Okay, so I needed glasses.  No big deal, right?

Wrong, again.

I went to see an ophthalmologist and was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa; a degenerative retinal disease which could result in complete blindness.

Being devastated was probably an understatement.

The next month my parents took me to Boston to see a RP specialist, Dr. Elliot Berson, at the Eye and Ear Infirmary.  He put me through several intensive tests over the course of two days, and confirmed that I did indeed have Usher’s Syndrome type II which meant that my deteriorating eyesight and hearing loss went together.

Lovely.

My dreams…my career aspirations…

I felt so distraught I gave up on them all.

I did, though, finish college and earned a Bachelor in Physical Education, but that was the extent of it.  I never went on.  Never moved forward.  I allowed my disabilities to destroy my confidence.   I’d withdrew within myself, and allowed everything else to vanish.

Detours

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“The road had detours, stop signs, missed turns, hills and valleys, deep, deep tangled forests, ruts and potholes, icy patches, and spin-outs along the way.” -Jazz Feylynn

 

I notice that the older I get, the more reflective and contemplative I become.

Not necessarily a bad thing; but, it tends to be painful at times.

Regrets.  So many of them.

It’s amazing how one’s past can ruin the future if you dwell on it for too long.

My fear is ending up a bitter old woman like my grandmother.   Her own family (parents) were unfair to her and she allowed that to poison her.  In turn, she lashed out on her own family (husband and children), and ended up alone and miserable in a nursing home.  Her last days were tormentous I’ve been told.

No, I do NOT want to end up like her.  Allowing regrets to poison my heart and soul.  To end up dying all alone when I’m not truly alone.

As a child, you have such dreams and hopes for the future; only to have them tainted or crushed by various circumstances of which many were out of your control.

In life, there are many roads; almost limitless.  Each road you choose to follow takes you through various types of terrains.  And on occasions, you’ll come across a detour that takes you well out-of-the-way.  Some detours bring unexpected joy and amazing experiences; while others only result in pain and heartache.

In the end, it is up to us to choose how we’ll react to these detours.

For many years, between the age of 21 and 44, I chose anger, resentment, and anxiousness.  These served me poorly.  I found no peace in them; just this growing misery that slowly ate away my heart and soul.

I got so tired of feeling negative about everything.  I longed for peace, and calmness.  I desired to use the various experiences in my life to help others.  To let them know that there is more to life than misery.  That there is beauty, and hope.  All that’s required is faith, and never stop believing in dreams.

“Embrace the detours for they are the keys to discovering yourself.” -unknown author

 

The Road of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay Free Images

 

At what point in life should you stop dreaming?  Middle-age?  Or, older perhaps?

Ever seen a person who’s given up? The sight is difficult to take in.

Painfully so.

Me, I gave up on my dreams when I was twenty-one.  Today, twenty-six years later, I’m struggling to reclaim those dreams.

As I study the image above, I find myself wishing that life was as straight a road as this, and that the sun shines constantly.  Unfortunately, that’s not how life works.

The road is winding with death-defying curves as it traverses through steep valleys and dark, treacherous mountains.   There is no map available to help us navigate our way safely; and because of that, many of us never reach our intended destination.

Which sucks.

But…

Life also taught me to expect the unexpected.   That if one door closes on a dream, another one opens.   In other words, dreams never die…they just change their shapes.  We just need to learn how to recognize them.

The key?

No matter what life throws at you, never ever give up.

 

 

 

#WritersLife: The Dreamer In the Writer

Photo Credit: Pixabay Free Images

 

As a young child and still today,

I’d stare out a window

and dream

 

Of other realms and ages,

of people and creatures

large, small, but never

inanimate or dull

 

In my mind, they are all

alive and loud

 

Chattering, lots of chattering

which push me to the

edge of insanity

 

I then lose myself

in them as the pen

marks the paper…

 

and the story begins

 

 


 

To see this in video format, click HERE.

My #Publishing Dilemma

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I love writing stories and poetry, and one of my dreams is to be a published author.

However…

I retired from the workforce in January 2015 (five days before my 44th birthday) due to my worsening eyesight (coupled with moderate hearing loss), and now live on Social Security benefits as well as my husband’s salary.

Although I consider myself as a writer, I feel like I’m a faceless woman with no true status or identity of any kind.

Why is that?

I desire to write books and have them traditionally published; but, since I’m on Social Security, I’m not allowed to make any money. So, this puts me in a frustrating dilemma.  How do I go about realizing my dream now?

Writing is NOT a hobby for me.  It’s my passion and my life.  Would not making money off my writing put me in the “hobbyist” realm?  Gosh,  I hope not.

What to do?

I could self-publish but if I put my books on “permafree” would people want to “buy” and read them?  Would my books be considered as “inferior” just because they’re for “free”?

On the other hand, being in this predicament is somewhat liberating as I find I have more range to do things differently than many authors.  So perhaps this really isn’t such a terrible thing after all.

Hmm…

The Power Of One’s Imagination

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I’ve met countless writers and creatives from various artistic backgrounds who hailed how one’s imagination and dreams have enabled them to heal from painful and traumatic experiences.

Can a mind be that powerful?

Personally, my answer to this is Yes!

With the number of violent incidents increasing in our nation, I believe that having art of all kinds (music, drama, writing, etc.) included in all schools and colleges.  To go one step further, we should also have Art Therapy in schools.

With everything being so structured these day (structured play-if any, structured classes, structured lunchtimes, video games are also structured, and on and on), for a kid to utilize his own imagination to create play, a new game, an imaginary place or person, is becoming a lost and untapped ability.  An ability that will become crucial at various events of one’s life.  The ability to transfer oneself out of a stressful circumstance and into a place of magic, safety and love.  Even if only for the briefest of moment this will allow one to reset the mind (and emotions) and be better equipped to deal with the current situation.

Meditation. Strumming on a guitar. Singing.  Journaling.  Doodling or sketching.

Children and adults who’ve been abused, or had a traumatic experience tend to heal better through Art Therapy. There’s also Poetry Therapy.  Music Therapy. Journal Therapy.  The list could go on. These types of therapy enable one to express the pain and abuse in other ways where words may have failed.

For me, journaling and writing poetry have been cathartic and healing as I worked through the various losses I’ve experienced.  Without them, I don’t think I’d feel as emotionally and mentally whole as I do today.

What about you?  Have any of these above helped you through a challenging time?