What I’ve Learned After Ten Years of Marriage…

…Or my tips for success.

Aren't we adorable?

Aren’t we adorable?

This week Van and I celebrated ten years of marriage, the accomplishment being even more sweet because the week was an absolutely insane carnival of mishaps, chaos, and confusion, and the fact that we both survived was an unprecedented miracle. We’ve all had weeks like this: a kind of demented Butterfly Effect where one fucked up event creates opportunity for another, until you find yourself hitting new lows.  “Inconspicuously” changing your clothes in your car because you no longer have time to practice appropriate hygiene in between all the obligations you’ve signed on for.  Being mean to the children of people who you barely know (in my defense, the little bastard was trying to take my last potato chip).  Questioning the inner workings of the universe while cleaning elephantine piles of dog shit off the living room carpet.  This was my week.

On Monday evening after a lovely turkey dinner, Van had some kind of mysterious reaction to something.  I suspected the eggnog immediately because eggnog is a disgusting mixture of two things that I cannot digest properly: milk and raw eggs.  Even though he was clearly having a reaction to something, he continued to drink the eggnog until the rash that started on his face had spread to his chest, arms, and back.  At that point he wanted to go to the hospital.  My next door neighbor, an absolute angel, told me to leave the kids with her overnight.  We laughed a little on the drive to the Emergency Room “Ha ha!  What a funny way to spend our tenth anniversary!”  We weren’t terribly concerned about the reaction, and our anniversary wasn’t actually until the Tuesday, so there would be plenty of time to get the rash cleared up and be on our way for some merrymaking.

Once he got checked into the ER, the full effects of Van’s decision to seek medical attention set in.  He started complaining that he didn’t want to be there because it might take several hours.   “Well what did you expect?”  I asked.  “If it’s an allergic reaction, we need to get it treated.”  When the triage nurse saw us, Van went all out, claiming that I had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions, and when he was asked about mental problems he stated, “You should probably ask my wife; she will give you a better answer.”  She looked at me with something like sympathy and I said “Just check the mental problems box, but NOT the sexual assault box.”  I kind of wanted to slap him but reminded myself why we were there.  We were ushered back to the waiting room, where one T.V. was blaring Fox News and the other was blaring Disney Junior.  Oh good, the inner circle of hell.  Luckily,  I had brought along my copy of Les Miserables so at least I had something to do.  Van had nothing to keep himself occupied, so he wandered around talking to the young mothers with tiny babies.  I’m sure the last thing they wanted was a bright red lobster man looming over their babies, asking questions about eating habits.

Before long, we were taken to an exam room.  I wondered if it had something to do with my husband complaining a swelling feeling his throat, but I didn’t know if he was just saying that to get through the exam and treatment process faster, or if he really was having trouble breathing.  Either way, we were in and there was no backing out. The room was small, and I had nowhere to sit except for an uncomfortable molded plastic chair shoved up against a scary garbage can used by everyone who came into the room.  The entire process took around five hours, with various medical staff coming in to perform diagnostics. Van remained in character, harassing everyone within ten feet of his bed.  He wasn’t going down without a fight, anyhow.  The doctor determined that he absolutely needed an Epi Pen injection with a steroid chaser, and some monitoring afterward.  I was tempted to ask if I could do the honors and re-enact the Pulp Fiction scene where Uma gets the adrenaline shot in the heart, but held my tongue because Van was being obnoxious enough for the two of us and I didn’t need to start doing or saying anything to keep us there longer.

The shot went, disappointingly, into his arm, and within a few minutes, his face looked clearer and he was actually dozing off.  Go figure!  While I sat in the uncomfortable chair, my legs and ass going numb, Van snored very loudly for about two hours.  Towards the end I passed out across the garbage can (gross) which is probably why I am sick with a mystery virus now.  When the doctor came back to check his vitals, Van said that he could breathe much better, which convinced us both that coming to the ER was the right decision.  We were told to never second guess an allergic reaction, since it’s difficult to know if and when it could cause the throat or tongue to swell.

So you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with marriage, right?  Van and I both woke up right after midnight on Tuesday.  I smiled at him across the room and said “Hey, it’s our anniversary!  We made it!”  Van smiled and asked, “Do you want your present?”  I looked at him, a bit bewildered, and said, “Well I kind of feel like I deserve one after what you just put me through.”  Van said, I’ve got your present right here; do you want it or not?”  So I said okay, yeah, I wanted it.  And do you know what he did?  He stuck his tongue out at me!  So I flipped him off.  But then he pulled a little ring box out of his pocket, and popped it open to reveal a gorgeous Black Hills Gold ring.  I was more than just a little surprised.  Van had that ring in his pocket, and at some point during the jackassery he thought to himself “Hey, I can give Georgeann a ring right here in the Emergency Room!”

This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.

This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.

So, this event set the stage for one of the weirdest weeks I can remember.  Van is okay.  We never found out what he is actually allergic to (which makes life even more mysterious and exciting).  Despite the strange week and all the challenges, we have been very close as a couple, which has led me to want to share my advice to couples who don’t yet know what ten years of marriage looks like, as well as to those lucky ones who do.

1.  First of all, it takes work.  Van and I didn’t get to this point without romantically pursuing each other constantly, appreciating each other’s qualities, and maintaining a special friendship.  Anyone who says marriage is easy is full of shit.

2.  Next, be patient with your partner.  So many times at the ER, I had to draw on my reserves of patience, and I am glad I did (I got a ring out of it!).  I didn’t feel great that night, and had been looking forward to a bubble bath and an early bed time.  No such luck, but that is part of a relationship.  We often have to put our needs on hold and be patient because our partner might need our understanding, and that becomes the priority at the moment.  It all evens out, so don’t keep score.

3. Don’t be afraid to have fun.  Van and I had to take a hard look at our resources, goals, and limitations this week, and reframe the definition of “fun” because it turns out that the fancy anniversary dinner we had planned for this weekend isn’t quite so practical for us right now.  We are still exhausted from Monday’s trip to the ER.  And cleaning up dog poop off the carpet on Tuesday.  And decorating for an office Christmas party on Wednesday.  And attending said Christmas party on Thursday…and, well, you get the picture.  What is more practical and within our capabilities right now is a pizza and movie night at the house. One of the best gifts I could give my husband this year was this statement: “I don’t need to have fancy steak dinners or big gifts as proof that we love each other.  I just want more time with you, and I will never outgrow that selfish desire.”  This was actually before he gave me the ring, so try not to find hypocrisy in this.  A solid relationship requires an investment of time, not money, and fun doesn’t have to be expensive!

4.  Say please, thank you, and I love you.  A lot!  Couples forget to say these phrases.  I feel spoiled because I have a husband who says these things many times a day, and on top of this, he does little helpful things for me, which makes me even more eager to reciprocate.  Let me tell you, nothing made me feel better than waking up this morning to a clean kitchen with loaded dishwasher full of clean and dry dishes, and neatly lined up CLEAN pots and pans, ready for cooking!  It allowed me to sit and write this post.  So when he wakes up, I will be in such a good mood and feel like helping him with a project.  Provided the dog doesn’t poop on the floor or the kids don’t flood the downstairs bathroom…

5.  Learn how to communicate.  This really ties into to my first piece of advice.  Van and I went through a long spell where we really weren’t communicating but we didn’t realize it.   I tend to use a passive aggressive tone, and he got to the point where it was just easier to tune me out.  So it took a lot of courage for us both to decide to develop better communication skills.  It has worked wonders for our relationship in just a few months.

6. Spend time together, but be individuals.  Van and I like to do things together.  We hunt, work in our garden together and sometimes we cook together.  We also have individual hobbies that allow us to have circles of friends who offer us support and advice to bring back to the relationship.

7. Last, because I like the number 7, but also because this is a very important tip, take care of yourself.  If you don’t practice good self maintenance, how are you going to take care of your partner and family?  This includes being your own best friend, caring for your needs and learning how to make yourself a consistent priority so that you feel taken care of.  Even if it means locking yourself in your bathroom so you can take a bubble bath without being interrupted by the entire neighborhood (which is my problem when I want to use the bathroom), it’s worth the effort to find time for yourself each day.  Doing so will create more energy for you to be open and loving toward your partner.

The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.

The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.

Last night we had a little dinner and some friends came over.  We cracked open a bottle of wine that was part of a case given to us ten years ago when we got married.  The first bottles were consumed years ago, with the last one drunk at our five year anniversary — and it was still good then.  We were not sure how the wine would taste last night, and when we took a sip we discovered that another five years of Army moves, bad storage choices, and general abuse had turned it into weird funky grape juice.  We laughed about it.  After our guests left Van hugged me and said “We outlasted the wine!  Should we keep the bottle as a souvenir?”  I said “Yes, let’s.”  Van gave me a kiss and said “You know, we still have one bottle of that stuff left.  We need to keep it and open it in ten more years.”  I giggled “It’s a date!”

~ G

Ten Years a Veteran

Last week was special for my husband and for me.  To us, Veteran’s Day is as festive as Christmas, Easter, our wedding anniversary, and various family members’ birthdays.  I have now been a veteran for ten years, a little longer than I’ve been married, making this a milestone year in many ways.  I’ve always been reluctant to bask in the adoration of well wishers on Veteran’s Day, but my husband loves free lunches, so he was impatient to get me out of the house.

“Are you ready to go?”  he shouted into the bathroom while I was still shampooing my hair in the shower.

“Absolutely.” I yelled back.   “I think I’ll just go like this.  Naked and sopping wet.”

“Okay, I’m in the truck then.”

We were going to hike in a beautiful state park, eat a picnic lunch, and talk about sentimental things (my idea), but the weather intervened.  The temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and a hike no longer sounded remotely fun.  Van suggested we get as many freebies as possible and take advantage of the Veteran’s Day sales with some early Christmas shopping.  It turned out to be a fantastic day, and tagging along with him, doing everything that made him happy, made me happy.

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project.  I retain no rights.

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project, 2014. I retain no rights.

I haven’t always been able to relate to my veteran status.    When I returned from deployment in 2004, I just wanted to scrub everything about the Army off of me and be a civilian again.  I bought girly clothes, high heels, and lots of new makeup.  I dated a couple guys, one who was also a veteran and actually remembered seeing me working in the chow hall at my camp in Baghdad!  I got a job as a receptionist and shopped at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night when I was really bored.  I didn’t spend much time thinking or talking about my deployment experience.

Five years later, it was time to celebrate five years of marriage to a soldier, and the Army life had become a steady reality.  I’d traded in camouflage and combat boots for formal ball gowns and impossibly tiny handbags that nothing fits inside.  Now here I am again, another five years later.  I wear fewer dresses and more denim.  People tend identify me as an Army spouse rather than a veteran, and that is okay because that is my more active role.  The old guys at the VFW will need a bit more time to process that I earned my veteran status before my husband did, but eventually they will catch on.  I do talk about my service more, but it still isn’t a comfortable topic.  It’s taken time, but I can accept praise, even though, as my sister claims, I am still terribly humble.

My son, the original reason why I went to Iraq: a better future for him.

My son, the original reason why I went to Iraq: a better future for him.

I’ve also become accustomed to the reality that not everyone loves a veteran.  This Veteran’s Day, a man gained national attention after posting a harsh anti veteran statement on his Facebook page.  The rant went viral and incited angry responses, phone calls, and even death threats. It was sad to see, on a day when we veterans should be celebrating our roll as protectors and peacekeepers, so many were caught up in one person’s ignorant outburst.  It’s no fun to read something nasty pointed in one’s general direction, but receiving insults simply for ‘being something’ should never deter us from continuing to be good people, and veterans are the best.   I hope that this man, and others who deeply dislike veterans, could see through our eyes for one day, and look at the world from a warrior’s perspective.

Sharing MREs with a breathtaking view  in one of Saddam's palaces.

Sharing MREs above a breathtaking view in one of Saddam’s palaces.

Although it has been difficult to feel as though I deserve the title ‘veteran’, after ten years I am now proud and grateful to count myself among the courageous and loyal.   If I hadn’t joined the National Guard and deployed to a combat zone, I might not have learned the most important lessons for life. First of all, people in a war zone take care of others before taking care of themselves.  I don’t see that happen very often in the civilian world, but I see it all the time among veterans and military families.  It’s called Selfless Service, and it is one of the Army Values.  While deployed, I also witnessed many acts of kindness and courage that resulted in lives being saved.  Some of these incidents involved soldiers saving the lives of Iraqis, with no forethought to their own personal safety or profit.

In the combat zone, generosity was another lesson learned.  Every day I witnessed soldiers showing generosity to each other and to Iraqi children, often giving away their only blanket or last ration of food or water without complaint.  No questions were asked, but if a need was identified, it was filled immediately.  Soldiers also cultivated deeply loyal friendships with each other, and would do anything to support and uplift their friends.  Ask any veteran if he or she has a lifelong friend from war time, and odds are that veteran will have a very interesting story to tell.  Personal sacrifices every day become commonplace habits for soldiers who work closely together, and selfishness fails to exist.  But perhaps those who go to war are the only people who really understand this system of camaraderie.

A little girl who tugged at my heartstrings, and continues to do so.

A little girl who tugged at my heartstrings, and continues to do so.

Connections also form between soldiers and civilians in occupied regions, even if this is not popularized or publicized.   I was told a story by a weary young soldier who tried everything to save an Iraqi girl suffocating from an asthma attack.  Seeing that he was a medic, the girl’s father thrust her into the soldier’s arms and begged for help.   Unfortunately, the unit had no medicine for asthma, and the girl perished as the soldier held her.  Another young soldier single handedly arranged a massive humanitarian mission to donate school supplies to refurbished Iraqi primary schools in the Baghdad area.  Her mission was so successful it enabled Iraqi children to return to school with the kinds of supplies American children take for granted.  Another soldier tried to adopt an Iraqi toddler when her parents insisted she take the girl so that at least one of their children would “have a rich and safe life in America.”  The soldier pursued adoption through Army legal channels, but was informed that it would be impossible.  She was too young, too poor, unmarried, and Iraq had no political infrastructure for her to make a legal adoption.  To this day she remains brokenhearted over what she views as her failure.

When I deployed ten years ago, I didn’t realize that people who despise veterans actually exist, or that I would be accused of being some type of soulless, mindless government robot trained to create carnage and desolation.  I want to encourage other veterans to remember this: Your service is not defined by what someone thinks of you, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.   I didn’t serve in the capacity or manner that anyone else can imagine, and  my character isn’t defined by my service or by a stranger’s opinion of me.  I endeavored to serve mostly as a humanitarian, holding my hand out to the downtrodden.  And I continue to do so.  That is the role that I believe every veteran is responsible to uphold throughout life.

The last time I kind of looked bad ass.

The last time I kind of looked bad ass.

One last story, told to me recently by my husband.  This is the kind of behavior demonstrated all the time by soldiers and veterans in my life (and after being around such positive energy, why take any haters seriously?).  A soldier new to my husband’s unit was in a minor auto accident and needed medical attention.  Another soldier saw the accident and could have just driven away in the dark; instead she reported the accident and insisted on driving the injured soldier to the hospital.  She then sat with the soldier until my husband arrived.  She had no obligation to do so, but she put the needs of a fallen teammate first, sacrificed her time and requirements, and acted in the truest form of kindness by saying “Put some of that burden on me”.

Ten years from now I hope that she looks back at her time in service and feels good, the way I feel good, about being a veteran.

~G

Be Here!

I admit it, I have really let my blogging sit on the back burner.  I have been letting my laptop gather dust, losing my Blog Ideas! notebook under the bed, in the desk, in the car, etc. and generally not caring about my readership stats.  No, I am not severely depressed or on drugs (or both).  I am just really busy genuinely enjoying life, and apparently that does not involve blogging.

Kawthar

The thought occurred to me a couple of days ago that with Veteran’s Day approaching I really should have a thoughtful piece typed up.  You know the piece — something that would induce tears, smiles, or philosophical introspection.  But there will probably be so many of those posted and published on much larger formats, and I am quite an underdog.  And besides, I have way too much going on that I am genuinely enjoying right now.  I can always work on my introspective pieces later…

Three BuddiesSo what do I want to write about for Veteran’s Day; what do I really want to say?  What important message do I want to convey to others?  Simply this: live.  Live today, don’t wast time.  Yesterday is over, tomorrow might not come.  Be in the moment, be a friend.  Reach out to those who are hurting, who need a caring ear that will listen, a shoulder to cry on.  We outgrow so many things in a lifetime, but let’s never outgrow kindness.

The two Iraqi friends pictured in this post were killed in 2005 by a terrorist RPG shot into the car they were riding in while they were on their way to work with Coalition Forces.  I miss them, but I am thankful to have had time with them.  The most important lesson they taught me, that I can pass on to you, is to really live every day.  They lived in a world that was literally falling to pieces around them, and do you know what they did each day?  They laughed, told stories, shared food, played pranks, and they squeezed the life out of each moment and formed meaningful relationships because they hadn’t outgrown basic human kindness.  They were truly alive every single day, and for me, they always will be whenever I see flowers blooming in Spring and leaves changing color in Autumn.   Do not let today pass by without being present and accounted for!

Happy and Blessed Veterans Day

~G

So…Turns Out My Spirit Animal is a Witch

Lately my priorities have involved self reflection and goal setting.  And just in time for Halloween, I discovered that the path to my good mental health meant allowing my inner bitch to have some breathing room.  She is part of me after all!

Are you sure my spirit animal is a witch?

Are you absolutely sure my spirit animal is a witch?

I’m just a Wicked Witch trying to get by as a Dorothy in this Land of Oz.  Of course I want to be nice, and people are always telling me that I’m too nice — ugh, typical Dorothy behavior.  But it’s not healthy to suppress my inner bitch when she’s trying to look out for my best interests.  The truth is, I have a terrible time saying no.  It isn’t that I can’t ever say no; after I do manage to say no once in a while, I make a concerted effort to feel guilty for as long as possible.  I have also spent much of my adult life making important decisions based on the input of others who feel compelled to tell me what I should do (like they know anything).  I tell you, that makes it quite difficult for a gal’s agenda to progress, whether it’s raising a family or training an army of vicious flying monkeys (practically the same thing, by the way).

I have lost the ability over time to listen to my own voice and make decisions with a clear conscience.  Guilty feelings about saying no to people who have certain expectations only feeds anxiety and self doubt.  In order to get true respect from the world, I must first respect and love myself, delightful flaws and all.  This is where being a bit of a witch really pays off!  I decided that the best way to amend my problems is to reconnect with my inner bitch and allow her some breathing room.   Since she is part of who I am, perhaps she could teach me how to reclaim my true identity and learn to listen to that identity with a clear mind.  I did have to be careful when unleashing this powerful force.  Honestly identifying my feelings and personal goals rather than fixating on distractions made me feel courageous and motivated.   There is a difference between expressing oneself with emotion and just fighting dirty.  For me, progress isn’t about executing a vengeful agenda to get a higher foothold on the ladder of life.  The inner bitch is simply there to remind me of who I am and who I can be, if I focus on what is really important.

It wasn’t long before my confidence was put to the test.  While attending a harvest festival at the local dairy farm, I ran into a friend from the school where I used to work.  She asked if I would be coming back.  “No,” I said simply, and smiled.  “But we really miss you there!”  The guilt started to creep in, and part of me wanted to make promises to appease her expectations, but I stood my ground.  “I don’t know what to say, other than I’m not planning to come back.”   No longer a Dorothy, I was free of the guilt and broke the cycle of letting other people make my decisions for me – finally.   I would run into more friends and former co-workers from the school throughout the month of October.  It was very nice to see them again, but they did not change my decisions.

For Halloween I followed my daughters’ advice and dressed as a witch.  After my adventure of self discovery, why not?  I was originally going to be Dr. Who (the Matt Smith version) but the girls convinced me to throw on a black dress with some witch-y looking black boots, and my husband helped me find an amazing red hat with feathers and black veil.  I painted my lips ruby red, practiced my witch cackle, then sat on the front steps in the freezing cold for two hours welcoming a steady parade of children dressed in an array of colorful costumes.  The highlight of the evening was a visit from an eight year old Dr. Who (Matt Smith version), and his costume was much better than mine would have been.

I am glad that I finally identified with my inner bitch and understood how she fits into my personality.  I can pretend I am a Dorothy all day, but I AM a Wicked.  Instead of skipping down the yellow brick road with random maniacs who pop out of the hedges, I would rather shutter the windows, light some candles, shove gingerbread men into the oven, and watch extra dark episodes of ‘The X Files’.  And I will continue to consult my inner bitch for purposes of self empowerment, if not for evil (although that can be tempting!).  Without her, I wouldn’t be me.

~G

 

In Search of The Perfect Day

 


I recently celebrated my birthday.  It was a great day.  In kickboxing class I beat the hell out of a punching bag, then I cooked myself a big brunch while watching ‘The X Files’ on Netflix.  I sat on my deck and burned a sage smudge to clear my head, and then I took a nap.  When my children and husband came home, they took me out for dinner, and I ended my day cuddled up on the couch with my husband, eating chocolate, watching ‘Dutch’ and drinking wine.  A great birthday.  Last year, my birthday was overshadowed by the government shutdown and news of the South Dakota blizzard that killed thousands of cattle near my hometown.   I don’t recall truly celebrating.  This year I treated myself to as much fun as possible.  I could always save the hum-drum for the day after my birthday.

I am reading a self-help book right now — something I never imagined doing.  In the book there is a passage about a man hung up on the idea of reliving his “perfect” day.  He couldn’t imagine living an imperfect life day after day, having experienced one day of absolute flawlessness.  He wanted that perfection every day, and it angered him that such an ideal could not be achieved to his satisfaction. When reading that excerpt, it struck me that I have been having the same problem.

This summer I spent not one perfect day, but one entire fantastic week in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  After running wild through the hills literally searching for gold, going back to life as a housewife seemed pointless.  The moment I set foot into my house in Kansas, I wanted to turn around, jump in my car, and drive immediately back to South Dakota!  I was even tempted to formulate wild excuses in my head as to why I had to go back for an extra week, or month.  Sound a tad neurotic?  Maybe so, but I knew what lay ahead.  Boring menu planning, unending laundry, pushing the vacuum cleaner back and forth, and pacing in my tiny yard, staring at nothing but cookie cutter rooftops instead of towering spruce covered hills.  I wanted to relive my perfect days, but that would not be possible in Kansas.

Last night, my husband and I had a profound conversation.  He is typically my more insightful half, but last night my self-help book and I came to the rescue.  Frustrated with a negative situation at work, he described a rosier future scenario that he wants for our family.  I recognized that like me, he is also suffering from the desire to live perpetually perfect days.  After concluding a successful term as a company commander, he is now in limbo, and nothing else he accomplishes seems as gratifying.  I told him that we were both at the same junction in our life together, but for different reasons.  He had come out of a very successful point in his career and was realizing that for a while, his work would not be as perfect as he expected.  I was trying to decide what to make of my life, and how I could guide my family as a matriarchal character.

” There is no such thing as a perfect day, but we like to think so, don’t we?  We are at a point where we can accept that any good day is what we make of it.  We can take control of some of the aspects of every day, even if we can’t make every day perfect.  And, if we’re genuinely unhappy with the way things are, then we can make changes for the better.  I hope that makes sense, I am kind of tired.”

“That does make sense, and it’s helping me feel a lot better!” my husband smiled at me.

“Really? Wow, I am so glad!  I know that we are both going through the same things right now, which is kind of nice in a way, because I totally understand how you feel.  And I know that you understand why I want to run away to South Dakota.”  I smiled and patted my husband’s knee.

“Absolutely, I want to run away to South Dakota.” he stood up and stretched.

“Well, as long as you don’t run away to South Dakota without me!”

“I have to pee really bad.” And that was the end of our deep conversation.

There is an episode of ‘Parks and Recreation’ called Pawnee Rangers in which Donna, Tom, and Ben enjoy something called a Treat Yo Self Day.  The first time I watched this episode, I remember thinking that it was cute, but not terribly realistic.  The scene begins with Tom coming into the office and presenting cupcakes spelling out “Treat Yo Self” to Donna, thus prompting a celebratory atmosphere and a massive shopping spree.  There are no restrictions, the characters purchase anything and everything that they want after embarking on a luxurious spa visit.  While not exactly financially feasible in that context, the idea of having a Treat Yo Self Day is quite brilliant when considering mental health.  I like the concept of applying a Treat Yo Self mentality to each day rather than expecting perfection.  A Treat Yo Self mentality is forgiving and generous; perfection is neither of these.  Treats don’t have to be substantial and expensive either.  Sitting with a loved one and having a meaningful conversation, investing in a kickboxing class because it’s always been a personal goal, drinking a favorite cup of tea every morning, or just taking a walk to the mailbox can feel like a treat after you embrace the imperfections that make your life unique and special.   And now, I must treat myself to sleep, and submit an imperfect post to the online community.  And yes, I am happy.

~ G

 

 

Taking The Journey Home

Me a long time ago, before being an adult really got to me!

A long time ago, before being an adult really got to me!

This post marks one year of blogging, and this is my one hundredth post!  The last twelve months have been turbulent, so I am grateful to still be here, writing. Life is a journey, but until recently, I didn’t realize that so often the journey is about renewal and rediscovery.  Yesterday was my birthday, a significant milestone in life, and I feel as though I am once again ready to begin a new chapter.  Last October, when I began blogging, I believed that I had it all figured out.  Feeling fine, I had my life organized, with everything in its place, and a nifty master plan for the future.  I was beginning to think I had discovered the secret to that elusive Wonder Woman Syndrome.

This spring, a bizarre illness knocked me down, hard.  The illness seemed to come out of nowhere, and didn’t make any sense, and to make matters worse, I had a very difficult time getting the medical care that I needed for swift recovery.  Without an official diagnoses or even satisfactory answers, I did what any tenacious and frustrated housewife would do: I tried a vigorous detox cleanse and blogged about my symptoms.  All summer I attempted to purge my body of toxins and negativity, but by autumn, I just felt angry, vulnerable, and exhausted.  I was grieving over something that had been lost, and though I didn’t know what it was, I really wanted it back.

When my children went back to school, I did not miss returning as an employee, nor did I regret my decision to stay home and focus on my health.  I did, however, feel a little stab of guilt for failing to hack it in the “real” world.  I worried about being seen as unreliable, and I was reluctant to make plans lest I’d have to cancel due to illness.  This continued to feed the guilt cycle.  After my husband and I quarreled about how difficult it was for us to attend social gatherings, I began to see how my illness affected him.  He was tired, he wanted things to be better, just like me.  So now a great question loomed in my mind.  Would I spend the rest of my life in a cage , or finally break free?

Three weeks before my birthday, I visited with a medical professional about my concerns.  All my recent test results were normal.  On paper, I’mm a perfectly healthy person.   In her opinion, my symptoms are in my head; I simply have anxiety.  “You bitch,” I wanted to snarl at her, but instead I agreed to explore her theory.   After all, I was the one who had requested a referral to a counselor at the beginning of the appointment.   I did make one statement in my defense.  ” I got sick this spring but couldn’t get the care I needed, so of course I feel anxious! No one ran any tests on me seven months ago, when I asked for help.  I don’t want actual physical symptoms overlooked just because I have anxiety!”  We agreed to meet each other halfway; she promised to check into my symptoms  for legitimacy, and I took the first step in reclaiming what I had lost.

The first step in my journey began with kickboxing.  A friend talked me into it.  “I’m probably not in adequate shape to even try this,” I balked, but she insisted.  “You’ll be fine.  The class isn’t that tough, and it’s fun!”  I puked and nearly passed out halfway through my first class.  But my friend was right.  It was fun, and I made an extremely important decision that day.  I must take better care of myself, because I am worth it.  Kickboxing is more than just an incredibly addictive treat — it has reminded me that I deserve to grow and develop.  I have spent most of my life encouraging others, and now it is time to encourage myself.  I deserve to invest in myself as much as I have invested in the lives of those around me.

Me now.  Still adorable!

Me now. Still adorable!

We stay at home parents often discount our capabilities , perhaps believing that since we are not breadwinners, we have less intrinsic worth to offer our families through support and service.  When we minimize ourselves and put our needs on the back burner, we suffer, and then the family suffers.   I have been a wife and mother for one decade.   I got married at the age of 23, just months after returning from a long deployment to the Middle East.  Barely an adult myself, I hardly knew what I wanted out of life when I married a career soldier and became a young Army spouse.  I threw myself completely into my family, doing and being everything for them.  I was trying to be Wonder Woman, never quite living up to the standards I set for myself.  That my friends, is the recipe for perpetual frustration.

Once I started to treat myself with the kindness that I deserve, I began to also give myself room to grow.  I also began to forgive myself of my faults and understand that I am not the sum of my thoughts or limitations.  It is no coincidence to me that this transformation has happened around the time of my birthday.  Every new chapter of life is traveled on a new trail.  While reflecting upon renewed life on the day of my birth, I had to ask myself what is really important.  I may never know why or how I got sick, or the real source of my illness.  I may even continue to battle illness for my entire life.  Perhaps that is but a small detail of my bigger journey.  Why waste any more time on fear and anxiety when life is out there to be lived?  The only thing that matters is today, and what I want to do about making myself better — more kind, compassionate, loving, and adventurous — than the person I was yesterday.

After spending my entire life putting the needs of others ahead of mine, I essentially have no idea who I am.  I have been angry because I miss being who I once was.  Although I really can’t go back in time, I’ve been mourning the loss of a person who hasn’t existed in years.  It is time to break out of the brittle old cage and make the journey home, to reclaim my identity and rediscover who I am by simply living my life.  Yesterday I went to the school to pick up my daughters, and one of my favorite students recognized me.  I hadn’t seen her since spring.  She has a disability that makes her speech difficult to understand, but when she stepped forward, she spoke very clearly, asking where I had been, what was going on with my hair, when would she see me again?  And she hugged me tight, three times.  I could see that I was not the only one who had given myself room to grow, and it felt very satisfying.

~G

 

 

Summer Highlights

For our anniversary, my husband gave me a very nice digital camera.  I put it to good use this summer during my travels.  It is so enjoyable to look back through photos and remember special moments.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Taking photos at Saddle Pass in the South Dakota Badlands.

Photographing scenery at Saddle Pass in the South Dakota Badlands.

A gorgeous metal sculpture at the Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

A gorgeous metal sculpture  of a pierced hand with butterfly resting on the finger; Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, SD.

 

Goldfish lined up along the road at the Sculpture Park.

Goldfish lined up along the road at the Sculpture Park.

 

My son enjoying a moment on a pile of stones left over from mining attempts.

My son enjoying a snack on a pile of stones at a family gold claim.

 

The Al's Oasis sign at Oacoma, with the legendary buffalo mascot.

The famous Al’s Oasis sign at Oacoma, South Dakota.

 

Becoming acquainted with The Ballerina at Porter Sculpture Park.

Becoming acquainted with The Ballerina at Porter Sculpture Park.

 

Choosing the perfect steed for a carousel ride.

Choosing the perfect steed for a carousel ride is very important.

 

Our first apple tree, which gave us five incredible apples this summer!

Our first apple tree gave us five incredible tasting apples this summer!

 

My daughter watching festivities on the Fourth of July.

Watching festivities at the Junction City Fourth of July carnival.

 

Fishing with Daddy in Texas.

Fishing with Daddy for perch on Horseshoe Bay in Marble Falls, Texas.

 

Getting friendly with a skeleton at Porter Sculpture Park.

My sister getting friendly with a skeleton at Porter Sculpture Park.

 

At the Chipmunk Village.

Relaxing at the Chipmunk Village on the family gold claim.

 

My son, feeling on top of the world.

My son, feeling on top of the world.

 

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

My mother smiling and enjoying an afternoon on the gold claim.

The breathtaking view at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The breathtaking view at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

 

A photo of Ross the Dog, taken by my daughter on her digital camera.

A fantastic photo of Ross the Dog, taken by my daughter on her digital camera.

 

A raggedy sunflower in my backyard, turned toward the morning sunlight.

A raggedy sunflower in my backyard, turned toward the morning sunlight.

I hope that you all had a memorable summer, and that your autumn is crisp and refreshing!

~G