“Dig up her bones but leave the soul alone” ~ Ms Mr

Friday was a bad day. I held it together long enough to get through work but as soon as I entered the refuge of my home, I let the heavy mask slip away. Like smelling the ozone before a storm, I knew this one would be bad when it hit. What to do? A spell. To alter the course of the storm.
Shutting the door to my bedroom, I gently unfolded the purple cloth that lay across a wooden altar. I set beside me the Tanakh and began sifting through the chest of supplies. I was out of practice and needed to reference my books. Not that I have ever reached that point in my rituals where I knew instinctively what to do. I may never be a metaphysical chef- throwing together the perfect blend of herbs and oils to perfectly address my intention. Scanning the books, what was I looking for? What did I need most right now? Relief. Peace. Sleep! Happiness would be nice but a bit too far of a stretch, I think. The goals needed to be realistic. A cake of Peace frosted with Positivity and Love might be do-able.
I began with a base of rosewater. Then added a heavy dose of Lavender along with drops of Frankincense and liberal dashes of cumin and sweetgrass; finished off with a piece of rose quartz. Setting those to flame, I then anointed three candles: White for protection (always a white candle!), then a black to absorb the negative energy. Finally a red candle for him. I wrote his name on a piece of paper along with a simple prayer asking for his protection and blessings. I lit them in that order, murmuring prayers. I sometimes joke during the Lords Prayer at the part “and give us our daily bread…but not too much because I’m trying to watch my carb intake”. But this time when I reached “..and forgive me of my sins”, I paused. Then I announced that I will not apologize for loving someone. I am not sorry about that and there is no point in pretending that I am.
As I focused on the prayers and the flames, the tears came at last but they werent full of self-pity and loneliness but a release of love and gratitude. I felt like a balloon slowly leaking despair.
The candles burned down and my spirit lifted. My heart was lighter and I was drained. Immediately I crawled into bed and gave thanks again and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. I slept through the night for the first time since my return from Afghanistan.

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“But the other woman will always cry herself to sleep. The other woman will never have his love to keep” LdR

I lost an entire weekend to the road. Driving my sister across state to clean out her apartment. It was late Sunday night when we got back. I helped unload the truck then tossed her the keys “You get to take it back”. I spent an hour tidying up the house –I don’t know if feng shui is real but I know I cant relax in a messy home. Lit incense. Attended to the pets. Then it was time for me.
So here I sit, naked on my bed, sipping two fingers of bourbon on the rocks, candles lit, typing.
Know what else is relaxing? Polishing boots. It was a zen-like ritual of water, cotton, wax and fire. I could spend an hour slowing buffing leather into a mirror. I keep hoping uniform standards will shift again and they’ll bring back the old leather boots. Not that I may ever have a reason to polish—or even wear—combat boots again.
Oh but today…I briefly visited my favorite cousin. Everyone warned me that her 3 year old daughter, the princess that I adore, has become quite the terror. Charming in her Disney princess tu-tu dress, I presented her with a vintage rhinestone necklace that I found while antiquing recently. A bit mature of a gift for a 3 year old but it was dainty and so sparkley…she loved it of course. Then half an hour later, she was shrieking and throwing a full blow CAT 5 tantrum. When she kicked her mother, my instinct was to snatch her up, haul her outside and wear out her bottom. Children must never strike a parent and get away with it in my opinion. But she’s not my child. So I sat there silently while my exhausted cousin tried to coax her unruly girl to behave. Meanwhile her 1 year old son happily stuffed mac-n-cheese into his mouth (while dropping most on the floor) and blowing spit bubbles. In another year or two, he may rival his big sister in the Hellion department but for now, he’s just a sweet-natured, joyful baby. I used to joke that ill-behaved children made me thankful that I didn’t have any kids of my own. I don’t make that joke anymore. Go ahead! Give me the shrieking, kicking demon-child. I just want children.
Now the bourbon is gone and it’s well past time to try to sleep. So I will do what I do every night and garrison myself with pillows and pretend they are him…

Unhappy Birthday

I awoke at dawn today. Got up, made coffee in an old, chipped Japanese dragon mug, and sat down at my computer. The Facebook ‘birthday wishes’ were already pages long. Acquaintances come out of the woodwork when they get that reminder and if they take a moment to write on my wall to wish me a happy day, I appreciate the thought all the same.
But within an hour, I was sobbing uncontrollably. I shed no tears for 30 years until I hit a wall and now Im the most dehydrated person I know.
I could handle coming home to a house full of cockroaches and ants and which reeked of cat urine. I cleaned for 10 hours. Even the backed up garbage disposal and broken dryer, I could handle it. My car which had not been driven in months sat with a dead battery. Fine. The yard looked like jungle so I mowed. But when I woke up this morning and the toilet handle broken off in my hand, I put on my shoes and added a note to the laundry list of chores: Home Depot; fix toilet. That’s when I lost it.
I dont want to be here. I look at my clock still set for Kabul time: nearly 5pm there. Everyone would be headed to dinner soon. Friday night was “Surf n Turf” or what I deemed “Suck and Suck”. I could have anything I wanted for my birthday dinner tonight but I wanted nothing more than to be sitting amongst the people I just left behind in that smelly, hot chow hall.

Prepare for the trail to grow cold, my friend Z warned me. It was the first thing I read upon landing back in Tampa and the last thing I could handle. The closer I got to home, the heavier my heart. Prepare to be forgotten.

I am not proud to lean on the crutch of Xanax but considering I can milk a one month supply for 18 months, I am by no means dependent. Still, there is a nibble of shame that comes when I split the pill in half and swallow. I just need help getting the emotions under control at times like this.

In the nights before I left, we spent hours talking. Aware that time was running short, there was a sense of desperation, a need to ‘get it all out there’. He saw a strength in me that I havent felt in years and I didnt want to correct him. No, I didnt want to disappoint him. Even now. It would be easy to slip ito a drug-induced coma and crawl back into bed but that is not what strong people do.

My mother asked what I wanted for my birthday and I replied “The American Lie”. She looked at me quizzically. “Oh it’s okay, mom,” I shrugged lightly, “There’s always Santa.”
It doesnt help that my friend is in a full-on panic mode because her husband is in Iraq and unable to come home to participate in the next round of in-vitro. It’s hard to stomach because she is three years younger than I am and married. If her odds are bad, then mine are infinitely worse.

I fell in love with a married man once before. In 2007, in Iraq. It was another one of thse “Stay together for the kids” types of marriages. Still, we didnt touch each other until the night before he got on the plane to leave, he kissed me. I cried hard alone in my room afterwards. My question to G-d is, what was His intention? Was it a test for us both? Did I pass in 2007 and fail in 2014? It feels no different. Loss is loss. And was it ‘wrong’ for Bryan to leave his wife of 20+ years in order to marry my friend Leah? Was their marriage not sanctioned or blessed because of that? I have a hard time believing that. Bryan’s first wife did not abide by her duties as a wife; didnt keep up her end of the bargain. I have read that G-d abhors divorce but in certain circumstances, will allow it.

For months, I kept him at arms length. I knew I couldnt keep him as he was never mine so the heartache was an inevitability that I eventually accepted. But better to ache for what I can’t keep than regret what I missed. For a few days, we were happy.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a toilet to fix.

“I go to sexclubs; watching freaky people gettin’ it on. It doesn’t make me nervous. If anything I’m restless…” Tove Lo

I was haggling with an Afghan over the price of a knife when he exclaimed “This is Damascus steel!” and I replied “But I want Valerian steel!” He didn’t get it.

Captain America went home. I hadn’t seen him in over a month because we both stopped attending each other’s meetings. And I’m relieved that I never saw him because I had come to hate how I felt in his presence. Of course it was entirely my doing, my insecurity. Still, he was a trigger.
But if things continue as scheduled, he and I will both be back here by year’s end. And maybe the next time I will be physically and emotionally healthier and thereby not fazed by the mere sight of him. I miss having ‘dinner with a view’ although this place isn’t entirely devoid of hunkiness in his absence. In fact, as I headed toward the bathroom one morning, I was taken by surprise by another shut yo’ face (!) fine-looking man who did something not many men here do: Smiled and said “hi!” Maybe he was struck funny by the sight of my electrified bed-head and raccoon eyes. The reason doesnt matter because it was a REAL smile. I think I shall call him “Bucky”.

I’m anxiously reading about upcoming dances and concerts at home. Soon. In less than a month, I’ll be dancing again.
I also look forward to eating something that doesn’t look like dog food. In fact, I spent the whole of a 2 hour meeting fantasizing about Chipotle and Hooters.

Fourth of July, we got a half day off and the food at the chow hall was genuinely GOOD. There were fresh, perfectly cooked green beans, REAL hamburgers (not the pre-packaged patties that tasted like sawdust) and peach cobbler. The cobbler went quick and one of my coworkers was so upset, he drove around from camp to camp in search of more. His frustration and commentary was comical and made me think, “Where was this guy back when I was producing crap for AFN?” I could have created a whole series around him; something of a cross between Guy Fieri and “Man vs Food”, only it would be strictly a tour of military D-FACs across the globe.

I count myself very lucky this tour. My last was so traumatic, I feared coming back. People can make or break your environment and thankfully, I like everyone I work with this time around and they all seem to like me in return. Last time, I was alienated and abused. Enemies without and within. This time, the men not only include me, they look after me. Like a posse of big brothers, they would be swift and happy to beat the ass of anyone who wounded me in any manner. And there is no ulterior motive behind their care. None of them would come knocking on my door in the middle of the night looking for a reward (although there are one or two who would give me pause before turning them away if they did).

In hindsight, this trip hasnt been horrible. Aside from the bombings and late night loneliness and crying…which isn’t much different from home minus the bombings. But there are still moments when Afghanistan is lovely. When the sun is sinking and the moon is rising over the mountains. During the day, the wind is so hot, it steals my breath but in the evenings, it’s fingers are warm across my face, lifting my hair like a lover. And I’ve always found prayer call to be soothing yet haunting; like a tickle in the back of my collective memory.

Still, I have a growing “to do” list when I get home that includes detox and botox. My goal for turning 38 is to not look like it.