“Everyone you know someday will die” the Flaming Lips

When my acquaintance first told me his Bubby passed, I thought he was referring to his dog “Buddy”. And my heart went out to him because I know when you’re childless and you’re a fucked up veteran, sometimes the only thing in this world that depends on you and loves you unconditionally is your pet. But when he explained that bubby was his grandmother, my inner voice said “Wheew, well glad to hear your dog is okay”. When someone tells me a grandparent died, I have to pause before I respond. Because here is my honest thought process: Yes, your grandparents died because that’s what people do, particularly those of an advanced age. And you being close to my age means you got to keep your grandparents a long time. Much longer than I did. Heck, your parents are still alive. So congratulations! Unless they died a horrible, painful, drawn out death like wasting away from cancer or in a nursing home, at which point I think anyone would be ready to tap-out, sounds like you all got off pretty lucky.

 

But I won’t say that nor will I apply some empty, stock sentiment like “Sorry for your loss”. Instead, I ask “Is there something I can do? Do you need me to watch your pets while you attend a memorial service?”  That much is sincere.

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“…Our flag was still there”

Given the choice, I sing the national anthem acapella. No hiding behind background music. When my voice cracks with emotion, you hear it. I want you to feel it the way I feel it. The way I wish I could still feel the presence of G-d.

I’m not nervous behind a microphone, on stage, singing or dancing… unless I’m singing the Star Spangled Banner. There’s a chance I’ll cry. Pass out gasping for air between belted and whispered notes. Because if there’s any song I give a damn about, it’s that one. Because it’s an honor and privilege to sing it. Because friends and family, known and unknown, enlightened or misguided, died for it.

I’m not out to flex my vocal chops and earn your praise. It’s not about the singer: I don’t give a damn who you are. Sing it straight with respect. Sing it from the corners of your soul, joy and mourning, proud and ashamed of what it represents and has cost us.

“They’ll drink theirs and I’ll Drink mine” – Chromatics

“I understand” can be two of the most divisive, insulting words strung together.  In conflict resolution, they teach that magical phrase to disarm or pacify. But when two strangers are nose-to-nose in conflict and one utters those words, the other may snap “Do you?? Do you understand? You don’t know me”.  So why would we use that phrase so casually, adopting an air of familiarity that is insincere as it is untrue.  It’s as hollow a sentiment as “I’m sorry for your loss” or “thank you for your service”. You don’t know my pain and I won’t pretend to know yours.

“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, John…”

“…but did you have to stick your finger up my ass?” (Let’s Go to Prison)

Too late to take an Ambien, no Xanax to be had, Pinterest pictures of nail polish and funny cat memes weren’t doing the trick to decompress and disconnect. The rest of the world was asleep and I was having a meltdown. So I text the Veteran’s Crisis Line.

I wasn’t suicidal. Just desperately, at that moment, needed a live person to pop a mental zit. Shhhhhh! But Don’t tell my Uncle Sam!

My dancer’s legs are scarred with what look like mosquito bites but they are from my fingernails digging into my flesh. It’s a nervous habit. I used to pick at my face and pluck out my eyelashes like some people gnaw at their fingers. Still do sometimes. But I retrained and redirected my attention to my exposed legs. My face healed up but I wonder if my legs ever will.

Sometimes you pick a path because it’s familiar only to rediscover it’s a dead end. As I got turned around on my way from work to class, I wondered if that was foreshadowing my career choices. I’m flirting with returning to the organization and the job that I left last year. I’m told the regime has changed, “the bad guys are gone” but I’ve heard that before. In my experience, they can return just like I can. And what happens in a year when the regime changes again?

Like my experience with the Army, I’m not making a blanket statement that “the Army sucks”. My command sucked. It was corrupt all the way to the uppermost level of leadership. And while the VA may be a worthy mission and I know many folks who love their jobs, I suspect the regional office where I was recently hired may represent everything that’s wrong with the Department. From the attitudes – “What’s in it for me?” and “That ain’t my job” – to emphasis of quantity over quality and underwhelming leadership. I expected the inefficiencies and bureaucracy but this place may be a repository for the intellectually and socially inept.

I’m reminded of something another blogger wrote, A Fractured Faith, who admitted recently that “I am a Christian, but I don’t like people”. Me neither! I don’t dislike ALL of them but I dislike most of them. Those few that I do like, the few that came in with bright ideas and sincere smiles, are no longer smiling.

But the stable job is a prison sentence and going back to my “ex” feels like defeat.

Am I a failure if I go back? Am I a quitter if I don’t stay here?

” what’s the matter? Your chicken tastes like pork?” Janelle Monae

The simplest advice I can remind myself of today:

Even if I don’t get to retire from the military,

My life is not over.

Even if I get stuck for a while in a job that is not my goal career,

My life is not over.

Even if things don’t work out with The Man of My Dreams,

My life is not over.

If my plans don’t pan out,

My life is not over.

Even when I lose my loved ones,

My own life is not over.

Do you wanna build a snowman?

No, I want to build pipe shelves. Starting with a toilet paper holder with a small shelf above it. If I can make that happen I think I can go crazy with industrial-meets-rustic shelving.

I have these moments where I feel like myself. I’m not depressed. Ive been depressed and I don’t think this is depression. But I don’t feel like myself either. But then the lsight switch flips on when I walk outside and think about going for a hike or just being inspired by a project (like the pipe shelves) and think “yeah! I wanna do that!”. And then it passes so quickly. The light switch flips off and I’m left alone in the dark again.
So maybe I am a little depressed.

Which might stem from always being tired. A coworker asked me how I was feeling and when I replied “tired” he said “That’s not too bad”. My eyes narrowed and I said “Sleep deprivation is an effective form of torture”.

But I got up when the alarm told me to and didn’t reach for my phone right away. Instead, I took an extra few minutes working through my morning routine. Took time to blow dry my hair and carefully apply eyeliner. I probably don’t look different as a result but it helps me feel a bit more “put together”, at least on the outside.

“Nothing ever comes without a change” ~ Grouplove

Day 1: The sabbatical has come to an end. A bit premature because I still have 6 months of full time school left but I started back to a full-time job on top of that. So from here forward, my bedtime is once again 9 p.m. except for the four nights a week that I have class later than that or the remaining nights when I’m up late working on assignments. So If you need to reach me, make an appointment and I will pencil you in during the 5-7 minutes per week that I’m taking a constipated shit. Unless I’m extra constipated and unable to shit at all that week. Otherwise, see you in roughly 6 months after graduation. Make it 7 because Ill need to catch up on sleep.

I woke up on Day 1 with a twin growing out of my bottom lip. The worst collection of fever blisters I think I’ve ever had. And I swear, I’m not that stressed. I told myself “Maybe this job will be like Korea: I think it will suck but I end up loving it”.

This job is not Korea.

I nearly walked out day one when someone asked about claiming “Secondhand PTSD” from listening to someone talk about combat. I wanted to tell them “Go kill yourself”.  I’m not convinced all the positive reinforcement of long-term benefits can turn this shit job with shit pay, surrounded by talking rocks, into gold.

I’m fair and kind but I am not nice. I’m also judgmental, I admit. Everyone has flaws and that’s a biggie for me. Judgmental and unforgiving. I’ve had exciting careers all my life and starting over in something ordinary and mundane feels beneath me. Even Saturday night at C’s work party, it was torture listening to these people discuss their unimportant jobs and their unimportant lives as if they were important (I’m in confession now so hold YOUR judgement, Father). I always say I am not my job but I feel sorry for people with lives so small, so sheltered. Maybe pity isn’t what I truly feel rather than a sense of satisfied superiority (and boredom) while I sit there too good to try and engage anyone in conversation.

Day 3: When Black Magic kitty hears my alarm go off, she immediately comes running, purring, walks up on my chest and lovingly bites my nose with that dirty lizard-eating mouth.  It’s not a bad way to wake up. Last night as I fell asleep apologizing to G-d for being ungrateful. Then I prayed for patience, tolerance, and Direction. I know going in that this was not the Final career Destination but a stepping stone, one of many paths. But as with my “land nav” skills, my “life nav” skills have led me in circles. “Look kids! Big Ben…”

But I spoke with a Navy reservist who frankly answered my questions and put it back in perspective. Stick it out. Do the time. One year, maybe two, then transfer. It’s not Hell. Hell is eternal. This is more like a prison sentence.

 

Day 5: Today we learned about mandatory overtime. A few of us had “Da’ fuck you say…?” reactions while the rest cheered “Yay! Time and a half!” Our choice between extended work days Monday through Friday or giving up every other Saturday to come into work for 10 hours. I’m pissed.  At this point in my life, I value time more than money and this job does not pay enough. I took this job for stability and to escape the 12+ hour shifts. If OT truly is mandatory, then I might as well go back to doing what I was doing before. At least I was getting paid decent then.  The work schedule already is such that I had to drop first, my ballet classes that I’ve been taking for 3 years then today, the salsa team.
So G-d forgive me but it has been a struggle this week to keep a smile on my face or have a sense of gratitude. It’s worse when people tell me congratulations on the job because I feel like crying. I went from dancing 5x a week now picking just one. Dancing is my sanity and I’m giving it up for a job that I hate…

On the flag…

In my years of service, i have probably carried and folded no fewer than a thousand flags carried and lifted from a thousand caskets. In SERE school, I was beaten for refusing to stand on the flag. And the National Anthem is the only song that both strikes fear in my heart and brings tears to my eyes when Im asked to sing it.
So ask me how I feel about all this kneeling business and words cannot accurately express how deeply this bothers me. I expect it from terrorist organizations and those who hate our country, not from fellow Americans. Yes, it’s their right, as Americans amd i defend it, as i must. But I hate them for it and G-d forgive me for that.

This sparked a heated debate between many of my conservative, liberal, military, civilian, friends and family. I warned them all to keep it respectful or I would not only delete their comments but them as well. I took the time to read the external articles that they posted and consider their arguments that “it’s not meant as disrespect to the military” and countered with “I would not walk into a shura in Afghanistan wearing a bikini in attempt to Advocate women’s rights. You cannot expect to win support to your cause by doing something so culturally offensive”. Once you have shocked and alienated people like that, they won’t give a damn what your “intent” was. They aren’t listening.

” I just miss you, and I just wish you were a better man” Little Big Town

I’m so lonely, I’m combustible. My emotions aren’t raw, I am a live wire. Always have been. Passionate, honest. Eight days flew by.

Miles of abandoned beach means “clothing optional”. Tons of sand dollars and washed up jellyfish that look like breast implants but still no sea glass. Pushed myself pretty hard the first few days in Yosemite. Climbed a no-shit mountain and developed a stress fracture in my foot. Followed by a sinus infection because It snowed the 3rd day and all I had was open toed Tevas and a light windbreaker. When I was packing, the forecast called for 85 degrees in the day, not 34.
Sadly, there is no way to escape the crowds in Yosemite. There is always someone in front of you or riding your ass, chattering away loudly in a foreign language. But it was beautiful and wonderous at moments in a way that the Scottish Highlands were not. Except for the Sequoias. The grove was a graveyard of burned up and dead. The living were centuries away from being awe-inspiring.

Although with every trip off the grid, I think I should have done something else with my life, career-wise. Been a botanist or environmental scientist. I wouldn’t have gotten rich but probably would have had a stable job for the rest of my life that may have been more rewarding than my attempts to save humanity

Napa/Sonoma was a like Disney: overpriced bougie boredom. The Flake’s new home is a paradise. Although I still think SoCal suits me better, being part lizard n’ all.

After Yosemite, I decided to “take it easy” hiking around Point Reyes National Seashore. The oasis amidst soul-sucking San Francisco, one trVwler called it. Limping along mile after mile of California coastline, leaning heavily on a piece of sequoia from Yosemite. The foot slows me down but doesnt stop me. What stopped me was a herd of Tule elk in the path, less than a mile away from the tip of Tomales Point. I considered walking around them but the stags began yelling at me “Dont even think about it, lady”.

Im a big fan of the hostel though and their slogans “for travelers, not tourists”. I met a dutch woman who confided that she worked the same job for 17 years, then after a misssion to South Africa, decided “I cant do this anymore”, put everything she didn’t want to part with in storage and began traveling the world. But

But i still didnt engage with anyone, not for long. The only romantic encounter i had was with myself, nude on a deserted beach, fantasizing about an attractive single man coming along and asking if he could help.

I walked for miles on a deserted beach until after dark and didnt bother to mark the narrow entrance to the foot path. I know better! Mild panic set in when after a few false starts, i realized i couldn’t simply plow my way through the growing wall of seagrass and 9 foot high brush. Iraise my eyes to the mountains shuffled my feet and sang to warn off the nightlife that chittered and howled around me. Then turning back toward twin lights on the beach, it was a couple of Japanese guys night fishing, wearing headlamps. Thank g-d, they led me back to the path.

I sent him a picture on a nude beach. Tit for his repeated tat. He said it was sexy and turned him on. He asked where i was. He knew exactly how close i was and for how long but never said “I want to see you”. I admitted to him that i teared up driving past his house on the way to the airport. He said “That makes me sad too”. I doubt that. After all, he could have had me with a word.

Irma-geddon

It feels strange not heading into this storm in a Humvee like I’ve head in to so many others in the past.

Torn rotator cuff, cops circling my house all day with the loudspeakers to evacuate, but I’ve got the cat carriers ready to go, guns loaded, empty storage bins that will be filled with water, a handheld pump that should make sewage drinkable (although it will probably still taste like sewage), and somehow ive become the Voice of Reason keeping family and friends calm while trying to maintain my own sanity.

Oh, and I had to block my Asshole Best Friend tonight. He was angry that he hasn’t been able to reach me to chat today and I told him I didn’t have hours to sit on the phone right now. Also, I don’t want to talk to him when he’s drunk. So he flipped out and text “You’re my best friend and I cant get shit from you”. Sorry, but not during an incoming CAT 5 storm, you can’t. Plus, I already offered you a kidney so you cant claim I give you nothing. But I lost my temper, cussed him out, and blocked his number. I feel terrible about that but hes safe in the NE and there’s nothing I can do for him until “Irma-geddon” passes.

I ignore media and focus only on reports coming in from NOAA. When people post alerts that “there’s a pallet of water at Publix on the corner of….” I inject a snarky comment “Y’all too good to drink out of the hose?” with a picture of 5 gallon storage containers and the reminder “5 drops of bleach per container, not per glass”. I try to dispel misinformation (“Zello” will not work in a power/wifi/cell/blackout), because false hope is even more dangerous than reality. How many people will panic when they are unable to reach anyone on that app in a real communications blackout?

Truly, I am concerned about everyone. My mother is fresh out of surgery and unable to travel. Otherwise I may have insisted on them packing up their zoo and heading up to her vacation spot in the Smokies.

But I also recall Waveland, Mississippi. Folks squatting in squalor amid the ruins of their homes. All we ever saw or heard about was New Orleans but the coast of Mississippi was flattened like Hiroshima 1945. And those people were smiling because they were ALIVE.

Yeah, Harvey sucked. Irma is gonna suck and then there’s Jose brewing right behind her. All we can do is prepare the best we can and then deal with the aftermath. Worrying changes nothing.