Dear Crazy Brunette Lady in the Beige Honda:

I know that the construction going on in Michigan gets annoying.  I know that being stuck in traffic really sucks, especially if you’re late for something.  Especially if you’re in a hurry.  I get that.  I really do.

I also know how hard it can be sometimes to merge into crazy freeway traffic.  It’s hard to judge sometimes if the big semi is going to change lanes or if the cute guy in the silver pickup truck is going to slow down or speed up so that you can get in.  It’s frustrating sometimes, that’s true.

However.  Today, that was MY cute guy in the silver pickup truck.  And he was simply driving home from an important meeting in our state’s capital.  You saw him.  You saw him in his Army camo with the “Iraq Veteran” license plate.  I know you flipped him off lots and lots of times, to express your discontent at his driving style.  I know it made you really mad when you were continually flipping him off and he smiled and waved as he passed you by. 

But for you to then scribble a note on a piece of paper…for you to speed up to pull alongside him and press that note on your window for him to read…for you to write “You should have died in Iraq”…I wonder what you’ve been through.  I wonder what in life could have made you so angry.  What could have made you so bitter?  How could you have become so unfeeling?

My Sarge has a wife who loves him.  He has three children who adore him.  His parents care for and respect him.  He is a productive member of society who pays his bills and recycles.  He drove the streets of Baghdad every day for a year, trying to avoid the roadside bombs and sniper fire.  He lost a friend over there.  Other friends are dealing even now with PTSD.  He spent a year away from his family, wondering every single moment if he would ever see us again.

But I’m sorry that the traffic was bad.  You’re right.  That sucks. 

I’m going to pray for you tonight, as I lie in bed waiting for sleep to come.  I’m going to pray that you can let go of the anger.  That you can find some peace.  It must be miserable to be so miserable.

And then I’m going to snuggle up to Sarge and say goodnight.  And I plan to thank God that Sarge didn’t die in Iraq, no matter what you say should have happened. 

I hope your drive tomorrow goes better.

-Bunchy

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Slowly But Surely…

The following is a recycled post from my old blog, Lyrics of My Life.  I was reading it over today and realizing that I’ve come a long way since I wrote this post.  I still struggle once in a while, but mostly, I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin.  Read on:

 

13 Again…(Summer, 2007)

 

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love music. I’m into all kinds of music, and being a self-proclaimed writer/poet, I especially love anything with great thoughtful and meaningful lyrics. One artist I listen to a lot is Alanis Morissette (No, I do not hate men!) because she sings so honestly about stuff I can relate to. The following song got me thinking about what I wanted to blog about today:

 

“So Unsexy” by Alanis Morissette

 

Oh these little rejections how they add up quickly

One small sideways look and I feel so ungood

Somewhere along the way I think I gave you the power to make

Me feel the way I thought only my father could

 

Oh these little rejections how they seem so real to me

One forgotten birthday I’m all but cooked

How these little abandonments seem to sting so easily

I’m 13 again am I 13 for good?

 

I can feel so unsexy for someone so beautiful

So unloved for someone so fine

I can feel so boring for someone so interesting

So ignorant for someone of sound mind

 

Oh these little protections how they fail to serve me

One forgotten phone call and I’m deflated

Oh these little defenses how they fail to comfort me

Your hand pulling away and I’m devastated

 

When will you stop leaving baby?

When will I stop deserting baby?

When will I start staying with myself?

 

Oh these little projections how they keep springing from me

I jump my ship as I take it personally

Oh these little rejections how they disappear quickly

The moment I decide not to abandon me 

 

There are times when this is me in a nutshell. I want to not care about what other people think of me. I want to state my opinions and hold my own and stand tall without worrying about what everyone is saying or thinking about me. I want to see people from my past (which for some reason I’ve been doing a lot of lately) and be proud of where I am in my life. I want to feel like I can be a beautiful person even if I never lose this 20 pounds. The thing is, I’m just not always quite there yet. 

I’m better than I was. Much better, actually. While my husband was in Iraq for a year, I gained a little more confidence in what I can do on my own. If I can get through a year with three kids and a mortgage while my husband’s in a war zone, I figure I can get through just about anything. I also went to Europe for a week by myself (well, my sister met me there for most of the time, but I still did most of the scary parts on my own) during that year and it was absolutely the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I gained so much perspective in that week, just experiencing something–life–other than what’s in my own backyard. So I’m not nearly as “scared” as I used to be. 

But still, there are definitely times I feel like I’m back in high school…or middle school…trying to at least look pretty so people will like me, agreeing with the crowd so I won’t be singled out as the “weird one”, shoving my opinions under a pile of smiles and nods. Even this blogging thing makes me vulnerable…putting myself out there and hoping my readers out in cyber-land will comment good things and go away thinking I’m a pretty interesting person instead of clicking on my blog and then looking elsewhere for something good to read. 

So am I destined to be 13 forever? Will I be 80, trying to do my hair in just the right shade of blue so I’ll fit in at the senior center? I think if I could just be me, I’d be so much more free. (Okay, I didn’t mean to make that cheesey rhyme.) I’m just sort of an oddball in my circle. I don’t always “fit in” so easily. I’m Christian, and I go to church most Sundays. I even help lead a Bible study during the week. I also have 3 tattoos, I love Sangria and martinis, I have 2 good friends that happen to be a gay couple, and I’m an avid (read: obsessed) fan of reality tv. The people at church don’t always “get” me. Heck, even my husband is usually clueless. 

So I’m telling myself…I’m not going to give other people the power to make me feel less-than-worthy. I’m going to make a point this week of expressing my opinion even if it may not be the popular one. I’m going to do what needs to be done this week to feel more comfy in my own skin. Maybe by next week I’ll be more like, you know, 14.

 

 

Lessons

It is my belief that the most significant events or periods in our lives continue to teach us lessons for as long as we live, if we let them.  As time goes by, and as we reflect and remember those past events, we see new things about ourselves, we glean new information about the way things were, and we notice more about why things happened the way they did.

When Sarge was gone for over a year, a world away in the Middle East doing his job, which just happened to be fighting in a war, I was here alone with three kids, a house, and a dog.  I learned to be strong.  I learned to be independent.  I learned that it was okay to ask for help sometimes.  I learned who my friends were.  I learned what was really important.

And then he came home…to children that were a year and a half older.  To a wife that was used to doing things her way.  To a country that forgot about the soldiers and their families.  To a life that didn’t include 60 pounds of body armor and a gun at the ready.  And again, I learned.  I learned to be patient.  I learned to let him in again.  I learned how to be a wife and a mom, and still keep my own identity…something I hadn’t been so good at before. 

And now, the deployment is well in the past.  Sarge has been home for two and a half years, safe and sound.  We are used to living together again.  I no longer jump every time I hear the doorbell ring, thinking it’s a stranger in uniform coming to tell me my husband has been wounded or worse.  I am back to complaining about his crazy out-of-town schedule and his snoring and his camouflage stuff all over my kitchen.  Life is, for the most part, back to normal.

Lately, though, my mind has been wandering back quite often to those days of when he was gone.  I’ve been remembering frequently the days of no phone calls and no sleep for worrying about him.  I’ve been looking back to the moments of panic as I’d hear about a bombing on the news, or waiting anxiously to see him on the webcam, or talking non-stop to one year old Goo about his daddy so he wouldn’t forget about him while he was gone.  It could be anything that brings me back there.  It could be a story I tell a friend about the time we thought Spike might have leukemia, and people were advising me not to tell Sarge, so he wouldn’t worry from a war zone.  That was something I went through alone.  It could be a song about a soldier and the letters he gets that mean so much.  It could be asking Sarge about something funny that happened only to remember that he wasn’t here then, and knew nothing about it.  It could be talk of Hurricane Katrina, something he heard about briefly but was amazed as I described the devastation to him over the phone.  It could be my kids hearing about a trip Sarge has to take for work, and asking if he’s going to Iraq.  It could be anything that reminds me.  Anything.

And as I think back, what amazes me most is our ability, as humans, to cope with what life throws our way.  I’m still learning from that time in my life.  Whenever I think I can’t do something, I remember deployment, and I know that I can get through anything.  If I see a friend in need and think I’m too busy or too tired or too far away to help, I remember the friends that helped me and I find the strength to do what I can.  When I see Army kids missing their parent, I remember to give them extra attention, because they’re missing some from the one who is away.  When I hear people arguing about the rightness or wrongness of this war, I remember that no matter the politics, it is the soldiers and their families who need our unwavering support.  I learn from it every day.  Every moment.

Sometimes I can hardly believe that it truly happened.  Some days I wonder if that time was all just a dream.  But then I look at the pictures of the day he came home.  Or I see the Muslim prayer beads that he brought home with him hanging on my wall.  I hear the doorbell ring and while it no longer scares me, I still remember.  That time in my life, a time I had hoped would never come, has proved so invaluable to me in so many ways.  It is a part of who I am and who my children are.  It is what makes Sarge the incredible man he is today.  It is in the life lessons I teach my children and the advice I give my friends.  It is in the way that I smile and the way that I cry.  When I see myself in the mirror, it is part of what is looking back at me.  It is a piece of the map that makes up my life.

I wonder sometimes what’s to come, and I worry about what’s in store for us.  But when I really think about it, I know that whatever it is…whatever hard times or happy times or scary times or amazing times we will go through, they will be the things I look back on someday.  They will be the things I remember as part of the map of my life.  Part of the journey that makes me who I am.  The things that taught me how to live as me.

I hope I never stop learning.