Life Collections

Happiness 

  
There are times in life when I look around and feel nothing but peace and joy. The storm that rages inside me quiets momentarily. I have discovered these moments in nature. Away from the woes of the world. To sit still and observe. To become one with myself. At these moments I ponder what I am doing with my life and why I am not here all the time. Why I follow the path of society to work and settle, to have a family and stay in one spot of routine, to miss these quiet moments. 

The beauty flowing from nature sings a song to our souls. Its says come, sit, stay a while and breathe. Enjoy the moments and see what I have to offer you. Feel the sand on your feet, the breeze in your hair, the fresh air in your lungs, the heat of the sun on your skin, feel me and I will nourish you. I will fill you with vibrant colors and warmth. I will show you true love and beauty like nothing else can.

Nature allows the mind to ponder and reflect. To ask oneself questions it’s been holding onto and/or hiding. It frees us from our fears and gives us courage to live. Embracing the life cycle presented to us. To live. To see what we already have and what we are missing, but still be content with who we are. The memories of pain and sorrow can flood to the surface to remind us how deep our joy is. Realizing ignorance isn’t bliss- without the knowledge of sorrow this moment of pure joy would mean nothing to us. Contrast is needed.

Just as the city is to nature, sorrow is to joy. Regardless of where we are we can find the nature in the city and the joy in sorrow. We can feel our heart burst with happiness. We are a combination of intricate details. We feel to know true happiness. 

Bitterness

AfghanistanI don’t typically consider myself a bitter person. However, I got a massage the other day and as the masseuse was moving over my body we talked about the knots, tight and swollen parts of my body.  I enjoy the process of learning about myself through my body and others’ eyes. The masseuse explained what each painful body part was associated with for emotions. Muscles hold emotions hence physical healing can equate to emotional healing and vice versa. A lot of what she told me were things I already considered and thought about, but bitterness caught me off guard.

My masseuse suggested I start writing down when I can remember being bitter possibly starting with the first time I can remember. My first instinct was to say I’m not bitter. I have made peace with my life and forgiven, but then I started to think. And here I am.

The first times I really remember being bitter is 5th grade. I was probably bitter before then, but can’t recall. I wanted to play on a competition basketball team and the coach had put a team together without me. I don’t know if it was so much bitterness or simply questioning why they wouldn’t pick me to be on the team. I wanted to play. Eventually I did. Eventually I became really good. Eventually I got over it.

The next time I can recall being bitter is in 7th grade when teenage girls were teenage girls. The typical ‘one day we will speak to you, the next we won’t’ or ‘ we are all friends except with her today’ drama. Again I feel like this exclusion caused more hurt than pain. Pain potentially turned to bitterness. I am friends with many of those same girls and I don’t think this really caused any bitterness or animosity.

Maybe the first time I felt turn bitterness is 8th grade when I kissed a boy for a dollar on the bus. He was pronounced amazing and a stud. I got called a dollar-whore. The double standard of men and women’s roles in society had never been so real or prevalent until that kiss. This is when I learned there is no such thing as equality. I am bitter over this.

The next thing I remember being bitter about is when my best friend convinced me to dump the boy I had been in love with for years. Because she didn’t like him. The next week they were dating. I’m also bitter my first true sexual experience. I was used and discarded by the group of guys I had been really good friends with for years. I was the girl in the group and not one of the guys like I thought.

I remember walking with Amber to meet a guy and some friends during the summer. I looked at her and said please don’t leave me alone with this guy. We had met him the day prior and he scared me. She left me with him within minutes of meeting up with everyone. He took advantage of the situation and raped me. I’m not bitter over the rape. I am bitter over the fact  I asked my friend to stay with me and she abandoned me without any thought or hesitation.

I was bitter as a freshman basketball player when I rarely got to play Varsity. I thought I was better than some of the Varsity girls and I wanted to play.

I remember being bitter that I never fit in with the girls I played ball with. I was never pretty enough, feminine enough, I was never the “it” girl. I wasn’t the girl the boys were interested in.

Being bitter over never getting the recognition I deserved for sports. Always being the person in the background.

I was bitter over how the guys in college treated me. I was never their equal and they would create drama for fun between the girls. I remember putting in hard work and being shit on for it. Come to find out later the guys got away with things by doing the professor’s papers for graduate school.

I am bitter my husband used me. He manipulated the situation and treated me like a bank roll rather than someone important. I always worked harder and did more to help us. I am bitter he died by suicide.

I am bitter that my in-laws got his life insurance and left me with all his/our debt and the cost of his funeral. I am bitter his family treated me like shit and then his grandparents went on a mission. They had the audacity to do his temple work without informing me or getting my permission. I am bitter I am held accountable for his actions. I am bitter I am damaged because of him, I am hurt and cautious.

I am bitter I never meet guys who are interested in me that are what I want. I am tired of being treated like I’m unvalued and unimportant. I am tired of being a peice of ass that hasn’t been loved. I am bitter I have loved endlessly while not being loved back. I am bitter I can give so much of myself to others and receive nothing in return.

I am bitter I have to fight for common sense. That stupid people are allowed to take command and make poor decision without repercussion. I am bitter I am punished for having values and morals.

I am bitter I have to wait patiently and feel incomplete, unwhole.

I am bitter.

God is Cruel

Bodies of PompeiiI looked at my phone and pulled up a note I had written when I first started going to back to church approximately two years ago. The title is My Truths, and the first note simply reads “I do not believe in God, or if he exists he is cruel.” I believe in God, therefore he must be cruel. I have just reasons for believing God to be cruel, though my reason now is very different from what it was– Sometimes the best way to be kind is to be cruel.

Now you might argue God is all loving and kind; therefore, it is impossible for him to be cruel–it does not make sense. Let me stop you there and point out, he sacrificed his son- our brother- in the most excruciating way possible. Jesus suffered. The bible is rot with trials and pain. Constant stories of prophets and people asked to do unimaginable acts that bring much suffering. We are here to suffer. If you say otherwise I want to ask you what puts you above Christ that he may suffer while you do not?

You are probably wondering what someone like me– full of bleak ideas of God– is doing in church. What have I been through, at such a young age–28, to give me such a devastating view of our Father, God? A lot of hurt, pain and suffering. I think if I have been given such a handful at this age I do not want to know catastrophic events I have been prepared for in the future. At the same time- I know I am capable of surviving whatever comes my way and that is key.

The things we suffer force us to grow and become resilient. They strengthen us. Last testimony meeting, I had an individual revelation, per se. As others bore their hearts about how the last year, last month, last week had been the hardest in their lives. I realized the last year has been the easiest I have had in over a decade. The last year has been trivial in the scheme of my life, It has created room for me to breath, process and heal. I have had the opportunity to reflect and approach painful memories.

As I reflect, I realize I have had a very different path from most of you. I have suffered and paid dearly through discrimination, bullying, harassment, physical and mental abuse.  I have been hurt repeatedly. What I have had wrong to this point, is this does not separate me, but gives me more in common with all of you. It allows me to be more empathic and understanding. It allows me to listen without judgement to culture, stigmas, and stereotypes.

What is hard for me to overcome is the anxiety of connections creates for me. I am well aware that I appear intimidating and unapproachable. I use this to my advantage to keep my distance. It has kept me safe from further pain and hurt. However, this last year has allowed me enough wiggle room to slowly open up and create small cautious friendships. I have slowly become less defensive. While I still have a massive wall in place and am very closed off I am slowly allowing others a ladder to see into my safe space.

Where does God come into play? God has allowed me to suffer for my own development. Life was not meant to be easy. If it were, we would have followed Lucifer’s plan of salvation, instead of Christs. We suffer so we may have empathy for others, we may feel joy, and have understanding. We suffer that we know we can overcome the next trial in our life because we have suffered something much worse before and if we have not, when we make it through our future will be easier. He has been cruel to be kind.

I’m a Slut

 I have sex. I have sex, a lot. I think the general term for me is slut. You might as well add in Bitch too. I get called a lot of names now that I think about it… Whore.Skank. Dirty ho.Tramp. and the list goes on. I fully admit when I was younger it use to bother me; now it just makes me laugh. Society and expectations: a guy can sleep around for days and its “good job, bro.” Me, I sleep with one guy before I’m married and it’s a scandal. I suppose if there’s a scandal it would behoove me to give everyone something outside the ordinary to talk about, right?

Really there isn’t a scandal here. I just enjoy sex and I’m a girl, therefore I have sex. A lot of sex. I sleep with a handful of guys. I am not “in love” with any of them. I simply enjoy having their hard cock pounding inside of me until I orgasm. There is something spectacular about having my muscles contract and losing control in the moment without a care in the world. Call me a sinner, but when I have an itch, I scratch.

You must think something is wrong with me. I must have been sexually abused or molested. Was I raped? I must have had an abusive relationship or be addicted to drugs. The answer to all of these is no. The no is probably why I love sex so much. I chose to lose my virginity when I wanted, with the guy I wanted. He was sweet and gentle. A month later I slept with someone else and my sexual prowess grew from there. Where had this amazing feeling been? There were so many sensations I didn’t know about or hadn’t had. I wanted to know and explore every crevice of sex. My mind always reeling from the last encounter. Ok, maybe that was an exaggeration. I haven’t always had mind-blowing sex. Some partners blow. I did however learn that every new person I slept with did something different and the more people I slept with the more I learned and experienced.

Maybe I am a dirty tramp, but I love what I’m doing and I’m not looking for your acceptance anyway. I don’t need your approval. So while you are busy judging me right now. I am cock deep in bliss. You haven’t even crossed my mind. No, I’m not sad and depressed the guy I slept with last night didn’t call me back or want a relationship- hell, I didn’t even give him my real name or my number. I’m not the girl who wants to settle down. I’m the girl you call for a good time. Actually, I call you at 2 in the morning for the good time. Or if you’re a girl and you’re reading this I’m the person you wish you could be, but too confined by your own fears and social judgment to say “Fuck it; I’m going to do what I want because I enjoy”

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

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I smile. “I would love to volunteer to help clean the church.” The statement is true. I would. More importantly, this shows the people around me that I am going above and beyond. I, in essence, am better than you. This image is important to my status in society. I must portray a balanced image of humility and perfection. I know I’ve hit it spot on because I’ve actually practiced the smile enough in the mirror and the octave of my voice to have the right mix of sincerity and excitement. The group organizer makes a comment about me being a saint and how grateful she is that I am always willing to help.

On the outside I know that everyone wishes they could be me. I’m asked how I do it all. I revel in their envy and desire to be me. Men want to date me, women want to be me. I don’t really know when this facade started. I suppose it was when I was young. The idea of being perfect was driven into my head. Don’t sin, be selfless, help others, be a good person over and over this mantra was driven into me. Living in a highly religious community the expectation between my family, church, and school were all the same. I couldn’t change my behavior in one without it affecting the other. The gossip mill dominated and if a scandal got out it wasn’t just social suicide, it might as well be exile.

I suppose this is why the double life started. I was 15 when I tried my first cigarette. I was spending time with one of the popular guys a couple years older. He was hott, sexy and a bit of a bad boy. Every girl wanted to be with him, but he’d been offering to give me a ride home lately. We talked til the parking lot was almost empty before he leaned forward and kissed me. I was flying on cloud nine. It wasn’t much later when he pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights and lit one up. He took a drag and taunted me with his cocky eyes. He offered the smoke with a smirk. I wanted him to like me, but I had always been taught not to smoke. I’d never been in a situation like this before and had no idea what to do. I took the cig, then a drag. It was miserable. I couldn’t stop coughing. He started to laugh and took the cigarette from me. When my lungs stopped rejecting my decision, he gently guided my chin towards him and kissed my lips again as if to say that’s my girl.

The minute he’d dropped me off at home I knew I’d be in trouble if my parents found out. Worse I couldn’t tell my friends. They would never have approved of my actions. I couldn’t talk to anyone about what had happened. Instead I went inside and brushed my teeth and showered. Later when I sat down with my family I was amazed at how easy it was to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. When I called my friends they were caught up in him kissing me; I simply never had to mention the cigarette. It was easy to leave it out.

It hasn’t stopped since. I’ve drank alcohol, I’ve done drugs, in fact right now I’m abusing my prescription for percocet. Hell, even my hair is a facade, it’s dyed blonde. Not only have I had braces to straighten my teeth, but I’ve had a nose job, boob job and liposuction. I’ve spent hours and hours doing my hair and make-up to be seen as beautiful. I spend hours doing things I don’t care about just for this image- to be the girl everyone wants and everyone wants to be. On the outside I am perfect. Inside I am full of deceit and false intentions. I have ruined other girls simply because I felt threatened or to avoid being exposed. I’ve been doing this for too long to risk public exposure of the real me.

The real me isn’t perfect. The real me is full of lies and false impressions. The real me is full of sin and selfishness. I help others and pretend to be a good person because it helps me. The real me has deceived a lot of people. I’m not saying I’m a horrible person, I’m saying the perfection isn’t real. I am both good and bad, but of charity and sin. My motives are my own, no matter what anyone else thinks. I know who I am and the struggles I face. Yes, I face struggles too. I just can’t stand the idea of you knowing that I have them, because then we would be equal or your would realize how much better you are than me.

G.I. Jane

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One of the first missions I went on. We were surround by children. 

With all the news stories covering women in combat, my life, the one I left, has come to the forefront of my thoughts. I can’t open my social media news feeds without the trending stories: women in ranger school, “Ashley’s War”, the real G.I Janes, etc. I look at the pictures and a part of me smiles with pride at these girls I personally know and empathize with. They are strong and amazingly capable, their stories deserve to be told. I am proud of all of them.Yet, as much as I want to support the excellent news coverage, I want to crawl back into bed and stay there. I want to hide from the world and make it go away, pretend it doesn’t exist.

This is because of the mental, emotional and physical toll the military took on me. I remember when I decided to join the military. I was 18 and dating a former infantrymen. He wove stories together of adventure and intrigue. I fell in love and jumped into the Army with both feet. I was motivated and enthralled with being the best. I didn’t only want to be competitive, I wanted beat the guys; and I did. I graduated college as a Distinguished Military Graduate. I branched Engineer as a 21-year-old. I conquered the Sapper Leaders Course where I was the 23rd female to graduate (in Oct 2008) since the course had been opened to females in 1999. At the time, I had no idea how many females had made it through. I thought a more had and my accomplishment was nothing unique. All I cared about was the training and learning about myself. That is what the school did more than anything; it taught me about myself. I learned I hated the cold. In fact I am not a nice person when I become cold, I can’t sleep, I won’t eat, all I care about is getting warm. I thought about quitting and learned to rely on others to keep me motivated when I wanted to quit, because they all want to quit. I learned to keep walking when tears would slowly roll down my cheeks at my self-doubt. In the end I learned I was capable of doing much more than I previously thought.

When I got to my unit, I deployed to Iraq. I was shoved into the military intelligence section for the entire deployment. I was frustrated. I didn’t understand how I was the only lieutenant who could be stuck in an office job for the entire deployment. What bothered me more is I was the only Sapper-qualified lieutenant. This meant if you took away gender, I was the only qualified  junior officer to lead Soldiers in a Sapper unit. Alas, I was the only one they refused the position. With frustration, I kept my head up. I worked hard even though I was constantly being shoved into positions I didn’t want. My motivation would waiver and I would keep thinking to myself one day I will have the job I want. One day I will be in the fight. This would have been fine and I would have continued to manage, but my home life exploded.

My spouse died and it left me in a tough spot. Mentally and emotionally I was bleeding. Physically I had lost weight. I was a mess financially as I struggled to pay off the debts in his name without life insurance. I felt alone and miserable. With the military as my job, there was no time for me to heal. No opportunity to move home and deal with the events that had destroyed me. Instead I was stuck in a place rendering me with minimal support and a lot of emotional pain. I began a downward spiral. I started drinking heavily, having inappropriate relationships, demonstrating risky behavior. I was trying to deal with the pain in my heart the best I could, given my circumstances. The connection between the military and my spouse was so strong, it had been a huge determiner in our relationship. To move on with my life I needed to get away from the military. I needed a change, yet I was stuck in a job I didn’t have the heart for anymore. The person I was when the adventure started didn’t exist anymore.

Yet, when the opportunity arose, less than a year after my spouse died, to leave and deploy I saw it as a solution to my problems. I could leave the place we had created memories and I could save money. I was using it as an escape. The deployment offered the excitement I had initially expected from the military. It was a great opportunity for me to try to be my old self. The deployment was with special operations. The best of the best. When I went to the selection course, I wasn’t nervous. I knew I was capable; I knew I would succeed. The selection was easy compared to Sapper School. The girls were motivated and impressive, I put my head down and tried to focus. I made it though and learned I would deploy to Herat, Afghanistan, with a Special Operations Team.

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Me and the other girls in my squad during the Selection course for CST 2

From the beginning my partner and I didn’t get along. I spent so much time trying to reconcile our relationship, I didn’t put the requisite amount of time into the mission. However, our location was relatively safe with little to no combat activity while we were there. I usually describe my deployment as rainbows and unicorns, hugs and kisses. We spent the time talking to the women of the different villages, learning their culture, working in a medical clinic, and supporting the local schools. Still, I was on the front line, in the villages, pulling security, doing what the guys do. The most memorable experience I have was creating a soccer league with the children. They would line up daily to be scanned for any type of weapon before being allowed to play soccer for an hour each day. The beauty of a little Afghan girl playing soccer with a huge smile on her face will forever be planted in my memory.

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Picture of an Afghan girl that would come to our base to play soccer.

Why then,  if I have such beautiful memories do I cringe at reliving my military career; having to remember losing a comrade; dealing with the political push for women on the front lines? It was exhausting. Perhaps it took its toll on me because I never had the time to heal from the loss of my spouse. But outside my loss, the emotional, mental, and physical fight that is fought by each one of these women is something few will ever know. Physically, some women can keep up, in fact, some women can beat a lot of men. The stress of being in danger takes a toll, yet this is the same physical toll men have to suffer through. Mentally, it is a whole different ball game. As a female you are expected to perform better, faster, smarter, and more professionally. If you don’t then you are considered the weak link. Emotionally, women will always be the outsider, women will never be “one of the guys.” Women are always on the receiving end of the guys betting of who can sleep with her first. Emotionally on these deployments women are isolated. To be taken seriously and maintain a state of professionalism, all walls have to stay up. A state of constant defense is created. Then, when another female does something to fit the “female stereotype” the pressure to perform better increases, because everyone is waiting for your moment of weakness to show you will fail too.

By the time I was done with my deployment I was looking forward to coming back to the states for some stability to heal, yet right when I got back I was jerked to a new location, then another. Constantly on the move. Constantly on the defensive. Constantly being watched for a mistake and failure. This crushed me. I needed time to recover, to heal, to process, instead I was greeted with contempt and hatred for being a professional women who just wanted to do her job. The memories make me defensive and physically ill so my only solution is to pretend they don’t exist. To stop acknowledging my past. I try to stay away from it so I can breath, yet some days the memories catch up to me. I hope one day when they do I’ll be able to smile with pride. It’s hard to balance what I need to be healthy and wanting to show my support for the strong women who are still in the fight. They are much stronger than I am and I am proud of each of their accomplishments.

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The women of CST 2 at graduation. In memory of 1LT Ashley White.

The Alcoholic Cheater

Jameson

In the despair of my situation I stare down the bottle of whiskey. It’s almost gone and with it everything else. One more drink and it will all be gone. Everything. I won’t think and, more importantly, I won’t feel. To take away the responsibility of my actions. God, my actions. Everytime I think back, the shame steals my breath, steals my soul. I tip the bottle back and drink.

It’s a dream, the bliss of ignorance. I thought I was happy. I’d done everything a small Christian society dictated. I’d dated the same girl since I was 14. A childhood romance that bloomed into a marriage and a child. I started college. I did everything that I was suppose to do that makes people happy. It was the American Dream; love, family, education, a decent job. There were tiny moments when I was happy but then there would be a glance. I couldn’t put my finger on what I saw in that glance, but eventually I started to make small changes to see what the glance could show me. Then it exploded.

They say the truth shall set you free. In a way it does, it removes us from web of lies we have entangled ourselves in, but it can leave us in shambles with nothing but pieces to pick up. In my case I was left with nothing but pieces; with them, I am still trying to create a new life. It started after I got married and had a child; the deceit of lies began to grow. I realized my young wife and I had nothing in common, other than our son and long history of being together. I would start to find excuses as to why I needed to spend time away. I spent the majority of my days with my friends working or smoking pot. As long as I provided for my family, I was allowed to do whatever I pleased. I started hiding simple things about what I was doing; then bigger things like finances. We were crashing into insurmountable debt, but I had a job and was providing. That is until the job market crashed and I was out of work. With the pressure of providing for my family and the relationship with my wife becoming more and more distant, I found her best friend to confide in. We talked about everything without the stress and reality of my marriage. Hiding from my relationship I saw a commercial for the Army. Instead of talking it through with my wife, I made the decision that I was going to join. It provided another place to run away from reality and also improve the financial situation I was still hiding.

In a way the decision to join the Army made me feel like I was finally back in control of my own life. I could make my own decisions and be happy. It made me feel successful and capable. It breathed life back into me. It was me and me alone. However, it also created new stressors of an unknown future. I didn’t know where I would be living or if I was going to deploy. With the unknown in front of me I took “leave” and went home for a couple of weeks to spend time with my family. The time with my family turned into a relationship and sexual episodes with my wife’s best friend. Just before leaving, my wife discovered the deception and the truth came forward- the truth that I had been cheating. I’m not proud of it but it wouldn’t be the last time either. With the threat of being alone looming, I begged her to stay. She did. For the next couple of years we struggled to make it work.

Eventually the military sent me to Korea and it was a relief for me to move without my family. I could again be myself without the approval of my wife, or I could at least ignore the incessant nag by not answering her emails or phone calls. As I spent more time on my own, I created my own life and began to discover who I actually am and who I wanted to be. I became involved in working out and crossfit. I started to coach. I was becoming capable and my own person again. As I created this new life without my family I met a new girl. This girl made me feel alive. She began to challenge my way of thinking and life. I fell in love with her hard. I connected with her on a level I had never connected with another human being, but I was married and she knew it. So I lied, I told her my wife wanted a divorce even though I was the one who wanted it. That was all it took and I was in. The time with her was where I grew and developed more than I had my entire life. She challenged me. She let me see myself through new eyes. Eyes that could accept my life wasn’t what I wanted it to be and I could change it. It was ok to be me and have my own happiness.

As all lies do, this one came crashing down and I lost her. It was inevitable. I was still married with a kid, lying to her about it. However, my time with her gave me the courage to finally man up and do what I should have done a long time ago. I got a divorce. I felt like a failure and still do in some ways, but as the truth came out and my life fell to shambles, I learned what I didn’t know. The truth shall set you free. The truth was I wasn’t happy married and neither was my wife. By separating we have provided the opportunity to let the other person have happiness. The truth is I am afraid to be alone. The truth is I don’t think I deserve to be happy. The truth is I think that I am a horrible person for the things I’ve done. The truth is I look at the bottom of the bottle of Jameson and try to forget..