It Takes a Village That I Want to be a Part Of

It Takes a Village That I Want to be a Part Of.

It Takes a Village That I Want to be a Part Of

I am fighting with everything I have to find a place to fit. I knew where I fit with my Phil and my children, but I never quite knew how to fit in other places. I fit one on one anywhere, but my natural reticence and time constraint limited me my opportunity to practice. Moving every three to four years and having people move in an out of my life at that same pace meant that my lifelines were shallow and essentially non-existent. I never realized how small my world was. While my children were out of the house when Phil was killed, he was my world.

Many married people in the military and others might understand this. When one person works all day, comes home to the family and the crazy chaos of raising those children right, it leaves little time to establish deep friendships or hobbies. In the military world, we get very used to connecting with people quickly and at the surface because we are all in the same box of facing deployments, fear, moves, and not having family nearby. Those connections get severed time and time again. While we can meet any of these connections ten years down the road and immediately reconnect, these friendships are built on shifting sands. When the body slams come, we do not have 911 friends—friends that know what a person needs without ever saying a word.

The one area that I struggle the most in my grief journey is that I do not know where I fit any more. While every person’s grief journey is different, I have observed my mother as she has walked through the loss of my dad. She is surrounded by a church family that has known her for years, friends, and a community that embraces her. While she struggles in other areas, socially she is woven into the fabric of many colors. I have running, writing, and work because my children live far from me. Three years out, I recognize that I need friendships and connections—not pity party friends—in my local area. I also recognize that it has been years since I was the friend I need to be. My heart is soft and has gaping holes now, and in my weakness comes transparency.

That transparency means that I am a better friend than I once was, however, I am still stumbling with my connections here in MA. The only person that can change that is me. It is still not comfortable to ask people if they want to go to the pool, a run, or lunch, but I am doing it. It isn’t a natural inclination for me any more to let people in, but I am peeling back the layers of aloofness. It is hard at my age to change my spots. It requires action and it requires a constant sense of unease as I press ahead.

Today, I realized that I do fit in at work and I do fit in with certain people. The problem is that many of these people are not people I will get too close to due to them being married (male), in a position over me, or they are from MA and incredibly busy with their own family. To change my loneliness, I will have to be on the look out and I will have to take risks. To that, I am selling my condo to move on base. I will shorten my commute time and I will be among people who I see every day. Many are here for a long time and while living on base may not be financially the right thing to do, I crave normal friendships and fun conversations. Yes, the deeper words will come, but I do not want to be the train wreck that people steer clear of because they do not know what to say. Yes, I still miss Phil and that will never go away, but I simply know that I must reach for these connections and that never again can I let my lifeline become one deep because it is inevitable that at some point in my life, there will be another body slam. I want to be able to weather the battering storms of my life and the lives of my friends as I create the community and network that carries us all.

As I stare at the girl in the mirror, I hardly recognize her, but I can see the strength and can see a place that may be far from now when I do have the strongest network of a community because I do see the friends weaving into my heartstrings. Some of been with me all along and others are relatively new, and while I am working on local connections, they are coming. The friendships are coming because I am changing and I am being the friend I always should have been.

To Hold On or To Forget?

To Hold On or To Forget?.

To Hold On or To Forget?

In grief, people want the pain of a broken heart to end, yet they cling to mementos and memories. Some people get stuck in the morass of a crushing cycle of pain and living in the gray twilight where they stand with one foot in the past and one foot in the constant state of wanting what cannot be had. Some people want to forget the memories and try to numb the heart to shield themselves from pain. I fall into the latter category of avoidance and running away.

In the initial haze of pain so deep that physically I hurt, I ran away from Colorado–the place I fit. I couldn’t deal with my pain and the pain of those around me. I couldn’t drive, run, breathe….anything….because every experience had previously been rooted in being with Phil and our family. I ran to Germany and I stopped celebrating holidays, birthdays, or even much of a life. I worked and I ran. I couldn’t make plans or enjoy moments because to do so would have meant ripping off bandaids.

Three years later, I am starting to feel the need to come out of my shell and to find a place to fit and to discover who I am without my Phil. This process of self-discovery is much like an adolescent who wonders who they are separate from their families. I have spent the past year going back to school because the fire that sparked and then blazed as I stumbled through talking and writing about my loss needed a venue and a platform to make a difference for others on this journey. Making the decision to go to school was the easy part of the growth process. The harder aspects are the walls I face and beat down time and time again.

Where do I want to live? I do not see myself in MA long term, but I may be here until retirement. How do I celebrate the holidays when they were so much fun with Phil and my family? I know that I need to find a way to make holidays happy again because I want my family back. I want laughter and fun, smack talking and family competitions, and I want new memories. The only way that new “normal” will happen is if I fight for it. Yes, sometimes it is a choice to deal with pain or deal with fighting through the not wanting to something to get to a different place.

On my birthday which is a day that reminds me every year of how many more years I have than my Phil, I found myself wishing that I had amnesia. There is a problem with that wishful thinking because amnesia means forgetting the happy times as well as the pain, thus I will take the patchwork healing of my broken heart. There will always be holes in my heart, but the heart has grown stronger and it has developed new strands around the scars. Do I have the journey figured out? Do I even know what I want in terms of where to live and what to do and how to make my family events fun again? I am figuring it out.

I am in MA for the time being and I made a decision to sell my condo so that I can move on base where I do have some connections. I am shy, but I am choosing to pull up my big girl panties and face my fears because I have discovered that forever is a long time to be alone. While I do not know if I will have a chapter two, I have come to peace with being open to it. I even went on a blind date that didn’t work out a few weeks ago. Someone on base set me up. Take a leap of faith, I said yes, and in that acceptance, footing was found. I still do not feel comfortable with many aspects of modern dating (online) and I am very wary, but I do have room in my heart to either love again or to learn to be happy alone.

The last piece of my personal journey is harder to fix. I am waking up again and forcing myself to confront the shrinking violet staring back in the mirror, but how to I sew the tenuous gossamer threads of my family back together. We lost so much in the grief process. Three years is a long time when one’s children live all over the world, and yet it is the singular component that matters to me in terms of finding a new normal. I want to find a way to have fun again. To have fun, I need to find a way to make holidays and family fun happen. 2015/2016 will be the soonest all of my children will be in the states. I want to do a family cruise. One would think that would be an easy feat. Sadly it is not. Relationships need to be repaired and six working adults need to coordinate calendars, but I am ready to rip off the bandaids, face my fears, and deal with the pain of memories passed to make sparkles of happy memories in the present. I am certain a certain angel will be looking on and cheering us on while singing, “How do you like us now?”

Hope Against All Hope

Hope Against All Hope.

Hope Against All Hope

I was considering this verse and what I stand on today as I ran on. By deciding to take the job and stay in MA at least for now, I closed many other doors. Each door had its own merit and each road led to something else. With no clear direction for my remaining days, and with my dreams I once had of siting on the porch in WA state with my Phil laughing over our grandchildren’s antics, my vision is shifting. I do not know what my future holds and many days are very lonely, but I made a decision at the same time I decided where to stay for now–if I do not like the girl looking back in the mirror, there is only one person who can change it–me. In small faltering steps, I am pushing my comfort zone.
In the past week, I had someone tell me that they had given up hope of finding a chapter two. I thought about that while I ran. I want a chapter two. I believe that God gave me a promise for that on 24 June 2011, but even if–EVEN IF–it does not happen, I was blessed with a remarkable man who loved me well for 23 years. Many people do not get that. The problem for me is that if I listen to many people who tell me that I should not be so picky or that I should be thankful to be asked out at all, or even that I should go out with lots of people, I get caught up in compromising of myself and what I need, want, and value.
My hope does not falter regardless of relationships or a few hard moments. My hope is the quiet confidence that I feel each and every morning that I get out of bed. I do not explain it well, but I always have a feeling that something good is going to happen every day. Yes, maybe it is just the happiness and satisfaction of my run, or maybe it is in the quiet awareness of knowing that I am impacting my little area of the world one small ripple at a time, but I believe and I stand in expectant hope–ALWAYS. Langston Hughes once said, “When hope dies, life is but a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” I am soaring in the hope that carries me to lofty heights and unexpected choices.

ambardpl

Today at church, I was struck by a thought.  How often do believers hide their light?  The reason they can have a sliver of hope in the darkest hours?  Like Simon Peter, I hide my faith when I should be standing firm.  How many missed opportunities have I missed afraid of offending or afraid of ….what?  When Phil died, my testimony became my walk through loss.

I never could have thought about what would be asked of me.  My faith became very real when I studied for the sacrament of Communion at the age of six.  I  never strayed too far from my walk, but I fell short more often than not.  I believed that if I prayed hard enough and believed enough that somehow I was immune to life body slams.  It wasn’t a conscious thought, but I prayed every single day multiple times for my Phil’s safe return…

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How Proud You Were To Fight For Freedom In This Land

As I ran yesterday morning, as song that I often affiliated with my Phil began to waft through my head phones. “I could see it in your eyes how proud you were to fight for freedom in our land.” Phil never took for granted the freedoms afforded to him by the citizenship he received to our country a week shy of his 18th birthday. He felt civic duty to serve and to vote. While he was not a combatant in any sense of the word, he proudly donned the United States Air Force uniform every day of his working adult life (he enlisted when he was 18).

As a nation, we have grown complacent in our freedoms and the responsibilities we carry to maintain those freedoms. We fail to feel a sense of compassion, empathy, or responsibility to our fellow world travelers. We look only to our needs. We forget the oppressed or the people who can’t give us something in return for our actions. Would we even recognize the hurting person standing next to us? The want or need of another human. Sometimes that need is to be touched. To be talked to. To be heard.

When I hear our country’s national anthem, I picture a dirty and spent Francis Scott Key sitting in a boat buffeted by the crashing waves. I hear the loud cannons and the pops of guns around him. I smell the acrid gunpowder as it lingers in the fray of the midnight sky. I see men in tattered rags holding weapons and pressing on for the freedoms that they believed in. A society they coveted.
While the war raged on and the skies filled with the smoke of the fight, Francis could not see who was winning, but he believed. He believed and had faith that all would be for what was good, true, and right. All he could do in the moment was to have faith and to pen his thoughts. I understand this total sense of lack of control and of not being able to see ahead. I understand being buffeted by the tumultuous waves as I sit in my boat. I cling to the desperation of hope and I have faith that my Phil’s death mattered to others besides myself.

While this war was not on our American soil, and my Phil was in Afghanistan as a teacher…a trainer…my Phil stood for what he believed was honorable. He stood for our battered flag being raised in the sky. He stood for the piece of cloth still waving after the attacks on the World Towers on 9/11. He stood for people who had no skills or abilities to change their own infrastructure. He chose to volunteer to go to Afghanistan for a year to effect the change that he felt would bring that oppressed region hope for a better future without the violence it knows now. He stood as a man of faith willing to commit to actions.

To understand what motivated Phil, one must understand a twelve year old coming to the states speaking two words of English–ewsa for USA and sum-a-team-us for sometimes. He arrived from Venezuela after a six year separation from his mother, father, and half sister. He arrived to a father that was beaten by life. Phil struggled to fit into a mainstream school. He and I often laughed over mastering English by watching soap operas–something I never watched. To meet my Phil, a person never would have guessed his Venezuelan/French roots (maybe with the word Frito). He had become an american through and through. When the time came to retire, he just couldn’t see it. He felt that he finally was in a position to give back to the military and to the country that had given him so much. After 26 years of Air Force service, he intended to stay until he was forced out. He loved it that much.

Part of what made the events of 27 April so egregious is that he trusted his assassin. He enjoyed practicing his languages with this man and talking about a new day dawning for the Afghan people. He believed enough that he had me send things for the schools and for the military men he worked with. Yet, this man knew and plotted an act that can never be explained. While it is possible that he was the sole person perpetuating this vile act, it is doubtful. Does it matter at this point? Would it change the outcome? I suppose that is the area that I have moved the furthest in the past three years. It really doesn’t matter. Phil is still gone. Nine people lost their lives in an act that we will never know the full details to. My shift has come in recognizing what it cost to give me, give other citizens, basic rights and freedoms. There is and there was a cost to all that I value.

On the fourth of July, I remember the patriots that have gone with my Phil and I am humbled by their sacrifice. What sacrifice am I able to give to change the world for others? What am I willing to give up or to do for our country in gratitude for the freedoms and opportunities that I have every day? While I do not carry a gun or go to Afghanistan, I can reach out to people here. I can see people. I can hear people. I can finally feel the pain of others. I can stand for something other than my own wants and needs. I can choose today to honor Phil’s memory with my actions and my service.

How Proud You Were to Fight For Freedom in This Land

As I ran yesterday morning, as song that I often affiliated with my Phil began to waft through my head phones. “I could see it in your eyes how proud you were to fight for freedom in our land.” Phil never took for granted the freedoms afforded to him by the citizenship he received to our country a week shy of his 18th birthday. He felt civic duty to serve and to vote. While he was not a combatant in any sense of the word, he proudly donned the United States Air Force uniform every day of his working adult life (he enlisted when he was 18).

As a nation, we have grown complacent in our freedoms and the responsibilities we carry to maintain those freedoms. We fail to feel a sense of compassion, empathy, or responsibility to our fellow world travelers. We look only to our needs. We forget the oppressed or the people who can’t give us something in return for our actions. Would we even recognize the hurting person standing next to us? The want or need of another human. Sometimes that need is to be touched. To be talked to. To be heard.

When I hear our country’s national anthem, I picture a dirty and spent Francis Scott Key sitting in a boat buffeted by the crashing waves. I hear the loud cannons and the pops of guns around him. I smell the acrid gunpowder as it lingers in the fray of the midnight sky. I see men in tattered rags holding weapons and pressing on for the freedoms that they believed in. A society they coveted.
While the war raged on and the skies filled with the smoke of the fight, Francis could not see who was winning, but he believed. He believed and had faith that all would be for what was good, true, and right. All he could do in the moment was to have faith and to pen his thoughts. I understand this total sense of lack of control and of not being able to see ahead. I understand being buffeted by the tumultuous waves as I sit in my boat. I cling to the desperation of hope and I have faith that my Phil’s death mattered to others besides myself.

While this war was not on our American soil, and my Phil was in Afghanistan as a teacher…a trainer…my Phil stood for what he believed was honorable. He stood for our battered flag being raised in the sky. He stood for the piece of cloth still waving after the attacks on the World Towers on 9/11. He stood for people who had no skills or abilities to change their own infrastructure. He chose to volunteer to go to Afghanistan for a year to effect the change that he felt would bring that oppressed region hope for a better future without the violence it knows now. He stood as a man of faith willing to commit to actions.

To understand what motivated Phil, one must understand a twelve year old coming to the states speaking two words of English–ewsa for USA and sum-a-team-us for sometimes. He arrived from Venezuela after a six year separation from his mother, father, and half sister. He arrived to a father that was beaten by life. Phil struggled to fit into a mainstream school. He and I often laughed over mastering English by watching soap operas–something I never watched. To meet my Phil, a person never would have guessed his Venezuelan/French roots (maybe with the word Frito). He had become an american through and through. When the time came to retire, he just couldn’t see it. He felt that he finally was in a position to give back to the military and to the country that had given him so much. After 26 years of Air Force service, he intended to stay until he was forced out. He loved it that much.

Part of what made the events of 27 April so egregious is that he trusted his assassin. He enjoyed practicing his languages with this man and talking about a new day dawning for the Afghan people. He believed enough that he had me send things for the schools and for the military men he worked with. Yet, this man knew and plotted an act that can never be explained. While it is possible that he was the sole person perpetuating this vile act, it is doubtful. Does it matter at this point? Would it change the outcome? I suppose that is the area that I have moved the furthest in the past three years. It really doesn’t matter. Phil is still gone. Nine people lost their lives in an act that we will never know the full details to. My shift has come in recognizing what it cost to give me, give other citizens, basic rights and freedoms. There is and there was a cost to all that I value.

On the fourth of July, I remember the patriots that have gone with my Phil and I am humbled by their sacrifice. What sacrifice am I able to give to change the world for others? What am I willing to give up or to do for our country in gratitude for the freedoms and opportunities that I have every day? While I do not carry a gun or go to Afghanistan, I can reach out to people here. I can see people. I can hear people. I can finally feel the pain of others. I can stand for something other than my own wants and needs. I can choose today to honor Phil’s memory with my actions and my service.