P.S. I’ve Got a Big Secret

 

I’ve got a big secret and soon the world will know it. The person involved will know it, but to understand the magnitude of these unspoken words, one must reflect on the past. A little more than five years ago, everything I knew about my life imploded with the assassination of my Phil. We had been married for more than 23 years and the only dreams I had revolved around growing old and dying together one day far away. My identity was wrapped up in being the great military wife and mother. I was content to live in my husband’s shadow and later in my children’s shadow. I was the quiet foil that brought it all together and created the family life that they all gravitated towards. On 27 April 2011, my job was ended. My dreams ended and I entered a vast barren wasteland of surviving.

Initially, I couldn’t fathom letting another man into my life. Phil and I had that what if talk just before he deployed. We had never had that talk before, but this time even though I made jokes about Raul the Pool Boy (and I do not have a pool nor do I know any Raul’s), Phil pressed on. I was having none of it since he was supposed to be in a safe position. Finally, he looked at me and asked one question that is etched on my heart, “Linda, if you died first, would you want me to be happy again?” Why, yes, yes, I would. He loved me that much.

It is easier to have that conversation than it is to consider that conversation. I was totally broken and as I made my way forward and found a way to make meaning and to make something positive out of my life, considering those words never entered the picture. I changed because I had no choice. I am no longer the quiet shy girl hiding in the shadows. I have found a niche in telling my story, advocating for military issues, and training our military members. While the road was lonely and long, I recognized that people only could see my story. They treated me differently—like I needed to be fixed, that I was somehow broken, that I was somehow in a different class.

While my voice and advocacy gave me a positive way forward, people couldn’t see beyond my story. When men did pay attention to me, they wanted to fix me, use me, or for me to stop talking about my story. They simply could not see that I was becoming more than that defining moment—more than that story. As time went by, it became almost expected and a badge of honor to others that I wasn’t dating or involved with others. I didn’t see it as honoring or as a badge of honor, but I had no interest in convincing someone to see beyond my voice. I shut down and I truly thought that I would live the rest of my days alone. I comforted myself in the thought of knowing that very few people had what I had for 23 years.

And then….I became friends with a runner. He never treated me like my story and he treated me as normal. While I didn’t realize it initially and while I am good at running scared, there came a moment that I knew we were destined to be great friends. It wasn’t our first race together or even our second race together, but when the Marine Corp Marathon 2015 was on both of our calendars, he showed up to navigate me to different places, get me coffee, and to talk to me. He didn’t have to. I didn’t even recognize what was starting to take root in my heart. I just knew that I felt safe with him in a way I hadn’t felt safe since 2011. Over a dinner

that took hours after running a long race, there was a moment that took me by surprise. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, and a thought crossed my mind. How could I be enjoying the company of a man? How had hours gone by and my story not have been a part of those hours. In that moment, I recognized that we were going to be great friends.

After that marathon and through many messages, feelings started to grow, but I was stilted and unsure. I was so busy convincing myself of why it couldn’t work, why I should remain single, and why he wasn’t feeling the way I was feeling, that it took him spelling it out around Thanksgiving. It was as simple as this. He never looked at me like I was broken. He never walked on egg shells around me. He never treated me differently. He treated me like the girl whose story is only part of the equation. While I can talk about Phil, and while he encourages me to write about my journey forward, it is only a fraction of what we share. He makes me laugh and he makes me dream again. He also is my soft place to lean into. While I cannot tell you what the future holds, I can tell you that I am a better version of myself for letting him in.

People (to include one of my children) have asked me who I love more, Phil or this guy. It is apples and oranges. Consider being a parent for a second. When I had my first child, I never thought I could love another the same. Then my Joshua was born and I felt that same ferocious love and loyalty as I did for Patrick, my oldest. Three more children followed Josh and I love them equally yet differently. I am not looking for a replacement or even a man to validate me or to care for me, yet this man does. I still can be scared. Nothing about this relationship is anything like what I have had in the past. The dawning recognition that this relationship is very, very different but that it is equally important to me makes me want to run. I don’t because I realize that life is too short to run from happiness. I don’t run because I realize that I am a better person with him than I am when I stand alone. I have grown and my heart is full. I am dreaming again and that is because of my secret.

PS My secret is about to be known to the world and to the man. Thank you for seeing beyond my story and thank you for not being intimidated by my telling of that story. G.B., I adore you…I love you. Nuff’ said.

I Am Not Invisible

I Am Not Invisible. I am not invisible, damn it. I have felt invisible and very, very insignificant since Phil’s death. I should have felt that way during all of the days leading to his death becaus…

Source: I Am Not Invisible

I Am Not Invisible

I Am Not Invisible

I am not invisible, damn it. I have felt invisible and very, very insignificant since Phil’s death. I should have felt that way during all of the days leading to his death because I was very shy and quiet. I liked lurking in the shadows and I didn’t mind living in the corners of my husband’s life or that of my children. I knew who I was—a simple girl that provided a safe mooring to those whose stars shone so much brighter than my own. I was the warm fire blazing at home that made it easy for others to do what they needed to do. I have changed in that though I wish I could hide and I wish I was that girl that was the warm place to land, that isn’t an option. I couldn’t figure out why I felt that way until last night.
I have come so far, but feeling like I am invisible and that I have no merit on my own is a thought and belief that has dogged me since I started emerging from the fog of having lost everything I worked for and invested in. Part of that brokenness was not knowing who I was when I wasn’t a wife, key spouse, or a full time mamma to children at home. Overnight, my status and my place in my little corner of my world ended. People looked at me differently and treated me differently.

I can walk into a crowded church and instead of being treated like a family that walks in, I get treated like a (gasp) marked single woman as in what is wrong with me, I must be divorced, or I must be gay. Nobody considers the other choice. In the military world, I was once part of the head table; now? I get relegated to the single airmen table. I get seated with the airmen young enough to be my children. I like them, but it shows me that I no longer fit or have merit. Where once I hung out with couples, I am a third wheel and often people speculate and gossip about my life. It is all very different, overwhelming, and it makes me feel like a woman wearing a Scarlet Letter. I have a story that most people cannot see beyond. They see my journey and they assume that is all there is to know about me. They simply cannot see beyond my loss. They treat me like I am fragile, broken, or like I get every good thing in my life because I am a military widow.

I am nothing special, but I have merit far beyond my loss. My imploded life is certainly the headliner, but it isn’t the final story. I have a wicked sense of humor, a wild sense of adventure, fierce loyalty to those I love, and I am a dreamer. I am the fun person to travel with because I am always up for an adventure and I rarely lose my cool. I just love life—always have. I sing off key, but I like to sing. I wake up ready to go and breakfast for dinner is my favorite. I like stomping in mud puddles, walking under the stars, and riding screaming roller coasters. I have always wanted to make a difference and I have never felt like I have been successful. I love children and they love me—I miss teaching and coaching. I have a strong sense of kindness and a strong work ethic. I love being outside, being in the water, hiking and doing anything. I calue time with the people I love more than anything. While I am well aware of my faults and there are many, many of them, I am more than my story, more than a broken girl, and more than what people see since that day in 2011.
My closest friends know my story, but that story is very rarely a part of the conversation. I didn’t date for 4.5 years because quite simply no man could see beyond my story, my journey, or my public persona. Only one person has looked at me like I am more than that—like I have merit on my own. Only one person has taken the time to get to know me insecurities and strengths. Only one person has chosen to see the story as part of what made me who I am and that is the person I run to now. It is in that being able to see beyond the masks that I wear that I am seen. I am not invisible. I am awake and alive because I am Linda, the simple girl standing in front of you.