Smothered By Love, Running For Life

You said that you loved me.
Your actions said it was true.
Happiness set me free,
And I no longer felt blue.
There was something in your embrace
That was filled with elegant grace.
We could not get enough of
Each others’ laugh and smile.
But life makes it tough
To give that extra mile.
So you tightened your hold
Only making me more cold.
You thought I didn’t care.
So you made your demand.
If only you gave me air,
Our love could’ve been grand.
I loved with all my might,
But your hold was too tight.
I chose to run away
For fear I’d slowly die.
No matter what I’d say,
You thought it was a lie.
I started to feel a rage
With living in your cage.
So now we are apart
Trying to make a new life.
But it’s pretty hard to start
When you thought you’d be a wife.
Regrettably, it’s sad…
As love we really had.

Happiness Is…Whatever You Say It Is

The phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is universal and hard to argue with when you look at art, home décor or even couples. Truly, everyone has a different view on what they find attractive. What you like, I may not. If beauty can be praised in such a vast spectrum, happiness can be no different.

While reading blogs, I was pointed to The Center for Advanced Hindsight’s blog. (Thank you for the lead Berryduchess.) Their Meaning of Happiness Changes Over Time blog got me wondering, what makes people happy?

Obviously, when you look at people, you can see that all types of things give people joy. Some people find pleasure reading a book while others would just assume run a 13-mile mud obstacle course than turn a page. Even within the happy-reading-a-book group, there are subgroups that would not be caught dead reading a certain genre or author.

CAH’s blog discussed how a person’s gauge on happiness-inducing events changes with time. That makes perfect sense. In high school, I was all smiles at the sight of my first car. Regardless of the fact that it was a missing-a-muffler, hole-in-the-floor-board, bright lemon-yellow heap, it made me ecstatic as it represented independence. Now, if you asked me to drive such a contraption, I would speculate on its safety and not nearly be as gleeful. In fact, I would probably be unhappy about such a ridiculous request. How is that possible when it made me happy once? I was still the beholder of beauty…but my perception of that beauty has evidently changed.

The first song I learned in elementary school choir attempted to teach me this lesson.

I am not sure if I picked up the significance back then, but the Happiness Is lyrics paint varying pictures of bliss. The images of delight range from tying your shoes to being alone to walking hand in hand. Those are all very diverse kinds of happiness that suggest dissimilar ages. (Not that I am not happy to still have the ability to tie my own shoes, but it does not give me the same level of joy now as a bubble bath that is accompanied with a glass of wine.)

CAH’s blog elaborates more to state that young people tend to have more adventurous views on what makes them happy, while “older people tend to find happiness and define themselves in the ordinary experiences that comprise daily life.” (I guess that might explain the bubble bath and wine I enjoy so dearly.)

Their post also mentions how a particular study found that “bucket lists” tend not to be as dramatic as believed. “It’s worth noting that these findings greatly contrast the “bucket list” hypothesis, the idea that as people feel their days are running out, they are motivated to do the extraordinary. For instance, in the film The Bucket List, two aging men strive to have the most extraordinary experiences possible. Though these cases do exist in society, they may be the exception. In general, the rule is that as people feel like they are aging, they turn away from the extraordinary and, like my grandfather, focus on the everyday.”

This made me feel a little special, as I am the exception then. Well, I am partially an exception anyway. (You can just call it well balanced though.) After aging some, getting divorced and enduring three deployments, I feel like I need to have a bucket list. I must experience some extraordinary things to make up for the lost years and sadness. I should witness amazing wonders and yet, applaud the most basics of life. I recently discovered a great quote that explains the level of life I aspire to achieve. “I would rather die of passion than of boredom,” said Vincent Van Gogh.

For me, this means I want to be passionate about everything; I want to try all that life has to offer. From reading good books to white water rafting, it’s on the list. I want to feel the exhilaration of an enduring love. I have swung from a trapeze. I fantasize about horseback riding in Ireland. I have danced around my kitchen alone to inspiring music. I desire to experience the rush of sky diving. I have enjoyed baking a caramel apple pecan pie from scratch. Basically, I welcome adventure and savor the simple.

Recently, I picked up a paintbrush at one of those places that give you a rough sketch where you fill in the blanks. I have never been artistic by any means and cannot recall painting outside of a school art class, but I found myself really pouring my emotions onto the canvas. I was taking the rough outline and adding my own creativity…and to my surprise, my paintings are not utterly horrible. (I could at least provide some stiff competition to an average 5th grade art class student!)

These are the three paintings I created from rough pencil outlines. They are not master pieces, but nonetheless, they are mine and were so fun to create.

These are the three paintings I created from rough pencil outlines. They are not master pieces, but nonetheless, they are mine and were so fun to create.

I find that my days are filled with more things than I ever imagined. I am feeling more. I am taking more risks and stepping out of my comfort zone. I am really living in the moments to see every nuisance of brilliance. In this process, I am finding happiness within me. This new awareness is leading me on a journey-somewhere I think I should have been already. I do not know where the path is leading, but either way, I am determined to embrace it.

Selma Hayek stated, “People often say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’ and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have not dared to look, including inside ourselves.” I couldn’t agree with her more.

I am the beholder of what I find beautiful and what makes me happy, just as you are for you. And, like the song’s last line says, happiness is anyone and anything at all that is loved by you. All we need to do it open our eyes and hearts, happiness is out there and inside us all.

Who am I and Why am I Here?

Back in elementary school, I wrote my first two “books.” The assignment for a young author’s day was to complete an illustrated book. I could not choose between topics, so I wrote two. One book was about a girl with telekinesis and the other was about a flying horse. Now, some 30-plus years later, I still do not have a flying horse, super powers or any published books, so I figured; I may as well start chasing my dreams and begin writing.

I am not sure how I could spell telekinesis back then or how I even heard of it, but it (and flying horses) inspired me to begin to write and dream. Through writing, I was free and alive.

As the years passed, I continued to write short stories, journals and poems, but writing was never a full-time affair. It was always pushed the side for things like homework, cheerleading practice, boys and social events.

I completed my journalism degree, but it was on the extended 10-year plan due to a full-time retail job, a hard marriage and wonderful kids. Therefore, yet again, writing took a back seat to life with bills, children and responsibilities.

The only time writing took any kind of lead, was in my decision to join the military. After completing my journalism degree, I could not afford to take an entry-level job. In 2000, my journalism job offers were about $12,000 less than my retail management position. Taking that big of pay cut just to do what I wanted, would have been selfish and irresponsible. Consequently, I signed the dotted line. The way I saw it, joining the Army Reserve was one way for me to actually do any form of journalism and still pay the bills.

Nearly 14 years later, I am still a Soldier, a mom, and happily NOT working in retail nor in an unhappy marriage. Everything in life seems to be pulling me back to where I should have been long ago. I am finding the me that I lost in my 20s when I was trying to hold on to everything that was wrong for me. I suppose stubborn naive youth made me keep clinging to stuff that was slowly killing me (miserable jobs, despondent marriage, unhealthy habits, limited ‘me’ time).

Now older and wiser, I realize that life is short. I need to hurry up and do the things I want to do before I run out of time. I must stop making excuses to live because in doing so I am not really living anyway. I have to release the thoughts in my head as they never cease in bombarding my waking moments. I want to express the passion I feel and yet still crave to find. I should at least attempt the items on that unwritten bucket list so I have no regrets. I am obliged to show my kids that life will not wait for your situation to be perfect.

So ready or not, here I am, on a blog. Blogging is my path to find that little author inside of me. By writing more often, I hope to find my stories, and myself. Frankly, my topics on here will vary. I will write about whatever is on my mind. It may be a story from my past, a make-believe adventure in my head, or vent about a pet peeve. Along the way, I may entertain people or bore them into a blissful nap, but either way, I will not continue to be afraid to start nor make excuses on why I cannot. I will take each day to chase those dreams, and ultimately, find my life.

*This was my first assignment for Blogging 101. It seemed to be a bit harder to write on an assigned topic, but yet, made me realize why I chose the name for my blog in the first place. There’s irony for you.

How September 11th Changed Me

On September 11, 2001, I was in Hawaii. Yes, I was in paradise, but even there, the world stopped.

I remember getting a predawn phone call from our family in the main land. They told us what was going on and we immediately got out of bed and turned on the news. We watched the second plane hit, and just like the rest of the world… our hearts stopped.

My high school-sweetheart husband was in the Army. I had just completed my basic training with the Army Reserve, and that upcoming weekend was to be my first drill weekend. So, we immediately thought like Soldiers.

We checked the kids. We called friends and other family members. We gathered all the information we could from the news. We secured the house. We reported our status with our units. And, in between all of that, we knew, our duties as Soldiers were forever altered.

As the facts unfolded throughout the day, fear was in the air – even in Hawaii. The military gates were on lock down and only the select few were allowed access. Schools were closed. Traffic was sparse as everyone stayed in place. It was as though the world was partially frozen and moving in slow motion.

The trepidation touched even the youngest of hearts. My 7-year-old daughter and I walked outside at one point in the day, and a plane roared overhead. As I looked up at it, my innocent child fearfully asked, “Mommy, are they going to crash into us too?”

If these things were happening all the way in Hawaii, I can only imagine the choking atmosphere in the main land.

Now that so many years have passed, I look back and reflect on how that day altered so many people’s lives. Obviously, for those directly involved in the events, it must have been like living in a never-ending nightmare. I imagine those days must replay in their heads like Soldiers’ night terrors from war. Posttraumatic stress is not limited to those who wear a uniform. My heart and soul ache for those people. There cannot be a way to truly recover from such pain. All you can do is find a new normal and move forward.

September 11th changed my world, like many others. I deployed a few times. My husband deployed a few times. In our own little way through our assigned jobs, we were fighting terrorism. Those were just the direct effects though. Indirectly, it transformed my way of living. The horrible day showed me that nothing is permanent. We are not promised a tomorrow. We are never truly safe from danger or hate.

I have never understood or will understand terrorism. I cannot fathom the energy it must take to hate with every fiber of being. The time it must take to plan such destruction must be exhausting. If I do not like someone, they do not exist to me. I will not waste time thinking about them or finding ways to ruin them. With the unknown amount of time I have left on earth, I choose to live. I will embrace my friends and family. I will try new things. I will take calculated risks. I will see new places. I will stop and breathe in the beauty of the world that God created. I will make attempts to honor him and make a difference in the world. (Not sure how much I really achieve on this note, but at least I mean well and will keep trying.) I will welcome each day and cherish the gift that it is as tomorrow may never be.

Ultimately, I think this is how we, average people, beat the terrorists. We show them that their blows cannot stop us. We continue to live, love and laugh. We all keep working and rebuilding. We support the global efforts to eliminate their awful souls. We refuse to let their hate taint our hearts — dampen our spirits. We spread a little kindness each and every day. Regardless of politics, races, or religions, we band together when things are bleak. United together, the radiance of our joy and life can illuminate the dark and win over evil.

Master of Resiliency or Mask of Happiness?

With the death of Robin Williams recently, I started thinking about loneliness and depression. People seem to be surprised that someone so fun and happy could take his own life. I loved his work, but I cannot say I followed his personal life, so I can only guess on his struggles.

What I do know from my own life experiences though, is that those fun and happy people are often the ones most in need. They are the life of the party, always positive and ever so happy. They are trying new things and always on the go. How could they be sad?

Reasons for someone’s sadness are too many to guess, but I know that when I am sad, I get busier. It is as if I will not feel any pain if I am doing things. I will not feel lonely if strangers surround me at some event. I will not feel lost if I am out in nature. If I photograph beautiful things, I will absorb that glow into my soul. Sometimes it works. Other times it is just a mask for some ache in my heart.

People say I am brave for going solo to things (like concerts, sporting events, or dinners). I do not think it is bravery but a necessity. First of all, I spent so many years NOT doing things and being miserable that I feel like I MUST make up for lost time. I lost years in unhappy relationships and multiple deployments. And through some of that time, I lost myself. I forgot who I was in those relationships. I could not recall what I needed or wanted. I merely existed to make other people happy.

Ironically, deployments helped center me in many ways. I recalled who I was, what I was capable of and what made me tick. I felt as though I had accomplished things that mattered. I saw the world and gained an appreciation for life. However, those years took time from loved ones that I could never get back – time where I could have worked on those relationships and myself.

Therefore, in effort to gain some ground on life, I try to seize the moments I can. I will take myself to the symphony in a fancy dress. I will get a horse and then figure out how to ride. I will sign myself up for a painting or trapeze class. I want to live. I want to see and feel all I can. I want to appreciate and use up every moment I have for those who never made it home from war, and the girl who lost all that time.

What I have realized recently though, is that my other reason for staying busy is to curb sadness. It is hard to frown when you are white water rafting or listening to some amazing violinist who makes you want to dance. It is nearly impossible to feel disconnected to the world while doing paddleboard yoga. Some of my greatest moments of peace come when I am wandering through the woods on my horse. I have also been pleasantly surprised that I can actually paint a fill-in-the-line design that does not look like a 4th grader did it (perhaps a 6th grader, but definitely not 4th).

I did not realize that by doing these things I was hiding my feelings of sadness…until I stopped. When left sitting alone, I felt, well… alone. Not that I do not need and enjoy moments of solitude, but there are times I fill the void of company with activity. It is as if I am trying to prove to myself that I am not wasting space on the earth. If I embrace all that life has to offer, I must be living it. If I am filling my time with accomplishments of events, I will feel complete.

The Army has started giving courses on resiliency. They cover character strengths, putting things into perspective and hunting good things for your spirit. The courses I have received instruction on so far are quite interesting and thought provoking. With those courses in mind, I think, maybe I am not necessarily depressed as much as I am resilient at holding that hopelessness back from controlling me. If I stay active and self aware, I can conquer those moments of darkness when they try to cloak my spirit for joy.

With a four-day weekend coming up, I have a full calendar of events in my I-don’t-have-time-for-stupid-sadness arsenal. They range from learning to make sushi to kayaking to witnessing a field of hot air balloons. I know it all sounds random, but such is my life. (And arsenals by definition need to be all encompassing, don’t they?) So after I jampack my free time with a laundry list of adventures, I can decide on whether I am embracing life, hiding misery or mastering resiliency…that is, if I find time.