Lioness' Literatim

Letter for letter, the thoughts in my head.

2011; Ready for Review

Well people, it’s that time of year again where I find myself sitting down and reviewing the past year. So much has changed this year. As with every year, 2011 had its ups and downs. There were periods that dragged on and periods that raced by, all culminating with a New Year’s Eve spent sitting in the office waiting/praying for the phone to ring. All things considered though, this holiday season was much less stressful than last year’s, despite my current settings.

So, without further ado, 2011 in a nutshell:

January

After the most stressful holiday season I’ve ever experienced, I made myself get back on a plane to the middle of Nowhere, AZ because I’d signed a contract that said if I didn’t, I’d be in big trouble. I spent most of January rethinking my reasons for joining the Army, debating every day about whether I wanted to quit or continue on. These debates were fueled by the new knowledge that my darling husband, the kid that convinced me to join the Army in the first place, didn’t want me in.

February

Started hanging out with this one guy in my class who would later become a lot more important to me than I ever thought was possible. In February, I got my second tattoo – an infinity cross with rosebuds and butterflies – and that guy I was hanging out with a lot, he was there. At some point during February, he earned himself the nickname Pikachu. I think it’s safe to say that in February I started being more comfortable in my own skin and more confident about who I am.

March

In March I got the second piece of my back tattoo – a half opened rose with a butterfly – and guess who was sitting right beside me, holding my hand. At this point there was no question that he was my best friend. There was hardly a time when we weren’t together. At the end of March I found myself wishing I could slow down time because, although I was anxious to get out of TRADOC and all the bullshit it brought, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the familiarity of Ft. Huachuca and face the real Army. Especially since in the real Army there were things to deal with like orders that placed me halfway across the country from my husband. In March I also had to face the fact that, despite missing my husband, Pikachu and I had a connection that scared me.

April

In April, Pikachu took me out to my favorite restaurant in Nowhere, AZ to celebrate my 20th birthday with delicious Greek food and Baklava. I graduated at the top of my class out of 120 new analysts and headed home, spending my first week of ‘freedom’ showing Pikachu some of my favorite things about Florida life. I was finally reunited with my husband and after sending Pikachu back to his faraway home I made my way to Ft. Bragg, had a very disappointing first night in my new apartment and began settling into the life of a wife.

May

In May I began my work at the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater). It didn’t take long to figure out that the 1st TSC doesn’t function quite like most other units. It’s a beast of a different color. In May I sat my husband down and told him that something had to change, because I didn’t feel he was treating me the way he should. Things changed, for a few hours. A few days later I sat him down again and told him that things really needed to change because I didn’t appreciate him walking all over me and taking advantage of me being there. I was his wife, not his maid. Again, things changed for a few hours, and this time I made up my mind. I deserved better than what he was giving me and if he couldn’t make an honest effort to treat me right, he didn’t deserve me. So I left. In my new Jeep. Which I love.

June

In June Pikachu came out to Ft. Bragg before he deployed to help me get settled into my new apartment. It was a bittersweet visit because neither of us knew what to expect with his deployment. We’d kept in touch pretty well since graduation, and he was the one that was keeping me sane during the initial stage of my separation. He was who I called when the hubby and I decided we wouldn’t be trying to work things out but would instead be filing for a divorce. But, Duty called and he left for that strange place we call Afghaniland. Luckily, we still able to talk fairly frequently, so my sanity didn’t suffer too terribly.

July

In July I drove from Ft. Bragg to PA to visit my sister that I hadn’t seen since my BCT graduation. My dad retired after 30 years in the Marine Corps and I was lucky enough to get time off of work to be there. In July I admitted that I’d fallen in love with Pikachu. In July, we decided to tackle this long-distance relationship thing that neither one of us really wanted to try. You’ve heard them say “long distance never works” I’m sure. We thought we knew what we were getting into. I got lonely and brought baby Kiwi into my life – silly kitten. In July I went through the Army’s Driver’s Training Course to get my license on the HMMWV. Events being what they were, insecurities and jealousies surfaced and we began to realize what makes long distance relationships so hard. But we fought through it.

August

I started going to the gym a couple times a week with some of the guys from work. I reconnected with God in a way that confused me, but I find this connection to still be strong and true. In August I fought with the depression that comes with the territory of being the girlfriend of a deployed soldier. Constant worrying, not enough sleep and increasing stress at work threatened to break me. The only thing that kept me going was knowing he was coming to see me at the end of the month and he’d be all mine for two whole weeks. That and the fresh pain from my fourth tattoo – a scorpion on my ankle.

September

Pikachu was home for the first part of the month, and putting him back on a plane to Afghaniland was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done. I had a bit of an emotional breakdown at PT the following morning, and as a direct result, gained a significant amount of respect for the G2’s new SGM. I learned, about three weeks out, that I’d be deploying to Kuwait the first weekend of October, and so the frenzy began. Packing things up and trying to get everything settled before it was time to leave was a new challenge, but I met it. Barely.

October

We left the first of the month and spent more time sitting on the tarmac than we did in the air. We got stranded overnight in Germany and arrived in Kuwait a full day later than we were supposed to. Training was quick, frustrating and confusing, and then it was over and the old team was gone. It didn’t take too long to get settled into our daily routines. A couple weeks in, Pikachu and I managed a phone call, not knowing it’d be the last time we’d hear each others’ voices for a couple of months. I started working out regularly under the guidance of the boss, and when I wasn’t at work or the gym, I was glued to Yahoo, hoping he’d be able to continue answering my emails. Towards the end of the month there was a rather intense, eye-opening email conversation that spanned the length of several days and sleepless nights. But then we heard that he’d be going home early, and that was pushed to a backburner.

November

The beginning of November was tough, learning that rather than going home early he’d be relocating to someplace else in Afghanistan instead. In November I become addicted to working out – became a true endorphin addict. Now I can’t help but wonder if this would still have happened if Pikachu and I had more regular contact. I know I often found myself heading to the gym after being disappointed by an email that didn’t come or contained only a few short words. The gym became my ‘happy place.’ I had my second Thanksgiving surrounded by uniforms and found myself thanking God for all of the amazing men and women I’d had the honor of meeting and serving with so far. And then immediately following Thanksgiving I fell prey to the depression again, but it was worse this time.

December

The combination of being away from home for the holidays and the minimal amount of contact that Pikachu and I were able to maintain had me in a rapid downward spiral to depression that came within an inch of breaking me many different times. Endorphins or not, I was beginning to question the strength of our relationship and whether we’d actually be able to make it through the deployment. I did my best to make sure no one knew what I was going through. And then we talked – and I mean really talked – for the first time in a month and a half or more, and he made me remember why I love him and helped me rediscover the strength I had hidden away that would get me through the rest of the deployment. Christmas came and went, my first away from home, celebrated with an early morning 5k run.

And now, here it is, New Year’s Eve. Less than an hour until the New Year hits and I’ve spent my evening sitting in the office waiting/praying for the phone to ring (and finally getting to talk to Pikachu!) and writing this post. No plates of snack food, sparkling grape juice or champagne. No Times’ Square ball or movie marathons. No family, no New Year’s kiss since the only person I’m interested in kissing is a couple of countries away. In some ways, it’s kind of a bleak ending to a crazy year. In other ways, it’s kind of peaceful. But maybe that’s just my subconscious comparing the stress of last year’s holiday season with the slightly painful ease of this year’s. Either way, it’s been a crazy year with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and I can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store for us. It’ll be difficult, with Pikachu changing AOs on me and not knowing how much communication we’ll have during the next few months, but we’ll be home before we know it!

Happy New Year!

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31 December 2011 Posted by | Confessions, In the hands of God, Life's what we make it, Sleepless Night Ramblings, That thing called Love, This Army life is crazy | Leave a comment

Just keep breathing

It’s funny how one little – not very surprising – sentence can ruin your entire day.

“Well it doesn’t look like we’re going home early after all.”

In all honesty, there’s absolutely no reason that this should have upset me. For the past couple of months he’s been telling me of the possibilities his leadership was talking about for his unit. For the past couple of months it’s been a back and forth and back and forth three way tennis match between leaving early, moving AOs and sticking it out for the remainder of the deployment. I was preparing myself for the worst. It became apparent fairly quickly that they couldn’t just stick it out. There just isn’t enough room for that much testosterone in one AO. A few weeks ago he told me they finally made a decision: they were changing AOs. I can’t say I was particularly happy about this decision, especially when I heard where they would be moving to, but it wasn’t the worst that could’ve happened so I started trying to warm up to the idea. A week ago, he told me they’d changed their minds. He’d be home in January. The order was out; it was official.

Until today, when the General decided he didn’t want to send his troops home early, so they would be overwriting the order to go home and continuing on with the relocation mission.

It shouldn’t bother me as much as it does.

Either way, I won’t see him until April at the absolute earliest. That hasn’t changed, and if it does get pushed back, by God I swear heads will roll.

But, if I was already getting used to the idea of the relocation and coming to terms with where he’d be, why does it bother me so much that that plan is back on? I could understand if revoking the order to go home early resulted in yet another relocation. But it’s not – at least as far as I’m aware. And yet, this simple fact threw a shadow over my entire day, and I don’t have an explanation.

If anything, he’s the one that should be bothered. After all, it’s his head they’re messing with. His life and frustration. But, in the brief time that we were able to talk (via facebook, since there’s no telling when we’ll be able to coordinate a phone call) he didn’t seem phased by it one bit.

Now, maybe I’m just an easily upset, emotional girlfriend that isn’t cut out for the indecisiveness of the Army lifestyle. But then again, maybe I just worry too much. Either way, he asked me to try not to think about it too much – to focus on my own deployment and try not to worry about him too much. And I told him I’d try. So, this is me trying – recognizing that I shouldn’t be as upset about this as I am, because in reality, it’s exactly what was going to happen before anyway.

16 November 2011 Posted by | In the hands of God, Life's what we make it, Long distance love, Sleepless Night Ramblings, Surviving a deployment | Leave a comment

Working out with God

I can do all things
through Christ who gives me strength.”

It may be a strange connection to make – especially for someone who can’t even remember the last time they really went to church, and someone who really isn’t sure what their religious beliefs are – but going to the gym after work every day, doing an intense workout, makes me feel extremely spiritual in a way that I’ve never experienced before. And it’s not even that I feel closer to God while I’m pumping iron. It’s more…I’m not sure how to explain it…I guess it’s more like a…a recognition that he really is there and really does care. Wait, I got this.

I think, in some twisted dimension of my mind, I compare a good, intense workout to the struggles that I go through on a daily basis. Each weight increase is progress I’m making towards a goal. Each exercise I conquer is a goal met, a hurdle crossed. But what really does it is just the basic knowledge that, ‘hey, I can do this.’ That is where I feel God.

Now, part of that may stem from the helplessness that I’ve been feeling lately – the near depression I’ve been going through – the stress. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, and I know there are plenty out there that have it worse than I do, but it’s hard to be me. I feel like I have the world on my shoulders, and it’s up to me to carry it. But, when I’m working out, that weight is lifted. Pun intended. When I’m working out, the only worry I have is if I’ll meet my weight goals for the day. The only stress I feel is the tension in my muscles. I can’t be upset when I’m working out. It doesn’t work. When I’m working out, all my worries and stresses are elsewhere and I don’t have to deal with them. And being able to look at my life without those issues – that’s when I look up and say, “Ok God, I know I can do this, but I’m gonna need your help ’cause I can’t do it alone.”

Sometimes I wish he didn’t trust me quite so much, but I know that everything he gives me will only make me stronger. I’ll be honest, I’ve only been going to the gym for a few days. But, in those few days, my confidence has increased, my attitude has improved, I feel healthier, stronger – physically, mentally, and spiritually – and more alive and I spend significantly less of my free time dwelling on depressing and stressful thoughts. I fee like I’m regaining control of my life. Or maybe, I’m only just getting control of it.

And the sore muscles after a good workout? To me, that’s God saying, “Good job. You’re stronger than you think.”

3 August 2011 Posted by | Health + Fitness, In the hands of God, Life's what we make it | Leave a comment

Let it

Sometimes

It just hits you

Hard as an anvil

Falling from the sky

Like in the cartoons

And all you can do

is let it

1 August 2011 Posted by | In the hands of God, Long distance love, Surviving a deployment | Leave a comment

Damned Distance

A test of trust.

A test of sanity.

A test of fidelity.

A test of understanding.

Distance does crazy things to people.

Thoughts that would normally be ignored are instead dwelt upon. Feelings normally kept in check are allowed to run free, but not necessarily by your own choice.

You begin questioning things. Everything. You’re not picky. If it’s there, it’s subject to questioning. End of story. You don’t need a reason to suspect anything, you’ll find a reason in not having a reason. You’ve heard the saying, “If everything is going well, you’ve overlooked something?” It now becomes your motto.

If you live a busy life without much free time, your productivity and motivation is subject to a drastic decline because your thoughts are elsewhere, far far away. What little free time you have is often spent tossing and turning in an increasingly uncomfortable bed, unsure of whether restless sleep would be welcome or not.

If, however, you possess a great deal of free time, you may find yourself lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling. No, there’s nothing wrong with the ceiling. You just can’t currently think of a better place to stare. And it serves its purpose – plain, no distraction from the thoughts that haunt your mind – depressing and helpless thoughts, if you’re anything like me. And if you’re not staring aimlessly at the ceiling, you’re likely engaged in some other brainless task. Something that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought or concentration. Something fairly difficult to mess up in your distracted state. But you will mess it up, because that’s just how you are.

And in the event that you do find a reason to suspect something, however small the reason, you latch onto it. All of your energy is focused on that one reason. Your mind runs out of control and your stomach churns. You don’t want to think about it, but you can’t help it. You live in that reason. You eat, breath and, maybe if you’re lucky, sleep that reason. No amount of words can reassure you.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~

They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. I must say, I disagree.

Distance does nothing for your heart, except make it hurt with the pain of missing a loved one.

Distance does, however, give you space to see all the things you took for granted when the distance was shorter.

Distance gives you time to realize your true feelings for someone – for you never truly know how you feel until that person isn’t a constant part of your life.

Distance gives you an opportunity to better your communication skills.

Distance doesn’t make the heart grow fonder – that just happens to be the side effect that people focus on because it’s more pleasant than saying that distance can kill or strengthen a relationship.

~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~

P.S. Did you know that I think about you every second of the day? Ofttimes during the day I find myself staring off into space (and quite often towards the ceiling) with thoughts of you running through my mind when I should be focusing on trying to save the world as we know it. Somehow, I still manage to get my work done (miracles do happen, apparently!) with no complaints from those superior to me. But I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to focus on anything else. Occasionally, I can get myself caught up in a good book and forget the pain of missing your for a few moments (my record, I’ll admit, is about fifteen minutes. It was a long chapter), and every once in a long while I find myself engaged in some odd activity that allows me to be temporarily pain free. And then those short moments of relative comfort are over and the pain comes rushing back in and I miss you more than I did before. Everyday I find myself looking for a new activity to take my mind away from how long it’s been since I’ve last seen you. So far, everyday I’ve failed. Every night I lay awake, trying not to cry for want of you by my side. So far, every night I’ve failed. And sometimes, at random, unpredictable times, the physical pain of missing you hits me so hard that it’s all I can do to keep my composure until I can escape the sight of those that might look down on me for showing “weakness.” But they just don’t understand. The physical distance between us only means that we have to fight harder against these poisonous thoughts and feelings. The physical distance between us does not at all reflect the emotional distance between us. In fact, I like to think that, while you’re over there and I’m over here, the physical distance is the complete opposite of the emotional distance. As far away as you are, I feel so close to you. Perhaps that comes from our increasing communication skills. All I know is that I can’t wait for you to come home. I can’t wait to be done with the insecurities of being so far apart for so long. I can’t wait to hold you in my arms again and feel your arms around me. I can’t wait to see you. I can’t wait to show the world how strong this perpetual distance has made our relationship. Because, baby, distance is just a test, and tests of this caliber can only make us stronger.

25 July 2011 Posted by | In the hands of God, Letters Never Sent, Life's what we make it, Long distance love, Surviving a deployment, That thing called Love | Leave a comment

Right now

“And then” indeed…

I’ve reached a point where I feel the next chapter of my life is starting. I’ve finished high-school, tested college, conquered Basic Training and aced AIT. I’ve loved and lost and walked away. I’ve been married. I’ve been happy. I’ve been hurt. I’ve done some things I’m not necessarily proud of and certainly wouldn’t repeat if faced with the choice again, but they’ve helped shape me into who I am.

And now? Well, that’s where the next chapter starts.

Right now.

Right now, as I settle into the daily life of a U.S. Army Soldier.
Right now, as I learn that people aren’t always what they seem to be.
Right now, as I discover what it really means to live on my own and take care of myself.
Right now, as I admit to something that scares the living daylight out of me.
Right now, is this exact moment in time.
Right now.

12 July 2011 Posted by | In the hands of God, Life's what we make it | Leave a comment

Stronger – Mandisa

I’ve heard this song twice in the last three days – once during my midnight drive after a rather painful talk with my husband, and once this afternoon on my way home from the gym. The first time, I was too deep in thought to listen to anything more than the first few lines, but today, wide awake and pumped from a great workout, I realized that this song was just what I needed to hear. Just the thing to help me overcome my fears and do what so badly needs to be done. So, now I invite you to listen to it as well – it might be just what you need right now.

14 May 2011 Posted by | In the hands of God, Random findings | Leave a comment

Gradiation and all that jazz

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

It’s surreal, really…walking around the company area in ASUs, laughing and joking with my battle buddies while our bags sit on the basketball court, just waiting. The excitement in the air is tangible – we’re done, we’re going home. Some of us will never see this place again. Some of us will be back multiple times in the next few years for various other courses. After eighteen weeks here, we’re finally leaving, taking our memories with us but certainly leaving our mark behind.

I half expected to find myself in tears at some point during the day, especially when it was confirmed that our instructors were unable to attend the ceremony and see us off. Instead, I found myself a raging bundle of smiles and grins – I was too excited to cry. Besides, I wasn’t exactly going to miss the place, and only a few of the people were worth saying I’d ‘miss.’

The ceremony itself was unexciting. A quick run through the names to grab our diplomas, a recitation of the Soldier’s Creed and Army Song, and we were finished. Really, the only bit worth mentioning is that I was Honor Grad. Top of my class of 120 graduates.

But, as I was saying, it was rather surreal. Just knowing that we were leaving, after eighteen long weeks, MOS qualified and ready to do our jobs. Knowing that for some of us, it was the last time we’d see each other. Knowing that we’d be deployed with some of these people, that our lives would at some point rest in their hands, or their lives in ours.

At some point during the morning one of my battle buddies and I were remembering a small piece of wisdom passed on to us by one of our instructors. “The longer you’re in MI, the weirder people get.” We mentioned how interesting it would be to run into some of these people a few years down the line and see some of the changes, hear the stories.

All week I’d been in the mindset that I was so ready to be done, but I wasn’t quite ready to leave. Just as at the end of BCT, I was anxious to be done but nervous about what would come next. Leaving the only thing I’ve known for the past eighteen weeks is difficult, but there was no hesitation to get in that car and drive away. I’m excited about going home and getting to spend a little bit of time with everyone, and I’m even more excited about getting to Fort Bragg and finally beginning my life as a wife. I have an apartment waiting for me to fill with furniture and memories, a new city to learn and a husband that I’ve been missing for entirely too long.

16 April 2011 Posted by | In the hands of God, Life's what we make it, This Army life is crazy | Leave a comment

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27 March 2011 Posted by | In the hands of God, Life's what we make it, That thing called Love | Enter your password to view comments.

Arizona blues

I really was excited to come back. Well, yesterday I wasn’t. Yesterday I would’ve given just about anything to be able to stay. But before that, yeah – I was excited to get back to classes and learn more about my job. But right now, sitting at my desk when I should be doing barracks maintenance, I’m finding myself wondering why I’m here. And I don’t mean that in the sense of ‘why was I put on this planet,’ but in the more literal sense of ‘why am I here in these barracks, on this post.’ Why am I here? The simple answer is that I’m here because I joined the Army and this is where they told me I had to be. But there’s a complex answer as well, and that answer starts out with ‘I have no fucking idea.’

The first time I left home, headed towards Fort Jackson, SC, I was anxious. I didn’t know what to expect, or how well I would fare. I ended up doing pretty decently, despite going through a bit of depression mid-way through and coming very close to quitting.

The last two times I flew anywhere, I was excited. The first time was going to AIT. I couldn’t wait to get out to AZ and see what it was like. To start learning my job and take advantage of some of the freedoms I would get back. The next time, I was headed home. Or at least where home used to be (I’m not quite sure where it is anymore…). I would get to see my husband for the first time in five long months. I couldn’t wait for that plane to touch down. But yesterday’s flight…I wasn’t excited at all. I wasn’t anxious. I was depressed, and not just because I was leaving my husband behind. I was depressed because, as I was trying to talk myself through the day, I realized that I’m not sure this is what I want anymore. Maybe it’s just because I tasted freedom and it’s hard to go back to the daily grind of Army life after two weeks of relaxing and being a civilian. But then I think about that, and realize that I didn’t really relax while I was home. I was too busy to relax, so that can’t really be it. Not the core of it anyway, because I have no doubt that two weeks of freedom is contributing at least somewhat to this depression. So, I started thinking about the job that I’m going to be doing and why I wanted to do it. That’s when I realized that I don’t particularly want to do it, I took the job because it was the best option available when I swore in. I mean, yeah it sounds cool and all, but I just don’t think it’s what I want to do. And then there’s this whole thing about how part of the reason I joined the Army was because my husband was encouraging me to, and I found out just a couple of days ago that he doesn’t want me to be in the Army. It scares him that I’m in, he just wasn’t going to tell me ‘no’ if it was what I wanted to do because he wants me to be happy. Which, I appreciate that, but at the same time I’m kind of wishing he had told me that before I left for basic. Which really makes me think that I don’t want this as much as I let on, because I know if he had told me he didn’t want me in, I wouldn’t have gone.

So, I’m confused. I don’t know if I want this or not. I know that the benefits are great. That’s another reason that I joined. But if I end up hating this, are the benefits worth it to hang in there? Yeah, I can always be re-classed and get a different job, but again, is it worth it? And is it worth it to go through the fears that I’m facing as far as being stationed together, getting deployed, and trying to start/raise a family in a dual military situation? He says I worry too much, and he’s probably right, but I can’t help it. It’s what I do. I make an MOS out of worrying.

They said the Army would make me stronger, and I believed them. But right now, I don’t feel stronger. I feel lost and confused, scared, and weaker than ever. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore, or why. I don’t know what’s coming, or what I want to happen. I mean, even if I were to get out of the Army right now, I don’t know what else I would do. I can’t exactly afford to go back to school, even though I would love to.

And so, my current plan, capable of changing at a moment’s notice, is to finish AIT to the best of my ability, do my three years, and get out. Unless I come to love what I’m doing for the Army, in which case I will reformulate my plan. But, if I stay in for my three years, I can at least have the GI Bill to go back to school with. Though, by then there might be a little one around or on the way, in which case going back to school could be interesting….

I guess I just need to trust that God knows his plans for me, and that he will put me where I need to be whether I understand it or not.

3 January 2011 Posted by | In the hands of God, Life's what we make it, That thing called Love, This Army life is crazy | Leave a comment