Monthly Archives: April 2012

Love, War and PTSD

Take just a minute to look up at the header on the page. It says, “Stories of hope, love and recovery, all mixed with a healthy dose of humor.” Here’s the funny part: Over the last (almost) four years, we have gone through that list literally and I didn’t even mean to, it was just a tagline I came up with to give my blog a bit of zip and pizzazz that I thought accurately summed up what I had written to that point in 2010.

I never thought for a moment we’d do the list in that exact order, but sure enough, we have.  We first went through the struggle to find hope; then we stumbled, floundered and unwittingly fell face down into love; now by some miracle we’re on to recovery; and to my utter disbelief we did the whole list with laughs along the way. The only part that distresses me is that a lot of people, the second they look at the word “recovery” immediately think of substance abuse, not about marital demise or other illnesses we’ve been dealing with along the way. Well, we’re turning the page and getting more into the Sophomore’s version of the “recovery” aspects of life.

Before we get started though, I just have to say that right around now I’m really, really grateful for having the blues over that blue t-shirt, without it I wouldn’t be sitting here as happy as I am right now.  The Ace has trumped the Sophomore and oh am I glad. Houston: We’ve finally landed, authenticity and heart beat the Palms 9.

I’ve said countless times that it’s great to be in a relationship with someone who shares your illness.  I personally love it.  I’ve come to the point that I’ve realized how empty my life was until I found someone who truly understands and knows in his heart what is going on in my very broken brain. The bonus is that I’m slowly but surely getting there when it comes to my partner in crime. I think it’s the greatest thing on two feet to be with someone who knows EXACTLY what you’re going through and will go down swinging for you because they know what’s going on.  It’s like having a mind reader in-residence.

I’m beginning to think that Ace and I are a great example when it comes to PTSD and relationships. Actually after searching for hours, you’ll find that Ace’s and my story is one that I don’t believe has been seen in print before. I searched endlessly for books, articles, even the smallest story about a couple where both partners live with PTSD and I didn’t find a single one, so guess what, we’re breaking new ground.  If you find anything like mine and Ace’s story anywhere out there, please drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll make sure to get a link up about it.

Currently the only things available for couples with PTSD is very one sided, with only one partner having the illness, but not both. I only found “assisting your partner who has PTSD” nothing at all about a couple going through the trials of being together with the illness icing on top. Let’s face it, being in a relationship is already hard enough, adding PTSD into the mix from both sides, that’s something else entirely; it’s a story that every PTSD afflicted couple will identify with. So, “Love, War, and PTSD” is something new that I hope you will enjoy, that I hope will make you think and hopefully will help you understand our illness a little bit better.

Please don’t let the lurid pandering of the media only reporting horror stories about PTSD color your understanding of the illness. It’s a serious issue to deal with, but we can also look at it with a fresh pair of eyes that allows us to not just label something and follow the lemmings off the cliff in mistaken beliefs, but allow ourselves a moment of understanding so that those of us with PTSD are better understood and embraced by the world. If Ace and I can live individually with our own PTSD then help each other heal, I think that is a story worth telling, if not shouting from the rooftops so the rest of the world can look on and understand that with PTSD comes not only heartbreaking stories, but heartwarming ones as well.

 Before I began writing this post, I went through and did some research.  A few observations are:

  • Gen X has a high rate of PTSD because of the overwhelming number of individuals in that generation that were physically, mentally and sexually abused as children.
  • C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) isn’t widely talked about.
  • There are a huge number of couples where both partners are afflicted with PTSD but we rarely hear about them.
  • PTSD is villainized in the media when there are truly good, hope-filled stories to be heard about individuals who not only live with the illness but are doing well with therapy that works for them.
At this point, if you’re a regular reader, you know that there is a pattern forming here. I’ve got C-PTSD and Ace has PTSD. Two very traumatized individuals in one relationship and it’s given the “you, me and us” paradigm a whole new meaning. That’s why the last 10 months of posts have gone up, down, angry, depressed and every emotion in-between.
However, this is where it starts to get really good. Why?  Because Ace took me with him to see his therapist over at the VA. Now, the whole goal of me going with him is that I’m there to assist in his PTSD therapy, but at the same time, guess who it helps as well? Yep. Me. So guess what? I’m going to be documenting how we’re doing, opening up a whole new chapter in the life of the Eternal Sophomore.
I had a good, long cry the other night because it seems as I’m not alone anymore. Now if you had been through everything I have from the bullying, abuse, violence and abandonment-filled past that strips away any chance for anyone to get a shred of trust from me, to finally be able to hold someone’s hand and NOT feel alone – it’s a very “holy crap” moment.  Scary? Yes. Different? Yes. Wonderful? Beyond all of my imagining.
When you have PTSD like Ace and I do, you have to look at the criteria for our illnesses. Go ahead, click the link I gave, it’s a whole new world for those who don’t suffer from it, so take time and give it a read.
So to review, this is our handy little list.  Both he and I have it and we’ve also got the added gravy of attachment issues.
  1. Stressor
  2. Intrusive Recollection
  3. Avoidant/Numbing [Behaviors]
  4. Hyper-Arousal/Hyper-Vigilance
  5. Duration
  6. Functional Significance
Now with Ace, his is mainly combat related, but it would be a lie of omission not to relay that he has some of my issues as well.  His therapist needs a pseudonym, so I’m just going to call him “Jay”.  He is a sweet guy and it only took him 60 seconds to take a look at how we act together to nail it, looking at us and saying, “A PTSD couple.  Nice.” Put bluntly, when we sat down with Jay, he spoke to me for a while and said, “Wow Ace, you do know how to pick ’em.  She’s your exact mirror image. This relationship is a match made in heaven. But it’s also a match made in hell. She triggers you, you trigger her, and when you guys are pushing each other’s buttons, it’s going to go south really fast.” But then he pulled out the big guns. Ace and I both have acceptance issues. We also have neglect and abandonment issues too. Talk about mirror images?  His issues arise from paternal acceptance while mine are from maternal acceptance.  Oy veh.  You want to talk about two people who’s lives thus far have been almost identical?  That’s me and Ace. Oh don’t even get twisted, he has his own version of the BHFB as well with his cheating wife.  Yeah kids, we’ve got a match made in pure PTSD-filled heaven.
Then Jay really took me down a peg or two when he brought out a large easel sheet that he and Ace had been working on together  in the weeks previous. There on the page in black and white was my Ace of Hearts, all of his issues and things I know all about, but then Jay went and pulled a fast one on me, he looked me dead in the eyes and asked, “Sheri, how much of this do you think involves you?” I sat dumbfounded thinking, No way, that’s all him, and replied, “I’m not sure.” Jay looked at me and said, “All of it is about you. That’s how much he cares and thinks about you.” I felt like I was in Doc Cat’s Personal Growth class all over again. Feeling like there was a stake holding me in the chair, my tear ducts decided it was time to irrigate my face because tears involuntarily started to fall.
I guess you would have to understand where I am coming from when I was told that. You have to remember, I have been severely neglected most of my life; in childhood, during my marriage, all of my life has some sort of neglect and abandonment tied to it. A lot of my friends will probably vouch for the fact that I thrive on approval to the point of needing it like some other people need food.  Pathological need for approval and acceptance?  Without a doubt. However, my avoidant tendencies come out and while I strongly disapprove of lemming-like following, I hide the fact that I do want acceptance and approval from my partner because I think it’s normal to want that, but I put up an “I don’t need you” front as a way of protecting myself. But here’s the problem: I have never once in my life felt truly wanted until Jay looked at me and explained to me that Ace’s avoidant behavior was because he wanted me in his life, wanted me around him and that I was (and this is the huge, huge deal) important to him, the problem is that his avoidant tendencies make it so he can’t talk about it.  Ok stop. I’ve never been important like that to anyone, at least in no relationship I’ve ever known. Jay made me understand that Ace truly wants me around but has problems expressing it. I was floored, I teared up and had no idea what to do with it.  Accepted? Needed? Me? No way!

Remember how I wrote a while back that Ace doesn’t “say”, he “does”? Meaning that he’ll never say he loves or adores anything, but he’ll do everything in the world to show it? To him, talk is cheap and often is a lie; in Ace’s world actions speak louder than words. The problem is with me, I need to hear it because that’s what I deem important…hell, look at me, I’m a writer! I live my life hammering on my red-hot anvil-like keyboard, smithing out carefully crafted words and phrases – he’s Mr. 140 characters or less… see where things like to get muddled up?

At that point I sat there just absolutely blown away, it was at that point that I realized I have never been so very loved. But here’s the kicker, Ace wasn’t saying it, he was doing it. When that realization hits you and you’ve never felt that before, oh yeah, it’s going to feel like a major gut-check. I couldn’t breathe and I most certainly couldn’t speak. (Even writing about it makes me tear up.)

Remember, acceptance and approval issues stem from trust. Ace and I both have trust issues that make the Herculean Labors look like child’s play. For the last 10 months both Ace’s and my acceptance and approval issues (and ultimately trust issues) have wreaked havoc on our relationship (hence Jay’s referring to it as the relationship from hell), but what is so bizarre about it is that while my avoidance issues manifest in a strong flight reflex, Ace’s avoidance issues manifest themselves in being unable to verbally express his emotions.  It’s a bizarre mix that for some reason works.  I think it works because both of us have heart, fortitude and tenacity for miles.  When you’ve been through all that we have, it only goes to reason that the expression “weaker have perished” comes to mind.  Ace and I are made of some pretty stern stuff (and we’re both bull-headed to boot).

As you’ve been reading over the last 10 months, Ace and I both are filled with avoidant behaviors. One marriage apiece down, both of us are commitment phobic because of the betrayal he and I both have seen and because of that, you can cut the tension between us with a knife at times. But there is one overwhelming fact of it all: over the last 10 months we’ve both found out that trying to breathe in and out without the other nearby is close to impossible.

For me, breathing in and out without him sucks because our communication as a couple is phenomenal. A lot of couples shy away from working on their relationship because people mistakenly think it’s supposed to be easy all the time. Well, it’s not. Relationships require love, understanding, emotional maintenance and a whole lot of work. If someone sold you a bill of goods saying your relationship should be easy all the time for the rest of your life, return it to them and yell “LIAR!” in their face. Trust me, look at any fairy tale you read growing up and look at how much trouble the Princess and her Prince Charming had to go through to get to that happy ending you love so much! “Relationships are supposed to be easy,” riiiiiight, you just keep on thinking that way and while you’re at it, wave at the sandman for me as he whisks you back into your dream world.

You want to talk about two people unafraid to put the “work” in on our relationship? That’s me and Ace all the way and I’m proud to say we’ve been like that from the beginning. (After all, those of us with our illness can find each other in a heartbeat.) We know our symptoms and we’re slowly working through knowing each other’s triggers (Ace is doing much better at it than I am), it’s every day sitting down and making sure that when we unwittingly hit a trigger, we back down or do something to repair the damage.  Don’t get me wrong, we trigger each other, we fight, we go up, down, sideways, backwards, temper tantrums, anger issues, rejection issues, stepped on and mangled toes, and somehow at the end of the day we’ve found that we’ve ridden them out because even though I tried my best to avoid it, my tenacity and fortitude has found it’s match.

We’ve been through me fighting to accept our relationship with me crying, kicking, screaming and throwing him out the door, but as a testament to his overwhelming strength, Ace wasn’t about to give up on me, and we both joke that our relationship has aged in dog years because of it. Put yourself in my shoes for a minute and imagine for one second what that is like for me; after being neglected, abused and abandoned, a man stood in front of me and wouldn’t give up and wouldn’t let me go, even when my issues would be at their worst, he stood in the eye of the storm and held strong.

That right there should put your stomach in the vicinity of your shoes. It did mine.

After a while because of his unrelenting pursuit of me and our relationship I just gave in to the whole idea because I finally figured out there was no way in hell he was going to let me get away.  I termed it as contracting a fatal illness. I caught him and ya know, that’s just the way it is so I figured I should just suck it up and learn how to live with it.

You have to understand, I’m so very proud of my man and I’m proud to be honored by him calling me his girl. Ace is beautiful in every way a person can be beautiful. The blonde hair mixed with dashes of silver, the scruffy chin, the earth-rumbling deep bass of his voice (girls, if you heard him talk, you would swoon), his smile and oh! those blue eyes of his…let’s just say that just one of his mischievous looks and that million dollar smile of his will make my knees buckle in a heartbeat. He’s just all that AND he has played Myst, and yes my peeps, he gets it and has a fair (very unknowing) portion of cavern blood in his veins! I got an epic win when I met Ace, but with all those good, highly nutritious values of his comes PTSD. Some girls would weep at that, but not me, it makes him that much more adorable to me because “he’s one of my people”. He’s got it, I’ve got it, it’s just a fact of life like the fact he and I both love Dr. Pepper, warm days and ice cream, that the kitchen is a place to be highly organized, have fun, cook and feed each other wonderful things.

Our illnesses, a lot like any other character flaw you might find, both for him and me, likes to sometimes mess us up. Hyper-vigilance can screw up a daily schedule in a heartbeat if one or both partners get scope-locked on something or worse we get so hyper-vigilant we derail ourselves from what we were trying to get accomplished in the first place. Or worse, both of us like to take on too many responsibilities because we can’t bear to tell people that we can’t do something for them, so we get caught by the toe over doing our best impression of Atlas trying in vain to carry the world on our shoulders. Think about it, we’ve been denied emotional support and assistance for a good majority of our lives, so for us there is no other option, you get down in the mud and you help, no matter the cost to yourself. Trust me, the word “selfless” is a very, very real term in our relationship. Selfish people don’t do well around either of us at all. Selfish people are no more than fodder for drop-kicking around us.

Then on the other hand, you have me and my strong flight reflex.  As you know, every human being has a “fight or flight” response built-in. It’s a survival instinct. For me, my childhood was filled with constant humiliations; the kids I grew up with would literally hurt me because they loved seeing me react to it. “Oh we just love the look on your face when we did that to you” was a lot of what I heard back then. Couple that with living alone with a maternal influence that never had a good role model to work from along with an abuse-laden childhood of her own and you’ve got a little girl in a world of hurt. My instincts were always to hide or run from conflict or a situation that would result in a very painful, humiliating dressing down or extremely verbally-abusive punishment. “If they can’t see me, they can’t hurt me” was a lot of my rationale back then.

Until Ace came along, no one understood what that felt like even if I would try to explain it, but after a beautiful summer with long hours spent over ice cream, margaritas and a whole lot of daisies, I realized he really did understand what I had been through and it scared me to death. I felt exposed and vulnerable, which as you know, ridicule is not something I handle well, so having any weakness exposed immediately makes me block or run for cover, leaving him with the equivalent of the Roadrunner to his bewildered and confused Wile E. Coyote: a puff of smoke and a vapor trail of where a girl used to be. But then without me knowing it, my flight reflex made him feel rejected and abandoned which triggered him. See where our little vicious cycle started? It’s like Jay said, “He triggers you, you trigger him and it all comes down like a house of cards.” This is the essence of being in a PTSD relationship.

But, here’s the kicker… there are a lot of servicemen coming home to their spouses and not having the benefit of the other partner having the same illness, so it’s hard for them to understand. Let’s blow it out a little bit bigger and look at the households filled with Gen-X’ers who don’t know they have PTSD or C-PTSD going through the same situations with a partner or spouse who has no idea what they are dealing with. That’s the point here kids, we’ve got to recognize what’s happening around us. When we’re aware, that’s half the battle won right there.

And yet with all of my issues triggering his issues and my need to disappear, Ace persisted (which still makes me look for the boxes marked “Acme” in his house) chasing after his Roadrunner-esque partner.

His presence alone with all that he knew taunted and dared me to trust in him. But, of course, I have PTSD, so when I see anything that frightens me or reminds me in the least of my trauma (go back and look at the list again) my survival instincts kick in and my flight reflex kicks in in a major way, putting Ace in the middle of a fight he couldn’t win, effectively forcing him to carry baggage he had no business carrying and wondering why I was running away from him as fast as my size eights could carry me.  

But as I said before, Ace isn’t about “say”, he’s about “do”. I watched as he kept doing amazing thing after amazing thing, then he’d politely step on himself and trigger me, which then triggered him, equaling a nuclear-sized explosion, charring both of us and resulting in having to put each other in “time out”, so by the time we hit Jay’s office, the dog was looking at the both of us as if to say, “Knock it off you two or someone’s going to be missing their rear end. I might be older than the hills but let me tell you, I can still bite with the best of them.” Yep, by the time we started to expect a monthly blow-up, we walked into Jay’s office.

When Jay sat and talked to us, it wasn’t long before he said, “Look you two, you’re both very traumatized individuals, you have every right to feel the way you are feeling, but enough of this back and forth blow-up business.  If you two want this to work, you’ve got to commit, and I don’t mean half-ass here, I mean ‘all the way’ commit. You two have to learn how to trust each other, if you don’t, then you two are just going to keep up this vicious cycle you two have working and guess what, no one is going to end up happy. You either commit or you get out.”

As you can imagine, after Jay laid the hammer down and explained exactly why Ace couldn’t express his feelings (which by the way are the exact same reasons I run from things) he excused me from the session to dry my eyes and he and Ace could do their one-on-one. I walked out of the Jay’s office and man oh man, did I feel like I had been through the wringer. As I walked out into the sunlight, I couldn’t breathe. I finally had answers to the bajillion questions that Ace wouldn’t answer, that I had time after time felt frustrated that he would duck, dodge, weave around or just plain ignore my requests for information (or validation). I had needed to feel accepted and clearly understand how he felt about me, but his issues prevented that from happening. When Jay explained that all of my needs were being fulfilled but Ace couldn’t talk about it because of his issues, I sat in shock. For the first time I honestly felt accepted, but let’s add the deal-sealer, I stood there just in awe over the fact that he truly did love me, come hell or high water. I stood there and just wept, and I mean involuntary tears just streaming from my eyes over the absolute shock of it. I’m still digesting the whole idea that someone actually wants me around. That’s so foreign of a concept to me that my mind is still reeling from it. I’ve never felt wanted, ever, and here’s this amazing yet troubled man who just thinks I’m the kitten’s whiskers. I’m still trying to choke it down and get used to it, but it’s different, that’s for sure.

You see, Ace is just as beat up as I am. His dad was really (and I mean really) hard on him. I won’t even lie, there are days when Ace and I are having trouble (because of our triggers) that I don’t like my mother or his father very much at all. It takes all of what I’ve got and then some not to become volcanically angry that Ace and I had been through so much inside the supposed “safety” of our childhood homes before we went out into the world just to get stomped into the ground some more. However, like any acceptance-needing child, we both look to our offending parent, searching for the acceptance we long for; then when we don’t get it, we try to forgive them, then try to understand them to the point that we can get past being angry at them for not accepting us or believing in us. Ace is super forgiving with his father, just like I’m more than forgiving with my mother. My problem is that I want to understand fully how I got to where I’m at, and I have gained all of the necessary information, but as I always say, “An audience won’t hear your message until they’re ready to understand it.” So I keep my chin up and pray that one day that my mother accepting me for who I am isn’t the end-all, be-all of human existence, that accepting myself is truly the answer; but I won’t lie, it’s hard to do when you don’t feel it from the one person in the universe that would make all the difference in the world, knowing that even if she’d tell me, I still wouldn’t believe her because the whole concept of trust went out the window long ago.

But then I realized something – Ace and I individually had decided, before we even met, that the cycles and the things we’ve been through had to stop with us. We’re not about to perpetrate the same injustices on someone else as we had done to us. Yeah, it takes a lot not to rip someone’s head off or scream back every time our triggers get stomped on by the outside, knowing perfectly well our triggers didn’t have to be there in the first place. But alas, those triggers might love to persist but that doesn’t mean I’m not going down swinging to make it right so I can live a happy life.

But then Ace has his combat issues on top of that with (check the list) “Intrusive Recollection”. As I said earlier, Ace doesn’t talk about the things that hurt him. He doesn’t really talk about anything emotionally involved because it triggers him huge. From what he has told me though, he’s seen things from combat that no human should ever see, but as a soldier, that’s a part of life in the military. On the day I had the Rice Krispies meltdown in the kitchen, he was having his own little meltdown on the road. He’s been to Afghanistan, (I almost feel like saying “What soldier these days hasn’t?”) and well, as he was driving in from Arizona he got caught in a dust storm.  Between the obscured visibility from all the sand flying around, then seeing the mountains, well, Ace got transported back to Afghanistan in that moment. He had to pull his truck over, get out and walk around because he literally felt like he was right back in the combat zone. His brow covered itself in sweat and he sat shaking from it. When I heard about that later, I was so grateful that he walked in to find me laughing and giggling, giving him the sense of normalcy that is so very important to him.

Normalcy is actually very important to both of us. We need to feel very safe and normal for us to get through the day in one piece. I’ve got my own “Intrusive Recollection” problems as well, and wow, to talk about those is a whole other kettle of fish and this will be the second post I’ll avoid talking about it. (Yeah, yeah, I know…avoidance…) However, I’ll go this far…there are lots of days where I can still hear the taunts and sneers of the bullies that tormented me, the evil smirk on the boy Anti-Christ’s face that signaled his satisfaction and great joy that he had once again tormented and humiliated me in front of all of those children. There are still television shows and music I can’t listen to from the 80’s that will do the same thing to me that the dust storm on the road from Arizona did to Ace. Let me tell you, it’s not an easy thing to go through because you can literally see, hear and smell that exact traumatic moment, down to the last detail. I can even remember colors and patterns on clothing. It’s not pleasant and it literally makes me nauseous. There have even been a few times where I’ve thrown up because I can’t take the sensory overload of re-living a traumatic moment like that. “Intrusive recollection” can and will bring you to your knees if you let it, other times you can’t help it, you’re just screwed until you can get to feeling normal again.

The most important thing that Ace and I work on every single day is to make sure that when we have moments of intrusive recollection that we automatically take that moment and turn it into something positive, effectively re-writing our responses to the particular stimuli that triggered the intrusive memory, but I won’t lie, it’s hard, hard work to get through it. When Ace is with me and I’m going through it, I look into his ice-blue eyes, take a big, deep breath and recite my mantra in my head, “How old are you? 40. Where are you? Las Vegas. Are you safe? Yes. Can they hurt you any more? No.” Then I coach myself through breathing in and out thinking, “That’s it sweet girl, just breathe. Just slow down, look around and figure out where you are.  You can do it, I know you can. Don’t cry. Chin up. Come on, you can do it!” Then I hold on to Ace’s hand and he never fails to wrap me up in his arms so I can get a nice sized bear hug from him and feel protected. After a few minutes I start to feel better as my world of here and now comes rushing back into existence, transporting me back to the present. I’m just so glad to know I’m not alone when it happens and that I can and will do the same for Ace when it happens to him.

Part of Ace’s problems lie in “deprogramming”. I can’t speak for any other soldier I know, but I do know that Ace’s PTSD becomes evident because he’s having trouble adjusting back to the regular world that you and I know and take for granted. Remember, when he (or any soldier for that matter) gets trained, they go through some pretty horrific stuff. The only example I have experience with (that Ace has been willing to talk about) is the whole “combat nap” paradigm. You see, those guys have to be ready at a moment’s notice to defend themselves because they never know what’s going to come around the next corner, much less over the next hill, so they’re trained to be extra-vigilant. Remember, what’s coming around that next corner or over the next hill has a chance of literally trying to kill them, so their senses are super sharp and they’re hyper-vigilant almost 24 hours a day. Check the symptoms list again, that’s the Hyper-Arousal/Hyper-Vigilance thing.

The sad part about hyper-vigilance is that once those fellas are programmed that way, it’s really hard to come back from. When you’ve been trained to be hyper-vigilant on purpose because you’re going into a combat zone, I’m convinced that it really messes up how those fellas sleep for the rest of their lives. When I’m hyper-vigilant, forget all about sleep, it’s not happening, but Ace, that poor, sweet, darling man…I’m always amazed if he gets more than two or three hours at a stretch of sleep. Every time he falls asleep, I give a huge sigh of relief, look at him and think to myself, “He sleeps” and I’m grateful for it, hoping and praying that for once he sleeps a full eight hours, but alas, I never get my wish, he’s usually up every three or four hours, he’ll cruise around the house, make sure all the doors are locked then crawl back into bed. It breaks my heart every time his sleep is interrupted.

But let’s ice the cake. When I was doing my paper for my media ethics class entitled, “The Media, The Military and PTSD”, we talked about why fellas like Ace are so tuned up all the time. He said, “PTSD sufferers struggle harder with lesser tolerance because they’re at an elevated level of functioning. Where everyone else gets their eight hours of sleep per night, we don’t. We’re constantly on guard because that is how we are trained.” He continued, “Everyone else gets to relax, so when they wake up in the morning, they are at a low level of stress. On a scale of ten, they wake up at a ‘three’, when we wake up, we’re already at ‘seven’, I’ve never once seen the media report anything like that, and they wonder why we’re so keyed up.”

The one thing I’ve learned in the last 10 months is that while all I need is silence to sleep well, Ace can’t really sleep well unless he can hear crickets chirping or some other ambient interruptable noise. I need to explain the whole “interruptable noise” thing. Ace explained it like this,”When you’re asleep outside you know that the crickets, frogs and other animals will be scared off if someone is walking around nearby; it also enables you to hear a noise when it disrupts the sounds the animals make.” Meaning that he can sleep knowing that the crickets and frogs are singing, it tells him that he’s safe. Then there’s Lucky. If Lucky barks it’s a sheer miracle (you know how I love that dog), but if he’s asleep in the room with Ace and he barks, guess what, he just told Ace something isn’t right and Ace pops out of bed like a pop tart flying out of a toaster. But Ace’s favorite thing to go to sleep to is the sound of frogs. He’s a frog fanatic and I don’t blame him, we’ve spent hours going over pictures of Poison Arrow frogs because he and I both love them and want a wall sized terrarium filled with them so we’re both lulled to sleep by the singing of frogs.

But let’s talk about hyper-vigilance in my world before we delve back into Ace’s. I think mine might be easier to understand and a little bit more relatable. I gave you the Wikipedia definition there, so take a moment to familiarize yourself with it. Odds are, you’ve experienced a mild form of hyper-vigilance, but it’s really different when you suffer from PTSD.

Let’s look at me for a minute. Let’s talk about the bullying once again. Imagine, just for a moment, that you are surrounded by constant threats. Kids pushing you, kids threatening you, kids belittling you, then having authority figures threaten and belittle you as well. It’s all forms of attacks on your person. So after a while, your body goes into survival mode and you’re trying anything in your power to protect yourself just to simply survive. While you’re going through it, there is no “safe” place, no safe harbor, just endless torment. Now, prolong that sensation over days, weeks, months then years. All of a sudden it’s not just about survival, it becomes something you do automatically and when even the slightest feeling of attack or persecution hits you…BANG…you’ve just been triggered and you go into the state of just protecting yourself.  Nothing anyone can say can get you down out of that, you have to ride it out and find some way to make yourself feel safe. Hence, that’s where my strong flight reflex comes in. If I feel attacked, I’m going to immediately want to go home and hole up with my 34-year-old teddy bear because that’s what I’ve done for the last 34 years to feel safe and in control. Yep, I live like that every day. Not pleasant, is it? On the other hand, Ace’s reflex is that he gets frustrated and angry, and I mean really angry. Then he clams up. He expresses no emotion but this roiling anger over the fact he can’t change the situation he’s in.

Now, let’s go back to Ace again. Not only does he have the same type of history I do, but then let’s add on bullets flying through the air at him in a combat zone. If you’re like me, you are thinking that that man needs major hugs and a protective blanket of love wrapped around him permanently. However, it doesn’t work like that. Ace isn’t a touchy-feely guy when it comes to him interacting with the world and when that trigger goes off for him, oy veh, I want to run for cover, but it’s like Jay said, “You’ve got to commit.” So I do everything to hold my flight reflex in check and remind him that it’s not as bad as he thinks it is, just like when my trigger kicks in and he has to do the same for me. The one great differentiating factor between the two of us is that his anger issues are very surface. Last night I had to quote the movie Twister when he had been triggered and his anger was raging, I giggled (which always makes him feel better) and said, “Someone should warn them about your temper.” At that point, I kind of feel helpless, but I can only imagine how helpless he feels when I get like that too.

Anger is a staple in our world.  It is. Look at today. It’s tax season and nothing will set Ace on edge like dealing with things like doing his taxes. He’s got some issues there and they’re not for me to touch (yet) but I sat and watched as he became so angry over just about everything, and I looked at him and said, “Hey, it’s not as bad as you think it is.” When the papers went flying across the table and I was watching him lose it, I remembered Jay and said out loud, “You can be as angry as you want to be, but I’m committed! Now we’re going to get through this, just like we get through everything else. If I don’t get to fly, you can do me the favor of not getting so upset. I’m smiling…so how about giving me one in return.” After that he cooled off a bit, he hugged me and said, “You shouldn’t have seen me get upset. I’m sorry, you shouldn’t have been here for that.” I just rolled my eyes. For all the bull he’s taken from me, a small blow-up like that is nothing I can’t handle. I at least owe him that.

I realized long ago, knowing that he had been through anger-management therapy, that Ace was going to get mad now and again. It comes with the caveat that he can sometimes get that irrational kind of angry which I know is not directed at me unless we’re having a knock-down, drag-out argument (we’ve only had two in ten months which I deem as ‘not bad’).

Most of the time, Ace just gets angry because he knows there are better ways to do things. His big thing that makes him the most angry is hypocrisy and bureaucratic red tape. Oh yeah, those two things will set him off quicker than a fuseless firecracker. One bit of heat and boom! He’s off like a rocket, so I know not to touch those things. When he gets mad, I think about the times that I see red and the triggers associated with it. Half the battle is knowing the trigger then the cool-off point, also known as things that get his mind on other more pleasant things.  Usually, I just give a little giggle.  See, I’m covert like that, I figured out that nothing gives him more joy or lights him up faster than when I’m giggling and smiling. He loves my laugh. I have no idea why, but he does. The minute I get onto something that makes me laugh he forgets all about being angry. Trust me, the distraction tactic works because when I’m upset like that, if you plug me into a video game I forget all about what upset me. The minute you can figure out what defuses a trigger, the better off you are. But then again, I know where he’s coming from because if I see Ace laughing and smiling, I immediately cool off.

You see, living through love, war and PTSD isn’t easy, but the returns on the emotional investment are huge. I have a partner who not only understands me, but I have a unique peek into my man that most other women will never be able to get into theirs. But then again, I don’t have one of those football watching, aloof guys either. I have to give Ace kudos, he’s very much present in the relationship and thanks to Jay I can see him in better and different lights that help me read Ace’s body language, the expressions on his face and know when I can step in and help out.

Individuals with PTSD are very special people. They’ve been through things that you don’t ever want to experience and their spirits have been forged in the hottest of fires. We have been exposed to prolonged trauma and when you think of it that way, it begs to have some bit of lenience because we’ve seen more hurt and pain than most other people who grew up in a very “Ozzie and Harriet” or “Leave it to Beaver” household or lived their lives without a hint of danger, taking normalcy for granted. We’ve been beaten, we’ve been torn up and torn down, yet we survive. Sometimes I like to think of my PTSD as a badge of honor, it means that you can come at me with your best, most malicious shot and I’ll probably laugh at you thinking, “Is that all you’ve got?  Really? Amateur! Keep trying, one day you might get it.” LOL. And people wonder why I get upset when I see people do malicious things. The need to slap them into next week and tell them,”The de-wormer is in the pet aisle” is overwhelming. People. They never fail to make me laugh. The ones that make me laugh hardest are the insecure ones that only strike out at others because they feel inferior; when the truth really is that it’s all in their perception, that there is really nothing wrong with them besides their Napoleon Complex or their own issues that they need to go work on without making everyone else their emotional baggage bellhop.

PTSD is an illness, we can’t get around that, but some days I wish it will be eventually re-named as People That Survived (other people’s) Drama. We’re tough stuff and we deserve every bit of the acceptance and love that every human being on the planet deserves.

If you know someone with PTSD, please give them a hug for me and remind them that they’re not alone. The biggest and best thing you can remember is that your PTSD afflicted friend has been through situations that would make other people crumble. That they are getting up, getting out and being a part of the world is nothing short of a miracle. There are a lot of people who PTSD just takes down for the count, who’s illness has taken them to places they would have never gone unless they were so traumatized they couldn’t handle it any other way (that’s why you see such a huge number of addicts in the PTSD population). It’s the ones who have hit the bottom and are fighting to come back strong that are the ones who deserve your love, your patience and most of all, your respect.

One other thing, PTSD does not make us bad, lowest-caste citizens. We are just as productive as anyone else, we just have special needs and special considerations to take into account. Those of us with PTSD are no different than you are, we’ve just seen and been through traumatic events that you may not ever see in your lifetime. That we’re standing is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, our ability to adapt and survive. That I can write and tell you about it is nothing short of pure bravery because I want the world to understand that PTSD doesn’t mean “outcast”, it means “survivor.”

I have C-PTSD and I’m proud to be me. I’m even more proud of Ace. He’s seen combat along with everything else and I couldn’t be happier than to have a man in my life like him.  He has my illness too and I think he’s adorable.

For the song of the day, I’m going to go with one from 1990, Big Audio Dynamite’s “Bottom Line”…

When you reach the bottom line, the only thing to do is climb, pick yourself up off the floor, don’t know what you’re waiting for…

Rice Krispies Treat

I promised you a good one, and you know me by now: If something can go wrong, it usually does.

Well, after my 3 a.m. phone call to Ace, being that I was in the middle of spring break, I spent the day at his house, disconnected from my computer and most of the external stressors in my life.  Ace went out with his best friend to check out a car he wanted to restore and well, that left me at his house alone with Lucky and one of his housemates, Bonnie.  I do really love that dog, so I didn’t mind at all puppy sitting, it would give me an opportunity to cool my jets.

While I was M.I.A. for a week from his house, Ace went grocery shopping.  On the counter in the kitchen I found the makings for all kinds of goodies.  Cake mixes, marshmallows, Rice Krispies, semi-sweet chocolate morsels, the whole she-bang that just had my name all over it.

Now what you don’t know, or maybe you do, is that I live to spoil Ace.  I do.  Also, I’m a huge baker.  I love to bake.  Cookies, cakes, candies … if it’s a confection, I’m all over it. Nothing in the world says how much you care about someone than them walking into the house to the smell of fresh-baked anything, so if I have time, motive and opportunity, I’m baking like a mad woman.

It also doesn’t help that Ace is a real sucker for homemade toll-house chocolate chip cookies. Oh yeah, the chocolate chip cookie and he are good friends, but friends in moderation. So whenever I bake, Ace is all over it. He loves it, so we’ve got a great situation brewing … I love to bake, he loves cookies and cakes.  Good thing happening there, right?

So I’ve set the scene. It’s me and Lucky and a really big kitchen with baking paraphernalia.  Time to get to work, right?

Well, let’s first set the way-back machine for 1975.  I was a 4-year-old that got sent to hang out with my mom’s friend Carol while Mom took care of Dad during his first back surgery.

I remember going to the store with Carol and sitting in the shopping cart “car seat” just made for little 4-year-olds.  We went up and down the aisles and I watched as Carol picked up butter, marshmallows and Rice Krispies, then over for Nilla Wafers, vanilla pudding and bananas to make banana pudding. When we got back to her house, she let me stand on her kitchen step stool as I watched her put things away.  Then came the fun, Carol let me help her make Rice Krispies Treats. Yep.  That was my first and last time to make them.

Until 36 years later.

You have to remember, in my house, we didn’t make stuff like that, we stayed with the staples — cakes, cookies, pies and Jell-o based things. That was our routine and it didn’t involve the Rice Krispies Treat. If we did make them at our house, I don’t remember it, besides, the last thing I’d ever be allowed to do is to engage in something like that because Mom and Nan would have it covered, leaving no room for me.

So fast forward to 2012 and there I am in Ace’s kitchen.

The one thing I’ve learned as a baker over time is that if you follow the directions, it will 9 times out of 10 come out right.  It’s really hard to screw up a recipe unless you are really trying, or in my case, new to the recipe, working with things you don’t normally work with.

Speaking of what I don’t normally work with, marshmallows would be on the top of the list.  I can toast them, I can stick them in my hot chocolate, but after that, the marshmallow and I are perfect strangers. Cooking with them? Out of the question. I’ve never had a recipe that I’ve made time and time again with marshmallows.

So, we’ve established that I’m in a relatively foreign kitchen (any place that’s not my kitchen with my stuff is “foreign”, no matter if it’s my Mom’s or Ace’s). I’m faced with an ingredient that I have almost never worked with and I’m about to attempt a recipe that it’s been 36 years out of my 40 on the planet since I’ve seen it attempted.

Are you scared?

You should be!

Ok, so there I am, Rice Krispies box in hand, reading the recipe.  It’s not so bad, 4 cups of mini-marshmallows, a couple of tablespoons of butter, 6 cups of Rice Krispies …

I look around…

Ok, 13 x 9 x 6 pan … check.
Sauce pan … check.
Wax paper … check.
All of my ingredients … check.

So it looks like I’m all ready to go, so I get started.

I put my butter in the pot and started to melt it. I check the recipe and it says, “Melt over low heat.”  I check the stove, the burner is set on “Low.” Ok, I’m good there.

As the butter started melting, I had already measured out all of my ingredients and they were sitting in a line of neat little bowls just waiting for me to add them to the pot.  I’m in good shape so far, right?

So the butter is melted in the bottom of the pan, I then start to add the marshmallows. They don’t melt very fast, so I felt like I was in the clear.  As I’m waiting, I go check on the dog, pat his head, buzz around the house for a second, check my blackberry for e-mails and/or missed calls, wash my hands and I return to the stove.

Ok, the marshmallows weren’t melting very fast at all, so I grab a wooden spoon and give them a stir.  As I looked down into the bottom of the pan, I went, “Ooh!  Melty goodness!” The marshmallows were going just as planned, and if there is anything in the world I know about being a confectioner, the worst thing you can do is burn any type of sugar because it just stinks to high heaven.  So I check the knob on the stove again, it was still on “low” so I think I’m in good shape.

After a while with me stirring and patiently waiting, the marshmallows turned themselves into a big white pile of goo.  Not incredibly loose, but I also didn’t want to destroy the marshmallows by turning the sugar into liquid, so after I got the marshmallows a bit looser, I decided it was time to add the Rice Krispies.

So there I am, adding in the six cups of Rice Krispies to the pot, stirring and watching them as they’re getting all over the place.  It seems as the pot I picked out was a bit too small, but no biggie, I kept adding in the Rice Krispies handful by handful, so I didn’t make an even bigger mess.  At that point I realized the pot was waaaay too small because the marshmallows weren’t mixing with what Rice Krispies I had remaining in the bowl to pour in, so I figure, what the heck, I’ll just pour everything into the bowl with the Rice Krispies, it’s bigger, I can just stir them up in there … that didn’t work either.

And I just saw my cake-pop baking pal Heidi put her head into her hands.  Yeah, I know Heidi, it wasn’t a great idea.

At seeing the mess I had just made, the Rice Krispies not even beginning to look remotely like they were ready to go into the pan, I realize that my marshmallows were still too stiff, so guess what I did …

I took the glass bowl and promptly stuck it into the microwave.

And there goes Heidi’s squeal of anguish … “Noooooooooooo!”

Yeah, well you may have known that, but I sure as hell didn’t. Microwaves melt things. That’s what I knew.

So, I stuck it in there for about 30 seconds and took them back down. Yep, the marshmallows were melted all right …

Finally at being able to stir up the whole mixture, I get it over into my Pyrex pan and get it all in there, thinking I had saved myself from catastrophe.  I took my wax paper, patted it all down and it looked just fine to me, so I let them cool while I started putting the ingredients together for the one thing I do know how to make without fail, cookies.

While I was measuring out my flour, sugars, salt and the rest of the cookie makings, Bonnie came in and said, “What are you making?” I looked at her and said, “Well, I saved myself from disaster, I almost botched the Rice Krispies Treats, but I saved myself by putting it in the microwave.”  As soon as I said it, Bonnie went pale.  Before I had started baking, she and I had had a nice little visit where she told me about her upcoming trip to see her grandkids and do the grandma/babysitting thing.  After we got done with our visit, she went on her way.

After I told her about the microwave, she said, “And they turned out?” I said, “Yeah, as far as I know … You want to be my test victim?” Her look was priceless, she said, “Sure, I love Rice Krispies Treats, I’ll give them a try.”  It was then that it all fell apart.  As Bonnie walked up to the pan, she said, “Well, they look alright,” then took a knife and promptly hit bedrock. Those suckers were hard as a rock. I immediately went pale as she pried out a small square, took a bite, and as I saw the treat explode like a piece of peanut brittle she said, “Well, they sure are crispy!”

At that point, she looked at me and said, “Did you butter the pan before you put them in there?” I stood there with eyes big as pie plates going, “You’re supposed to butter the pan?” She smiled gently and said, “Yeah, you don’t want them to stick.” Oy veh, I was out of my element, brought to my knees by Rice Krispies.  At seeing the total loss I was at, Bonnie got out a very large metal spatula, you know, the kind that don’t bend?  Well, guess what, as Bonnie struggled valiantly to get the mess I made out of the Pyrex pan, the spatula bent. Hey when I screw up, I go all the way!  So, after going around the edges of the pan, then breaking them into bricks, Bonnie and I got the botched batch out of the pan.  I do mean literally that you could have used those suckers as bricks and mortar and I promise you the Three Little Pigs could have taken what was in that pan and copyrighted the formula on how to make Rice Krispies Bricks.  The Big Bad Wolf wouldn’t have stood no chance at all trying to blow down a house made of those suckers.  After the pan was empty again, I grabbed it and ran hot water, quickly cleaning the pan to get ready for the next batch.

It was at that point that I quickly snatched up my Blackberry and called Ace, thinking to myself, “I’ve got time, I can make more …” then cursed myself as I had already snapped a photo of the botched batch and sent them to his Blackberry, so he knew I had made them.  I had to find out how far away he was so I could rectify the mess I had made!  He answered the phone, “Hi there!” and I said, “Um, how far away are you?” the reply left my stomach near my ankles as he said, “Oh, about 20 minutes.” Trying hard not to give away the catastrophe I had made, I said, “Ok, see you when you get here…” then promptly hung up the phone and sprang into action with Bonnie right next to me.

When Bonnie saw the pot I had used to make the first batch, she kindly looked at me with not a single bit of laughter and said, “You might want to use a bigger pot this time …” as I ran quickly around the kitchen re-measuring all of the ingredients as I threw the butter into the larger pot that Bonnie had picked out. Then I threw in the marshmallows and waited for them to melt.

While the butter and marshmallows got to be gooey again, Bonnie came to check on me again as I was searching for the mixer for the cookies.  She looked down into the pot and said, “A little bit longer, but you don’t want to burn them. By the way, did you butter the pan?” At that point, I grabbed up what was left of the stick of butter I was using and buttered the pan with her giving instructions.  Then I kept looking around the kitchen for the vanilla, baking soda, sugars, morsels and the rest of the cookie ingredients so that when the Treats got done, I could slap those down, get everything into the mixing bowl and be casually mixing cookies when Ace got in the door, none the wiser that I had messed up.

As I was searching for the mixer, I went out the garage door at Ace’s, thinking that maybe the mixer had been stored out there … hey, if you know anything about Ace, things are sometimes stored in strange places, as I got out the door, guess who was standing there?  Ace.  Holy lordy, at that point, all I could do was burst into laughter, even harder than before when I had realized the whole first batch had become brick and mortar.  I couldn’t even begin to explain to him what happened, all I could do was hold onto him and laugh hysterically.  All that eeked out of me was, “Um, where’s the mixer?” and as he gave me instructions as to its’ location, he looked at me as if I had completely lost it.

As I went back inside, Bonnie heard he was outside and she got into the act with me as she stirred the marshmallows and I added the Rice Krispies.  This time they turned out really well, and as Bonnie and I took wax paper and got them patted down into the pan, Ace and his best friend walk in, catch us in the act as I’m smiling at him with tears pouring out of the sides of my eyes I’m laughing so hard.

Bonnie popped up and said, “You weren’t supposed to see this …” Ace replied, “What happened?” and as he asked that, I burst into even more laughter because …

I’m 40 years old and I still can’t make Rice Krispies Treats without adult supervision.

I owe Bonnie huge thanks as she winked at me and I got back to what I do best — bake cookies.

Later on, Bonnie’s husband walked in, looked at me as he grabbed a fresh baked walnut chocolate chip cookie and said, “I heard you make one hell of a Rice Krispies Treat.”

Yep, if I can step in it, step on it, burn myself with it or otherwise mangle myself, I usually do.

And that’s me and the Rice Krispies Treat.

Have a good day everyone!

Blues for a t-shirt.

Just a few days ago I made a reference to the Cameron Crowe film Singles. It is a great cross-section of Gen-X as twenty-somethings. While you may have had Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dazed and Confused or Clueless, my generation had Singles.

If you’ve never seen Singles, it’s got a great cast.  Kyra Sedgwick, Campbell Scott, Bridget Fonda and Matt Dillon with cameos by Eddie Vedder and the rest of the guys from Pearl Jam along with some the rest of the Seattle Sound bands. Sorry to say, no Dave Grohl or Kurt Cobain, but definitely shots of the cover of the Nirvana album “Nevermind.”  Set in Seattle, the film uses my beloved grunge/hippy-revivalist scene of the early 1990’s as its’ backdrop.

The film goes along in chapters titled: “Be happy, stay single”, “The Hourglass Syndrome”, “Blues for a T-shirt”, “Blue Seattle”, “Expect the Best”, “The Theory of Eternal Dating” and “What took you so long?”

In the middle of writing this post, I went back and watched the film again because I needed correct quotes, but somewhere in the middle of it, I found myself growing really weak and thinking to myself, “Was walking out of my relationship the wisest thing I’ve ever done?”

If you’ve seen the film, during the chapter “Blues for a t-shirt”, you know exactly what Kyra Sedgwick’s character “Linda” does with the blue t-shirt Campbell Scott’s character “Steve” intentionally left behind at her apartment, hopefully to illicit a phone call.  Well, after Steve completely blows it to the point it was like he shot off both of his own feet and Linda tells him to go fly a kite, the next scene features Linda as she takes the blue t-shirt and politely cleans her toilet with it, thinking to herself:

“Why? Why do you talk such a good game?  You talk about things that matter, that get me excited; that get me hot. Then it’s like you’re lobotomized. Why can’t I just protect myself? Why can’t I just be a buddy? Glad I caught this one in time. Can’t leave myself open. Better to be the dump-er than the dump-ee.”

As I watched that scene, I had to laugh.  Today while I was working on cleaning my apartment, trying to use my spring break in the most efficient way possible, I’m not even shitting you, I found Ace’s blue t-shirt in my laundry basket. Talk about life imitating art, the color of Campbell Scott’s character’s t-shirt was the EXACT same color as the one I found in my laundry basket. I can’t help but think it’s a sign. Ugh! It’s probably a sign I watch too many damn movies!

Immediately when I saw that t-shirt, I won’t lie, the first words out of my mouth were, “Oh shit,” as I picked it up and extended it to see what was on it.  Sure enough, it was his.  After doing a bit of negative swearing, the image of Kyra Sedgwick toiling over her toilet with the blue t-shirt struck me.  At that point I looked at the t-shirt, then at my bathroom, then at the t-shirt again, smirking evilly.  In my mind I could see myself sitting on my bathroom floor cleaning the toilet with his blue t-shirt then promptly throwing it out. But, I didn’t. I folded it and put it in a drawer.

Ok yeah I wimped out, I didn’t clean my toilet with his blue t-shirt, but it was for a really good reason: I had already dusted my bedroom furniture with the red t-shirt he gave to wear as a sleep-shirt.  To answer your question, yes. I really did, then promptly threw it out.

The entire time I was dusting my dresser, nightstand and the top of my armoire, I muttered to myself almost the exact same things as Kyra Sedgwick did. Why was it that he was so wonderful on one hand, then so nightmarish on the other? Why was it that he was so great at talking about things, so great at knowing every little detail but then in the same moment able to shoot his own feet off by pulling some boneheaded stunt or just letting things get to him to the point he lost control? He was a really good, although distorted, reflection of me but at the same time, he was so damn charming. One of his dad’s ex-wives had it right, “When you get around them, your head promptly flies up your ass.” There were so many days that I’d be to the high-heavens pissed at him, then as soon as I’d see his smile I could never remember why I was mad in the first place. I will say this, he knows me (and handles me) a lot better than my ex-husband ever did.

Excuse me while I keyboard faceplant. I guess the tagline to the movie was right. “Love is a game. Easy to start, hard to finish.”

Then another scene popped up where she said:

“We spent a couple of great weeks together.  But my mind works in strange ways.  Whenever things are at their best, I start waiting for them to fall apart.  I can’t figure out if I do it to myself or if life does it for me.”

Oh, I know perfectly well I do it to myself. I get so busy over-thinking things or getting too caught up in other things, and with how chaotic my life is right now, there’s just no room for him.  But it didn’t stop me from looking out the window and wondering how he would react if I showed up on his doorstep and said, “I was nowhere near your neighborhood…”

But then during “The Theory of Eternal Dating”, Steve looks at Linda and says:

Someone who cares about you must scare you to death.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s absolutely right. I equate love with pain. I’ve never known love to be without some sort of pain to back it up. I guess that was why it was so easy to look at all of his and my painful shortcomings and run from them because I’m truly tired of love equaling pain. I have never really known a relationship without conflict and I guess I just want one without it, so if there’s even the smallest bit of painful anything, I run from it.

Then there was the car wreck scene. As I watched Linda having a hard time after the wreck, she turned her back to Steve and I suddenly felt sorry for him, he was in a battle he couldn’t win. I started to feel really bad for Ace at that point, he had been faced with a ton of battles that he couldn’t win just because of my very troubled past.

During “What took you so long” Linda sits and thinks to herself, “What am I doing? Why did I chicken out?”  As she goes back to her old routine she thinks, “Well, at least I’m not out there dating,” and I can totally agree with that. I’m safe, I’m in my bubble. I have a roof over my head. I’m good. But at the same time, I just don’t know what to do.

The thing that killed me the most when I watched the film is being reminded of all of the good things I had while I was with him.You should have seen the beautiful flowers he always walked in with, always but always a handful of Gerbera daisies for me.  I miss how he can make practically anything in the kitchen and his turkey burritos. I really miss watching him work with a chef’s knife and how when he was in a good mood, watching him cook was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. He knew that coconut ice cream with fresh bananas and pineapple on top always made me feel better. But then as I’d feel better while eating my ice cream, it would always be colored by him telling me all about all of the stressors and demands he was under and I’d have to hear long tirades about how the world was screwing him over. I really never heard from him a peaceful moment, and I guess that’s what did it in the end for me. I always found myself thinking, “Is this really worth it?” I just couldn’t be around someone who didn’t have some semblance of peace in their life.  But even though it’s freshly over, as my friend Tera looked at me and said, “You do realize that the ball is now completely in your court. You have to decide what you’re going to do with it.”

I will be honest, I have not one earthly clue of what to do with it. All I know is that I can’t be in a relationship where the other person is so stressed out that they can’t enjoy a single peaceful moment without regretting they didn’t finish their list of chores for the day. I proved to myself that I could make time for practically anything, gods, I really did go to the nines and put my shoulder to the wheel for it.  I tried my hardest to stop my world from chugging right along so I could give him all the attention and quality doting I thought he deserved, but it just wasn’t enough.

The worst part? I miss the dog almost more than I miss the man. But it’s a package deal, so I don’t really know what to do.  I guess I am seriously in the middle of the “Blues for a t-shirt.” Had I not found that blasted thing in my laundry basket we wouldn’t be here right now!  ARGH!  I’m one of those, “Be happy, stay single” kind of people and a blue t-shirt is messing me up.  AAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!

But let’s keep going with the movie.

After the whole Linda and Steve thing, then there is Bridget Fonda’s character, “Janet”. The first time I saw Singles, I was the same age as Janet, 23. I love how she said:

I’m 23.  Remember how old we thought 23 was when we were little? I thought I’d be traveling through airlocks and have three kids.  But here I am, 23, and time is running out to do something bizarre.  Somewhere around 25 “bizarre” becomes “immature.”

Janet dates Cliff, played by Matt Dillon. Cliff, in a lot of ways with how he likes to mess up and so forth, brought me back to that damned blue t-shirt again, watching as he screwed up and left himself nowhere to go.

But after getting to this point in writing on Tuesday night…I stopped. It was 3 a.m. and all I could think of was that damned blue t-shirt and how much I missed Ace. He had made it practically impossible NOT to miss him.  After thinking about Cliff, Janet, Steve and Linda and Cliff’s line “Does this happen to everyone?” with Janet replying, “No, I think it’s just us.” I stopped clicking on my keyboard and looked at my phone.  It had been almost a week since I talked to Ace and I had become overwhelmed with the blues brought on by that damned blue t-shirt.

The ball was in my court. I knew it. At that point, I don’t know if it was my addict nature that got the best of me, or if it was the fact the blue t-shirt was haunting me, but I hit the speed dial key for Ace. Even though it was 3 a.m., I knew he was up, so I listened to the phone ring and it was like I had stepped into the film where Linda asks Steve, “Did I over-react?” It took about 10 minutes of talking before I looked down at my pajama-clad legs and my t-shirt and said, “I’m coming over.”

That was four days ago.  Come to find out, I did over-react and well, let’s just say I’ve got some goods to share, but it’s late and I’ll let the anticipation build for the next two posts.

Here, I’ll give you a preview:

“Rice Krispy Treats…”
and
“Love, War and PTSD.”

See you tomorrow!

Edit!  I forgot the song of the day:  From the film Singles: Paul Westerberg’s “Waiting for Somebody”

Dangerous.

Have you ever noticed that people with original thoughts and ideas (that don’t conform or prescribe to the status quo) are branded as “Dangerous”?

Sometimes it takes all I have and more to keep my mouth shut before I tell them to take that derogatory term and stick it where the sun does not shine.

Got your ticket? It’s time to go to the circus sideshow where the barker cries out, “Step right up! Step right up and see the World’s Smallest Mind! You’ve never seen anything this small! With not a unique idea or revolutionary thought, it’s the World’s Smallest Mind! Look at how the small mind conforms! Watch how it trembles in fear! Look at how it refuses to accept new things! Watch as it spews intolerance! Step right up! Only two bits to see the World’s Smallest Mind!” And the crowd rushes to pay their two bits, step inside the tent and go, “Oooooh, ahhhhh…”

It seems as I’ve been to the circus sideshow more times than I’d like to admit over the last several months because I’ve faced that derogatory term more times than I’d like to admit. It seems as every time I’ve turned around since childhood, my very avant-garde way of thinking has been called “dangerous.” My enthusiasm is called “dangerous” and my efforts to selflessly help others is gaped at in shock. Trembling in fear and stupidity, they bring out the red-hot branding iron and sear the word “dangerous” into my skin, making it that much easier to be disrespectful toward me.

Well just tar and feather me then put me up on the “10 Most Wanted” list, I’m just so very dangerous. Go ahead, point at me and squeal in terror, “She’s a non-conformist, run!!!” Oh yes, I’m just sooooo scary. *eyeroll* Riiiiight.

More often than not I’ve found that my ideas, and by extension me, being able to describe what the bottom-facing side of things look like as I’m rudely shoved away or swept under the carpet by someone else’s stupidity, insecurities and/or mistrust. It astonishes me every time I am forced to sit back and watch as original thinking is feared, most of the time ignored and often sees the underside of rugs. I won’t lie, it makes me sit at least once a day marveling at the lemming-like nature of society at large.

Today, while I was working, I happened upon this, take a look:
Jim Carroll (who by the way shares the same surname as the originator of my beloved Momeraths, Lewis Carroll), is right. There is always some (excuse my language) jackass just waiting, just begging, for their moment to say, “You can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way.” It’s like them standing up and saying, “Care to jump off a cliff with me?” and to my utter dismay, I see people line up to plummet to their professional deaths.
But then there those rare, brave souls that dare to buck the status quo. (Oh how my Bernbachian nature and I love them.) A long time ago, I made a t-shirt for one of my avatars that said, “Just say NO to the status quo,” joyfully reveling at the sight of conformists writhing in their seats who just couldn’t bear to have an original thinker in their midst. I swear to you, I have watched with my hand over my mouth to keep from bursting out laughing as they poop bricks at the thought of someone with a unique idea in their head. Most of the time though, I just sit and shake my head, marveling at it with a standard “Wow. Really?” as my skin crawls, forcing me to sit speechless as I watch it happen.
I’ve never really been a good follower because I’m usually the one who sits back and goes, “And where in the hell do they think they’re going, do they not realize that is a CLIFF they’re marching towards?” I tell ya what, when I encounter mindless following like that, I just sit back amazed. Then I laugh, wave and watch them go flying off the cliff with a “Bye! See ya!” All kidding aside though, when I see things like that I know that it means less competition for me, but I just can’t sit by and watch people fly off of the cliff when I know perfectly well that there are alternatives to following everyone else.
Please believe me, I spent 99% of my childhood intentionally wanting to be accepted into the lemming club! I did! I would have sold my soul for just one day, just for one taste, of acceptance as one of the lemmings. But I never got it. In hindsight though, I’m SO very glad I never got the invitation and never knew what it was like to be accepted. If I would have been welcomed into the lemming club, I would have been denied so very much. The places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had that people only dream about, I would have never, ever had those had I been a lemming. It was my ability to be an original thinker, refusing to swim with the stream that set me apart. I refused early on to live a life of mediocrity in which I’d only punch out a couple of kids and try desperately to find Lithium-induced bliss in the suburbs, regretting I never did anything extraordinary. I’d rather live an extraordinary life branded as “dangerous” rather than go down like that.  Personally, I think Gloria Steinem would be proud.

After realizing how much lemming mentality costs the soul, it occurred to me that if I would have given up and not fought against conformity with all my heart for a single moment, I wouldn’t be half of the person I am now. There is no glory for those who don’t stand up and make it happen for themselves.

When I realize what I did by just “being different”, it amazes me every time. If I would have trotted along behind everyone else, I can only imagine that my life would be filled with overwhelming regret thinking about all of the amazing experiences I would have never had.
I was no more than 10 when my Aunt Sissy looked at my mother and said, “There is nothing wrong with that girl, she just walks to the beat of her own drum.” And look at me now, still beating that different drum and loving every minute of it. It is moments like this that you realize that we are all different for a reason and it’s not dangerous — it’s unique, it’s beautiful, it’s things that we don’t even comprehend —  then comes the gut check: original thinkers like me are engaging in the things you always wished you could have done.

When you’re left with nothing, all you have is a question in front of you…”What are you going to do about it?” When you go to change your life and have the courage to beat that different drum with all your heart until it’s heard to the heavens, you are engaging in a little thing called “taking a risk.”

What kills me, as Jim Carroll eluded to, is that people fear taking risks. They do! Look around at your friends, how many of them are truly what you would call a “risk-taker”? I’m not talking about adrenaline-junkie induced stunts like sky-diving or say riding a Harley 100 miles per hour down a road. That’s not risk, that’s just what some call stupidly pushing your body to its’ limits, risking your life, not expanding your mind, coming up with a new idea or challenging yourself to think differently. I’m talking about real emotional risk; having the courage to do something or create something no one has never done before. I can promise you that out of 10, you might not even find one. I’m deadly serious! People fear risk, but only when we take risk do we gain the greatest rewards.
Instead of feeling like a Gordon Gekko-esque character saying “Risk is good”, I’ll illustrate my point.
Back in the day, when Apple was trying so hard to unseat IBM from the top of the technology industry, they made this commercial:
Now here’s the scary part: Look around you. How many people have Apple product? How many of them do you see hooked into their i-whatever? iPad, iPod, iPhone … I’m serious! Look around! You want to see how absurd it really is, come down to UNLV, sit in front of the bookstore at the Student Union and watch. Go to your local Apple store and take a look inside. iThis, iThat, and they all buy it up like it is made of gold, joining the countless millions who are happily blindfolded and walking off the nearest cliff. We have become a homogenous iSociety, then we wonder why there are so few unique movies coming out. We cry in anguish when we go to look for something unique and wonder why nothing is there! It’s because the lemmings have taken over and are taking you with them.
BUT, here’s the problem in all of it, we brand out-of-the-box thinkers as “Dangerous.”
The word “dangerous” actually originates in the 15th century and the beginning of the Rennaisance. Joan of Arc was running around playing with the English, DaVinci was inventing the parachute, Guttenberg was inventing his famous press that without him we won’t have another book to put on our shelves. But in all of that, what was so “dangerous” about the 15th century? I really want to find out, so I’ve put in an e-mail to my fave history professor to find out what was so incredibly daunting that would lead someone to coin the word “Dangerous.”
But not happy with what I was finding, I went to the root of “dangerous” to the word “danger”. Oh come on, who ever just did their best impersonation of Robby the Robot from Lost In Space, go to the fridge, pour yourself a glass of milk, then go to the cookie jar, grab up a handful of cookies and as a man at Shark Reef once dryly said as he produced a pacifier from his pocket and handed it to the crying child on his shoulders, “Put this in that.” Quiet you!
Me personally, without going around and looking it up, I bet odds that it was the old Dark Ages thinkers that looked at everyone and said just what Jim Carroll said earlier, “You can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way.” It’s creepy how history likes to repeat itself, isn’t it? Eeek!
But then I did go and look it up. Danger, it seems, found it’s way into the English language in the 13th century. Ok history buffs, what happened during the 13th century? Well, there’s Dante and his Inferno…(remember me and Doc T going through that? As a reminder, do NOT read Dante’s Inferno before bed, you will have some very scary, freaky-ass dreams if you do. Trust me!) But also, you guessed it, I was right, it was a part of the very backward (and very bane of my existence) Dark Ages.
When you have to use a Dark Ages word to describe a progressive thinker, you have to know in your heart there is something very wrong. Just the thought of “dark ages” and “progressive” in the same sentence should give you a clue, it is that very same contradiction that is inherent whenever we take an original idea and summarily flush it down the toilet.
Now just to give some frame to this, I want you to take a really good look at one of my idols, the great Bill Bernbach:
From 4:10 in:

“If you do things the way they were always done, you’re not going to be very effective, because the essence of impact is saying things the way they’ve never been said before.”

Yet we call those people “dangerous.”
The Great Bill was the founder of the creative revolution. He is the reason why we no longer have to hear about just the attributes of something, instead we hear stories about a particular thing.
But now, in our very astringent politically correct society, a few people have gone beyond labeling original thinkers as “dangerous”, now they’re referred to as “innovative”. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and the like; they’re all very “dangerous” men aren’t they, and yet you sign up for Facebook by the millions and buy as much iWhatever as you can.
Let’s go back to the Great Bill one more time for one last quote (from 6:36 in the video):

“I think all you can teach is knowledge, and knowledge you have to be concerned with, knowledge is a great thing to have, but knowledge per se means that that knowledge already exists and in that sense, it’s the past. The only thing that can take you from knowledge into the future is an idea.”

The only thing that can take you from knowledge into the future is an idea.

And most of the time the people who come up with those ideas are labeled with just one derogatory word:

Dangerous.

I’m going to take my dangerous backside and remember one thing, I don’t have to take that label as derogatory, rather, I am going to take it as I always do, as a reminder that I’m different and different is GOOD.

I’d rather be different than march off the cliff with the rest of the lemmings.

Song of the day: The one I always play when faced with those who would settle for being mediocre, Conjure One featuring Poe, “Center of the Sun”

Back to Square One.

Here we are again, back at square one. I like to think of it like Liz Gilbert does, taking a moment to reflect and accept the endless waves of transformation.

There’s been a gear-shift here. Last year around this time I was pondering dating and now I can thankfully say that the death wail after plummeting from the precipice has come and gone. Not to sound cold or completely detached from emotion, but it is with a great sigh of relief that I can say that the incessantly drama-filled dating ship I was on has gratefully sailed. I’m changing tack one more time to re-embrace solitude and its wonderful serenity.

I’m sitting here with a beautifully cool spring breeze wafting through my open patio door and bedroom windows. There’s not a sound in the world except for my fingers hitting the keyboard and the sound of the breeze rustling through the trees. Nothing in the world is so very perfect and it only took me a year to figure out what I already knew, that I appreciate being alone. No incessant dinging of my phone with what always seemed like the billionth drama-laden text message of novel-like proportion for the day. No conflicts. No going through the billionth argument over, according to them, how horrible, neglectful and selfish I am. Just the ability to sit back and absorb some peace. Sitting here in it is like a breath of fresh air and oh have I missed it.

I never realized how incredibly stressful and taxing my relationship was until I sat here today and willfully acknowledged that I’m alone again. I took stock and the “it takes two to tango” thing, and I will tell you without a shadow of doubt that the problems in my relationship were 80-20, and I’m definitely not the 80. To just be able to sit here without demands on my time beyond what I’m already putting in with work and school was absolutely amazing. I never realized how ragged I ran myself just for the sake of a “relationship” and how much I really do love being alone. Thankfully I’ll be spending the next few weeks getting back to normal and I have not a doubt in my mind that it will be some of the greatest days I’ve had in a while.

Last year we covered loneliness and solitude in Doc Cat’s Personal Growth class. Remember? Well, a year has gone by, another relationship has come and gone, and here I am again on my own.

I know some people who can’t stand the thought of being alone, like it is a signal that there is something wrong. Instead of looking at solitude like it is the world’s worst thing, I tend to embrace it. After all, a lifetime of neglect will teach you how to be self-sufficient, how to entertain yourself, and most of all, it doesn’t bother you when you are alone.

I was once told that the generations previous to Gen-X had a more family-centric nature. I get it, my youth was filled with very family-centric ideals. But the 80’s with it’s changing times and absentee parenting depended less on the family unit structure, replacing it with the ability to be okay with being alone.

The tail-end of the generation directly previous to mine and their very relationship-oriented natures has always mystified me. I’ve pretty much always viewed them as attention-whorish narcotic-seeking pathological co-dependents. It still eludes me how very much they are not okay with being alone. It is almost like they don’t have a single independent bone in their bodies to the point that they are mired in an addict’s pathological need to be with someone else. To the point of desperation, they’ve got to be in a relationship right NOW or they short circuit like hot coffee thrown over a motherboard, sparks flying. When I look at them I can hear a line from the movie that symbolizes Gen-X, Singles, where they say “Desperation. It’s the world’s worst cologne.”

Admit it, when you see someone desperate for a relationship, it doesn’t make them overly attractive. They reek of desperation (and I don’t know who in their right mind wouldn’t run away at Mach 2 with their hair on fire from something that smells that bad).

Some of the individuals from that generational sub-set, like my ex, can’t breathe right unless they are in a relationship which makes me shake my head and wonder why on Earth they would want to pollute their lives with someone else, much less someone else who is irreparably broken. To me, that kind of thinking is unfathomable because I’m broken enough on my own, thanks, why would I need someone else around in order to enjoy my life? The truth is, I don’t.

I don’t deliberately go out there to inflict myself of someone else.  Hi, that’s why I’m not in a relationship anymore.  But that generational sub-set DOES and watching something like that go on just locks up my mind.  It makes me want to scream out, “What is so wrong with being alone and enjoying your own company?” or “If you can’t stand your own company, who the hell else is going to volunteer for that 24/7/365 job?” Literally, my mind locks up that those people don’t have an ounce of independence or will to be their own person. In some cases I’ve actually looked on as these pathologically needy people actually use their relationship to define themselves, like they have no identity unless they are encased in the “us” of  the “you, me, and us” paradigm.  Why oh why do people do that?  Do they not see their own innate nutritional value?  Things like that just make me want to cry.  Different is GOOD.  Individuality is GOOD.  Independence is GOOD.  Honestly, who is going to love you unless you love yourself enough to be aware that it is not good to be an anchor-like appendage that drags the other person down to their untimely demise. Sacrificing your identity is not a part of being in a relationship. On the contrary, it is your independence and individuality that makes you attractive in the first place! Wake up people! It’s your own good innate nutritional value is what makes you special and gives the whole blasted thing the staying power you desperately long for! The fact that someone can help you cope with your drama and problems is not what you build a relationship out of; you build it out of trust.  How can you trust someone that is constantly just one drama-fest after another?  You can’t!

Now I will say, one relationship down after my marriage went up in flames, that I truthfully understand why people have relationships, significant others and the rest. I do get it, and I do see its meaning and purpose; but it left me with the overwhelming question:

Why do some people need relationships more than others?

I personally don’t need a relationship to be happy, I’m good on my own. The less noise the better. I can’t help thinking that the fact that I am perfectly fine alone makes me more ready in the long run for a decent relationship because I don’t have the co-dependency habits of someone who jumps from relationship to relationship because they fear being alone. I’ve got enough stress, to actually waste my time by being afraid to be alone is at the very bottom of my priority list, if it is there at all. I’ve got bigger fish to fry than to worry about being in a relationship or not. Just thinking of putting “being in a relationship” on the top of my priority list makes me laugh almost uncontrollably and I guess that’s my 20 percent of fault in my last relationship (and what I was blamed for). Oh I’m so terrible because I’m not a girl who rings the phone off the hook (most men would cry “Jackpot” at finding a girl like that). Sorry kids, but co-dependent I am not. Yikes. The thought of co-dependency makes me shudder.

To my utter disgust and disbelief, I have watched some people go through relationships like they change their underwear. Seriously, I have and it has absolutely revolted me with how they just chew through partner after partner after partner and then have the audacity to blame the other person because their love life has turned itself into one big revolving door!

Come on, I know perfectly well you know someone like that! I can’t be living in a vacuum where I’m the only one seeing this. Admit it, you have in your list of friends a “revolving door.” It’s okay, we’re in this together, it’s okay to sit there with your jaw hanging open, it really is. Think about it: When the actual number of someone’s relationships in the past ten years goes through more than the fingers contained on both hands and starts goin’ for the toes, you have wonder whether or not things are really kosher with them. It’s the irresistible urge to hand them a wrench and go, “Enough already! Could you fix that please? Enough with around and around and around!” Someone quick! Two tablets of Dramamine, stat!

Oy veh. *facepalm* Makes me shudder every time.

I understand why people date. I do. I get it. Even though I’ve only been around one person, I have enjoyed the dating process with its ice cream and flowers, after all who wouldn’t enjoy being outside after two years of solitary existence? For most other folks it’s called “dating” because usually it’s not a full-blown long-term relationship. That is where when you meet new people and maybe go to dinner or a movie and the number of different people you meet goes past the number of fingers on both hands it is, for all intents and purposes, acceptable. Dating is the interview process before you get into a relationship. I’m okay with “interviewing”, and for most other people they interview more than quite a few, and it is, for better or for worse, normal. It’s the process. I’m with that even though it only took once for me to understand the process and march my happy butt right back into my apartment again and knowing why I don’t want to do it again. If you feel the need and want to date, for heaven’s sake it’s your life, go for the toes if you feel like you need to, but not when it’s one relationship after another, another and another. Wait … I’ve gotta stop … oh quick, someone grab the Dramamine for me, I might be sick again.

But when it gets to the point where the person that you’re in the relationship with goes through a list of names of ten or more women, you realize that ok, the girls he dated previously weren’t the problem and you sit back and patiently wait for your exit cue. When it goes past ten women and he constantly refers to them by name, it’s a really BIG red flag. It almost got to the point where I had to ask for a scorecard so I could keep the players straight, and sorry kiddies, I don’t work that way. Excuse me for being crass, but just thinking about that is enough to give you the willies to the point that you get down on your knees, atheist or not, and thank the gods for condoms and the good sense to just abstain altogether.

Yeah … and you wonder why I’m waving happily as the dating ship has sailed and I’m gratefully enjoying the silence. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some fun over the last six months, but it is NOT something I would willingly do again. You know, there are some really big birds out in the wild and when they take a dump it’s not just some little turd on your shoe, you’re covered head to toe. Excuse me while I take a hose to myself and the pothole I just went through.  Ewwwwww.

I have enough on my plate just on my own that to intentionally choose to complicate my life further is an exercise in futility. I’m broken enough on my own (we can thank the kids I grew up with for that), and personally, I’m not in the mood to go for the toes for the sake of having a companion. Solo, uno, un, ein … so if you’ll excuse me, life calls and I need no one but myself for the sublime moments of happiness to come. If I need to share, I’ll just write it right here.

For the song of the day, I’m going to keep the chill flowing…but please unless it’s a pedicure, don’t go for the toes… from 1984, The The’s “This is the Day.”