I visited you the other day and brought all the kids’ unfinished scrapbooks, memorabilia from my time in the military, pictures from all the years we traveled, smiled and laughed as a family. As I looked at the many places we’d been, all the experiences we’d shared, and all the fun we’d had; I wondered why it couldn’t be that way now. Where had all the genuine laughs gone? What happened to the fun part of life? I was stuck on the front steps analyzing each picture, trying to understand why I didn’t feel as happy as I once was. Is it just me or does it seem as though we are only happy looking back? Am I the only one that finds it hard to enjoy the moment? There may be short periods of happiness, glimpses of smiles and muffled audio of laughter, but mostly there’s sadness and pain, anger and hurt, failure and disappointment. Yet in looking back I see fun, smiles, laughter….good times.
Then there was the “me box.” I shuffled through literally hundreds of pictures and announcements of awards, promotions, diplomas, degrees, medals, certificates that for a moment, I felt accomplished. How could I, looking at all this evidence of success still feel like it wasn’t enough? Why, in my head, is there more to do, more to prove? Is it others I’m trying to prove something to or is it me? I’m not sure. I don’t feel like anyone is pressuring me to do more in terms of my career or education. I do however feel the need to continue. Just a couple of days ago I called my advisor and submitted my paperwork for reentry into the PhD program. It bothers me that I didn’t finish it. What bothers me most is that I didn’t finish it mainly because I was scared. I’d heard about the dissertation I’d have to do and I honestly didn’t think I was smart enough to do it. I didn’t want to go through this program, get to the end, and be embarrassed in front of all my professors. I mean, I’d faked it till this point, but I didn’t think I could fake being smart enough to present a dissertation. It’s a competitor that haunts me still. It’s like being a prize fighter but never fighting that one fighter you thought might be the one to knock you out and take your title.
There were pictures of me and my children in places all over the world, places that most people only dream of seeing. There was one of my little ones sitting on a bench at a park in Metz, France eating a hot dog—so cute sitting there, face spackled with ketchup. Then a saw a picture of me and the boys hugged in tight for a picture with the Eiffel Tower just behind us. My daughter was the oldest so she remembers most about our travels. I’m sure she recalls the long hike through Venice, getting lost, and my friend calling her name loudly to embarrass her. I’m certain she remembers her 13th birthday trip to Germany and her 15th birthday trip to the Azores. Yes we had fun but where did the good times go?
I love being a mother, but these days mostly I just feel misunderstood, disrespected, unappreciated, taken for granted, pulled in a million directions—a failure. It seems as though now all I can focus on is the seriousness of life; work, school, illnesses, injuries, bills, taking care of the house, the car, the laundry, the dishes. Then there’s the cell phones, desk tops, tablets, handheld games, watches that keep up with our every step, even what we eat; society is riddled with technology, and that supposed to be a good thing. I’m sure most people can relate. We’re all steadily growing those tumors, the ones that continue to move us farther away from the simple life I’d only heard about from my parents. Actually thinking back, I suppose I did experience a bit of it as a young child, just not to the extent my parents did. Nonetheless, we’ve all gotten too busy and way too serious to enjoy life.
In the same box of forgotten memories, I sifted through pictures of the 1st, the 2nd, and the 3rd…all former spouses. I laughed out loud just now while writing former. Why, because the 3rd was a “former” Marine, and he taught me to never use the word EX when referring to Marines. Well, I guess it stuck, but not only for referring Marines, but spouses as well. It seems fitting for both since I do feel like I endured a type of military basic training with each of them. I’m sure they feel the same. My heart still hurts when I look back at the death of those relationships. Regardless of who pulls the plug on relationships, it hurts—it’s a dream, a goal, a wish, a hope unrealized, another picket fence torn down.
How are you feeling my friend? How’s your heart? I’ll bet you’ve experienced the same heartaches. Surely in your 115 years, you’ve been abused, deserted, maybe you’ve even pushed people away then realized you needed them. Maybe like me, you pushed away some you loved the most. And the kids you had, did they misunderstand you, take for granted the security you provided them? Were they unappreciative of the shelter you provided? Did they trample through your halls, slam doors, leave dirty hand prints on your walls? Did you feel unappreciated, taken for granted, pulled in a million directions? Did you feel like a failure?
If we’re going to do this together, we have to get to the heart of our pain. Brace yourself because the Surgeon is near our life pump. This is almost certainly the most painful part of the procedure, but hold on; it’s almost over. Almighty Surgeon, use what you’ve already implanted in me to restore my heart. Narrow the thickened walls and allow me to feel again. I’ll take the pain of the bad, for I miss the joy of the good beyond measure.