I am only 22 years old. I am still in the stages of trying to gather all of the facets of my personality and corral them into a functional person.
I went through hell to get where I am. I grew up on with an emotionally abusive father, a mother rendered useless to her vicodin and antidepressant addiction, and a physically abusive step father who did lines of cocaine off our kitchen counter.
At 16 I was first chair flute in the NYSSMA Allstate Band. I survived moving out at 18 and into a 4 bedroom house with 7 other people and a garage that had been converted to a bar.
At 20 I finished my associate’s degree and moved to Philadelphia with a best friend and $200 in my pocket.
A month before my 22nd birthday married a man in the army I’d known since I was 16 and working at McDonald’s, but who I’d never dated. I went up to Alaska where he was stationed, wound up staying almost a month, and before I left we signed the papers and made it official. We performed “the ceremony” at a sport’s bar in Anchorage over a pint of lager and a plate of hot wings. Six days later he shipped off to Iraq.
A week ago his twelve month tour was extended to 15 months
I go through life everyday living under the Iraq war. I compare it to living in a room filled with fluorescent lights that never shut off. The buzzing is always there. Sometimes you barely notice it; other times no matter what you do it is all you can focus on.
On Saturdays I work at an optometrist’s office. There is a new person to make small talk with every half hour or so, and everyone complains. One complains about the fight she is having with her new husband over the overpriced wedding photos. One complains about gas prices. Another complains about her husband traveling a lot for his job.
I smile politely, offer generic condolence. I listen genuinely. I sympathize, I empathize, and half an hour later there is a new person to make me feel better about how content I am to wake up every day in spite of the things that try to bring me down. The subject of my husband being in Iraq might come up every now and then, and I get responses like, “That sucks”, or “You know, it’s dangerous over there”, as if those sentences mean anything.
What do I believe? I wake up everyday to my cat licking my fingers. I run a couple of miles, I make a spreadsheet at the job I have while I wait for my real life to begin. I read Pablo Neruda and wait for spring, I eat a tuna melt, I hang out with my brand new sister and her two beautiful daughters, in whose life I am now a permanent fixture. I play Bach’s A Minor Partita for solo flute. I pull happiness from every potential source, like a hummingbird pulls nectar from a flowering plant. Even on the days when I am lonely and scared for my husband who writes me about wading through rivers of dead bodies, deep down I am smiling, because I know that with all the complaining in the world, he needs all the positive energy I can broadcast.
What do I believe? I believe that equanimity is innate, that anger and excuses are practiced. I believe in belief despite hopelessness. What does that add up to? I believe in me. Always.
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