Saturday, April 28, 2012

A year of Wonderland

I don't think anyone is as happy as they think they are.

Or they imagine themselves to be.

I love my husband. We have a good friendship. We can laugh. Even in the midst of madness, cracking highly inappropriate jokes can't be silenced between us.

But I never was as honest with him as I am my closest friends. He was never TRULY my best friend, because of this. I didn't give him that courtesy to know every part of me. But until now, I had fear, I guess, to hurt his feelings, damage his image of me.

The golden wife.

The good wife.

Steadfastly supportive, even when I wanted to cry out, shriek, throw myself on the floor and refuse to get up...go on a hunger strike.

Okay, maybe not ever that last one. More like insolently over indulging.

It's funny that we paint this picture of how we must appear to others. We go on job interviews and play the role. We act like we know what we're doing with our children, so fucked up by examples we've seen growing up, books and experts that tell you what is bad today, only to have it rejected a few years later.

As I grew older, I found that I cared less about what people expected.

I tell people on job interviews that I will take off all the time I earn. Unapologetically for expecting that if I work when I commit to, I am entitled to have a break. But I will work my ass off for you.

I swear like a sailor in front of my sons. I never heard the word "fuck" until I was about 14. My kids have known it from birth. But yet, they know it's inappropriate to use those "bad words". I snicker when they think I don't hear them swear with their friends, and I think of how I used to as well when I was their age. What's a "bad word", I used to say. Who has the power to deem words bad, and if they are, why were they created? It's logic I had as a 12 year old, and I hold steadfast to those questions at 32.

People used to put my marriage on a pedestal.

Maybe because I've been married the longest. Maybe because we appeared happy.

Now, of course, I see what a charade it was.

I love my husband, and he loves me. That was never false.

But we were both far from happy and fulfilled. He, in the darkness of his secret depression and anxiety. Me, in the role I never wanted to play as dutiful war wife, always waiting. Waiting for life, which wouldn't be okay to live without him home. Trying over and over again, unsuccessfully, to accept that this was what I chose. For him.

And I resented him for it, oh yes. And reminded him of my sacrifices when I could. But I resented myself more.

So when the proverbial shit hit the fan, I was finally "allowed" to spill my guts about my true feelings. My lies, my hidden thoughts. The fact I always felt gyped out of the life I dreamed of.

Because I was meant to do something in this life.

It's really an egotistical thought. I was born to do something amazing. I will be known. I will make a difference in someone's life.

But the reality of it, is that I was meant to write. I spent a decade frustrated about it...not knowing what medium I was meant for. A novel? Fiction? A journalist?

After several false starts, uninspired enough to continue blogging about things that didn't interest me enough, I started this blog.

I will always be an army wife. I wear that battle-worn badge proudly. The few that stick it out, the strong. I will always be here to help any military wife that reaches their wits end and needs someone to reach out to for help.

But my real area of expertise is my own life, my own foibles and follies.

See my picture up there, in the right-hand corner of my blog? That's really me. And my name is really Keri Tietjen Smith.

I hide from no one in shame for my failures, because I have had successes too. As everyone has. Maybe if we were all a little more honest about them all, we would stop putting so much pressure on ourselves and enjoy life a little before we die. We make enemies of each other, always having to prove you can handle everything and balance it all. Maybe we should support each other, instead of condemn.

I don't have the perfect children. They weren't always the perfect babies, toddlers...they didn't try to walk at 3 months, weren't proclaimed geniuses at 5, didn't know how to talk at birth. I roll my eyes when new mothers talk about their amazing wonderkin. These are the same bitches who never seem to have anything go wrong, EVER. Never worry. Are never vulnerable. Never outwardly or publicly question themselves.

But I have pretty resilient and independant children. They are witty, loving and accepting. They embrace other's handicaps. They don't see race. They are smarter than half the adults I know.

Life is drama. And every drama has it's comedic moments. And I have plenty of both.

And so, I will share more of my stories with you.

Stay thirsty, my friends.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I make no excuses, nor explanations. I

Today I had, quite possibly, the most honest discussion with my husband in months.

It's been three weeks of distance that I have embraced, a 3 day drive, 2700 miles of land between the reality that I left behind, the proof in my children of the time and acknowledgement I have devoted/spent/wasted and the shininess of all the opportunity that is possible.

That is probable.

That will be.

We talk every day, but it's so easy to talk without saying anything after 14 years of long-distance love. The "I love yous", "I miss yous"....met with a generic, "you too." Talking about the daily activities, any changes in routine. Filling the prerequisite amount of time with the expected, cordial chatter that you would have with a stranger on a bus, and no more intimate.

Today it must have been the gin.

That was a joke. But I really am drinking gin. ;) And listening to 90s music. The music where I was still me. The music of the era in which I still had all the mysteries of my life before me. Where I had no one to answer to, explain myself, or pretend to be. I had no idea who I was then. I still had to figure it out.

I watched a show on Lifetime last night, where a woman interviews celebrities and asks them very poignant questions about their lives. Of course, some of them are still posturing. But in some of them, you see the real person inside. And they say things that touch something in your core. Like talking about how you learn to mask your true self over years of marriage, parenthood and life. How it sucks everything you loved about yourself, and your partner loved about you, and changes you in to a stereotypical, nagging image of your mother.

It's amazing how one event sets off a chain reaction of change. Like a path of dominoes that can't be stopped from falling.

My event was a year and five days ago. I resisted the urge on the anniversary date to blog...not wanting to give it anymore of myself. It's taken enough out of me.

But I realize, it's given me more than I've lost....something I wasn't capable of seeing until recently.

Maybe it took the worst parts out of me. It left a shell that was free to be filled with what I choose. I realize now that I am free...the way I was free the first time I could ride my bike without training wheels....the way I was free the first time a boy told me he loved me....the way I was the day of my high school graduation, rebelliously smoking a stogie while running down the halls.

I have every justification to excise my husband from my heart. I've considered over the past year all my options, in a way that my apathy towards someone who has been the center of my life for 14 years is remarkable. It takes a second to fall in love, and even less time to fall out of it.

But I am free from expectation. Free from judgement...because, really...who the fuck cares? I am free from the fear of always worrying that the other shoe will drop, because it has not only dropped, it beamed me in the head and gave me a major head wound. I don't worry anymore. You can't will life to not happen, in all of it's chaotic messiness. No one is protected. Some things you can anticipate...steel yourself for. Death of your elders. Growing children.

But nothing prepares you for a loss in your marital bed. The only person who stood in front of an audience and verbally pledged to love you and foresake all others, no matter what. Their death would be easier to take, because there would be no way that it had to do with you. There would be no choices to make. The choices are the hardest part in all this. And the forgiveness. Such a complex idea.

As I said, it's been a year. As Joan Didion called it, "A year of magical thinking." As I spent the better part of 10 months buried in bed, wearing the same pajamas for 4 days without a shower, no will to even raise my arms high enough to wash my hair, part of my soul irrationally believed that it would all go away and prove to have been a bad nightmare. Your head knows it's irreversable, but something somewhere in you refuses to believe it completely. So you are trapped between the world that was and the world that is. At first, you don't want to tell anyone...being alone with horrible news means that it's not acknowledged. But then you tell the first person, and the second. And you tell your story with remarkable detail, and almost no feeling, because in your head, it's not your story...its someone else's tragedy. And you know you are ignoring it. So you tell it, and re-tell it. Over and over and over again. People avoid you because they don't know what to say. How to comfort you. How to reassure you that you aren't in some stage of dying. They spit the venom about the offender that you wish you could expell from your body, and then you find yourself defending them, because if your loved ones hate your husband, then you have no chance of fixing it. Even if you don't know that you want to.

And then you stop trying to figure it out because you haven't eaten, you haven't slept. You believe that you are insane because you don't know any way to resolve all of these unknown and conflicting emotions. And so, in most of your time, you ignore everything and when you do talk to people, you pretend. For them, of course. It's the right thing to do. You sit and listen to cute stories and daily events, willing yourself to feel a real, tangible emotion...other than disbelief. And you lay. You lay in the soft comfort of your bed, clutching the stuffed dog you've had since you were old enough to remember. Maybe none of this happened. Maybe you are still 5 or 6. Maybe your mom will come in and turn on the light and wake you up, singing songs and saying "Rise and shine!"

Only, your mom never comes.

Morning never truly comes for months.

And then, one day you get up. You take a shower and realize you need three razors to shave all the hair that's accumulated on your legs in the months you've hibernated. And you're ravenous. You eat enough in one month to gain back the 40 pounds you've lost. And you make a decision to do something.

I decided to move across the country. No rules apply to you, because you don't give a fuck what anyone thinks anymore. No one can touch you. No one can hurt you. You ignore the criticisms and judgement. Because you don't care.

You drive across the country, listening to your Ipod, and as I call it, the soundtrack of my life. And in your mind, you are the fearless heroine in some book or movie, making your big move. This is where the change comes in the plot of your life. It's very romantic, in a literary sense. You know it's your moment.

And then you rejoin the human race. You start a new job, having something productive to feel good about. You rebuild your nest. You fill it with everything you always wished to have, because if you make it right this time, then you have a chance to have things turn out in the end. You find the time alone peaceful, instead of lonely. There is no boredom, because haven't you been alone for the past year? Haven't you been alone for half of your marriage? You are comfortable with yourself, and are able to decrease all the haze of anti-anxiety medication because there is no one to give you anxiety.

And then you make peace with it. And you decide whether or not to forgive.

So this is where I ended up today. And I decided to forgive. But the stipulations are that I will never again pretend to be something other than my true self. I will not compromise that. I will not lose this girl again. If I am wanted, than I have to be wanted for all of me. I will not lie. There is no one to hide from anymore. No expectation of youth. No one to impress.

Because you don't give a fuck. You're happy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

And that's how MY day started...

I woke up, nestled in a burrito of air mattress.

At some point during the night, a hole was poked, leaving me on the floor, but the sides were still full of air, and were cocooning me in.

This must be how improper use can be fatal, because I had to roll my fat ass over the hills to get out of the damn thing.

Of course, it happens the night I tell my friend how great the air mattress is to sleep on.

And so goes another $65 waste of money to buy a new one.

I haven't blogged in a while. Just been getting settled in and motivating myself to stop catching up on three weeks of missed cable, in order to put together Ikea furniture.

Oh, how it unravels me in to a swearing, sweaty mess, covered in tiny bits of styrofoam that never fully come off!! And fighting with the empty boxes, only to end up slicing them up so they fit in my recycling bin.

I need an alcoholic beverage and a sound nap between each piece of furniture.

My neighbors have two dogs that are left outside 80% of the time, and they bark to the point that I've almost committed myself. I have two dogs, always had dogs and love them.

But the dogs I've been around shut the fuck up most of the time, unless the hear the doorbell ring on tv. I can deal with that.

But these dogs make me sneak around my house, because if I crack a window or turn on a light, it sets them off for a good two hours.

After debating what to to the owners who I haven't yet met, call animal control, poison them...I posted an anonymous orange sticky note on their garage, saying, "I feel like a giant dick, but your dogs are driving me insane. Can you please do what the rest of us do, and cage them up in your house when you're at work so that I can have some quiet?"

I'm sure they know it was me. But I wish that they have had complaints before so that maybe they don't know it was me.

And then today....EUREKA! It rained. And so my hypothesis is now that the the little fuckers are Mogui and can't get wet, because I haven't heard a peep all evening.

Thus, my new plan is to turn the hose on the little bastards during the day to shut them up, or force a coordinated retreat in to their garage.

Other than that, I believe no longer that I am becoming asexual. Since moving out here, I've managed to cut my anxiety medicine by two thirds, thus reawakening my sex drive, dormant as its been for the better part of three years.

Yes, my Vagine (pronounced "VA-JEAN) is coming back to life!

And that is the thought I will leave you with tonight.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Week One...

Well, my first full week living in CA is over. And eventful and busy it was.

I started and ended Season 1-4 of Mad Men, which has been a goal of mine for a while. I know, I shoot high, huh? Now I am dying for my cable installation tomorrow, so that I can find out what happens next.

I started my new job, and I love it. I love it so much, that I am left wondering what is bad about it.

There is always a con about everything. But I am trying to change the way I think about things, because I never used to worry about what was going to go wrong and let it ruin things when they are good. It happened somewhere around 2007. Things were not so great from then to now. A 6 year run of horrible luck. Seems like everytime it looked like things were going to be good, they weren't.

But now I have had several wonderful things actually happen. I got a great job, a beautiful house, and I moved to CA. It's still so strange to think I am actually here, living on the other side of the country. Seems like I am on vacation, yet at home in my house. I also got to see my best friend since childhood give birth to her second baby this weekend, and it was really touching to be a part of.

Looks like my timing might actually be right for once.

Yet I miss my family. My sons, my husband. My dogs and insane cat. It's bittersweet, being apart from them for two weeks already. And a little sad knowing it will be many more before they move out here this summer. But I try to tuck that thought away too, because I can't change it. And I don't want to sit here and wish away 3 months for what isn't, and miss those 3 months and all the opportunities and experiences that come in it.

I guess the biggest thing I have mastered this year is that you can learn to stop dwelling on things if you really try. But sometimes even when you think you want to stop, you really aren't ready to. That's the only way I can describe it. God knows I wanted to move forward with my life all this time, but I wasn't ready to let go of the past, and my image of what I thought things should be. I hadn't accepted that certain things would never be the same, because I didn't want to. And I have always waited for things to happen, instead of backing up my dreams with action. And you know what spawned my action finally??

My idiot brother in law.

He said some dumbass things that really pushed me to my limit, and made me realize that if I keep doing the same thing over and over, nothing will really change in my life. So my anger propelled me to act. And I am glad it did. For the asshole he is, I guess in some badwards way it gave me what I needed to get on with it all already.

If you ever happen to have the opportunity to watch a baby be born, do it. At least once. It's not that bad, if you can take uncomfortably staring at a vagina for an hour. Most of the gore you don't really see...just a lot of lube that makes it all glisten in the giant spotlight. But it is really facinating, and very emotional. I've ridden out two full labors in the hospital this year. And I think I am almost ready to resign as Labor Sherpa. I've got one more BFF who has to have kids, and my sisters will have more, but if they don't get it in by the time I am 35, I can't promise pulling generous all nighters to let them sleep and their husbands, and watch contractions and heart rates through the night. I was so tired, I came home, violently threw up from being so exhausted and had to crap about 8 full craps in the past two days.

As my BFF in NJ said, "You were literally full of shit."

I swear, I lost ten pounds.

And thus begins week 2 in CA. What will it bring? I haven't got a clue, but I am happy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A New Hope

I really didn't mind driving from NY to CA as much as I thought I would. It gave me time for retrospection.

God knows it's been a long, grueling year.

It's been a year already, since the worst week of my life. I can't even say worst week, because it's an injustice for the pain, sleeplessness, worry and agony I felt for the last year. Only in the past two months have I started to come back to myself again. I spent most of the year in a deep depression. I stayed in bed whenever possible. I found it hard to let my smile reach my eyes.

And then suddenly, I woke up again. I decided to fight it. I don't know that I can say it was just time, or the drugs my new Dr gave me, but probably a combination of both.

I had everything left up in the air with my life. There was certainty nowhere. Where we would live when my husband is out of the Army, what our finances will be, what will happen with us?

Within three weeks of deciding I was going to make my dream of moving to CA happen, I had a job. And a month later, here I am.

I packed up all my clothes, shoes, jewelry, toiletries and a tv and air mattress, and drove across the US, listening to the soundtrack of my life, courtesy of iPhone/iTunes.

I got married and had kids before I even knew what I was going to do with my life. I met Andy 3 months after high school graduation. And then it was kids and military that dictated my life.

Now I am dictating my life. Finally, at 32. I have a wonderful job that I am so excited to start Monday, and I get to work from home. I have a beautiful 5 bedroom house, even if it is currently mostly empty, since I have to wait until my family moves after the kids are done with school. I have an office, a shoe/accessory closet (another dream of and my own walk-in closet for my clothes. I finally have a guest room. And I live near my two best friends since childhood.

And what makes it special? That it's mine. It's my accomplishment. It was my goal and I made it happen. And it's on my dime. I am the breadwinner now...or soon will be. That makes me financially independent. It doesn't make a difference who makes the money until you find that you are stuck making decisions based on your own financial gains.

Sure, it's mildly was driving through the mountains of Tahoe and it's windy roads, and then hitting Sacramento at rush hour.

But I did it. Even if it was with the help of my GPS.

And today I woke up in my new house and found my way to Target and back without the GPS.

I am happy. I still don't know what the future storm will leave in its aftermath. But I have faith that I will get through it.

I heart CA. I am a happy cow.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cross Country...Days 1 & 2

I left Sunday morning at 6am.

When I drove over the border into PA, I was instantly greeted with sunlight. Leaving NY behind was literally having clouds lift.

And the angels sang.

Maybe that was Rhianna.

Anyway, I drove to Des Moines, Iowa yesterday.

I would like to report that in Ohio, there is a "Fangboner Road".
I gleefully chuckled like a 12 year old, and wondered if it was some kind of Twilight throwback.


In Illinois, somewhere past Chicago, I was happily surprised that I have RuPaul's "You better work it!" on my iPod. I had visions of digging out one of my scarves and letting it fly out my sunroof, like the movie "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."

In Iowa, I was horrified and perplexed at a chain of convenience stores called, "Kum and Go".
Ew. Really??? It made eating my yogurt parfait very difficult that night. Like a specimen in a cup.

In Nebraska, I felt like I was a black person. Those are the whitest folks I've ever seen. And my skin color is only one shade above death. I rolled into a gas station, only to have everyone stop and gawk as I blared my Tupac. It was about as redneck as Mississippi.
And really long and boring. But fairly warm, until suddenly the wind picked up and clouds covered the sky, and then I became paranoid of tornados springing up.

Finally, I made it to Wyoming, where I am tonight...and it snowed the whole damn state. But it's really pretty, even if it puts my car at risk of sliding off a sharp curve due to ice. And as soon as I'm done typing this, I have to google Continental Divide, because I forget what that is, but drove through it today.

Tomorrow is Cali or bust, because I'm sick of driving.

New York to CA in 3 days.

I am the bomb.