My Problem With Normal

In the first few days, there was a lot of talk about getting to a new “normal.” That is, a new “normal” without my father. Because regardless of how I felt, how I wanted to literally go back in time and fix everything, my life continued on and I had to go back to doing what I’ve done every other day in my life.

After six months, there is a “new normal” for me. It looks a lot like the old normal, with some added depression, less social interactions, and a lot more tears, a lot more emotions caught in my throat. But I still go to work, I still drive an hour home, I still spend time on the computer, and I still just go on.

But what no one told me about finding this new “normal” is that when it becomes normal, it starts to feel like it’s always been like this. That you forget how the patterns of a person fit in the first place. That you start to question whether that person was ever really there at all in your “normal” and not just a story.

Of course, he was there. My father shaped my life for 33 years, but what about all the years thereafter when he’s not here? How can things ever be “normal” if your normal is missing a pattern that helped shape you?

Six Months

I did not cry yesterday. The distractions afforded by play-off football, a Seahawks win, and binge-watching a new show on Netflix allowed me to have one day with no tears. It does not sound like an accomplishment, but it was a brief solace from what has been true every day for six months.

(I’ve already failed at having a day two.)

Half a year and sometimes it still feels like yesterday that he was here. Where’s he just slightly out of my reach, still only one phone call away. What’s worse, though, is when it feels like a lifetime, like it has been so long that I question whether he was really here at all.

It really makes you question time, grief. The past is your present and the future is something you avoid thinking about because how can you picture something with out him.

I don’t look forward to the next six months or the years thereafter. And I’m told it’ll get better … with time.

July 2016

Each day that passes
takes me further away.
Each sunset is a hundred miles
each sunrise, a thousand more.

And what destroys more than
each added mile, day after day
is the thought that I can still just
turn around, back to you.

The Story of My Flag

There has been a lot of media attention surrounding the United States flag due to Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem. And while I may have differing views from him, this post isn’t a deconstruction of those views. Instead, it’s my story of my flag.

Ask any kid who grew up on a military base what happens at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and they’ll tell you – the flag is taken down. The call of retreat is played and everyone stops. Literally. Cars stop in the road, soldiers take off their cover and stand at attention, and kids stop playing. My father always made it a point to respect the flag going down (and probably when it was raised, while I was fast asleep). Although you didn’t have to get out of the car, my father did.

He never talked extensively about his military service, likely because he couldn’t. I would hear the occasional work gripes – usually about a computer issue. (At the time, I didn’t know that my father was more than just the IT guy of his unit because he did so much more.) But I know he was proud to serve and fight for his country. I remember a phone conversation I had with him.

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Week 6: My Birthday

Dear Dad,

It’s my birthday today, but you knew that. I’m in Fresno for a couple depositions, so if you tried to call this morning, you would have gotten my voicemail.  You’d say “Arrow, this is the Dad,” and make a joke about there being something important going on today.  Then, you’d say happy birthday and sign off like we always signed off to each other.  You would almost always call (the few times you couldn’t were usually when you were out in the field or Korea); I never had to fear you’d forget.

After I got done with the deposition, I’d look at my phone and see I missed your call.  I would actually listen to your voicemail rather than just calling you back immediately like I usually do.  I would laugh at the joke and smile because your voice would be so happy and will remind me how much you love me and how much I love you.

I would call you back as I was walking to the hotel.  You’d answer with another “ARROW!” and a “Happy Birthday!”  I’d tell you where I was at.  And that I got a new phone because of the weird battery issue I had the other day.  (You’d ask why I didn’t just get a new battery and I would tell you my reasons and you’d chastise me, but would accept the result.)

You would probably be on the way “to the Mom’s,” after stopping by the Commissary.  Say something about a computer issue at work, and not having enough time to get everything done.  You’d tell me that we were still waiting on the inspection for the license of “your house.” I’d ask if you got the sprinkler system fixed yet because someone ran over one of the sprinkler heads and that was the next thing on your envelope “to do” list.

“Hey, so do you get to watch the Patriots pre-season game tonight,” you’d ask.  No, I’d reply, probably not. “Did you want to use my GamePass? I get those.”  No, I’ll just watch the Olympics and do some work in the hotel room; are the Seahawks playing?  “Yeah. The Vikings, I think. Cowboys next week. Hope your Patriots can hold on until Brady’s back so we can beat you at the Super Bowl.” Yeah yeah yeah.

If we were still talking by the time you got to Mom’s, there would be a small complaint about the garage door not opening after pressing the button.  It’d take a few tries, but you’d get it.  You’d walk into the house, making your way to the kitchen and find mom preparing lunch.  You’d hand the phone to her and say it was me.  Then you would go back to the car to get what you couldn’t carry while juggling the phone.  If I was lucky, you’d get back before Mom hung up and I would get to say “I love you” to you and one last poke.

I’d have two birthday cards waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home tomorrow.  They’d both be funny ones; you probably laughed as you did when you picked them out.  You would call on Saturday from Mom’s phone because you were driving her somewhere, just to make sure that I got home okay.

We would talk like we always talked, which would be enough. Even now, it would be enough to change how I feel today. Because it’s been six weeks without your phone calls and the first birthday without you.

Maybe, one day, I’ll only remember what used to be rather than what isn’t.  And maybe one day, I’ll trick myself into remembering this phone conversation rather than what really was.

I miss you. I love you.

A Life Ennui

John Lennon was the one who sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  But what if life doesn’t happen to you when you’re following your plans?  What if, instead of delaying your life like you believe you are doing, you’re actually molding your life into what it’s going to be?

As more and more time goes on, the more and more I seclude myself from those around me.  I have ignored the complaints that I never go out, ignored the little jabs at my preferred method of interaction. I give the responses that I feel are true: I don’t like bars, I don’t like strangers, I like small dinners and conversations with close friends.  Maybe the explanations are true, or maybe just a pattern that I fell into as a defense mechanism.

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Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles

The thing that scared me the most about yesterday was not that I was willing to give up completely, but the lack of hesitation. I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t ponder whether it was something I truly needed to do (because it was already a given that it was). I didn’t lock myself in a closet to help calm down. I just did it with no real barriers. And that’s what scares me.

I don’t feel proud of myself to resorting to the lowest of lows. But I don’t regret my decision either. I was at that point where being in my own skin was hell. The point where the only thing in my control was to turn my emotion to a physical manifestation.

Some people create out of emotion, as a way to cope. I destroy.

It made me calm. It made me concentrate and got me out of my head, a place so easy to get lost in.

It’ll fade, just like all the other times. No permanent reminder of this time. At least, not on the outside.

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Queen of Swords

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"She was as beatiful and as cold as a sculpture of ice..." ~ Archeon Tarot

“The Queen of Swords indicates a woman who is blessed (or cursed) with sharp perception, and highly honed intuition. She is acutely analytical, with a razor-sharp ability to get to the heart of a situation, seeing exactly what is, rather than what others would wish her to see.

She is a private woman, unwilling to let people too close to her until she is satisfied she thoroughly understands their motivations. But once won as a friend, she is unfailingly loyal, honest and supportive.

She’s usually very intelligent, with a dry sense of humor. Her penetrating insight will often reveal aspects of themselves to others that they had previously been unable to grasp – thus she is a capable therapist, teacher or leader.

The woman represented by this card will be experienced in the flow of life, understanding a great deal about both the great triumphs, and the deepest failings of the race. Her clarity and measured expression will be of great value at times of confusion and sadness.”

The Queen of Swords didn’t show up in my last reading, but I’m sure if I ask the cards again, she’d show up.  There is a tragic sadness and humor that I feel some connection to the Queen of Swords. The various descriptions make it hard to ignore that maybe this is who I am, at least at the moment.

So, the question is – can I accept the dual sides of the Queen of Swords? Can I accept the good and the bad? Am I lying to myself?

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Every now and then…

I get this desire to just disappear. Delete every trace of me that ever existed.  See what happens.  See if anyone really noticed, or even cared.

It’s selfish.  And unfair.

But sometimes, I just feel so non-existent that I want to make that true.

What stops me is the fear that what I am feeling really is true.  That what I do in my life really doesn’t impact anyone.  That I don’t really change anything.  It’s the fear of being forgotten that prevents me from disappearing.

And I’m so afraid of the day when that fear is no longer there. … What will stop me then?

“in your room on your walls you’ve got angels to protect you…”

When I was in high school, I posted all the pictures I had at my disposal on my walls.  Almost every inch of three walls were covered with all the memories miraculously captured on film.  I chose the pictures that made me smile, made me happy, made me forget where I was – even if it was for just a moment.

I surrounded myself with pictures of happiness as if I were trying to convince myself that I could be happy.  Or at the very least, used to be happy.  It was hard, then, to think that I would get out of it.

But I did.  Took a few years and a thousand miles of distance from that room that used to suffocate me.  Now, when I look at pictures of myself, surrounded by the people I love, I don’t need the reminder to be happy.  I know that I am.

Photo courtesy of danregal