END OF TOUR

Five years.

In retrospect it all just flew by; things always seem to have gone faster once you’re on the other side of them. Yet, I feel like getting to where I am now has been in the works for many more years than just the last five.

Part of me thinks I should have enlisted right out of high school or college. Of course, had I done that, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had; I wouldn’t be who I am today. While I’m not 100% proud of the choices the who-I-am-today makes, I’m on pretty good terms with him and we get shit done.

So yeah, it couldn’t have happened any other way. My experience in the Navy wouldn’t have been the same, I think. I wouldn’t have the same appreciation for life and the gifts it brings that I have today. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the same worldview, either. Maybe close…the more time that passes, the more I’m convinced I was on the right track when I was 17, 18, but for whatever reason I lacked that inner core of confidence to just freakin’ go for it.

Shucks, I am 100% positive I wouldn’t have gotten this assignment to Hawaii with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (neé JPAC) 18 or so years ago had I enlisted then and I would have missed the incredible experiences and interesting people I’ve met and worked with.

From Laos to Greenland it’s been one hell of a ride and a privilege of which to be a part.

First time ever in Laos - last day of the mission surrounded by such incredibly lovely people.
First time ever in Laos – last day of the mission surrounded by such incredibly lovely people.
Greenland - amazing mission with quality people. No one makes 'em quite like the Coasties.
Greenland – amazing mission with quality people. No one makes ’em quite like the Coasties.

Now it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies, but the ups sure outnumber the downs and in the end I’ve learned to stand up for myself and for others – not perfectly, and hardly ever gracefully, but everything is a work-in-progress. I only hope I can pass what I’ve learned on to my son, as my father hoped to pass certain things on to me.

So what’s the next step? Who the heck knows?!

I’m about halfway through my first semester at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in the Digital Cinema track (modern filmmaking); working on a couple novels; working on my filmmaking portfolio; raising a baby with my wife; loving the crap out of my wife (we keep each other regular); and meeting each challenge as it comes. We started working on our plan more than a year ago and continue to work on it. Life changes things. Plans change.

Adapt and overcome.

So yeah, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this my whole life and blam-o, here I am in the thick of it already.

Zing.

What living on a glacier for six weeks can do to a man. Desperately trying to get this look back...
What living on a glacier for six weeks can do to a man. Desperately trying to get this look back…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 6 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

The company of friends is a great thing, and when you’re at your lowest, nice strangers are good stand-ins until they become friends which is what happened for me. I was connected with a small group Bible study from another church. Being near about the oldest person in the group – by a margin of a few years – was a bit strange for me at first, but they were just cool, nice people who accepted me as I was.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t know of the recent emotional devastation I was coming out of, and that was okay.

These new friends helped me smile again. With make-up.
These new friends helped me smile again. With make-up.

They were younger so their faith was younger, more fresh – zesty, I daresay; and by faith, I guess I just mean their outlook on life. In addition to just being younger in age, some of them were younger in the faith, and I needed newness, freshness, different perspectives to help me heal and move on.

Things were starting to look up. I wasn’t going to the bathroom at work to cry as much, I was generally feeling better, and since I wasn’t dwelling so much on the past I was able to start thinking about my future.

That was when I realized, I had no freakin’ clue what to do about it.

At that point I was qualified to be a schoolteacher, work in middle management, or just management in retail. But I had no drive, no real motivation.

Over the years I had considered becoming a pastor, but that would require more school.

I briefly considered returning to video/filmmaking, but I felt grossly underqualified and clueless about the whole thing.

So while I was feeling better about things in general, I was rudderless, directionless, feeling no push or pull in any given direction, and that got me feeling antsy.

During another phone conversation with my surrogate mom, I expressed all this to her. She said to pray about it, so I did. A few days later during another conversation she said she had been talking to her husband, who among other things is a Marine who served in Vietnam during the war. He suggested I look into the military, the Air Force or something.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 5 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

The second time – could’ve been another day, could’ve been later that day – I revisited the notion after a long day at work. For a good month or so I’d spend at least 15 minutes in a stall in the men’s room crying softly. The feeling would just come on all of a sudden; I’d have to log off the phone, hold it in while I walked quickly to the restroom, hope no one else was in there, and just let it out as quietly as possible, sometimes stuffing toilet paper in my mouth to help keep it muffled.

...but you already know what I'm thinking...
…but you already know what I’m thinking…

Following one of those many days I had a similar mental exchange. Except when I got to the accomplishing part it seemed a little easier; I was already in my car and there was a highway right over the hill I could have a fantastic wreck on. But then I thought of the other people who might be possibly involved. And then the third voice barged in again, asking what the fuck I was thinking.

You know what I’m thinking, I responded.

RIGHT – BEFORE YOU DO YOU ANYTHING YOU’LL REGRET, MAKE A FUCKING PHONE CALL!!

And then, I don’t know, I just came to my senses and called back home to North Carolina and talked to my surrogate mom – I was ashamed and scared to tell her what I had been considering. Ashamed for the stigma surrounding people possessing such thoughts and scared to admit it because that somehow makes it more real.

She wasn’t mad, she wasn’t ashamed, but she was scared for me and suggested I call my former therapist. I called her right away and we talked for a few minutes. I called her again a few days later; no more thoughts along those lines, and by that time more people were coming into my life.

The all caps, bold and italic lettering voice I think was the voice of God; or my guardian angel if you think God is above using the f-bomb.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 4 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

Have you ever seen a dog chasing a car? Ever wonder what a dog would do if it actually caught the car? That’s kind of what it was like when I moved to Ohio. I didn’t really know what to do once I caught the woman I had been pursuing for going on three years. So, I just made her my life.

I had no other friends except those I met through the church I started attending because she was already attending. I wouldn’t spend any time with those friends unless she was at work or otherwise occupied. I basically felt as though I was nothing without her.

2011...I seriously had no idea what I was doing, but denial played a strong part. Good thing I hadn't really started drinking yet.
2011…I seriously had no idea what I was doing, but denial played a strong part. Good thing I hadn’t really started drinking yet.

That’s too much of a burden for anyone to bear, the burden of another’s existence, of another’s value. And it proved too much for her. Ultimately that relationship failed and because I had invested so much of my life into it, when it was gone and she was absent from my life all of a sudden, I felt like I had nothing. What was the point of waking up each morning only to feel the worst I had ever felt in all my life? Day after day, each hour of each day, each minute of each hour.

There were two distinct occasions – shucks, it might have even been the same day, time was just slushing along, all mixed up – but I distinctly remember two separate times at which I seriously considered ending it all.

One of those times was one morning as I woke up. My internal dialogue went something like as what follows:

What’s the point?

We have to go to work.

But why?

Because, we have to. Responsibility.

But why? What’s beyond that? Why keep on doing this?

Because we’re here.

What if we weren’t?

I imagine we’d feel a lot better.

We wouldn’t feel anything.

That’d feel better than this…

And then I started thinking about how I could accomplish it and I guess as I woke up something else woke up and barged into the conversation:
WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING??!

That was enough to scare me back from the proverbial edge.

…the first time…

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 3 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

Shortly after I started therapy, I met a woman who absolutely knocked me off my feet. It was a lady in the Young Singles Sunday school class I had recently started attending, and I was just absolutely floored that someone of such physical and apparent inner beauty would strike up a conversation with me. Later I’d find out it was primarily to run interference for her roommate, fearing I was some kind of Sunday School creeper.

2008 - enamored. Oy...
2008 – enamored. Oy…

Nevertheless, we soon became friends and I was enamored from the start. Clarification: enamored with the IDEA of her. It would be another few years before I’d learn what it’d really take to be in a healthy relationship and what that actually looked like.

The people-pleasing part of my baggage is rooted in the earliest years of my home life that I can remember, trying to make our family appear as though nothing was wrong to outsiders while at home things were less than right. Somewhere along the line I just got it wired into my brain that if you make everything appear and seem right, ultimately it will be.

And the whole thing about following your heart…ugh. It’s not wrong, but in retrospect I think one needs some training in how to read the heart; and/or one needs to train the heart to be able to ascertain between that which glitters and that which is actually gold.

Well, that fateful meeting that Sunday morning did indeed turn into a friendship which I tried to fan into a romance – through cajoling, through fervent prayer, through just plain old persistence. All along my therapist was encouraging me to just be a friend, just be there. Ultimately, that’s what won out.

After a couple years of trying, giving up, trying again, etc., things finally took a turn and I wound up moving to Columbus, Ohio where she had moved, and we’d actually give this relationship thing a shot.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 2 of the story of my making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUS POST

Therapist-B had a more effective way of getting to the heart of the matter. I don’t know if it was because she’s a woman, or if I was better able to communicate my concerns or what, but instead of getting caught up in the guilt of porn or anything else, she saw and treated it as a sign, a symptom of something deeper.

So we just dove right in, deep down to the heart of the matter.

Now, I don’t want to get too far into the weeds of therapy here, because that’s not the point of this post (or series of posts as it may turn out), suffice to say I went into it a melancholy chronic self-loathing, manipulative people-pleaser and three years later emerged a melancholy less than chronic self-loathing, not as manipulative, people-pleaser.

The thing about therapy is, it doesn’t just make everything all better. It’s not the kind of thing where you go in all busted up with issues and come out all put together without issues. In my experience, what one comes out with is the emotional and spiritual tools and weapons to deal with the issues. I am significantly better off than I was 10 years ago, but I’m not 100% by certain standards. There are times I still find myself plagued with self-doubt, a lack of confidence, and wanting to make people happy.

OH MY GOD
2007 me – uh…searching for myself…?

What therapy helped me learn is that I am enough as-is and that I am worthy of love; love of myself, no less. After all, how can one love anyone else if one is incapable of loving one’s self? And I’m not talking arrogant assholery – again, trying not to get too deep into the weeds – but being able to care for and appreciate one’s self. For some it comes naturally. It could be genetics, a good home life, whatever. For others it’s a little more difficult for any number of reasons.
Anyway, previously I mentioned that the catalyst for all this was my 20th or so failed attempt at a significant romantic relationship. Therapy helped me be more confident, and therefore more choosy, in the romantic partners I would pursue, and to do so in a more or less healthy way.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 1 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

In the Spring of 2006, nearing the end of my 25th year, I had experienced my 20th or so failed relationship – this one being a long-distance one with a lady I met through Christianmingle.com. I had been to visit her in Indiana, she visited me in North Carolina, and then she called it off.

2006 me - first time I tried the Amish beard, I think.
2006 me – first time I tried the Amish beard, I think.

I have a tendency to get attached really quickly and really deeply. It was this proclivity that was the primary cause of ending most of my relationships theretofore; not the only cause – I’ve broken a couple hearts and upset my fair share of women, too, but mostly I’ve been on the rejected side of relationships (mmmmaybe about a 70/30 split).

My time with Indiana lady was unlike anything I had experienced up to that point. I don’t know that it was the best experience I had with a woman up to that point, but it really got my attention. Not to devalue or discount previous relationships, but this was the first time I was involved with a bona fide female nerd. When we were together we played video games, watched Battlestar Galactica (2004), talked about Star Trek and music and I just knew (as I had known in previous relationships) that she had to be the one.

When she proved not to be the one, I decided that it was time to do something different.

For years my dad and surrogate mom had encouraged me to go to therapy. Finally, I was ready.

The first try didn’t work out so well. The therapist was a guy who told me porn wasn’t such a big deal, as I was engaged in a rousing bit of self-loathing and self-condemnation at the time for looking at pictures of naked women on the Internet. So, I decided he wasn’t a good fit. My dad, thank God, suggested another he knew of through his network of professionals and I met with her.

Deciding to give therapy another chance changed everything.

You see, in addition to my proclivity for attaching quickly and deeply, I also sometimes tend to give up on something if it doesn’t come easy or natural to me. Part of me wanted to do that in this case, but a stronger part insisted on giving it another chance. At that point I had tried the same haphazard strategy with relationships for years and only had that many years of disappointment and heartbreak to show for it. I had given therapy a chance only for about an hour. Yeah, whatever that part of me was saying, let’s give it at least one more shot.

TO BE CONTINUED…