Growing pains of the heart

I am writing from a computer in the Warrior Zone at Fort Irwin, California. I am currently on a two week rotation at NTC (National Training Center), learning how to be a role player. This training has some downtime, so while I’d love to bury my nose in a book in the library, I figured that I’d take this moment to catch up on my blog.

It’s been such a long time since I posted about current life. The last time I spoke of my personal situation was in Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in November, when I was hyperventilating about jumping out of airplanes. I ended up being the first jumper on a couple flights, and loved the experience. My dad was at my graduation to pin on my wings. I arrived at my first unit and immediately wrote an article for LA YOGA Magazine titled “Fear: Yoga for the Courage to Jump from a Plane.” The story was published in March.

A lot has happened between then and now.

I don’t want to bore you with my life story since jumping out of airplanes, but I do want to say how many “firsts” I have had since being stationed in Washington. And damn, there have been A LOT. Each new first experience opened my eyes a little more to a completely different lesson, different challenge, different world. And to think I have only just begun my military career!

Outside of the army, there were first-time experiences, still. I moved in with my boyfriend whom I met one night at a swing dancing class. I have fallen so hard for this young man who has given me an incredible amount of joy since we met.

Not only was it my first time ever meeting such a man whom I trust, love and dance with, moving in together has been a whole other adventure! A wonderful one. I moved into his apartment that is right outside of base. His dog, Titan, welcomed me into his space as well.

I have a home with my boyfriend. It still amazes me every day. My boyfriend has a six-year-old daughter who lives in Missouri with her mom, the woman he divorced two years ago.

This past summer, his daughter flew out to stay with us. This was another big step for me. Now looking back, it was a big step for her as well. I think about how nervous I was to meet her and be introduced as his father’s girlfriend, but I had met greater fears before; this wasn’t any different.

I am fortunate to say that we got along well and learned a great deal about each other. She loved to learn how to spell and hunt for words in word searches with me. We took her to dance and walked Titan to the park.

My parents even came up from California to visit. Many great memories have already sprouted from those occasions. We took her to her first Mariners game in Seattle, to the Space Needle, and around the fish market.

Besides fun visits and trips to Seattle, there were challenges. There was a motherly and authoritative learning curve on my part. Majority of the battle was me adjusting to a new dynamic in the apartment. I have never had a child of my own, so understanding another person’s child and her rhythm, her needs, her tantrums, her favorite foods, her playfulness was a whole new ballgame within itself.

But I was determined to understand and make the effort every day to adjust, to open up a little more if I could. She left me a gift bag in our bedroom the night before she flew back home. When she left, the apartment felt a little empty and, to this day, my boyfriend and I miss her a great deal. We are making a trip out there in September to see her and his family. I am beyond excited.

My heart is so full, and it barely knows what’s happening all around it. It’s beginning to grow more and more. All I can do is breathe and surrender to the growing pains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took joining the army to grow up.

Looking back on old Facebook posts and photos, I discovered one jarring fact about myself before I joined the army: I didn’t know what it meant to be an adult until I arrived at my first unit.

Before I was a Soldier, I was ambitious and eager to excel in English, following my love of writing and literature. Receiving feedback on my essays was almost addicting; I couldn’t wait to figure out my professor’s standards and exceed them with every draft.

I was a dance instructor, pushing myself out of my comfort zone of simply being the student. It was one thing to make it to a dance class and follow, but it was another to lead. Simultaneously, I studied and taught yoga.

Then I was a performer, joining a small dance company and participating in late night ballroom dance rehearsals.

I was a traveler. My best friend and I joined a tour group, enduring two fast-paced weeks of visiting seven European countries. Before then, I traveled to Ireland for one week with another tour group, having met no one before the trip. On domestic soil, I flew to Nebraska to read a research paper I wrote for the 2015 Willa Cather Conference.

I was a journalist, an editor of a local newspaper and intern at a Los Angeles based yoga and Ayurveda magazine.

All the while, I was still living under my parents’ roof and reaching my mid-twenties. Despite my hunger to embody what I loved doing – dancing and writing, I could never support myself or keep more than a few extra bucks in my checking account.

Flash-forward to now, I am still struggling financially. I predict that I will be struggling for at least another year, before I finally have it all figured out. I’m no longer under mommy and daddy’s roof; I’m under Uncle Sam’s.

I have much more growing up to do, milestones that have yet to be crossed. The journey isn’t black and white, though. I didn’t leave my childhood behind and begin adulthood when I joined the military. A new chapter began, furthering the tale of my existence that I hope to pass on to the children I hope to have one day.

Even then, I’ll never stop learning and exploring who I am, who I was meant to be, and who I am supposed to be with. I have faith in the journey and everything that is beyond my control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

stream of consciousness

When the sun and moon meet.

Friday April 14th, 2017

3:34 p.m.

 

I checked-off one of my four-year goals this morning when I opened the Northwest Guardian. My article about the Gladiator Challenge was published.

Another milestone crossed.

I’m a journalist, and now I finally feel like one. I’m a storyteller. I get paid to write.

Okay, okay. I’ll stop bragging. But I’m that woman! I am making a living off of my writing. Not rich, no. Money isn’t the best thing in the world, but my resume is pretty impressive as it builds, as the stories pile up and as I have the pleasure of writing them.

There are so many untold ones.

But what’s so satisfactory about telling? Why must a something go somewhere and do a thing? Why can’t it just be internal and unshared?

Connection.

We all want something to connect with, to connect to. Right? In a world where many find solace and sanctuary in disconnect, I find satisfaction and strength in connecting. In building relationships. In knowing.

My mentor once said, “The reason I know something is because I wrote about it.”

I feel the same way. I know things because I heard the story, transcribed it and shared it.

Why must I know? What’s the power in knowledge as the cliche goes? Is it dangerous to be knowledgeable and aware?  

Maybe there’s respectability in knowing and passing it along to someone else. To someone who has never known or never seen or never heard.

You tell me. And I tell you. Who tells someone else. It goes round and round and round, like the sun and moon chasing each other; one day they’ll meet and that is when it all begins

The story begins when the sun and moon finally meet.

 

Screenplay Writing

I am super excited I self-published my memoir and I am incredibly thankful for the help from my friends and family, especially Terrill Thomas who designed the cover, and Tony Brucks and Renee Christopher who helped to edit the book from start to finish.

What a huge freaking milestone and I cannot emphasize how much I appreciate their support. I’m in the process of gathering, revising and adding short stories to compose a collection for my next book.

It’s a lot of fun, and it’s coming along.

My brother, Daniel, inspired me to take on a different project. Dan is a composer and producing music. He said half-jokingly recently that he was waiting for me to write a screenplay that could be turned into a film, so that he could compose for it!
I said with determination and wholeheartedly, “Hell yeah! Let’s do it!”
I’m hungry to challenge myself to write for film and theater. I’m eager to write something that could go somewhere, with something that could be a contribution to another line of artists, with something that could potentially be seen and heard from a wider audience.
I’ve never attempted to write a screenplay before. I honestly had to Google ‘screenplay templates’ because I’m so new to this style of writing. What I’m starting to do is turn my short stories into scenes that could be filmed.
A screenplay, from what I researched, is at least 90 pages long… looks like I have quite a ways to go, but nine pages of an intro is a good start.
It may be something, may be nothing.
People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end anymore. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.
-Steven Spielberg

My First Book

I was too impatient to find an agent, especially for my first book. The 51 page novelette is officially live as an eBook on Amazon! My first book. I’m super excited to share my story with the world. I hope my story inspires you and sheds some light on alternative forms of psychological, emotional and spiritual recovery from a traumatic event.

If you’d like to read a sample of the first few pages and see what it’s all about, here you go.

 

fighting through healing

The Drive

The air felt cool and crisp on her naked glowing skin as she drove along the I-5 South toward Oregon. Johnny Cash strummed his raspy melody on her ancient 1998 stereo in her blue Grand Cherokee. Her thumbs pounded along to the beat. She breathed in the rare appearance of the sun on this Sunday morning she had off of work from the restaurant. Taylor felt tempted to go off-roading, but obediently stuck to the route.

She had removed her dirty jean jacket and rolled her window down, allowing her strong biceps to tan in the warm light. Her long cascades of true brunette falling into artificial mossy green tips tickled her pale shoulders. Her hazel eyes hid behind aviator sunglasses. She glimpsed toward the towering pine trees that lined the road.

Seattle had recently been hit with a snow storm that cut off half of the power in some neighborhoods. Luckily, Tacoma hadn’t been affected; they just received slosh and less business at the restaurant.  

Taylor wasn’t ready for this trip. Unlike any other 25-year-old girl, she couldn’t wait for her Spring Break to be over. She hated leaving the restaurant behind to manage itself. But even more, she felt no remorse for the death of her stepmother.

When she found out the woman had cancer a year ago, Taylor felt only guilt for her father who would care for her and pay the medical bills. It was bad enough he practically did everything for that woman.

Taylor didn’t care to go to Roberta’s funeral, but she was making the trip for her father. She knew he was in pain, but learning of her illness reaffirmed Taylor’s decision to move up north and start a new life for herself after high school.

The cancer wasn’t caused by genetics or bad luck. It had spread from the years of drug use.

Before she showed signs of addiction, Roberta was a successful businesswoman. She owned four car dealerships, one in the state of Oregon, two in California and one in Nevada. Roberta was sweet in the early days before the marriage. Taylor had just turned ten.

A year later, Roberta and Taylor’s father were married. They were the happiest trio anyone had ever seen in Salem. They went on hiking trips together, cooked together, and sometimes even fell asleep together on the couch watching episodes of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

Taylor noticed that Roberta was gone on business trips more frequently. When she came home temporarily, she brought other guys over to the house. Taylor thought they were just friends, always having parties. She was thankful that her father was happy again, but Taylor didn’t understand why Roberta would have parties and not invite her.

“I love your spirit, child,” Roberta said with her perspiring glass of scotch in hand, shoving Taylor into her bedroom. “But you’re still too young for these kind of adult things.”   

In 2008, Roberta lost two of her stores to the recession. A year later, another one closed down. Her job, along with hundreds of others, dwindled. She spent less time with Taylor, and more time seeking comfort from her husband and other men.      

Taylor was reaching her senior year of high school. Her grades were above average, but she didn’t plan on going to college. She had no direction.  

Her father never mentioned her birth mother, or any other family member for that matter. If Taylor ever asked where she went or who she was, especially in Roberta’s presence, her father’s lips grew into a tight, straight line. His voice fell low and his sea green eyes became stern, sending warning shots to let it go.

No one else seemed to matter in his life during this time, except Roberta. He was focused on two primary things: doing well at his job and taking care of his wife. He knew that Taylor was a good, responsible kid and could handle herself. Although he took her out for ice cream on occasion and went to the movies with her, he spent less time bonding with her.      

Taylor compensated from the neglect in relationship with fighting. She took up boxing at a private, local gym. She had a trainer and met him three times a week. As graduation day approached and Roberta spent more time at home, Taylor took the bus to the gym every day.

She loved the independence. No one could hurt her, or push her away. And if they did, she could push them right back even harder.

On this drive down the freeway, she adored the final few hours she had on her own before meeting her father at her childhood home and reopening old wounds. Taylor cranked up a new song. Cash was getting a little too dull.

James Brown’s “This is a Man’s World” came on. She let it play, even though she didn’t know all of the words.

The song struck something deep in her chest, something burning and aching that she never felt before. It stung, and it lingered. Pain shot deep into her belly, and it crawled lower between her legs to a darker, intimate place. Tears spilled over her eyelids. Goopy mascara and eyeliner stained a perfect line down each cheek.

Man made electric light to take us out of the dark

Man made the boat for the water, like Noah made the ark

She felt his weight pinned against her. His grip on her hair, pressing her face onto the kitchen table, the other hand clutching onto her skirt.

“Relax,” Roberta’s friend moaned into her ear. Taylor wiggled and moaned as his fingers dug into her. “Stop fighting it, girl.”  

Whenever the nightmare haunted her, she would usually reach for a glass of wine from her cabinet to relax. Sometimes, she didn’t know what was a reliable source to help her decipher between dreams and reality. That was when she would turn to a punching bag or jump rope to sweat out the idea of her stepmother drugging her and allowing one of her guy friends to touch her.

When she finally beat every breath out of that imaginary woman on the punching bag, Taylor recalled that moment vividly.

The smell on Roberta’s breath was incredibly potent. Taylor’s innocent eyes glanced back and forth between the bag of needles and powdery mixtures, and her stepmother’s hungry eyes. She remembered that shove against the front door and feeling completely powerless against this woman she trusted and once admired. Taylor felt the incision of the needle in her forearm.

“Don’t worry,” Roberta growled. “This’ll only hurt for a second.”

The woman entered Taylor’s life and exited it with a suddenness that she could never explain, but just accept.  

She wiped her face with the back of her hand and shook off the memory of the drug hitting her hard, the way it made her muscles contract, her veins explode, her stomach ache. She remembered hanging her head over the toilet bowl the next morning and Roberta holding her hair out of the way.

“You poor thing,” she said. “I told you that you shouldn’t be messing with mommy’s things.”

Taylor felt a shiver down her spine and changed the song once again. Nina Simone woke her from the sickening trance.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me,

And I’m feelin’ good

She still wasn’t ready to face her father’s pain, but she was ready to see him without her. Without the woman who corrupted their relationship and brought a tornado of disaster into their lives.

She’s gone, Taylor told herself. She’s really gone. 

Taylor was ready to begin again now that she was older. Now that she was stronger. Now that she and her father were finally free.  

She sighed a breath of relief as she continued to drive down I-5 South and let go.

  

 

   

Trigger

The clock ticked painfully slowly in the classroom. I willed it to speed up before my palms grew sweatier and tears spilled over my eyelids.

We were learning about trauma in Professor Luck’s Undergraduate Studies of the American Gothic. It was my favorite English class during that winter in 2014.

I sat at the front and contributed whenever I felt like I had something worth voicing, which was more often in that course than any other.

This particular lecture, however, changed me forever.

The professor was writing on the whiteboard and speaking of memory in one of the works of fiction we were reading. He was saying how the psyche was sensitive to stimuli after a traumatic event occurred to someone.

The students contributed to the lecture, but their words grew muffled. I couldn’t hear them anymore, yet their voices pierced my ears.

Every stroke of his marker on the board felt like an electric shock to my bones. My jaw clenched so tightly, that I thought my teeth would break.

How was I going to survive another 20 minutes without anyone noticing?

He addressed the class and looked towards my direction, possibly thinking that I would have something to say.

I immediately looked down at my shaking, interlaced fingers, too embarrassed that he might’ve seen me suffering silently.

Class was almost over. If I excused myself to the restroom, I thought that I would’ve appeared too rude to hear the end of his lesson.

Professor Luck wrapped up his final point and looked towards the clock which finally read 6 p.m. He uttered words of homework and tomorrow’s agenda. Students closed their books, and I threw mine in my backpack.

I was the first out the door.

The cold San Bernardino air dried my eyes as I power-walked down the stairs to the parking lot to my 2008 Toyota Yaris. I was thankful that it was dark outside. Classmates that I befriended couldn’t see my wet, frightened face.

In my car, I wept. I hadn’t cried – I hadn’t sobbed – so hard in years.

I called my mom and told her that I was going to wait to drive home.

“I think it’s finally happening,” I wept over the phone.

What’s happening?” she asked worriedly.

“The robbery,” I responded.

She knew exactly what I was talking about, and urged me to take my time getting back on the freeway.

When I made it home safely, we talked about the incident that occurred two years before when another Starbucks barista and I were robbed at gunpoint.

It sounded stupid to say that I had PTSD, because the event didn’t sound as traumatic as it could’ve been. No one was hurt. The robber was caught. I simply walked away shaken up with a stiff neck after he had hit me over the head with his weapon.

My mom listened to me as I told her about the irony of studying trauma while possibly experiencing it.

I tucked the assault away in the back of my subconscious, and allowed the stimuli to haunt me in the most unexpected way, in the most unexpected place.

That class unveiled the scar that I didn’t know that I had.

It was a trigger that had finally been pulled.