The title says it all. I may be back, or I may not.
The title says it all. I may be back, or I may not.
The older I get the more I realize that even if things do get better, it’s always temporary. The good days feel like a tease and a cruel joke because when the bad comes, it’s like it laser. It targets all those things to make sure I feel the maximum amount of pain.
People always give laughable examples of what could be my thing to fight for, but what is and isn’t worth it are very personal things to a soul. I need something to cling to that makes ME feel like I have a purpose.
For the last several years I had several things. They meant everything to me. One by one they all were taken. I don’t have it in me to start over again. Every few years I cycle through this. Just because it might be good again a few years from now doesn’t make it worth the suffering now.
Each and every time it gets harder. Each and every time I am more alone in the fight. And with the direction the world is heading now, I see only darkness and hopelessness for us all. I am amazed that so many people can just keep going on like things are fine. -Brona Storm
Military families know all about this: It’s hard being away from family for long periods of time.
Although I’m not military, I work for the government which requires me to be deployed to remote areas for anywhere from six to twelve months.
My main heartache comes from missing my two sons, ages 13 and 11. I get a lot of benefits for volunteering for deployment, but it’s still really difficult to miss one of my son’s birthdays, to miss their summer vacation when they go with my wife to the beach or water park, and other occasions.
It’s just plain difficult not being able to see them while they’re still young.
A previous supervisor (who I hated) told me once that I should stop working volunteer overtime and go home to my kids because “they’re only young once.”
There is so much truth in that. Earlier this year I missed my oldest son’s birthday. Ever since he turned 3, he has always wanted to celebrate his birthday at a restaurant called Rainforest Cafe. We have continued that tradition up to now, except for the first time in 11 years, I wasn’t there at the festive table in the middle of mechanical jungle animals that come alive ever so often.
And later this year, my youngest, my little baby, will turn 12. 12 years old! I can’t believe it. I won’t be there for that as well.
I won’t see their first day of school; my youngest will start middle school this upcoming school year.
And, most of all, I will be breaking a promise I made to them before I left for the Middle East: I won’t be able to take them to grandma’s house for Christmas. It’s the highlight of their year.
I won’t be there to watch the final installment of the Skywalker saga, Star Wars Episode IX. This has been a family tradition ever since my mom took my sister and me to the therater to see the original (Episode IV) back in 1977.
I know it sounds weird, but I was looking forward to coming full circle and seeing Episode IX with my mom and my sons, especially my oldest who has become a Star Wars fanatic.
But none of that will happen, either.
Being in the middle of the desert, stuck on a fortified military compound (I’m still able to see the local sights; it’s just hard to get clearance, and it’s a challenge to actually get off the compound) has given me lots of time to think.
I spend my free time exercising: going to the base gym or walking laps around the compound in 110-115 F (43-46 C) heat. On weekends I’ll grab a “battle buddy” and we’ll go into the local city for shopping, going out to eat, and just enjoying the freedom to move around that the compound doesn’t offer.
Before I was deployed, my psychiatrist took me off everything except Xanax and Quetiapine. They don’t help much when I’m feeling down, though. For the most part they make me feel tired and groggy. That’s why I’m trying to exercise daily: to make up for my lack of effective medication. I’m getting by.
All I can say is thank God for Netflix. I don’t know what I’d do without it in the evenings.
My wife’s birthday was recently, and I was able to get her present in the mail weeks ago so that it would arrive on time. It was fun imagining her opening the box and seeing the gift that I bought for her over here.
This may be my last deployment. As a civilian, I have the luxury of volunteering. The money is pretty good, but at my age (and at my kids’ age), is it really worth it? I mean, it’s true. They’re only young once, and I’m missing out on some great times in their lives.
I guess the true test will be to ask myself 10 years from now: Was it worth earning a few extra thousand dollars while missing precious time in my children’s youth? Was it really worth breaking my promise by staying overseas instead of spending my family’s favorite holiday away from them?
I’ve read many studies where senior citizens on their deathbeds list things that they regret. Usually at the top of every list is regretting not spending more time with family. I think we can really learn from this.
My wife has a friend whose husband spends years at a time in Eastern Europe working for a contractor because he’s raking in tens of thousands of extra dollars per year. However, he has two daughters that he never sees.
They have gotten to the point where they’ve become numb to it; they prefer him staying there and sending all that money home. The girls seem like they’ve lost connection with their father. To me, that’s very sad. But that’s them. It’s their choice.
Speaking of Netflix, I really like a series called Black Mirror. There’s a melancholy song that is recurring throughout the series. It sort of sums up my mood. It even makes me feel better after listening to it, like I’m not the only one going through hard times. Click here to listen: Irma Thomas – Anyone Who Knows What Love Is
My sister posted this on her social media account recently. It speaks for itself and needs no introduction:
As the one year anniversary of my divorce is approaching, I’ve made a list of things that I miss and that were taken for granted while being married (beware: it’s a long list). I’ve become an even stronger person and I’m doing great at handling everything. I’m Supermom. smile emoticon
-Having someone give me their honest opinion about anything.
-Having a date for every function.
-Going to dinner somewhere other than McDonalds.
-Sending out Christmas cards from the four of us.
-Knowing certain little things/quirks about him that no else knows.
-Reminiscing about the 25 years we spent together.
-His friends and family.
-His sense of humor.
-Countless numbers of ‘inside jokes’.
-Being silly and immature together.
-The smell of his cologne.
-His back rubs.
-Having an adult conversation with someone in the house.
-Helping the kids with homework while I do house chores.
-Our own language/lingo.
-Spending 7 days a week with my kids.
-Having someone to share my good and bad news with.
-His muscles to lift heavy objects and move furniture.
-When I’m sick or injured (I’m clumsy), having someone to run errands, make dinner, take the kids to their activities and laundry.
-Knowing that I have someone to grow old with.
-Our family summer vacations.
-Having someone ask how my day was and hearing about his.
-The security of a two-income household.
-Both of us watching the kids open presents on Christmas.
-Decorating the Christmas tree and talking about the significance of each ornament.
-The kids having both of us together at their birthday parties.
-How easy it was to get things done and being a ‘team’.
-His health insurance.
-Having someone clean out the vacuum cleaner (ha ha).
-Having someone to help with car maintenance.
-Fixing things around the house.
-Helping me take care of the dogs and their vet appointments.
-Sitting down as a family at dinner and hearing about the kids’ day
-Sitting on the deck and drinking a beer on nice summer evenings
-And most of all: Missing him.
I’m a college teacher, but sometimes I’m also a counselor for my students. During my office hours, it’s not uncommon for students to come and see me about problems in their personal lives. I am more than happy to give advice or, in most cases, just lend an ear. I trust that the Holy Spirit guides me and gives me the wisdom to help these individuals.
Yesterday morning, as I arrived at my office, one of my students was sitting against the door and crying. She is one of my best students, so I had a feeling it wasn’t grade-related. As she began telling me what was going on, I suddenly felt unqualified. “Are you sure you don’t want to meet with a counselor? The office is just down the hall, and it’s free for students.”
Her answer: “I can’t open up with just anyone. God has led me to you.”
The student, who I will refer to as Colleen, is in a marriage that is quickly spiraling downward. It’s complicated, but the gist is that her husband verbally and physically abuses her, won’t let her drive, and demands that she hand over all of her salary from her part-time food service job.
Colleen is from a country in West Africa, and her husband is American. He has arranged a court date for them to sign divorce papers.
Trusting in the Holy Spirit — since I didn’t get the memo that God was sending Colleen my way — I listened to her and clarified some things. Not really knowing what to say, I referred Colleen to some apartments near campus that were affordable. I’m friends with the coordinator of career services at the college, so I told Colleen where to find the office and to tell them that I sent her.
Lastly, I shared Romans 8: 28 with her: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” There is a reason for everything, I told Colleen. She told me that she believed and trusted that God would work everything out for her. I was humbled by her faith.
When we finished talking, Colleen felt so much better. Tomorrow she is going to court with her husband. When she walks out afterward, she will suddenly be alone in a strange new country with no home, no family, and not quite enough money to make ends meet.
“Thank you for everything!” she told me as she stood up to leave. “You have really helped me.”
“But I really didn’t do much.”
“Oh, you did. You really did.”
Luckily, Colleen will be in my class until the semester ends in December. After that, though, I may not see her again.
Please keep Colleen in your prayers.
(photo by Topaz)
I usually don’t post thoughts that are off-the-cuff because, well, that’s not the way I like to write. As a college English teacher, I tell my students that brainstorming and making an outline are essential first steps in writing an essay.
But forget all that. This isn’t a stinkin’ essay.
All of you are aware that I am dealing with… “issues.” And you also know that I’m trying to be a good Catholic at the same time. Well, it’s not always a bed of roses.
Like right now.
Maybe it’s because I had to cut my meds down to a half-dose because my new psychiatrist couldn’t fit me right in. I’m don’t know, but life has been very up-and-down lately. (Luckily I have an appointment tomorrow morning to see him, so that’s good.)
Only on a Catholic/mental illness blog could the author go from writing thoughts about the rosary and contemplative prayer one day and writing a post like this one the very next day. Welcome to my world.
I have been mourning my marriage a lot lately. How could my wife and I go from being giddy young(er) lovers to coed roommates who manage a household like brother and sister?
I’m happy for all of the happily married couples that I see at church and on the blogs that I frequent. I really am. It’s just hard for me to see sometimes. Kind of like a guy seeing his recent ex-girlfriend in a hot new relationship while the former boyfriend is at home scouring Internet dating sites, trying in vain to find someone.
I have God, His Son, The Blessed Virgin, and all of the angels and saints, though. However, I don’t mean to sound like I’m questioning my faith (I’m not), but I am reminded of the scene in the movie Good Will Hunting where the counselor asks the young man if he has any friends. The young man says yes, he has many good friends and starts listing off classic authors. The counselor responds by saying that all of those people are dead and begins lecturing him on having real relationships with real people.
Again, there’s no doubt in my mind that the saints are alive in heaven and praying for me constantly. It’s just that… they’re not present here. I can’t see them.
Jesus is my savior and friend (yes, friend), and I love spending time praying/talking to him.
it would be great to have real friends. A real love of my life.
The Church is the bridegroom of Christ. That is awesome; it’s a lovely image.
But that’s more like reading poetry: beautiful allusions and lofty prose. The real thing would be nice, though.
I need to count my blessings. I know. I have been. I thank God daily for everything that He has given me.
It would be wonderful to have a “real (?)” marriage like Christ has with His Church.
Fellow believers, please don’t write me off as a heretic. I’m really not. I’m just a guy who’s going through some stuff, that’s all.
Living a life fully devoted to God is difficult. In a previous post, I mentioned that, since I had nowhere else to go, I decided to step it up a few notches from being a lukewarm pew-warmer to someone who totally surrendered himself to God (Revelation 3:16).
I have also written about my Josephite marriage with my wife. Basically we are friendly roommates who are raising our two kids together — nothing more. I met with my therapist this past weekend, and I told her that I came across this phrase on a Catholic radio program. Trying to justify the reason that my wife and I have been celibate for nearly five years, I told my therapist that my wife and I have this Josephite kind of marriage — end of discussion.
I even told my therapist that I was okay with this type of arrangement. Actually… I’m not sure if I am; that’s just what I tell myself in order to try and overcome the frustration and emptiness. Five years is a long time. Since it was basically my wife’s decision (a Josephite marriage needs to be mutual), I just got plain worn out and tired of harping on the subject of sex with my wife. I really would like to think that it is God’s will, and I pray and cry out to Him all the time to show me, but the only response I get is… nothing. Just continued abstinence.
My previous therapist used to spend half of each session drilling it into my head that we were not normal, and he actually gave me homework: to have sex with my wife and report back to him about it. I soon left him and found another therapist that I felt more comfortable with and who didn’t keep pressing the issue. However, my new therapist does say that it’s not normal. Duh. I already knew that. I’ve tried everything: talking with my wife, asking her if there’s something about me she doesn’t like, asking if there’s something about her that she doesn’t like, telling her that we are not being a normal married couple, etc. It is to no avail.
So, I chalk it up to being God’s will. I have thought about being a priest since I love my faith and I love helping people, but (another duh), I’m married. Unless my wife passes away or we become divorced, it ain’t gonna happen.
I get extremely guilty when the thought crosses my mind of her dying early. Sometimes I have thought about our getting a divorce, but I couldn’t live without seeing my kids every day; plus, I can’t bear the thought of another man raising my kids. Yes, they will always be my kids, as my therapist says, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Well, it looks like you’re stuck, Topaz.
By the grace and power of God, I have overcome pornography and masturbation and no longer have any inclination for either. However, lust and impure thoughts constantly haunt me. Most of the time I don’t allow myself to dwell on these, but sometimes I do.
The bottom line is that I’m lonely. I live with a slim, attractive woman and I literally can’t touch her. It’s torture. I see women at church and long for a marriage with a good, faithful Catholic to share my life with. I see images on Facebook and other sites of a man and woman holding hands or hugging, and my heart aches so much. Oh, how I desire affection and intimacy.
I used to fall asleep at night imagining my soul mate curled up next to me. All that did was incite temptation, though. Now, I imagine the Blessed Virgin Mary, my mother in the order of grace, sitting in a chair beside my bed, her arm around my shoulders, whispering to me that everything will be all right. It always helps me drift off to sleep.
I’ve been a Catholic for three years, but I’ve only been a faithful, practicing one for the past 12 months. Since my mindset has become more in line with God’s, I no longer look at a woman’s chest, backside, or legs. Instead, I notice qualities like hairstyle, personality, and a sincere smile, and it makes my heart race just as quickly. My point is that I’m still struggling; it’s just in a different, non-sinful (?) way.
I refuse to give in to impurity. God has taught me how to channel my stubbornness into my battle with spiritual darkness. Instead of taking cold showers when I’m hit with lust — because that would be a lot of showering — I literally brace myself and pray until my hormones die down.
Some Christian leaders say that the only way to overcome pornography and masturbation is to get an accountability partner. I think that is very wise. However, I overcame by my sheer hatred of always sliding down the mountain after nearly reaching the top every time. I was sick and tired of not growing in Christ. I longed for a better life, one that I read about in the Bible over and over again but just couldn’t believe was possible for me. I’m not saying my “do it alone” method will work for everyone, but it did for me.
I would never consider infidelity. I love God too much and am faithful to my marriage vows. Maybe God is preparing me for the priesthood down the road. I’m in no way saying that I’m a saint, but maybe my celibate marriage will help me focus more on God and His will for my life. I will keep praying that He continues to unfold His plan for me. I guess I’m on a need-to-know basis with the Almighty. It sure would be nice to know, though.
My sister flew down from Missouri this past weekend. My kids were excited for her to visit because, when any of my family members come, my boys receive “presents.” My sister, Kay, always has fun visiting.
However, this was no ordinary visit.
For the past two years, Kay and I had been talking about driving down to McGregor to visit our aunt’s grave. We kept mentioning it but never made time for the trip. Finally, the stars and planets aligned, so we chose this past weekend for our road trip.
Actually, our aunt died three years ago, but not a single family member knew about it until Kay’s 2010 Christmas card to our aunt was returned to her. Baffled since our aunt had lived in McGregor for ages, Kay did some online investigation and discovered that our aunt had passed away back in March of the same year.
You see, my sister was the only family member who had kept in touch with our aunt and sent Christmas cards to her every season. (Kay has a big heart, obviously much bigger than mine.)
You may be wondering, Why did no one keep in touch with her? Well, my grandfather ruled our family with an iron fist. A shrew self-made multi-millionnaire, he wielded incredible influence and power; we lived in fear of him, referring to him behind his back as The Godfather.
Years and years ago, my aunt met a man and ran away with him to Texas, where they eventually settled in a small quiet town called McGregor. “Leaving the family” against my grandfather’s wishes, he severed all ties with her, excluded her from the will, and told us never to contact her again.
The only memories I have of her have faded a little: going to her house with my mother for coffee; playing with her big, furry dog; rolling around on her shag carpet like I was in the woods; and her trademark cackling at everything we kids did.
So my sister and I were glad that the day had finally come. Only a few hours away from where I now live, our biggest regret was that we hadn’t visited her while she was alive. By traveling there and paying our last respects, however, I believed it would comfort her lonely soul and put a smile on her face as she looked down upon us.
It’s always exciting to take a road trip, especially with a friend or family member. My sister and I are only three years apart, and we have been growing closer as we get older. She suffers from bipolar disorder and a troubled marriage like I do, so it would be the perfect chance for us to, in essence, be counselors for each other.
I made a playlist on my iPod of various dance/pop/R&B songs for the road trip, and we loaded up my car with a cooler full of bottled water (Texas summers tend to be pretty brutal). We set off in good spirits with the music creating a cheerful background as we chatted and took in the landscape of rural Texas.
I told my sister as we left the metro area that everything we were doing reminded me of the movie Stand by Me: Although the purpose of our quest was a somber one, we would have fun along the way, make a few detours, and enjoy each other’s company. Lifelong memories would be formed.
One humorous moment was when we stopped at a small Mexican restaurant along the way for lunch. Kay ordered a margarita since she wasn’t driving, and the waitress asked to see her ID. Having been given such a compliment, my sister quickly gave the waitress her driver’s license. The waitress looked at it and said in a disappointed tone, “Oh. You’re not from here.” She walked away with Kay’s driver’s license without saying another word. My sister and I exchanged puzzled looks. Ten minutes later, though, my sister was happily sipping her strawberry margarita.
Later, as we rolled west on highway 84 toward McGregor, I started to get butterflies in my stomach. This is it, I thought. I hope we find the grave. All we had to go on was what our aunt’s former landlord had told us; nothing on the Internet helped us at all. The city cemetery didn’t have an address or phone number.
Loose gravel crunching beneath the tires, we pulled into the cemetery.
No map. No office building. Just what we expected.
One thing we didn’t expect, though, was the size of the cemetery: It wasn’t a little podunk scrap of land that we had imagined. Rows and rows of headstones and memorials in all shapes and sizes stretched as far as we could see.
“No problem,” I said confidently to Kay. “Look. The dates on the ones near the entrance are as recent as 2012. It’s got to be up front here. See?” I pointed to the next headstones. “2010.”
We quickly found out that there was no organization whatsoever that we could perceive. Gravestones from 1882, 1910, and 1963 were intermixed with ones from the 21st century. Our hearts sunk and reality hit us: We would have to park the car and roam around in the 103-degree (39 C) heat until we found it. Well, Aunt Lois, I thought, we’re definitely thinking of you now. There was no one to ask for help; we were the only ones in the cemetery.
Kay took one vast side of the cemetery, and I took the other. Our iPhones in our hands like walkie-talkies, we began the search. My sister soon texted me: This is like a game. Kinda fun! I smiled.
We both got caught up in pausing before interesting gravestone/memorials. Each one told a story by the engraved pictures, words, and items placed in front. This distracted us from our true mission, but we didn’t mind. I couldn’t help but set vases of flowers and teddy bears upright as I came across them. I apologized out loud before touching these precious items, though. I wanted to do it out of respect, but, at the same time, I felt like I was invading the peace and tranquility of the departed souls.
Two hours later, after numerous breaks under shade trees, a bag full of empty water bottles, and sweat-drenched clothing, my phone rang.
It was Kay.
My heart fluttered in my chest. We had texted up until now (don’t ask me why), but she was now calling me. I answered.
Yep. Just as I thought: She had located the grave.
I jogged toward my sister who was standing way back at the far end of the cemetery, not far from where I parked the car (ugh). On our way into town, we had bought four different kinds of plastic flowers at Dollar General because we wanted them to last longer that just a couple of hours.
We planted the four sprigs in diamond formation around the small but gorgeous headstone. I suggested that we have a moment of silence. (I didn’t want to use the word pray because my sister is definitely not the praying type.) I bowed my head as my sister respectfully gazed down at the flat rectangular stone.
In silence, we got back into the car and drove along the gravel trail back to the entrance. Suddenly a thought came to me: We didn’t waste the past two hours wandering under the fiery sun. Aunt Lois had no family and very few friends when she died. To her, the past two hours were like an afternoon of coffee and chit-chat with her niece and nephew in the run-down apartment complex that she called home.
All I know is that Kay and I were the only family members who had made the trip to pay our last respects.
I imagined Aunt Lois smiling and seeing us off at the entrance, her hair in the same beehive style that I remember.
“That was a nice visit,” Kay said as we slowly drove away.
“Yep. It was.”
(all photos by Topaz)