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Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

Nineteen years ago today, I was in college when the tragic events of Columbine High School unfolded with the eyes of the world watching. I know it wasn’t the first horrific act of terrorism in the world – but it was among the first that my generation had ever witnessed. I remember watching in horror the footage of high school kids, themselves columbine_window_escapejust a few years younger than me, jumping out of windows and running from their school covered in blood and mute in terror. Our tears flowed as security footage showed teachers throwing themselves in front of students to shield them from bullets. Shocked, we watched news footage of law enforcement teams struggling to respond to what was then unplanned-for and unheard-of attacks against children. We organized vigils on campus to raise awareness of the violence that had befallen our generation. We sold ribbons [one of which to this day adorns my work bag], to raise money to send to the fund organized to pay for funerals for the fallen students and teacher. We tried in vain to wrap our young minds around the senseless violence, the hate, the anger, the bloodshed.

Almost twenty years later, we now sit in the aftermath of the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. And the same feelings pour out – fear for our children, sadness that our world has devolved even further. I shudder to think of what kids must feel when they go to school now, wondering if one day one of their classmates is going to go off the deep end and bring an assault rifle in his tuba case. These children are now organizing walkouts of the classroom to raise awareness for their fear and their desire to be safe – further, and to my mind much more aggressive, steps down the pathway that I started down all those years ago on my college campus. From candlelight vigils to protest walkouts, young people are the ones who are begging adults to take note of their fear, their sadness, their desire for a better world. I just hope that those same kids that are walking out are now also making pledges to be kinder, more giving, more loving human beings. I hope cyber-bullying and “Mean Girls” will become distant memories. Just as we should have done after Columbine, we have to teach our children how to be loving, functioning adults who don’t need guns to solve their problems.

Unfortunately, from Columbine to Parkland, there have been hundreds of mass shootings in between. All perpetrated by people who are seriously mentally ill, monumentally angry, and completely lacking in conscience and moral guidance. We, as a society, now see these shootings on such a regular basis that I’m afraid we are becoming complacent to them. I fear they no longer strike the fear and horror in our hearts like Columbine did. How can we accept these acts of hate as everyday events?

I recently went through a training with our town police representatives on active shooter responses. In our world today, after September 11th and all of these domestic terrorist attacks, I no longer train just for everyday house fires or car accidents – now we have to drill on active assailants and mass acts of terror. Hearing some of the unedited 9-1-1 calls and radio transmissions from Columbine, I was physically ill with the sounds of the abject terror and bewildered shock in those kids’ voices. And those same scenes are just replaying and rerunning at every one of those mass shooting incidents. And now to think that teachers are having to be trained in defense techniques and combat skills to protect kindergarteners from lunatics with rifles! What is wrong with our world? How can we fix this? The same questions that ran through our minds 19 years ago after Columbine are still begging for answers now.

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At the annual banquet for my volunteer fire department last week, I was both honored and amazed to receive my 15-year service stripe. 2017 marked 15 years of volunteerism and endless learning about fire, rescue and EMS operations for me – but those years have also taught me lessons in brotherhood, loss, service, upheaval, fear, bravery, disenchantment, persistence, change, frustration, giving, and surviving.

Here is what I *thought* fire service would be: 9474973637_cb6f92dcc0_b

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what I *hoped* fire service would be:  firefighters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what the fire service really *is*: moe-larry-curly-fire-pole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that. But, seriously, to the men and women that I have had the honor of serving with for the last 15 years, thank you for all that you do. And thank you for letting me serve beside you.

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Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play

And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn

And I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind
I can never leave the past behind
I can see no way, I can see no way
I’m always dragging that horse around

Our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I’m gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it’s always darkest before the dawn
Shake it out, shake it out

annyalice.deviantart.com

artwork by AnnyAlice

Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

 

‘Cause I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart
‘Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Shake it out, shake it out
Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

I tried to dance with the devil on my back
And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It’s a final mess but it’s left me so empty
It’s always darkest before the dawn.

And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark and right at my throat
‘Cause looking for heaven, found the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I let it happen to me

Shake it out, shake it out
Shake it out, shake it out,
And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off.

“Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine

Written by Paul Epworth, Tom Hull, Florence Welch • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

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I have spent the better part of the last 2 years thinking that I am now permanently damaged goods. Besides the constant sense of bitterness and the fragile state of my already-heavily-damaged ego, I have questioned if these experiences have made me unfit for future human relationships. Forget about the male-female romantic type of relationships (of which I fear I am permanently unfit) but even just the simple human interactions. What happens if I am too screwed up to ever have a normal friendship again??

If you had asked me 10 years ago where I envisioned my life would be at this juncture, you can bet your sweet bippy that it never would have occurred to me that I would be more lost than I was at 18 – rootless and struggling with my faith, my self-esteem, and my future – I thought I had outgrown these sorts of emotions. So now I feel that I am too messed up, too crazy, too jaded, too broken – damaged goods.

So last night, in spending some time with my nearly-perfect friend (who will be known here only as “The B”) I discovered that I am not alone in the feeling of being ‘damaged.’ “The B”  is tall, gorgeous, outgoing, funny, intelligent and charismatic – and yet feels that she isn’t good enough. We actually spent quite a bit of the evening arguing over who is crazier, more angry, and/or more flawed. How is that a woman who is almost the perfect ideal of a female in current American society share the same sense of inadequacy that I have? “The B” is the kind of woman that I want to be when I grow up – how can SHE feel that she’s as crazy as I am?!

Is it a woman thing? Are we, as females, programmed to feel inadequate in some way at all times in our lives? I don’t think that’s exclusively the answer – although I DO believe that females specialize in feeling insecure and flawed. But I know many men who suffer from some of the same feelings that we have, especially the men who have been through shattering divorces or other life-altering events. These men are normal, everyday guys who have managed (just like “The B” and I) to get out of bed and face each new day. So, no, I don’t think it’s just ‘a woman thing’ – I actually think it’s more widespread than that.

My evening with “The B” has helped me to realize something very important – we are ALL damaged goods! There is not a single person, no matter how good it looks like they may have it in life, that is truly content with who they are. Maybe it’s trauma (emotional or physical) that has damaged someone, maybe it’s simply born in them – but we ALL feel that we have flaws. I am so glad to have company in the Damaged Goods area of the department store of life! Does it make me a bad person to rejoice in the company I keep?? I have truly wonderful friends that have helped me to realize that they too struggle with the damages in their lives – and if they can survive, so can I!

So, to”The B” I send the assurance that we are both crazier than hell, totally screwed up, and yet totally lovable!! And we are not alone – there are a lot of us that are Damaged Goods – and we should stand proud!

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Those two words have never applied to me, EVER. Hi, my name is Becky, and I am hopelessly out of touch with the way my body is supposed to work in any coordinated movement.

When you are the fat kid growing up, the choices for showcasing whatever god-given body skills you have are slim. My mother enrolled me in the requisite “little girl” dance classes – and even I have to admit how ridiculous that was! The ballet tights and tutu must have made me look like the hippos in Fantasia – those fashions were not invented for chubby little girls. And yet I actually truly loved dancing. From the graceful and ordered movements of ballet to the all-out noisemaking in tap class, I really liked dancing. But, when you reach those dreaded pre-teenage years and realize that you don’t look good in that spandex, you give up the love of the activity in some twisted sense of self-preservation and damaged ego. When all the little girls around you are tiny and petite and graceful – and you are everything BUT – you decide that maybe you should find a new hobby, maybe knitting or reading or underwater basketweaving. Anything that didn’t require spandex and coordination…

I was never athletic either. I tried softball for a few years when I was 11 or 12 but I never tore up the field with any outstanding skill. Despite a lifetime love of baseball (instilled in me by my dad, the walking baseball encyclopedia, and my brother, the consummate Yankee fan) and the wish that I could play, I was often stuck in right field for the safety of all parties involved. I was too self-conscious to hit, I was too fat to run, I was too scared to field a ball. Yep, Derek Jeter I wasn’t!

So, now having a brief background into my non-athletic past, I hope you will now allow me a moment of utter pride in the smallest of victories- I actually am trying a team sport again! After 20+ years of being too self-conscious about my weight, my body style and my general lack of coordination, I am actually leaping into a new game – vintage baseball. More to follow on this great sport (!) but I just had to share my joy right now! I actually got out on a field with a bunch of very athletic and very coordinated guys and tried something *gasp* athletic with them! What am I thinking?!

I am so grateful to those guys – this is just my small way of saying thank you to them – for putting up with me. The first practice I sucked big time – and the second week was only marginally better. The guys are being very tolerant of my general lack of skill and are being very understanding as I learn the body mechanics needed to play. Sadly, I am paying the price for hiding my body and not developing any athletic grace for the first 30 years of my life. Or, rather, I should say that my poor teammates are paying the price. But I am working hard to improve – I even now have my own private batting/throwing coach (bless my wonderful coworker and friend Jen) – and practice every day to try to improve. For love of the game, I am trying, dammit!!

But, meanwhile, I am just tickled to death that I have tried something new, something that required almost every ounce of courage I own.  This was a HUGE step for me and, without the confidence I have pieced back together as I have shed some of these pounds, I would never have been able in the past to be brave enough for this. While I lack (and probably always will) a natural sense of grace or athleticism, I have something even better – HEART!

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My good friend and coworker, Mandy, is leaving us tomorrow, off to spend 5 years in vet school in New Zealand. I am so happy for her – what a phenomenal opportunity – but I am also going to miss her terribly. She was the only other one of my coworkers that voluntarily worked the Sunday shift with me; she is a ray of sunshine when I walk into work; and I learned a lot from her on how to deal with feisty animals, worried owners, and errant toenails.

Her departure (along with my friend Steve’s recently) has gotten me to thinking – what am I staying here for? Why don’t I just go?

Truckin’, like the do-dah man / Once told me “You’ve got to play your hand” / Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a dime / If you don’t lay’em down.

I took a long drive around the county last week, to test the emotional waters to see if I would miss this area. While I do admit that it is a beautiful place with lots of history and interesting little spots, I also had to face the ghosts of a lot of painful memories and shared moments. There was almost no road I could turn onto that didn’t hold a shadow of some part of the last 10 years – and so many of them reminded me of things that I had lost. Not just my husband but some good friends, some interesting jobs, and yes even some parts of my self. I think that in some ways in might be better to just get away from those shadows that are haunting me, to leave and start fresh somewhere else.

Busted, down on Bourbon Street / Set up, like a bowlin’ pin / Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin / They just won’t let you be, oh no.

But then, in the same breath, I realized that I would truly miss some of the people that have made this part of my life journey so enjoyable. I have a wonderful group of friends that watches out for me, cares for me, and treats me right. I have a fire department pseudo-family that is there for support when I need it (and frustration when I don’t) – just like a real family. These people are the treasures that I have found in Maryland – and I’m not sure I can leave them. How will I watch my godkids grow up? How will I keep the connection to my fire department brothers and sisters? How will my circle of friends stay intact if I’m somewhere else? How will I feel if I have no roots again?

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel / Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.

I am, in total honesty, lured by the thought of just running away from my problems. A new area with new people offers me the temptation of forgetting. Maybe I can escape those unpleasant memories if I just have a new location? Forget for a minute that the psychological and emotional damage of the last 10 years (both self-imposed and inflicted by others) will travel with me, like some really ugly Louis Vuitton baggage. Forget for a minute that it is damn hard to start over in a new place where you don’t know anyone and are trying to get used to a new job, a new home, and a new locale. Forget for a moment that there are days that I’m not sure I have the energy or courage to get out of bed, let alone move halfway across the country. The lure of a NEW PLACE beckons me like a kid to a candy store.

I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’ / Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

A NEW PLACE where no one knows anything about my personal life, where the sordid details of my marriage weren’t ground in the gossip grist mill for everyone’s enjoyment. Where I can live in a home that doesn’t mock me with its memories. Where I can go out to dinner with a man and no one gives a hoot – let alone have passed it on down the gossip chain with amusing little embellishments. Where I can live anonymously without worry that my ex will recognize my car in a parking lot and cause damage to it or me. Where I am just a nameless face in the crowd and not worried about running into any of my former in-laws. Where no one will remember that I used to be fat or married. Ahhh, the lure of that mythical NEW PLACE.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me / Other times I can barely see / Lately it occurres to me / What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Mandy is lucky – she isn’t running from anything. She doesn’t leave behind the bitter and sad memories that I do; she gets a fresh start without all the emotional baggage. Granted, that is mostly due to the fact that she has been smart enough NOT to get married. But, regardless, she isn’t running away from the past – she’s running to an exciting new future. She is truly off on a new adventure – and she better realize I’m going to come visit her Down Under! Good luck, Mandy, and safe and happy travels!

Truckin’, up to Buffalo / Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow / Takes time, you pick a place to go / and just keep truckin’ on.

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When I was a kid, my older brother went off to college in Washington, DC, a far cry from the small town where we had grown up in upstate New York. My parents, being the educational types that they were, insisted that while we were down visiting him on Parents’ Weekend, Easter, etc. that we tour the city and discover the history of our nation’s capital. But this was a big, scary, urban environment for my sheltered 12-year old self! Once, when trying to cross busy Connecticut Avenue, my brother (now the experienced urban dweller) gave me this sage piece of wisdom about crossing the street: “Don’t make eye contact, they won’t hurt you.” I’m not sure WHY this psychology works like it does – but he was most assuredly right. Not once did my sorry teenage self get splattered by a cab in DC and, in the years since and with the travelling I have done at home and abroad, the eye contact avoidance has prevented me from ever getting hit in the street.

Sadly, I came to a startling realization this week – I think I took my brother’s advice a little too much to heart. I rarely make eye contact with anyone anymore – at all, in any situation, PERIOD. Somewhere along the line, apparently I twisted my brother’s words to avoid all eye contact in order to prevent getting hurt. In a painful flash of self-awareness (when questioned on what color a friend’s eyes are), I realized that I just don’t look people in the eye ever. I never intended to transfer the street-crossing wisdom into my relations with all human beings – I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

I’m not sure if I have always had this problem… I would like to think that, at some point in my past, I was bold and confident enough to look people in the eye and share myself with them. I would hate to think that I have always been this much of a milquetoast. But, in all reality, I am guessing that I have always been like this – afraid to establish a connection, subconsciously putting myself in the submissive role. In the world of dogs, eye contact is how they establish dominance in a pack – the ones that stand straight and can face down enemies are the top of the pecking order, the ones that bow down and look down are low in the pack. I have been, without realizing it, announcing my submissiveness to the world with every conversation. No wonder I was easily tagged by a self-confident, aggressive, bully of a husband – he knew, by my eyes, that I would never be able to stand up to him.

So now that I have realized that I have been keeping myself aloof from others by denying that eye contact – and meekly placing myself in the submissive position – I vow that I will change that. I don’t want to keep myself distant from other human beings any more; I am no longer the weak, fearful person I used to be! I want to create those human connections, those important relationships, by looking people in the eye, sharing who I am with them. Yes, I do understand that this will also allow them to see my vulnerabilities, opening myself up to getting hit by those proverbial cars in the street, but I think it will also help me to develop a stronger connection to others and to myself…

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