Oct 6 2014

Resistance, meet my friend Possibility

Redding Air Show

 

Ever quit a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever bailed out on a call to embark on a spiritual practice, to dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others?…Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.”  -The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Two weekends ago, we accepted a gracious invitation to attend the Redding Air Show. A chance to have a weekend away with my husband and children. No sports. No sleepovers. And our first air show.

As my heart rattled in my chest and my ear drums nearly split open, I couldn’t help but think about the remarkable advancements and the even more remarkable people responsible for those advancements. Generations have been fighting Resistance, pushing the envelope, flying faster and farther.

Personally, I’m no stranger to Resistance-the gale force wind encountered when turning in a new direction. But, an afternoon spent craning my neck to the heavens reacquainted me with an old friend. Possibility announced it’s presence with the blast of a jet engine thundering across the tarmac.

Resistance, meet my friend Possibility.

The demonstration of sheer power through jet propulsion has been reverberating in my heart. The strongest weapon I have found against Resistance is the gravity defying hope of Possibility. Since covering my ears to the chest pounding cacophony of jet engines, I have dusted off my treadmill, laced up my running shoes and pressed the start button. I have sat down to write and overcome the nagging silence as I stare at a blank computer screen. And I have opened my eyes to the truth that I am not the only one fighting Resistance. A good friend of mine has launched a crowd-funding campaign to crush Resistance and pursue Possibility.

Resistance stands in the middle of the room and tells us all the ways we might fail, or all the times we have failed. But there’s another voice. A low rumbling, like a distant jet engine, that stands in the corner, holds out a jetpack and says, “Wanna try again?”

Resistance, meet my friend Possibility.

 “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.

The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

-Thomas Edison


Sep 15 2014

A Colorful Epiphany

 

Hot air balloon races

Hot Air Balloon Races, Reno, NV

Garnered with large doses of coffee and hot chocolate, and an unnatural enthusiasm for being awake at such an hour, we left our sleepy little town at 3:30 a.m. for what I was told, is the largest hot air balloon launch in the country.

We joined the masses at pre-dawn on a large grassy field dotted with tarps and giant picnic baskets. Several high-powered gas burners ignited a few feet behind us, and although the heat was welcome in the cool air of a high desert morning, the sound momentarily stopped our hearts. Extreme heat and noise brought life to a field of colors and the magnitude of it all caused me to stand in awe.

Hot Air Balloon Races

Early morning ascension.

The heat and noise needed to launch these massive balloons and provide amazing views, looked and sounded a great deal like conflict. I realized, the greatest vantage points in my own life have come on the heels of the greatest heat and the loudest chaos.

Conflict is hot and loud, but like the balloons, it is full of potential. It provides the prospect of reaching heights we never thought possible. We learn more about ourselves and more about the amazing people we get to share life with. Without the fire, the balloons would lie lifeless on the damp grass never realizing their full potential. Without conflict, I propose our relationships too, would lie lifeless, never allowing the realizations of who we truly are, or the beauty of the deepest, most tender places in the hearts of those around us, to come to light.

I don’t suggest the creation of conflict. It is organic. It will inevitably show up and it will leave, but maybe it’s possible to recognize it for the auspicious potential it contains and not just the momentary pain it causes.

 


Dec 19 2013

Remnants of an ongoing battle with the past – Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD

Bookcase in the secret room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashbacks.

Last weekend David and I were sitting on the couch watching the 49‘s game. One minute our team is winning, the next minute an innocent commercial rips through the comfort of our home.

The commercial depicts a boy with tire tread running the length of his body, meant to invoke laugher and jollity. Instead the images unleash distress and horror.

Next to me, I feel David’s body tense. The steady rhythm of his breathing is replaced with a shortness of breath and in his eyes, tears pool around the edges, vying for freedom.

David sees something different.

The Secret Room.

Heat and light in the secret room.

Heat and light in the secret room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To deal with and control these memories David goes to a secret place. A room designed specifically by him to provide safety and comfort. At one end sits a well used, worn brown leather chair. A coffee table stands in front of the chair and beyond the table, on the opposite wall, a fire in the hearth burns bright and warm. A focal point where light and heat bring  tranquility and a feeling of security.

Both adjacent walls are lined with bookshelves containing volumes, magic anthologies, a documentation of events. Not just words but images, emotions, sounds and smells.

A Flashback.

Without warning, a book appears on the coffee table. And into the quiet room, the memory of a young boy with tire tread across his chest invades the safety and tranquility. Sights, a pool of blood puddles under his small head like a pillow. Sounds, the mournful shriek of a heartbroken mother who lost a piece of her heart in an instant. Smells, fresh blood creeping across black hot asphalt.

Unannounced and unavoidable, the unwanted remembrances float out of the open book and invade the secure, hidden space. Like rogue enemies, they launch poisonous arrows into the warm air and pierce the serenity.

David’s body tenses. His breath suspended in constricted lungs begging for escape, guarding a prayerful hope that the book will disappear.

But these are memories that will never go away. To contain and control them David has placed each one into a book. The memory of the little boy killed by a drunk driver is just one of many. David leans forward and closes the book.  With a deep breath, he rises from his chair, picks up the book and places it back on the shelf in its rightful place. Tucked away, surrounded by a myriad of other memories, both fond and equally horrifying.

While flashbacks cannot be anticipated or avoided, they can be controlled. David’s use of a room full of his memories has worked for him. Memories are impervious to destruction but they can be coerced. Forced back into storage. Driven back into the past, leaving room for the light and warmth to occupy the present and bring peace again to the secret room.

Healing and tomorrow.

Our connection to the events of our past is a two way street. We may mosey down the avenue and revisit joyful occasions. And, just as easily, the past can barrel down the road and crash into our present, bringing remembrances we would care to forget.

But we are not left powerless. David learned this technique at a retreat for first responders. The West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat Center. (www.wcpr2001.org) The past cannot be changed. But for those suffering under the weight of bygone memories there is hope. And hope is the fire burning in the secret room, giving warmth and security and a chance to live fully in the present.

************

Check out Rebecca’s debut novel, DISTRESSED, on Amazon.


Dec 13 2013

The here and why

*** It’s here!!! ***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A month ago, I wrote a blog post that detailed my reason for writing. Why do I write?

But why did I write this story?

First, I have to say, it is a novel. It is a work of fiction. And yet, it was birthed out of a period of time in our lives. Painful experiences worth sharing.

When I married my husband, I had no idea what it meant to become a part of the “law enforcement family.” I was aware that there would be holiday craziness on those days he had to work, but beyond that? I didn’t get it.

We got married. I changed my name. But so much more changed. And of course, marriage is an adjustment. And without trying to sound over the top, marriage in the world of first responders is an even bigger adjustment.

There is a reason they call themselves a family. They get each other. They understand the stress and the expectations. They rely upon each other day in and day out, for camaraderie and for safety. They will always have each other’s backs. Like family.

It’s difficult to describe or explain a dynamic like that. They are knit together by a thin, often blue, line. A line invisible to those who don’t walk it everyday. A line that becomes increasingly recognizable in the course of every day life with a first responder.

Case in point, there have been nights, dinner is minutes away from ready, the kids have worn mommy’s patience down to a mere nub and the phone would ring. Don’t wait to have dinner because of…an accident, a fatal, a shooting, a car chase, or at the hospital with another officer.

You answer the phone and hold your breath until you hear their voice. And then you hold your breath again until you can determine that they are okay. It isn’t the phone calls that are difficult. It’s the stress they create. And stress like that is next to impossible to translate. But it is nothing compared to the stress of death and destruction bombarding every one of your five senses. It’s one thing to see death on TV or in movies. It’s an entirely different thing to see it, smell it, hear it, feel it and even taste it.

After phone calls like that, I would serve dinner and get the kids into the bath. I would pray for David’s safety and my sanity. But all the while, something had been set in motion that I didn’t recognize. An invisible force that had far more power in my home than I could ever have imagined. The past.

Memories are tremendous. They connect us to happier moments and remind us of people and events. They link us to those we love. But their power doesn’t end there. They also hold the potential to forever tie you to tragedy and trauma. To haunt and torment and link you to a past event that is nothing short of horrific.

As a country, we have come a long way in understanding and treating PTSD as it relates to our military. But it would appear to me that we are decades behind in our treatment and recognition of PTSD in our first responders.

So why did I write Distressed?

Two reasons. 1. To authentically show the world of the first responder and those closest to him and 2. To bring awareness to the realities of PTSD as it pertains to first responders.

It is our story in part. But it had to be more than just our story. It has to be bigger than that. Because I know, there are a number of other first responders and their families who are currently suffering in silence.

It has to be about them too.

 


Jan 17 2013

Two Sides

The two faces of theater.

At some point or other, we all experience change. But change wears many masks. Like the two faces of the theatre.

Comedy and tragedy.

There’s the category we call good. Falling in love. Winning the lottery. And then there’s the bad. Sickness. Losing money in the stock market. We grow up believing that the two are juxtaposed to each other. One can cause spontaneous fits of laughter and good cheer. But seldom does the side we call “bad” cause bursts of the giggles.

Comedy and tragedy.

Two sides to the coin we call life. There are good days and there are bad days. And I for one, have learned not to cheat tragedy out of it’s just rewards. When I’m down, I feel it only right to be very much down.

I can remember the stereotype super hero who laughs in the face of danger. So what does it look like to laugh in the face of tragedy? It sounds a bit sacrilegious.

But I have experienced such irreverence. Only a few days ago, my mother-in-law had a stroke. And in the midst of a high-stress, potentially tragic moment, laughter could be heard emanating through the thin veil of her ICU cubicle. And on more than one occasion.

Comedy meets tragedy.

At first I thought it just a coping mechanism. And perhaps that’s part of it. But as I watched and listened, I realized it was deeper than that. A room full of people, who love each other, did what came naturally. The conversation did not change because of the surroundings.

And as the days unfolded, the jokes kept coming. The doctor came in to check and asked my mother-in-law to open her eyes. She had been very groggy and dizzy and didn’t want to. The first time she ignored the request. The second time he asked she responded, “I’m paying a lot of money for this.” And the room broke out in chuckles.

Laugher didn’t change the circumstance. She still had a stroke. But in the last few days I have learned a valuable lesson. The greatest tragedy is the loss of levity. Having a stroke isn’t funny. But the ability to find some small piece of humor in the midst of calamity makes the darkness feel not so oppressive. It’s like taking the reins of a run-away horse.

We cannot control our circumstances but we can control how we respond.

And maybe it comes down to Mary Poppins.

A little bit of sugar  helps the medicine go down. 

 

 

 


Dec 14 2012

Today’s news in Connecticut

Yesterday, I started to write this blog. It was totally different. I was going to take a break. Let you know that I would be back after the holidays.

And then I saw the news today.

That in itself is a miracle. Since I live in the middle of nowhere we have no television. But today was a town day. We stopped for lunch and watched the events in play-back on the television above our table.

Horrific. Nauseating. Overwhelming.

Then, during one of the news clips of various shots of the scene, I saw a uniform. Several in fact.

Another day at work.

And my heart broke again.

They will write their reports. Possibly have a debriefing about the horror they saw. And they will go home. Their wives could possibly have also had a stressful day. Sick children. Broken appliances. The stress of knowing her husband was on scene.

But regardless of what it may look like on the outside. Life does not just go back to normal.

Being married to a law enforcement officer is like being handed a bucket. Every incident and trauma that your spouse witnesses becomes a brick in your bucket. Even if they don’t tell you about it. There is something you can see in their eyes. In the way they hug their children. In the way they bark security measures. What changes them, changes you.

The bucket gets heavier. 

I refuse to use the word burden. It’s not that kind of bucket. But whatever name you give it, it’s presence is unavoidable.

I’ve carried that bucket. In some ways I still do. Life changes us. There is no going back.  But I want to share a secret I’ve learned. A message to the wives of those officers from Connecticut. And to anyone else who carries the bucket.

You love your husband. You gladly carry the bucket. A sign of solidarity. You think you are alone in that. Your friends can’t see the bucket and sometimes your family can’t either.

But you are not alone. 

If nothing else, you have sisters who also stand behind the Thin Blue Line. We see your bucket and we are praying for you and your family. We pray too for the families of those who lost someone, but we don’t forget the one’s called to serve and protect and the one’s who love them.

You are in our prayers. You are in our hearts. We see your bucket.

May our prayers lift your load and may we all look to the day when Peace rules.


Dec 6 2012

Platform 9 and 3/4

“The Sorcerer’s Stone” Platform 9 and 3/4

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” I think that might be one of those chicken versus egg kind of questions. You know, which came first? But in this instance, I believe Oscar is right.

The other night we were watching the first Harry Potter movie (The Sorcerer’s Stone.) I think it’s safe to say that we view art through current circumstances. And in this case, I couldn’t help but feel as though that movie was imitating our life. Or our life is currently imitating that movie? Was it the chicken or the egg?

Anyway, we had grown quite used to living under the stairs. We were accustomed to meeting the expectations put upon us by ourselves and others. We followed the rules. And then something changed. An invitation of sorts.

We accepted the invitation. It meant David retiring and us moving out to the country. We made our way to the train station and stood perplexed at our ticket. There is no Platform nine and three quarters. Now what?

Oh! We run full speed ahead straight at a brick wall! Of course! Why didn’t we think of that?

Leaving behind all that we know, full speed and unlimited internet, the camaraderie of the department, and the security of a schedule, to name a few, has left us running at a brick wall. But we are running. Full speed ahead. Uprooting or making a change of any kind feels like running straight at a brick wall somewhere between platform nine and platform ten and hoping not to splat.

And it isn’t the first time we’ve done this. I remember  when David was diagnosed with PTSD and it felt like we were running straight toward  a brick wall. No idea what was on the other side or even if we would make it to the other side. But we ran. We ran toward help.

We made it through the brick wall and found help. And that helps us believe. It helps us believe that this time, what lies on the other side, is a magical place beyond our wildest dreams.

Reality check. Perhaps we won’t see that this side of heaven but maybe we will find an adventure. At the very least.

Are you running at a brick wall too? What do you hope to find on the other side?


Nov 21 2012

Thanksgiving Memory

“Are you ready?” He smiled at me as I climbed in and he shut the door.

“Uh-huh!” I glanced at him so that he wouldn’t see the terror in my eyes. Calm down! He’s not taking you to jail.

And he pulled the patrol car out of the driveway.

“I’m probably not going to write any tickets today. It’s Thanksgiving.”

My terror turned to disappointment. Reinforcing an underlying belief that I thought myself crazy. Apparently, I felt someone should go to jail. Just not me. A shining humanitarian moment.

“Oh. Okay.” Attempting to mask my neurosis.

He pointed the car toward his beat. That stretch of road that he was assigned to cover for the day. He parked on the shoulder of the freeway. Giving himself a view. And then he started a conversation.

It was challenging to follow. An unfamiliar female voice kept chanting all manner of numbers and letters and random words. She vied for attention but he continued to talk. Zebra and Mary and King. What is she trying to say?

“Um, feel free to stop and listen.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m listening.”

To who? Her or me?

But the conversation continued. My senses were a bit maxed but I tried to hang in there. Nodding where appropriate and still trying to act natural. The profuse sweating of my hands distracted me from the issue of what position to put them in.

“Darn it.” And the conversation stopped. He started the car and pulled out.

Remember Clark Kent? He would duck into a phone booth? (Remember phone booths?) Anyway, he would rip the front of his shirt and in seconds be transformed from journalist to superhero. I’ve seen something similar. David went from normal conversation to police officer in a fraction of a second.

I sat rigid in the passenger seat as he pursued an SUV barreling down the freeway. Lights flashing. An electricity charged the air. The conversation was gone. He was focused. Alert. And I was no longer a companion. I was a spectator.

I watched in amazement at this man I thought I knew. His composure and calm was mind boggling as he confronted the unknown. I became acutely aware of my lack. My lack of knowledge. My lack of authority. My lack of courage.

What would I do if the driver shot him right in front of me? Could I ever marry a man whose job required him to put himself in such a precarious position?

And then an amazing thing happened. I saw it. The razor sharp edge of the thin blue line. Sending him off to work meant endangering a part of my soul. He had my heart.

There would always be a part of him that I could not follow. I could give him my heart but I could never control where he took it. Or the possible dangerous positions he would put it in. That was just going to be part of the deal.

That was over fourteen years ago. (Difficult to believe based on the above photo. That’s not really me by the way and that’s not the really the car. Just in case there is any confusion.) My first and I think only ride along. A lot has changed since then. Children, moving, and now retirement. Oh, and moving out of state. That’s a rather big change. But one thing is the same.

He still has my heart. And on this Thanksgiving, I’m truly thankful.

What are you thankful for?

 

 

 


Nov 15 2012

Back the Badge

 

I’ve written about being a part of the thin blue line. Joining the prestigious family of law enforcement as the spouse of an officer.

In those early years, I learned a great deal. Don’t leave the garage door open all day. Don’t answer the door during the middle of the day. Give my husband some room after work to decompress.

I also learned a few codes. The important ones.

51-50. Crazy person. I felt it was important to learn this one should it ever creep up during an argument. If he was going to call me crazy, I was at least going to know about it.

The other one I learned early on was 11-99. Officer needs help.

But last Saturday, after almost 14 years, I learned something new.

There is strength in numbers.

A fellow law enforcement wife, Rae Johnsen, felt it was time to bring law enforcement wives together and she was right. Spouses from many different law enforcement agencies came together, under one roof. She called us to Back the Badge.

Women came locally, from a hundred miles away and everything in between. A group of strong, independent women who support their law enforcement husbands.

It’s easy to tear a single piece of paper. It’s far more difficult to tear a phone book.

Over a hundred women gathered and put their pages together. We laughed and cried. And an amazing thing happened.

We didn’t stage a coup. Or start a crusade. We didn’t design our own flag. We didn’t talk politics or promotions.

We discovered common ground. 

And I learned I wasn’t alone. I am not the only woman who has learned and is learning to live in the in-between. That place where the stress of the law enforcement life and the isolation of the law enforcement life collide.

On those days when the stress is bearing down and the fear of the unmentionable looms large, all I have to do is remember that day. The smiles, the hugs, the knowing nods. I’m not alone. And even better, I’m not crazy. There are a whole group of women who get me and get a part of my journey.

A group of women who have been taught not to trust others, found each other. And we discovered there is strength in numbers. If you haven’t discovered that feeling yet, you should. And although there isn’t another Back the Badge event scheduled (yet), there are other ways to get connected.

Here are some options to check out:

Back the Badge (on Facebook)

Wives Behind the Badge (www.wivesbehindthebadge.org)

You have your spouse’s back, but maybe someone should have yours.

Have you found strength in numbers?


Oct 25 2012

The “R” Word

There are many words over the course of a lifetime that are monumental.

Marriage.

Children.

Moving.

I’ve done all of those. Some more than once. And true to form, each time was monumental. My life changed forever.

I remember.

Right after I graduated from high school, I chose to live in Central America for nine months. (Long story.)

“You will never be the same.” Several adults said to me before I left. They would look beyond me. A far off expression in their eyes. Like they could see into my future. Or maybe they were looking into their past. Either way, it creeped me out a little and I grew tired of hearing it.

I remember.

I resigned myself to a smile and nod in response. What does one say to that? It sounded more like a sentencing of sorts than “Bon voyage and God-speed.” I dismissed it. (Eighteen year olds are extremely gifted in that regard.)

And I left. Nine months later, I came home. A different person. A gestational period of change. I grew up, slightly. I burnt rice, horribly. I gained weight, understandably. And I changed, unavoidably.

I could not be the same. Or at least, I could no longer view the world the way I had before. I lived with children who suffered from Malaria and gun-shot wounds. Men and women in their thirties who looked twice their age. The ravages of survival etched in the many lines on their faces.

I remember.

That was a long time ago. I’ve married, had children, moved. More people are added to my world. A spouse, a child, a neighbor.

And each time, I’m changed.

I remember.

And now? Now, we are on the verge of another monumental word.

Retirement.

My husband is ending a career in law enforcement. We are moving. Saying good-bye. Bon voyage. And I have to remember the past to gain the strength to look toward the future.

Today especially has been stressful. So many unknowns. Will everything work out with the house? Will it close escrow in time? Can I survive living forty minutes from Starbucks? What will our lives look like?

Unanswerable questions that swirl around in my mind like a storm, attempting to destroy whatever it touches.

So, I remember. Monumental has come and gone. I’m still standing. And not alone. A spouse, children, friends, neighbors, colleagues. Familiar faces cross my mind and touch my heart.

I’ll never be the same.

And I remember.