Dear Catie, A Happy Self.

When I woke up this morning at 9:00am, I didn’t really have a ‘plan.’ I knew I was off, I knew I wouldn’t have Elijah until tomorrow, and that I had just me, myself, and I for the next 24 hours. It’s a Thursday, but it’s also New Years Day. Is anything open? I bet not, but I bet the movie theater is. For some reason, they’re always open and it kind of makes me feel bad for the workers, but not bad enough that I didn’t get my ass up for the matinee showing of Wild (Starring Reese Witherspoon) at 10:40am.

So in I walk to the theater, having no idea what this movie is about – not even a trailer of it. Someone I loosely know knew of my situation (‘divorced’) and thought to tell me to go see it, with urgency. They were not mistaken in this suggestion. This is my first text after seeing it, to my mother:

It’s about a woman who’s had it all and lost it all and made a lot of mistakes and so she goes on a journey for herself to find the woman her mother always wanted for her (to be her Happy Self). It was just really therapeutic. I thought to myself, “Maybe I should go on a little thing, too.” And then I realized, “I already am.”

It just gives me hope that this isn’t for nothing and I will come out of it all a Happy Self.

It’s true. I really am already on my own adventure. I live by myself (sometimes with Elijah) in a new city I’ve never lived in that is much bigger than the suburbia I grew up in and the small towns I visited. The dynamic of people, their mannerisms, everything is different. At the mall, once the movie was over, I realized that sitting on the bench drinking my smoothie – no one noticed me. No one spoke to me, no one saw me — I wouldn’t even have to go on a hike across the PCT to feel solitude. Life was happening all around me – yet separate from me.

I am not writing this as a depression piece — I actually find this very beautiful. The idea that I can sit in a populated area and simply be beside myself while having the opportunity to reach out and speak to anyone I wanted, it was like a super power.

A lot of my country-living family and relatives have asked me how I can do it, and that all the sirens and noise of the highway must drive me insane. When I began to speak of the ritual at night time when I turn all of the lights out and lay on my bed, stare up at my ceiling and the noise just… enters. Cars on the highway. People in their apartments (speaking softly). The occasional, nightly sirens going off. It’s all a symphony of hyperactive life all around. You will find each of these things – though maybe isolated – in the country. They won’t be as often, and the country leaves a lot of quiet – too much quiet for me. Too much silence for my thoughts to invade where they shouldn’t and cause problems that never were.

But here? Here, it is a symphony. It is music inside of earbuds taped to my head as I drift off to sleep. I am at such peace, yet I am still able to think – and better yet, control where my thoughts linger. I am able to contemplate the last year of my life, where it ‘all went wrong, and then take a deep breath as I release the burden to the sky.

Every day that I am off, I have ventured in to the city – to a location I’ve never been. I’ve been to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant or two, a privately owned pharmacy, a coin-laundromat on the other side of town, and even walked a mall I’ve never taken time to bother with. Every day, I put myself out there without going farther than 10 miles from my new home. There’s people of all walks of life here, and I finally feel like I can belong in such a new place without everyone staring at me like I am the new girl. I’m not the new girl in town anymore. I’m the new girl in the city – and that’s exciting. I can walk around with the utmost confidence because no one knows me, no one can snoop up who my family is off a whim of asking ‘granny down the street who’s kin I belong to’ or any of the more ‘comfortable’ details of living in a small town.

And I know this won’t last forever. I know, someday I will find someone up to my level who will sway me to move elsewhere – whether it’s in Texas or not – and my single-living-apartment-adventure will end..

But it’s not about the start or finish. It’s about the journey. It always has been. I have been so focused, the last half year, on reaching the finish line of my grief. I gave up a life I had – a beautiful life that I had with a beautiful family. You will be hard pressed to find more decent and considerate folks than Mr. Donald Dyer and Mrs. Debbie Dyer, my ex-husband’s parents. I will be hard pressed to find a more compassionate man than Matthew was – and remains to be. I am so blessed to call him co-parent to my child, Elijah. That young boy will want for nothing.

As the holidays came upon us, I look on it now like it was all a blur, though at the time it was very much not. Thanksgiving came like a slap to the face. My birthday arrived a week later with news of needing to pack everything up immediately and find a place to live, my dad having hardship that aided this, and then being single for my birthday for the first time in.. at least a decade. Then three weeks blew by as I packed, searched, found, scavenged for the money, and then moved in three days before Christmas. I didn’t even have a tree, let alone the amount of presents I wanted for Elijah – but we’re doing fine. He made out like a bandit. But I was single, once more, for the third anniversary of celebration in a row within a month. Thanksgiving. My birthday. Christmas.

It was a lot of grief, a lot of pain they don’t tell you about. I remember texting my mother the day of Christmas, prepared to beg that I stay home because it was all too much. But instead, I decided it was time to get out of bed. It was time to go see my family – because that’s what it is about and I lost sight of that. I went and had the best time at my stepfather’s parents’ house with the whole family, eating, laughing, playing games. My sister, her best friend, and I went to the movies for a double feature and I didn’t get home until the early morning next day.

I feel like I was prepared for New Years Ever, and then Day. I had made it through the past month with my head above water, and a strong mind. Crying is alright, and grief is a place I went for the holidays, but the important thing to remember is not to live there. This, too, shall pass.

New Years Eve was a blast. New Years Day was a revelation, not because of the first day of a new year but because of the events that happened on it.

It’s time to stop grieving.

It’s time to let it go.

It’s time to be a Happy Me.

Dear Catie, My grandfather’s miracle.

This is a conversation I had with my grandfather to the best of my memory. The conversation happened a couple of months ago.

So by miracle, I mean once in a lifetime, unbelievable opportunity.

My grandpa was in the Navy and doesn’t EVER talk about what happened during his time because it was during Vietnam and that shit was cray cray and very shady. And he’s not proud of Vietnam, but also he’s not allowed to say anything, right? Well, unlike my father, he’s very sentimental. He loves us all (he has 3 daughters, 8 granddaughters myself included, and Eli.) He is surrounded by women in the family because until Eli that’s all we had. Men were only married in, So he’s not hardened or anything. But anytime Vietnam is mentioned, you can just tell by the way he slowly excuses himself from the room that it’s a no-touch topic.

Well. You know what is normally known as Thanksgiving for most Americans, and they all get together with their family and eat Lunch or Dinner? Well, my family does that every Sunday.

So, One Sunday a few months ago, my grandpa pulls me aside. He knows I’m the one who enjoys history while my other cousins are all about other girly things. He pulls me aside to tell me a story, which I just engross myself in because (in a way, I think) I am his favorite in these times, and I want him to know that. And he begins to speak:

“You know I was in the Navy, right?” Submarines?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, this stays between you, myself, and your grandmother.”

“Do you know what a Navy Seal is?”

“Kind of. They’re the super bad ass of Navy? All secretive and special rank?”

“More or less. You hear about them today because news is hard to keep secret. But back then, it was very much honored to keep secrets. Vietnam wouldn’t fly today.”

“Okay.”

“Well, one time, we had this mission to coast the area around Vietnam – I can’t tell you where, I”m sorry – and we just had to keep an eye on things. We were stationed there for so long, and it was dangerous because if we were detected.. Well.”

I nod.

“And since we were stationed in the area, we got orders to play hostess to 8 Navy Seals who were going to go on an operation nearby.”

I nod.

“We housed them for about three days. During this time, we weren’t allowed to talk to them, bother them, and most of us never saw their faces. Better not to know. Three days later, and we were asked to get them closer to the surface, towards the beach for their mission.”

“So we do, and they depart, and we go back to our section with orders to return when the time is ready and pick them up at the rendezvous point. When it was time, we went to pick them up – but something had gone wrong.”

“They were slaughtered on their way out, but still, they were us – they were American, so our active leader told us to search – long and hard – for ANY survivors of the 8.”

“We didn’t find any bodies but one of the 8, and he was face up in the water, but not moving, seemingly dead. We pulled him up, medical attention saw him immediately and we went back under to hiding.”

“Within the next few days, we met up to transport him to safety elsewhere, and by that time, we had learned her DID survive, and was conscious but not talking. By the Grace of God, I saw his face when he was being moved and I reached out and I touched his hand. I don’t know why, I just figured if it were me, and I”m in a lonely career where I just lost my other 7, I’d want to know there was a reason to stay.”
“And that was the last I saw of him.”

It’s at this point, that I assume that is the end of the tale, but he begins again, shaking.

“Now..That was decades ago, Miranda.”

“But just the other day, I was up in Denison getting my car serviced, and I”ve been going to the dealership up there for the services for years upon years, so I know the Director, and we were conversing.”

“In comes a man who’s in the same boat as me. Known the Director for years, old like I am, and you know me, I’ve never met a stranger, so we hit it off.”

“We get on to the topic of our service history in the military – both Navy.”

“We can’t give too much detail, but we skirt around it, and I am the member of the Navy. And he is the Seal.”

“And when we realized it..”

“How we are such small players in a huge world where he could have been anywhere – or as he put it – that day he could have died..”

“And we didn’t even know each other’s names, or anything about their location..”

“.. And here he was, and when we realized the connection, we never cried so hard.”

“He hugged me, shook my hand, and thanked me. Said he wouldn’t be here if not for me.”

So, by this point, I’m crying and stunned. And he pats my shoulder, and says, “If that’s not evidence of the miracles in this world, I don’t know what is.”

Just. Wow.

-Mojo