Monday, May 9, 2011

Dirty Laundry

I have a very vivid memory of being chewed out by my mother.  I was about 9 or 10 in the bathroom at our church, and I was getting yelled at for (in my opinion) being a talker.  Apparently, I had told someone way too much about our family and my mother, being the good Southern woman that she is, informed me, "We don't air our dirty laundry in public."  Well, Mama's not going to be happy about this.

It's laundry day in my house and between rinse cycles I started pondering about people and our dirty laundry.  Can't you always tell just by looking at someone when it's laundry day by the mismatched and ratty clothes paired with a sheepish look on their face?  Now, can't you also tell just by looking at someone when they have a lot of dirty laundry that just needs to be aired?  Yet, we're told all of our lives don't do it.  Don't you dare tell all your secrets.  My question is, why not?

Turn on a television these days and all you see are people opening up their closets to let the skeletons roam free.  Our obsession with reality TV and the fact that Maury is still on the air testifies that we want to know what's lurking in all the laundry baskets.  People even pay thousands of dollars to therapists every year hoping that by resurrecting the ghosts of the past with a perfect stranger they will be cured, and aren't they even if it's just a little bit?  I must admit, letting someone see all your filth can be incredibly freeing, like the proverbial weight has been lifted off of your shoulders.  So why did Mama tell me not to?  Was she afraid that by exposing myself I would somehow also expose her?  My secrets are not hers to tell, nor are hers mine, and I would never betray my mother in such a way.  However, by always piling up my dirty laundry I think I've struggled more till I've almost become consumed.  Maybe it's time for me to crack open my closet and let just a few skeletons out and this seems to be a good format to do so.

DISCLAIMER:  To my family, this story is mine alone and I apologize now if you get upset by my telling of it.  I love you all, and it's not my intention to hurt you.

I have recently embarked on a weight loss journey for about the millionth time in my life, and I've been questioning the roots of my struggle.  Where in my life did things get out of hand?  I realize that I always had food addiction issues, but was there a certain point when I gave in to the demons?  In my opinion, there are many fingers of blame, but I do point a lot of them at myself.  Yes, people could have told me "no" a lot more when I reached for the fork, but I was the one reaching for it, wasn't I?  But what about the comfort eating as it's so affectionately called?  What am I comforting myself from, and where did it start?  When I pose those questions to myself, the skeletons start to rattle and the dirty laundry really starts to stink.

Deep breath.

I was twelve, a little chunky and fully immersed in the awkward stage of my per-teen life.  That didn't stop me from being completely boy crazy, however.  I swear, back then I developed a crush on any boy who smiled in my general direction.  There was a cute boy my age that I was friends with in the youth group at church.  Let's just call him "J".  One night after Wednesday evening service we were playing hide and seek with a few other kids.  A kid came up to me to tell me that "J" wanted to talk to me in one of the back classrooms.  I entered the dark room not thinking anything out of the ordinary till the door slammed shut behind me.  I pulled on it to no avail.  "J" was waiting for me, and I immediately started asking him what was going on.  He said he just wanted to talk but before I knew it, he wrapped his arms tightly around me from behind.  I started struggling and he was grabbing me in places I wasn't prepared to be grabbed at that age.  He kept saying he just wanted to kiss me, but cute or not, I wasn't having it.  I managed to get loose and ran to the door, hollering to be let out.  Thankfully the door opened, and that's when I found out that another boy I had been good friends with had been guarding the door and holding it closed.

I'm incredibly thankful to this day that what happened to me didn't go any further than it did.  I know a lot of people weren't as lucky as me.  I did tell my parents and they had a nice talkin'-to with "J" and his father and I never saw them again.  After the dust settled though, I had bruises all over my arms for 2 weeks and bruises that still hurt me to this day.  The worst part is that I felt guilty.  I hated that "J" got in trouble and that they switched churches.  I still don't know why but that part has affected me the most. 

Now where does the weight come in?  After the incident, I went from being just a little bit chunky to nearly 200 lbs by the time I graduated high school.  I feel that I used my weight as a shield.  I thought that by keeping myself fat, boys wouldn't want me.  Don't get me wrong, I still liked boys but I couldn't trust them.  I had one boyfriend in high school that I dated because he was popular, but when things got serious I purposefully sabotaged it.  I went further with boys than I really wanted, telling myself that if I just gave them what they wanted they would leave me alone.  Let me say though, that I never gave them everything.  Even in my shame, I kept my virginity.  That sounds so oxymoronical (pretty sure I just made up a word) but it's true and as strange as it sounds, I held pride in that fact.

This destructive pattern continued pretty much to the day that I met my husband.  I'm happily married now to a man that I trust with all of my dirty laundry and I feel like it's time to finally release my "shield".  I hope and pray that by finally opening up I can help myself and help others and be rid of my demons for good.  Don't they always say that the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem?  Do I think this will cure me completely?  Absolutely not, but hopefully recognizing what I'm comforting myself from will keep me from reaching for the Ben and Jerry's as often.  I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Northern Exposure

Hubs and I are both incredibly proud to be born and raised Texans.  The love we feel for our home state is very real and very deep.  We love the heat, the smells, the countrysides, the flavors, foods, music, well this list could go on for awhile.  I myself couldn't ever see leaving Dallas, let alone my beloved Texas.  So you can imagine my surprise when our very first duty station ended up being as far away from home as possible.

I had been talking to my now husband for about two weeks when he graduated Airborne training and called to tell me that he got his orders.


I laughed for a good solid minute before I sweetly told him, "Well you have fun with that one!  Maybe I'll come visit, you know, in the summer."

Fast forward ten months later to me at the Dallas airport, newly married, crying and hugging my parents goodbye as I prepared to board the plane that would whisk me away to my new future with my husband in the Last Frontier.  

It was 65 degrees at 6am when I left Texas, and when I landed in Anchorage, Alaska in the middle of the afternoon, the temperature was a whopping 2.  Hubs met me at the airport with not one but two jackets, a toboggan hat, and a pair of the thickest gloves I had ever seen in my life.  I literally waddled out to our truck.  Throughout the ride to our new apartment, I stared in awe at my surroundings.

"How are these people driving so fast???  Don't they see the ice on the highway???" I screeched, gripping the door handle.  I mean, everyone knows that cities shut down when there's ice on the roads, don't they?  Hubs just laughed and cautioned me not to look at his speedometer.  I blanched when I saw that we were cruising along the icy roads at a good 70mph pace.  When we stopped at a light, I studied the snow drifts that stood taller than our F-150 and had to admit to myself that I had never before seen real snow in my life until that very moment.

Looking back now, I'm pretty proud of how I handled those first few months in Alaska.  I had to fight hard against my good Southern girl instincts that told me to just lock myself up in the nice, warm apartment until the snow melted.  Heck, within a month I was actually (gasp!) driving on icy roads.  I learned how to dress like an Alaskan (wear lots of light layers and stiletto boots are not practical footwear), speak like an Alaskan (snow mobiles are actually snow machines), and even defend myself from Alaskan wildlife (apparently peeing your pants then running is not the proper way to react to a bear).  I must say though that my favorite Alaskan lesson is that "Sorry, there was a moose!" is actually a legitimate excuse for being late to work.

I spent 2 1/2 years in the frozen tundra, including a year long deployment (my mother now thinks I'm the toughest woman on earth for spending a year in Alaska alone) before the Army decided we'd done our penance and moved us back to warmer climates.  When people find out that I lived there they always ask the same thing, "How did you do it?".  My stock answer is that I think I handled it so well because I always knew it was temporary, but the truth is that I loved nearly every minute of it.  I loved waking up to see enormous mountains right outside my bedroom window.  I loved having to carry a camera everywhere because I never knew when a bear or a moose would come strolling by.  Most of all, I loved the simplicity and the beauty like when you see a humpback whale jumping out of the water or a bald eagle soar by your head or touch a glacier and time seems to stand still for you in that moment.

The day we drove away from Anchorage, Alaska I told Hubs I had a feeling that it wouldn't be the last time we ever saw that place.  I'm sure that the Army will choose to send us back one day and this time we'll be better equipped to handle it.  I just pray that they let us thaw out a little more first.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Good Things Can Happen After 2AM

It was 3am when I got the phone call that changed my life forever. 

I was 26, living with my folks, working in a bank, dating a guy my friends hated, and driving home from a friend's house.  I answered the phone call from a great guy friend who I hadn't spoken to much lately since he'd started seeing his new girlfriend.  

"I met the perfect guy for you."

I immediately replied, "No thanks."  Let me explain.  This had become a fairly common occurrence at the time with all of my friends.  Every single one of them thought that I needed to get away from the guy I'd been dating (more off than on) for about a year.  And absolutely every single one of them knew "the perfect guy".  
"Just let me tell you about him before you decide, Laurie," he said.  "Trust me."

"Okay, what's the sales pitch?"

"He's a cowboy who drinks, smokes, and loves karaoke."

I'll admit I was intrigued, but those three things also described a hundred other guys that I had met over the years.  It was when my friend said "Oh, and he's in the Army" that he officially lost me.

"No way.  I don't date military guys!!"  

You know, they always say if you want to hear God laugh, just tell him your plans, and I swear, I can still hear God laughing at those damning words.  The next day, I had a friend request on MySpace from the Army boy named Robert.  He was fresh out of Basics/AIT and had just arrived at Fort Benning for jump school.  We exchanged a few emails which of course led to a few phone calls and two and a half weeks later I finally had my last first kiss. 

Now, who says good things never happen after 2am?