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M is for Maizy

 

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The Daily Prompt: Take a Chance on Me

What’s the biggest chance you ever took? Did it work out? Do tell!

I was sitting in my cubicle on an unspectacular day preparing to write an email to a co-worker. Her name started with the letter M, so I typed M into the search bar on my e-mail interface and the first name that popped up was Maizy Faithfull. I hadn’t thought of that name in a couple of years. I remembered she was kind and that I broke things off with her after a very short time.

I was in the middle of a “conscious uncoupling” with my girlfriend at the time. The level of insanity that my previous relationship reached was epic in its proportions, and I wasn’t sure the timing was right to dive into another relationship right away. I needed to be unattached, and for two years that is exactly what I did. I detached myself from reality.

Each morning getting up and riding the bus to work, suffering through the 8 hour day until the next time I could plop down on my couch, click on the giant TV and immerse myself in a virtual world of cynicism and death. I guess I was making up for all the times I couldn’t afford the newest and latest thing. I was more interested in advancing my Gamerscore on Xbox live then I was on advancing in my career. I was lonely, guilty, slovenly, drunk all the time, sick all the time, the hangovers were lasting for days instead of hours. I thought I was happy but looking back I realize now that I was the most miserable I had ever been.

I thought to myself that I should go ahead and write her a little note. We seemed to hit it off when we dated briefly a couple of years earlier. I was intrigued by the possibility of re-connecting with her. So I typed up a quick note, and I took the chance and hit send. I thought she might get really offended or just ignore me. I figured if that was the worst thing that could happen by sending that email, then I was willing to take the chance that she might like me enough to give me another chance.

I had my own place, a stable government job, and I was single. I was single just long enough to come to the realization that I might be single for the rest of my life. I didn’t see myself as dating material. I was caught up in that tangled web of low self-esteem, constantly preoccupied with what I imagined that everyone else must think of me. I didn’t have the courage to actively pursue a woman in public, and to be honest, I was wary of getting seriously involved with any other woman for the rest of my life.

In the two years prior to Maizy coming back into my life, I had two blind dates, and two really weird and awkward one-night stands, none of which were related. I remember both blind dates were awful. I just wasn’t ready. It wasn’t their fault. I just would get out on the dates and they would start asking me all the questions. What do you do? Why don’t you have your license? Why don’t you look at me when you talk?

I was just too socially awkward. Who in their right mind would want to sign on for that? Who would willingly date a cross-eyed guy with no car and a customer service job in a phone center? I don’t have the good looks to make up for those deficiencies. I went into those dates already defeated and that’s why they didn’t work out.

It takes a very understanding person to date someone with a physical deformity. That is a huge initial obstacle to overcome. Casual dating doesn’t work for me. It has to be a happy accident. I don’t have any official numbers to back this up, but I’m willing to bet that there are more people who would rather choose a mate with two straight eyes then one that was cross-eyed. So I live with this self-imposed stigma that being cross-eyed somehow makes me less of a human and therefore undeserving of true love.

Meeting Maizy for the second time really turned my life around. After several weeks of sending emails and chatting over the phone she invited me to her loft for dinner. I remember riding the train across town during rush hour, enjoying the warm sun through the window, savoring the last brief moment of relaxation before I would finally come to face to face with the girl I had been talking to for days. I arrived at Union Station and couldn’t find her anywhere. I walked the terminal twice before giving up and heading back to the train feeling dejected.

Just as I was opening the door to leave, there she was. She looked wonderful, and held my gaze with her eyes. She gave me a hug and held my hand on the walk back to her place. She put me instantly at ease, and I didn’t get that feeling of judgment from her. She was just a beautiful, kind and caring gal that was just my age and mutually single.

Typing that M on the keyboard changed everything. We made a life together. She was a recent cancer survivor and she told me so that first night. She just got a dog the day before. He ate my glasses while I was there. I mean literally ate them, chewed the lenses in right in half. I didn’t even know that was possible.

That night was 6 years ago this July. Once we started dating we barely ever left each other’s side. Now we share a home and a family. Our daughter Penelope was born on April 16th, 2010. She just turned four years old. I left my job and stayed home to raise our daughter. I started college to pursue a degree in journalism.

Pushing the M that morning was the best thing I could have ever done to myself. It changed my entire outlook on life. I found a woman who encourages me to follow my dreams, who supports me and accepts me for who I am.  I don’t feel like less of a person when I’m around Maizy. I feel like I “have just as much of a right to be here as anyone else”, which is something that she patiently repeats to me every time I get worried about holding up traffic or taking up someone’s time.

Maybe e-mailing Maizy wasn’t the biggest chance I ever took, but it is the one decision I made in a time of really bone-headed decision making on my part that has brought me to this point. It’s the one choice that paid off and trumped all the other choices. In that 6 year time span I quit smoking, quit drinking, drastically altered my career path, and fathered a beautiful baby girl. I gained an inordinate amount of courage, confidence, and self-esteem at the urging of my strong, self-assured, beautiful, wonderful girlfriend. She reminded me it’s okay to follow your dreams when everybody else was telling me to “stay the course,” even though they knew I was miserable. It seems like everything I do since I’ve met Maizy has involved me stepping out of my comfort zone in order to achieve the next level of self-improvement that I aspire to. It’s hard to look at someone who beat cancer twice and tell them that you don’t have it in you to try a little harder.

Maizy inspires me with her strength and reminds to be compassionate. She isn’t content to just sit around and wait for life to pass her by. She wants to live and so do I. Meeting Maizy and falling in love with her made me want to be a better man. That is why I’m glad I went ahead and hit send on that e-mail. You never know what little thing will change your life completely.

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Fly Like An Eagle: Steve Miller Band

Whenever I hear that song I am instantly transported to the back of my Amtrak in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Just before midnight on February 27, 1995 I was part of an amphibious landing that consisted of 1,800 U.S. Marines and 350 Italian Marines. Our job was to secure the airport as well as the seaport.

I pulled duty in the ship store and was able to buy an old ghetto blaster at a discount rate. I just wanted to create a little levity so I popped in the Steve Miller Band cassette and we all let the music relax us before we hit the beach and our mission began.

When Fly Like An Eagle comes on, I remember the distinct smell that wafted into our vehicles as we approached the shore. Someone said it was the smell of dead bodies in shallow graves. I can feel the sting of the salt water and the taste of it on my lips. The smell of diesel fuel and the roar of a 903 cubic inch Cummins Turbo Diesel. At full throttle it’s more of a high pitched whine then a roar.

I remember thinking at that moment that I would never forget that song. It was like something straight out of a Hollywood movie. I guess that is fitting, as most of us were Hollywood Marines out of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. We were stationed at Camp Pendleton in Southern California. Isn’t that how most civilians view Marines heading into battle? Blasting The Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” or Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries?”

I happened to be the rear crewman for this operation. I’m glad I played that cassette on that midnight ride to the eastern shores of Africa. A little something to remind us where we came from. A little something to lighten the mood and relax the nerves.

“Feed the babies
Who don’t have enough to eat
Shoe the children
With no shoes on their feet
House the people
Livin’ in the street
Oh, oh, there’s a solution

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I’m free
Fly through the revolution”

Operation United Shield’s objective was to safely “assist in the final withdrawal of United Nations peacekeeping troops from Somalia.” These peacekeeping forces were there to try and assist in providing humanitarian efforts. By 1994 the United Nations decided that the situation In Somalia had become to dangerous to stay any longer. We went there to assist them in withdrawing.

The children in Somalia fit the description of those lyrics. They were starved, poor and mistreated. Many of the children carried weapons. I didn’t think about the lyrics when I popped in the cassette, it was just a lucky coincidence that it happened to be this particular song.

Another odd coincidence: Today is the 19 year anniversary of the completion of the successful and final withdrawal of U.N. Forces in Somalia.

My platoon was among the very last off the beach on this day in 1995. The song will always be my soundtrack for this memory. There was a large firefight that night and I ended up on a different ship than I embarked from three days earlier.

Some of the men I served with say that hundreds of Somalians died that night. I honestly don’t remember that. I often wonder to myself if that is something that I saw and blocked out subconsciously or if it was just so dark and hectic that I literally just didn’t see it happening.

The song conjures up all the old memories, the highlights of my life so far. The saddest part is, Somalia isn’t any better now then it was then. Operation United Shield was a success but the United Nations goals of achieving enough stability on the region to administer humanitarian aid was a failure. They won’t let us feed the children.

That’s what I think about when I hear this song.

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Daily Prompt: Always Something There to Remind Me

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Life

When I look in the mirror…

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When I look in the mirror, the voice in my head and my conscience, we don’t recognize ourselves. The physical being is not what I imagine on my mind. The lines around the eyes, the receding hairline, big bushy eyebrows partially obscuring my vision, they all seem foreign to me. I don’t recognize myself.

In my heart I feel strong, vibrant, fun loving and intelligent. The face in the mirror looking back at me tells a different story. I see worry, the harshness of the elements, the little imperfections.

The gray hairs in my beard, the eye condition, my nose is slightly crooked and actually quite large. I see love handles and man boobs and I search for just one small glimpse of something positive I can hold onto. I rarely find it.

The reality is, I love myself but I can’t stand that reflection in the mirror. The fantastic image of self in my mind’s eye is ruined daily by the harsh reality staring back at me in the mirror. I am humbled each day, then I go about this existence that I occupy with love and compassion for those that need it just as much if not more than myself.

I’m always looking for your flaws so I can humanize you. I want to be able to relate to you as a fellow human being.

That’s why I’m taking your picture.

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