Coming to terms with it all

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while.  In all honesty, probably even before starting to write for the blog.  How to write it, what exactly to say, and doing it with honesty and vulnerability.  I’ve written a lot here that is bare bones honest and maybe overly direct.  I’ve talked about my diagnosis, my first sexual experiences, my counseling and therapy, and even my time in the military.  If you’ve purchased Courageous products from me, you’ve seen this blurb: “On that day, {the day of my diagnosis} my world quietly shattered.  My hopes, my dreams, my plans, everything I thought I would or could do with my life…shattered.  Yet, somehow my life continued.  As I look back on my young life, the things I did and didn’t do…I look back at a young woman who learned to be Courageous.”

I work to spread the message that you WILL get through this.  You WILL grow and you WILL find the inner strength you need to also be Courageous.  I also work to ensure that every young woman who is diagnosed with MRKH never has to feel the utter isolation I felt for over 25 years.  I never met another woman with MRKH until an evening in August 2014 when I met and had dinner with 2 MRKH sisters.  I’ve since had many more occasions to get together with MRKH sisters; time to bond and share stories, but to share hope and to heal as well.  I do believe it’s a necessary part of the healing process: to meet someone who has the same thing as you do, to remove the isolation and to talk with someone who totally gets it!

But for 25 years, I essentially walked this path on my own.  I knew what I had, I knew what it was called, and I knew what it kept me from doing.  I didn’t have trusted girlfriends and sisters that I could ask awkward questions to.  I had to vaguely explain to acquaintances that no, we don’t have children, I was born without a uterus.  Family and close friends knew some of my struggles and the inner fear and sorrow I felt, but most did not.  I’m a pretty private person about most things.  I sit on the fringes and watch rather than participate fully in picnics and parties.  I can’t relate to most women my age because I don’t have children or grandchildren of my own – both because I hold myself back…but also because they unwittingly say “oh, how would you know, you’ve never raised a child!” That comment in particular hurts me, because there have been many times in my life where I’ve wanted a child of my own so badly I cry and scream and shout at the unfairness of it all.

Through many therapy sessions, and over 100 pages of journaling for answers I began to notice a pattern.  Times when I was distraught, angry, grieving, and the paths I took in those times to find some peace.  Some were destructive paths that I’m not proud to have traveled – but travel them I did.  Over time it became clear that I got the most peace and comfort when I spent more time on my relationship with God.  Please, don’t run for the hills because I’m bringing up religion.  Give me a chance to explain.

I was raised in the early 70s by two loving hardworking parents.  My dad worked in the shipyards of Seattle – blue collar union jobs.  It wasn’t glamorous, and he got laid off a few times.  We had a beat up, run-down farm house.  The roof leaked, the floor creaked, it had character…and it had love.  My mom stayed home and managed our little farm and raised “us kids”.  We had dairy goats, a garden, she baked bread and cookies, and we had chickens, pigs, and raised cows for beef every year.  She did everything to give us the best she could on a very fixed income – we even received food baskets a few times.  We said Grace before dinner for the holidays, but we didn’t go to church – it just wasn’t important to them.

As a little girl, I went to Sunday School and/or church with different friends in the neighborhood sometimes, and a few times with my Grandma.  With Kathy, we sat near the front of the church and I was fascinated by the organ and watching her feet when she played.  I was part of the Christmas pageant that year and we learned to sing the alphabet backwards.  I still can!  With Tina and Lori, we went to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School in the summer.  One year we got invited to participate in AWANA.  It was a group meeting in the evenings, and we played games and learned bible stories and we learned to pray and ask Jesus to forgive our sins.  It was at an AWANA meeting that I asked Jesus to be my savior and accepted him into my heart.  I asked my parents for a bible, and they bought me one.  When I asked them why we didn’t go to church, my mom told me that she believed that you don’t have to go to church to believe and to pray and ask God for forgiveness and help when you need it.  She said you just have to close your eyes and believe.  I took it at face value, and used it as my model to follow as I grew up.  I went to church with my friends when I could, but I mostly just believed that God was there if I needed him.

Fast forward to me as a late teen, getting diagnosed with MRKH, graduating high school, and planning a wedding.  My fiance was raised Catholic – I didn’t know what that meant really, just that it was one of the Christian denominations, but he wasn’t a practicing Catholic, wasn’t a member of any church or anything.  So the whole “where are we going to get married?” question came up.  My grandparents had attended a Unity church in Seattle, but now they had moved, so we looked at the Unity churches north of Seattle.  My grandma made a connection with a Unity pastor she knew and asked her if she would marry us.  We also got in touch with the Unity church in Everett.  And so that’s what happened…we had a place and a preacher…problem solved.  But I really liked that pretty little church on the corner, and so we started attending services.  I was an adult now (in my mind anyway!), and with my new found adult freedom and these really friendly people in the church office, it felt right to attend.  Unity is a Christian based non-denominational church.  We sang hymns, we read scripture, we prayed, and we drank coffee and ate cookies.  But Unity’s focus is leaning a bit on the side of metaphysical, inner peace, spirituality, connection with the world as a whole, and less on the ritualistic side of religion.  Each sermon ended with some guided meditative prayer and visualization to promote peace.  It worked well for me.  It wasn’t scripture being shoved down my throat, but it afforded me an opportunity to foster a connection with faith and like minded people.  When I joined the Army I kept in touch with my pastor for several months, and again it gave me the strength and peace I needed in a time of great stress and transition.

In Colorado, once I was settled into a routine with the Army, I started looking for a church home.  I found a couple of Unity churches in the yellow pages, found out their worship times and packed myself off to church on Sunday morning.  The first one I went to was a bit shocking.  I kind of felt like Forrest Gump in church, with lots of large black women in choir robes and me the only “white chick” in the building.  They welcomed me profusely, but this was way out of my comfort zone, and so I did some more research.  The second Unity church I found was quite a bit further form where I lived, but I felt much more at home there.  I went several times, but the congregation was much larger than my small church “back home” so I struggled to make any connections.  But I went whenever I had the time.  I had a few friends in the Army too, and as so many of us were the same age and same stages of life, we often were doing the same kinds of things and trying to find our niche.  My friend Donna had found a great church that she was LOVING, and she asked me to come with them to service.  While I enjoyed the time with Donna, it was not a church I was comfortable in.  It was one of those mega-churches with several hundred people, pastors with head sets and lots of charisma.  There was no quiet time with solemn connection with the Lord.  It was not for me, and I only went the one time.  And so I just kind of quietly drifted away, feeling a bit like an outsider, but remembering the lessons from my mom and the Unity church that “where ever you are, God is, and always will be.”

The next chapter of my life, I met Jeremy and his family.  His mother’s family was from the Lutheran church, and while they didn’t attend regularly, they were members along with his grandparents.  We said Grace before holiday meals, and when we decided to get married, were married by their friend and Lutheran Pastor Darlene.  I was content in my life and my relationship with God.  I knew if I needed something, I could (and would) quietly close my eyes and ask for help – aka divine intervention.  It was trivial and superficial, but it was a connection I knew I could fall back on if I needed it.  And so my life continued on – quietly content but without any true religious structure.

Eventually Jeremy and I moved to Idaho, and we started our lives up here.  We met many people over the years, and got a few invitations to attend services with this or that friend.  We never went.  We attended a couple funerals, a couple of weddings, but that was pretty much the only time we spent in churches.  As time went on, and “life happened”, and the seasons of our life started shifting I started struggling more with depression and my overall state of mind.  It affected relationships, decisions, and came to a point when I realized I needed to get back into counseling to try and mediate some of my stress.  This started the ball rolling.  I started to really work at my life and to take a good hard honest look at what I had going on and who was in my life and the rolls they played.  I started journaling at my counselor’s suggestion, and as I’ve said, patterns started to reveal themselves.  It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t without a lot of anger and frustration and pain.  I thought long and hard about my life, my actions, my behaviors, and what I was going to do about it all.  What was I going to change in order to be a better/stronger/healthier person?

It was a long process, but eventually I saw what had been in front of my face for a long time, just waiting for me to notice.  When I had been at my most peaceful were at the times following great strains in my life.  I instinctively knew that when I was at my lowest, I had relied solely on my faith to get me through.  Where ever you are, God is, and always will be.  I of course had to question the obvious, deny it over and over…but then maybe?  Once the thought was planted, and I allowed myself the chance to acknowledge it…things started to make themselves known to me.  How many times did God send me a sign that I didn’t ever really see?  How many times was I nudged a certain direction?  So I really opened my eyes to it….started keeping track.  I looked at the people in my life that had been there for ages, and some that were new.  I started watering that seed….checking on it regularly to see what was growing there….and making adjustments.  I read a lot.  I searched the internet.  I searched my heart.  I started to ask God for some input, and he finally gave me the strength and courage to reach out.  Or maybe he just showed me that I had it all along.  So I called her.  Then I emailed her, and I asked her to walk with me, pray with and for me, and be my rock as I fostered my faith in a more deliberate way.

So we got together, and we talked, and laughed, and cried…and we prayed.  And I went to church.  And she held my hand as I cried and we prayed some more.  Week after week I continued to go to church.  I cried a lot.  I prayed a lot.  It was emotionally draining – but necessary.  I made connections within the church, and bolstered myself as I listened to the sermons and reaffirmed my faith and fostered my relationship with God.  It’s been a couple months now, and I can see and feel a difference in my life.  I am more peaceful, loving, and forgiving.  I still cry some, moved by the humble grace and mercy shown by these beautiful souls that I have chosen to spend my Sunday’s with.  I’ve journaled a lot about my first few weeks attending services, and can recognize that I was finally letting go of some long held grief and sorrow and worries, and by doing so I was overcome with profound relief.  There is freedom in letting go.  There is freedom in trusting a belief in something greater than yourself.  While I have been walking this planet mostly on my own for the better part of 45 years, carrying the burdens of normal life – I’ve also been carrying around a diagnosis that has shaped my life, and at times overpowered my life.  What I try to see clearly now is that I can allow my diagnosis of MRKH to empower me to do bigger and better things.  I can trust in my faith and my relationship with God to ease my worried mind and let him do the heavy lifting.

I know this is long, and I’m wrapping up I promise, I just want to give a shout out to some beautiful women in my life who have inspired me and impacted me and my decision to walk closer to God recently.  My thanks to each of you! xoxo     Janice, Karen, Eileen, Chel, Lisa, Angela, Julie, Diane, Amy, Janine, Erica, Chris, Lindsie, Janet, Debbie, Linda, Carole, Sally, Mary, Crystal, Christina, Judy, Cathy, Phyllis, Carrie, Leslie, Tina, Kristen, Janna, Laura, Denise, Laurie, Barb, Dawn, and probably a million or so others.

 

 

Newton’s Law

Newton’s first law of motion – the law of inertia:  An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Newton’s second law of motion:  The acceleration of an object as produced by a net force is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force, in the same direction as the net force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the object.

Newton’s third law:  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

 

So why exactly am I discussing physics???

Well, because it can be directly and metaphorically related to our own lives.

1st law:  inertia…an object at rest stays at rest, an object in motion stays in motion.  If you do nothing to change the path you are on, you just keep going in the same direction.  It is the inaction that perpetuates the action.

2nd law:  acceleration:  the speed at which you move is directly proportional to the amount of force you put into it.  If you exert more force/energy, the change will happen faster.

3rd law:  for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Think about a high 5 among 2 people.  Each raises their hand in opposing directions, shifts their hands forward to meet, and then rebounds/retracts back from the contact.  If one person uses more force, the other absorbs that impact and must respond with increased force to counterbalance it.

When we look at our lives along a continuum, we see times of inertia, we see times of acceleration, and we see times of adaptation or reactions.  Depending on the amount of effort we put into a task will determine where it falls on our life’s continuum.

OK, back to the matter at hand…or “What the hell are you talking about, Heidi?”  Well, it’s simple really: Your life isn’t going to change until you make an effort to change it.  You will be stuck in inertia until you do something to accelerate change.

I was stuck in a relationship, developing a pattern that unless I took steps to change things, was going to just continue on in that basic state of existing but not really accomplishing anything.  In my last post I talked about desiring change and left you with the line “Thoughts turn to intentions, intentions turn to action, and action compels momentum.”

When I finally decided that I needed to get out of the relationship, and that I had no real future with him, lots of things changed.  I gained confidence knowing the end was in sight.  I still had a warped sense of responsibility – that so much of it was my fault, thus I had this compelling need to ensure that he was “set up” for being without me (self importance, much?).  So I encouraged him again to “get a better job or go home to your dad.”  I made the suggestion to him that maybe he should consider going back into the military – after all an E-4 is an E-4 no matter what job you did in which branch.  I told him that you know, if he joined the army and did all the paperwork, we could probably be stationed together.  It was step one in my acceleration plan: Get him to join, to have a commitment and a job to do that was honorable.

This isn’t one of Newton’s Laws, but you know the saying, everything happens for a reason?  Well, I firmly believe this is true.  I believe that people come into and out of our lives for a reason.  I believe we have experiences that shape us and prepare us for future experiences.  We may not always see the value of the experience in the moment it happens, but looking back, if we remain open minded, we see that we must have these experiences in order to shape our lives.

So the short story is this:  He joined the military and went to training.  He was supposed to fill out spousal accommodation paperwork.  He didn’t.  He got orders for Korea.  He wouldn’t deny the orders or ask for spousal accommodation.  He came back to Colorado for leave, and we couldn’t see eye to eye on anything, we fought constantly, and it was a miserable time.  Bottom line we agreed that it was time to file for divorce.  He took his belongings and went to stay with a friend.  Over the course of about 2 weeks we completed all the necessary paperwork and filed for divorce.  It was inevitable.  I have never seen him face to face since the day we left the courthouse after filing the petition for divorce together (uncontested).  90 days later we would be divorced officially.  He left for Korea a few days later.

Over the next couple of months there was additional paperwork to be filed in order for his personal belongings to be picked up and shipped to his home of record, and other reasons that we needed to speak and coordinate.  I wanted it all to be over, his stuff to be gone, and the chapter to be closed for good.  He hung on, not wanting the relationship to end.  He was away from home and family, stationed in Korea, and called “just because” fairly regularly.  I asked him not to call.  His stuff was gone, the divorce was nearly final, I wanted closure.  I wanted to move on with my life without the constant interruption from him.

I was dating, enjoying my new found freedom in being 21 and unattached.  I had a social life, friends, weekend activities, my life in the Army of course. I was taking college courses and doing as much training as I could to further my career.  And several times a week in the middle of the night usually, my phone would ring.  He would be on the other end of the line.

“Hello?”

“Hi, it’s me”

“What do you want?”

“Nothing really, just wondering how you are.”

“I’m not sure that’s any of your business anymore, especially at 2am”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t think about what time it is.”

“Right, did you need something?”

“Ummm, so my dad said that the shipment arrived last week.”

“and….”

“Well, ummm, I thought you should know.”

“Look, in another week the divorce will be final.  Your stuff is gone.  Your car is sold. We have nothing left to discuss, especially not at 2am.”

“well, ok, I just thought…”

“Well stop.  You need to stop calling me.  It’s over between us.  I just want to move on with my life.”

We had a lot of conversations like that.  Random phone calls in the middle of the night, wondering how I’m doing, if I’m ok.  He just did not get the message that it was OVER.  I had moved on.  I told him repeatedly to stop calling.  Eventually I used the strongest threat I possibly could.  I threatened to call his commanding officer to alert him of my intention to file a restraining order.  Our divorce was final.  Our financial matters were resolved.  His stuff was no longer in my possession. It was over.  If he called me again, no matter the reason I would petition for a restraining order and call his commanding officer.

He never did call me again.  Our divorce was final in September of 1993.  I have talked to him on the phone perhaps 5 times since that day, mostly regarding the fact that he still had me listed as an authorized user on one of his credit card accounts, and it was showing up on my credit report, and his bill collectors were calling ME 15 years later.  I think that I may have seen him in public one time about 5 years after the divorce, but I very quickly turned the opposite direction (in my car) and drove away.  That would be Newton’s 3rd law – for every action (me seeing him) there was an equal and opposite reaction (me turning the other way and driving off).

Thoughts turn to intentions, intentions turn to action, and action compels momentum.

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.

Whenever I’m faced with a dilemma, I often spend a lot of time analyzing, and considering what options I have.  I spend a lot of time thinking about how a particular course of action might play out, what the consequences might be, potential reactions, and how that will affect the next steps.  Once I’ve analyzed to death multiple courses of action, I generally settle on one and move forward.

My life is NOT what I expected it to be when I started my senior year of high school.  Life threw me a few curve balls along the way, but after many deliberations, choices, missteps, do-overs, and triumphs…I am content with my life and the continued path my life is on.  I will continue to improvise on the fly, adapt to changes, and overcome my obstacles.  It’s what I do.  I’m an MRKH Warrior.

Basic Training

I joined the Army in November 1990.  I did my basic training in Fort Dix, New Jersey.  Joining the military was not a shock to my system, it was more like coming home.  I understood the roll drill instructors held, I understood the basic expectations placed on me as a recruit.  I actually thoroughly enjoyed my basic training.  Well, not mornings – but I’ve never been a morning person!  I wrote letters home to my husband and my family.  I wrote letters to former teachers, the pastor of my church.  I was able to call home occasionally.  I was completely comfortable, and in my element.

I was so comfortable that I often got in trouble…for laughing at inappropriate times mostly.  I laughed at my squad members.  I laughed at my drill instructors.  I laughed on the firing range.  I laughed in the chow line.  I did a lot of push-ups for laughing at the wrong thing, or at the wrong time.  I did KP a few extra times for laughing too.  So you are probably wondering – what exactly did I find so funny?  Well, mostly the fact that the drill instructors LOVED their jobs…they loved being able to intimidate young recruits.  They loved to yell and boss us around.  But their façade had cracks…they were human, and sometimes the drama of 60+ women between the ages of 18-25 is just too much.  The sheer idiocy we showed was just funny sometimes.  And the incredulity of our drill instructors when we did something really stupid…well I just laughed.

Drill_instructor_at_the_Officer_Candidate_School

You’ve seen it in the movies I’m sure, some hapless recruit being screamed at by a larger than life drill instructor unable to do anything but respond with a “Sir, yes Sir”.  It cracked me up, and when asked what I found so funny, Private?  “You, Drill Sargent” was apparently not the correct response.

One evening in particular, most of the way through basic training we were out on Bivouac – that’s camping for you civilians – I was with a couple other recruits and we were tasked to watch over a pile of gear and wait for the truck to come so we could load it up.  Other recruits near us had some other job, and I don’t even remember what started it…but pretty soon those recruits were being punished for something.  The drill instructor had them running in a tight circle, raising their weapon up and over their heads, and chanting “I am not a knucklehead, I am not a knucklehead.”  “Knees up, soldier…higher…higher…keep that weapon in the air…knees up” It was HILARIOUS…and it was raining of course.  My group got caught watching, and of course then I was laughing…and the whole, “What’s so funny, Private Miller?”  “Just you, Drill Sergeant” thing got me and my group added to the running group of Knuckleheads.  For the record, the drill sergeant was also named Miller, and he was also laughing at the group between yelling at them.

Another memory I have from basic training was pretty iconic.  It’s even written in the margins of my Drill Book.  You see, I was in basic when the bombing began in Tel Aviv – the start of the first gulf war.  When the world became acquainted with the war on terror, and the man, Saddam Hussein.  This was an OMG kind of moment – even when that particular phrase wasn’t in wide use.  I was 19 years old, had pledged my life to the US Army, and a WAR started.  We were gathered in the common room of our barracks, had mats out on the floor for some training activities, and on the schedule was some tactical and combat training exercises.  It wasn’t conducive weather for outdoor training – rain, cold, mud, etc…so we were on the mats combat crawling as quickly as we could from one end of the room to the other while drill instructors were lobbing erasers at our butts telling us to get down, duck your head, crawl faster.  Yes, I was laughing…No, my drill instructors were not amused.  For the record – I was NOT the only one laughing.  We were having fun on a rainy afternoon…crawling around racing back and forth with one particularly funny Puerto Rican drill sergeant really letting loose on us.  Drill Sergeant Figueroa was so stereotypically Puerto Rican most of what he did was funny.  About 5’7”, stocky build, thick PR accent…and constantly yelling at us in English and Spanish.  Finally after the millionth round of stop and give me 20 to our whole group for not focusing and too much laughing…he attempted to get us to sit in a group and pay attention.  We needed to take our training seriously, because someday soon it could be Saddam Hussein launching scud missiles at us instead of just drill instructors launching erasers at us!  We aren’t just killing time here, we’re trying to teach you how to survive in a battle! That kind of brought us up short.  We were in the US Army.  There was a war that just started.  Our country and our lives, values, family, and FREEDOM were at risk.  It was a reality check, and much of the next few weeks were full of quiet conversations about our advanced training coming up and how close to “combat” we might actually get.  Back then, the roles that women were allowed to have were limited to non-combat, mostly support roles.  But I will probably always remember the combat crawling on those mats that rainy night with Drill Sergeant Figueroa launching scud missiles at our butts in the form of chalkboard erasers.

I will also remember basic training, because it was the first Christmas that I was away from my family.  Most of us called home and talked to family.  Many sat in groups with our ranger buddies talking about life and war and home.  At one point that morning I happened to be walking past the cadre offices when Drill Sergeant Figueroa was calling home.  It was like an alien had possessed him.  This grouchy mean obnoxious Puerto Rican man was talking baby talk to his 3 year old daughter.  “Daddy loves you sweetheart, I’ll be home soon.”  Aww…my heart melted.  And I laughed to myself as I quickly kept walking to avoid being caught eavesdropping.

I loved my time in the military.  I loved serving my country, and I truly enjoyed most of the men and women I served with.  I’m sure I’ll share many more stories of my time in the Army, as it was a time of great personal growth for me.  And I will certainly remember a few key phrases, words of wisdom imparted by drill instructors – and most of them are accompanied by more laughter.

“I am not a knucklehead”

“I don’t care what color your skin is, you’re all a bunch of little green shitheads to me”

“No more Drill Sergeant Figueroa, No more Drill Sergeant Figueroa” (sang in formation on our way to the parade deck for graduation day!)