Who we are and what others see

 Pretending to be someone you're not is a waste of the person you are -- quote by Kurt Cobain

I think it's challenging to be authentic all the time - sometimes we repeat lies to ourselves enough that we believe them. Sometimes other people influence us in ways that we don't even notice until we internalize them and blindly accept them. It's tough to listen to our inner voices when the noise of the world is so loud.

I've blogged about my Goddess Vibes journey - the journey I'm on to rediscover who I am and what I want in this life. For a time, I lost myself to a rather sour relationship with an undeserving man and I also lost myself to motherhood. I disconnected from my body, I disconnected from my needs, and the inner voice I should have been listening to all the while was hushed into background static. I'm working on me. I am constantly working on me, and I hope you are constantly working on you.

So here's a little story ....

I lived in Colorado for a bit and met a guy while I was working out there in the military. To be honest, I don't remember meeting him the way he remembered meeting me. After all, I was photographing a jump (airborne thing) that he and his fellas were doing and I was the lone female Soldier on the flight (pretty typical, really).

Apparently we chatted as we either refueled or picked up another group for the jump. I don't remember at all. It was winter. We were dressed accordingly. It was cold as shit on the helicopter with the ramp dropped. So damn cold. I was outnumbered by dudes by a long shot and why were they all so damn tall? LOL Not a surprise. It was a pretty typical experience with the exception that photographing these guys meant less identification (personal ID) and a greater focus on the action at hand. They prefer keeping their ID a bit more hush hush -- and for good reason.

So, the guy reached out for the photos. I mailed him a CD (probably?) of the images from the jump. We never saw each other in person again until later on when we both happened to be in Iraq. We emailed here and there while we were deployed and for the life of me, I couldn't remember what he looked like - with the exception of the one portrait profile I captured of him on that mission. I didn't know what he actually looked like though -- I hadn't seen him without a helmet and full winter gear anyway. He was just some Soldier who emailed funny emails about daily life and funny venting in Iraq. I love emailing and chatting with witty intellectuals. I didn't know much about him other than his humor and we were each other's outlet for some stress via humor and all done via email.

For some reason (although, again I don't remember why), I traveled through his area of operations (AO) - where he was based. I had his office number and called it after listening to that stupid arrival briefing they make you watch when you get off a fixed-wing flight. I called him up, told him where I was, and minutes later he appeared. (Was he busy and bailed on work? Ha! I don't even care. I wanted to pass time with a buddy and was glad he made himself available)  I told him that I was grateful that it was both a deployed atmosphere because I don't have to salute AND thank god we wear our names on our uniform because I'd have no clue who he was if the name wasn't there across his chest. We hung out at the smoke shack outside the flight line -- laughing, chatting, passing time together. Had a little moment ("combat" hug - LOL) and then we parted ways.

We both emailed about what a nice break it was for our existence in the Sandbox to spend some time together. We were relatively new friends but already shared a good connection. Some people that I meet slip easily into a "good friend" status. He was one of those people.

Then more perks! He came out to my neck of the woods (or desert, I should more aptly describe) to see some of the guys on the adjacent compound. He paid me a visit -- twice apparently although I only recall one visit. Not that his visit would not be important to break the monotony, but I just didn't lock into memory that it was two trips. He told me it was and I certainly have no reason to doubt.

We spent time over coffee at Green Beans cafe. On my little compound there weren't many options and thankfully we had a coffee shop. THANK GOD for coffee! Anyway, so we got a bit of in-person interaction in Iraq and that was nice. It's nice to have a "combat hug" (a cute way to simply describe a hug from a friend that brings comfort without any sexual component while in a deployed environment).

Fast forward years ... years!!!  LOL

So, we chat via email rarely. Like, I maybe got 4 emails a year from this once daily-Iraq-emailing buddy of mine morphed back into the distant zombie that he was. Life went on. He had a kid, I had two. Life, life, life.  I remember this one time I got a postcard in the mail from a little island off of Africa. He signed it with his real name - a name I never called him. I always had a nickname for him. I looked at that postcard for days not being able to figure out who the hell I knew with that name. The postcard was personal. I knew that the person who sent it knew me ... but DAYS later I put it together and realized that life brought him to Africa. LOL signing his real name. Pssssh. I never used that name for him. What was he thinking? LOL

Fast forward more years ...

We had a hurricane last year that was supposed to make landfall here. I didn't hear from him that I recall. Then Hurricane Irma came this year, I evacuated, and got a random email from him. He thought I lived in Tampa. I don't. I'm on the other coast. That's how much we chatted. LOL In all the years I've lived in Florida on the east coast, he never remembered that.

So the hurricane brought a renewal to our communication. The situation in my life was a bit different - I told him briefly about it. And then I inquired about a book of mine I once lent him in Iraq.

One of the perks in Iraq was the mountains of donated books. I'd sift through those books endlessly. Pick ones at random, read them, and then read more. I came upon a book called Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks. This fucking gem of a read really gave me a mental break from the Middle East deployed bullshit existence. The book was so damn funny and I giggled my way through it.

Now, something I should say is that when I was in my CHU (containerized housing unit -  Marines called it a "can" we called it a "Chu" - it was basically a windowless can that fit a bed, desk and small fridge and small standing closet. No windows for a reason. Those things are dangerous if ya get hit with mortars and then there's that whole shattered glass issue, blah) ... nonetheless, when I was in my CHU, I'd sometimes do my hair and put on makeup for fun. While I was reading this book one evening, I had put on lipstick and used the inside cover to blot my lips. Not the cleanest surface, I know, but it's what was available.

I finished the book and on the last occasion of seeing my friend, I lent it to him with the intention he'd return it. He did not. He fucking kept it. I hate when people keep things that were given to them to borrow and not keep.

So, back to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. When I returned from my escape to northwest Georgia, I reached out to him about Ireland. I suffer from wanderlust and have an ever-growing list of places in the world I'd like to explore. I mentioned Ireland to him because of the book and inquired if he still had it.

HE DID. The bastard still had my damn book. I was surprised he had it and also relieved because I wanted it back. I mean, it's a bit ballsy that he kept my book because his wife could certainly have had the wrong idea about my lipstick blot in the book -- NOT a kiss for him but why would she believe that? You know? I should have gotten the book back from him when he left Iraq but it never happened. I'm glad he stashed it among his gear and it wasn't confiscated with the idea of bad intentions surrounding the lips.

Have I gotten back yet? No. He said he's going to dig it out of his mounds of gear. I hope he does. Although he could buy me a replacement, I'd rather have my copy of the book with my dirty blotted lipstick on the inside cover and the dirt from deployed life and the bends and kinks of having read it. I do want my original book back.

I have my book back!!!
If I do get back, I'll add an update here. UPDATE!!! I GOT IT BACK!! It only took just about 8 years!! 

And, ironically, although I'm not traveling to Ireland with him ... I do have another friend on the horizon for a trip there. I'm horribly excited about that. I have always wanted to go to Ireland - especially after reading that book. After that, it's the Scottish highlands - oh how I want to go there!!!!!

Anyway, back to my friend for a moment. As we chatted more - quite frequently all of a sudden - like we did when we were back in Iraq, I shared with him some things that were going on in my life. He told me a bit about his - more personally than he had before. Life is complex for all of us, isn't it?

That brings me back to the Goddess Vibes journey. I told him about my journey. I used him as a "dear diary" of sorts. Just chatting endlessly about this and that. Sort of speaking out loud (well, through written word) about daily life, thoughts, plans, dreams, things I'm working on, etc. I'm the kind of person who speaks through ideas - out loud and in writing because it's nice to both hear things and read them -- and ultimately reflect on those words and thoughts.

As a response at one point, he sent me an email that was quite remarkable. First and foremost, I never did speak with him on a level other than superficially. As it turned out, he actually had some interesting depth to him that he was willing to share. And, his analysis of me was rather profound and appreciated.

I put just a few of his words on a photo of mine (a selfie gone wrong) when I was back in Hoboken, New Jersey -- beautiful downtown NYC in the background across the Hudson River that sparkled with lights from the buildings.

"You are a strong, caring mom to your girls. You are an artist in several mediums and can capture the essence of a feeling in simple words. You are moved by the beauty fo a kind gesture. You can imagine the future but have your feet grounded in today. You love a good adventure and can take care of the things in your life that need taking care of. You want a companion, but aren't helpless without one." 

Hmmm ... how did muster all that?

It feels amazing when you try to live your truth AND have someone see you for who you feel you actually are. Perception and reality are often different and sometimes at odds.

But there he was ... seeing me for who I felt I was and what I wanted in this life. It felt great.

Now, I can't say much else about this guy. He's just some dude who floats in and out of my life as a friend. Sometimes long gone, and sometimes he's more present. He's floated back to the crazy daily needs of his life and has waned from mine. But for a brief moment in time, he was more significant and I feel like I benefited from his resurgence in my life. He was what I needed when I needed it. I like when life works out that way.

Perhaps he'll resurface at some point. But, until that happens, life goes on and the Goddess Vibes journey I am on will continue with dedication. Soon, I do hope, to blog about Ireland and also blog about getting my book back (after ... 8 years or so ... I wonder what it's condition will be like). I do plan on reading it again and seeing if I enjoy it as much as I had before. (Update: You can see the lovely condition of my book below! So glad to have it back and so glad that my friend took good care of it while he had it ... all those damn years!)

I used to wear lipstick in my little CHU at night while reading.
I missed feeling and being girlie so I'd put on my lipstick
and often not have a place to blot my lips ...
so, I used the book. LOL 

I had forgotten I wrote a note to my friend in the book.
The word "combat" went in front of most words to add
humor during my time in Iraq. "combat giggles" is
one such use of the word. 

Thanks to Operation Paperback organization for donating books!!!! 

------------ Another Update!! ------------

I emailed Operation Paperback a thank you note for sending books that made their way to me in Ramadi - and especially for Round Ireland With A Fridge. I got an email back from Marisa that's worth sharing.

Liesl - first, let me thank you for your service.  And second, thank you for such a wonderful email.  Your blog is a personal view into your life, and it is touching to read how the lives of two people intertwined over so many years.  It is almost like a movie ending to hear that he kept the book and returned it to you after all this time.  So perhaps it meant as much to him as it did to you.  

When we hear from former and current soldiers, one message is similar - that picking up and reading a book provides a get-away, a chance to stop and enjoy a different time and place through a story.  And I know that is why our volunteers continue to support this effort - the shared love for reading and desire to show their appreciation for everything our military does on our behalf.  

Again, thank you for sharing,

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