thejuliemeister

Musings from an unsuspecting navy wife


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Can I get fries in my nachos?

 

A significant number of people who lose a lot of weight end up gaining some or all of it back eventually. Science isn’t exactly sure what the percentage looks like, but it’s likely more than half, and some estimates go as high as 97%.

 

I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that many people approach weight loss as a diet. It’s a temporary state. There is an assumption that once a goal weight is attained, the diet ends. Unfortunately, if the diet ends and old eating habits come back that caused an initial weight gain, the person who successfully lost weight on a diet will regain it.

 

Sustained weight loss takes lifestyle changes. It means restructuring a relationship with food. That’s hard to do. We all need food to live, and eating should be an enjoyable process. The lack of a balance between enjoying food and eating within specific parameters is one of the reasons people don’t maintain weight loss.

 

In my opinion, there’s another reason why people regain weight, and it’s one that I’m intimately familiar with: sometimes eating everything in sight feels really effing good. Well, it feels good in the moment. The self-loathing and tummy ache take a while to set in.

 

There’s an old Rodney Dangerfield joke that sums up binge eating pretty well (try to read it in your mind’s best Dangerfield impression): “Are you fat? Do you look at a menu and think, ‘OK’?” That’s basically it. Except it’s usually kitchen pantries or the contents of the refrigerator.

 

Binge eating is one of my specialties. To be clear, I only binge. I do not purge. I have no gag reflex. I could not be bulimic if I tried. I actually did try once and gave up. This is not to make light of bulimia or cast shade on those who suffer that affliction. (#nojudgment) I’m only clarifying my own eating neuroses.

 

In most circles, binge eating is frowned upon. It’s a disorder. Definitely not good. People should have a balanced diet that is broken down to three square meals a day, right? Moderation is the key.

 

The whole reason I got chubby in the first place is that I don’t do moderation well. I constantly go to extremes and it catches up with me in unexpected and sometimes devastating ways. Still, moderation eludes me, and I really enjoy going to town on a jumbo burrito or ice cream sundae (or both). It didn’t seem congruent to be able to chow down on everything in sight AND maintain weight loss.

 

Then I was introduced to the wonderful world of carb loading.

 

When I began losing weight in 2011, I used running as my main form of exercise. I started running longer and longer distances. Running races was my new favorite pastime.

 

I trained for and actually ran a couple of half marathons in 2012. It was hard, but good. Every time I finished one race I signed up for another. The training schedule forced me to stay in shape.

 

The awesome thing about training for each half marathon was the Sunday long run. The run itself usually sucked, but man, I could eat so much. 8 miles burned nearly a thousand calories, and runners actually recommend drinking beer after a long run for recovery! It was heaven.

 

In 2013 I registered for my first marathon. Now my weekend long runs were consistently double-digit mileage. That meant that I had to carb load.

 

The idea with carb loading is that eating additional carbohydrates before a long run or race will temporarily increase glycogen (stored glucose) in muscles. That leads to added energy during the run, and pushes back hitting the wall, a term that describes the feeling in your body when all spare glycogen is used and your body starts breaking down muscle to keep going.

 

Let me tell you a little bit about what hitting the wall feels like. Try to imagine a state where you have lost all ability for conscious thought. Only your lizard brain remains. At the same time, you’re moving forward, and each step is a jolt through every nerve in your body. It feels like an unfriendly giant has squeezed all of your muscles. Literally everything hurts. Death starts to look like a promising alternative. That is what it means to “hit the wall.”

 

Trying to stave off getting to this point of utter desolation and pain is a very good reason to have a loaded baked potato (or two).

 

Here are some of the many things I’ve eaten before a long run:

  • Loaded chicken nachos with added French Fries.
  • A jumbo breakfast burrito with a side of pancakes.
  • Double-scoop ice cream sundaes with chocolate sauce, almonds whipped cream and a cherry on top.
  • Entire pizzas.
  • Lots of beer. And wine.
  • Pasta in a bread bowl.
  • A full loaf of French bread with soft cheese.
  • A box of Cheeze-Its.

 

These are just a few of many examples of pure gluttony that I’ve achieved, all done in the name of training to run ridiculous distances. Somehow I found a delicate balance by embracing extremes. Essentially, I can binge eat as long as I also binge exercise.

 

Maintaining my weight loss hasn’t been entirely thanks to weekly binges followed by excessive long runs. During the week I carefully watch what I eat and track calories with an app on my phone. I’m deliberate in my choices of food 6 days a week, so that on the 7th it doesn’t matter. Generally, it balances out.

 

Is this the best or healthiest plan of attack? Probably not. I am in great shape though. I also understand that my approach for maintaining weight loss isn’t accessible to everyone, and that some people will never want or be able to run a marathon. We all have our vices and our modes for handling them though. Marathon training happens to be the thing for me. Who knew the fat kid who couldn’t run the mile in PE class would go on to run multiple marathons, at least in part, to be able to maintain the ability to eat with abandon.

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Basil

After the miscarriage mom came out for a few days to be with me. Cameron was out to sea. She coddled me, bought us fine wine to share, and made all of my favorite childhood foods. Among these dishes was what we lovingly call Mommy Pasta. It’s a simple pasta with red sauce that tastes divine. I’ve never been able to replicate it.

 

In order to make it she needed fresh basil. I picked the only fresh basil I could find at the store. It was the living kind that still had roots attached. After my mom was done cooking she cut the top off a soda can and put the remaining live basil in it with a little water.

 

The basil sat there on my kitchen counter for a few days, even after mom flew home. I didn’t know what to do with it. I’ve never had a green thumb, but I couldn’t throw it away.

 

I found an old small pot that a friend had painted to say “Julie” in middle school that I’d used as a pencil holder off and on over the years. I bought the smallest bag of potting mix I could find and transplanted the basil to its new home.

 

Some of it died, but not all. Sometimes I’d forget to water it and the basil would wilt in dehydration, but it always perked back up with a little feeding.

 

We moved houses and the basil came with us. Cameron returned from sea. I repotted the basil in an even bigger planter and started growing other fresh herbs. Cameron uses them to cook. The basil is thriving. It’s huge and expanding with large fragrant leaves.

 

The one thing mom said when she found out I’d planted the basil was to never let it flower. If I saw a shoot of flowers start I needed to pinch it off immediately, otherwise the plant would die, its lifecycle complete.

 

For months I was vigilant. I watched the tiny herb grow but not flower. It didn’t seem like it would happen.

 

Then recently, I saw its first tiny bloom. It’s been about five months since the miscarriage. I know a few women with due dates similar to what mine would have been and I can see their growing bumps and know about how big I’d be by now.

 

I plucked the budding flower and dropped it in the grass.

 

The next day there was another bud. I plucked that too. Now it’s almost daily that I’ll find one or two floral shoots and I pluck every one.

 

So now I have this basil that I can only keep alive by preventing its bloom. It’s constantly trying to blossom, and I keep pinching it back. It seems so desperate to flower, to move to its next stage, even if that stage is moving on entirely.

 

I think sometimes about letting it flower. Letting it move through the natural lifecycle progression. I may. Basil isn’t hard to grow, and I could always start another plant. But I guess I’m just not ready yet. Maybe I never will be.


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2015

Calendar years are arbitrary. But they give us a way to mark our days and reflect. It’s uncommon for a year that lacks major milestones to be significantly transformative. Usually it’s just another year.

 

I did not get married or meet my love this year. I did not have a permanent change of station (military move) although I did make a short move on-island. I did not have a child or even gain a new pet. Yet despite the lack of milestones, 2015 has been one of the most difficult and rewarding years of my life.

 

I’ve had seven jobs in the last 12 months. That must be a record. In the past I’ve topped out at 2 jobs, and that was mostly from working a steady job and teaching SAT classes on the side. This year I wrote for the Humane Society while also working at the publications department at an engineering firm. Then I took some time off before landing yoga classes teaching at two different facilities. After that I transitioned to teaching yoga, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking at a resort in Kaneohe. In October I took on a new violin student, who can now play three songs. I also started working at Honolulu Publishing as the editor for Spotlight on Hawaii and Waikiki Menus.

 

So, in essence, I was paid to manage people, teach yoga, entertain tourists, teach violin, write and edit. Phew. I’m a gal with lots of interests, to say the least. Thankfully, I’ve also had the support of my amazing husband to pursue different avenues.

 

It’s been a treat. In June I did an intensive yoga teacher training. It was 3 weeks of 10 hour days. “Intensive” was an understatement. I had wanted to do a yoga teacher training for years though, and this training not only led me to meeting some amazing individuals, it also helped me to connect to myself and heal. Because by June, I needed healing.

 

In March, an old friend from Monterey committed suicide. I’m still heartbroken. She and I had lost contact in recent years, and that was my fault. That sort of thing happens sometimes, but I still absolutely loved her.

 

As soon as I heard of her passing, I booked a flight to California in hopes of attending some sort of memorial, and an add-on trip to New York to see my best friend. The memorial ended up happening after I was in town, but it was good to go back and see friends and family. The trip helped me to feel a little better.

 

Less than a month after that trip I was back in California to attend the memorial of another friend who had also taken his own life. He was close with my first friend to pass. It was terrible. I had anxiety about attending his memorial, because I’d mostly let that group of friends go. I assumed my presence wouldn’t be welcomed, but it was. Remembering those friends and that time in my life was painful but necessary.

 

My one hope is that both old friends have found some peace. I know their families always will feel their absence.

 

The coupling of those losses left me, and many others, reeling. Thank God I was able to take 3 weeks to myself in yoga training a month later. In all honesty, it was the thing that helped me get through.

 

Teacher training ended with June and in July I submitted my first article to the Huffington Post. It was about my firm belief that a couple’s fertility issues and decisions are private. Not only was my article accepted, HuffPost posted it to their main Facebook page with 5 million followers. The article was shared thousands of times, and had nearly 30,000 “likes” on Facebook. It was later translated to German, and also posted to an Australian online publication.

 

Prior to this article, I had only been published in local publications with a small circulation. This was my first publication in a national platform, and I’m still in awe of the reaction and aplomb I received as a result.

 

Of course there were also people on the Internet who told me to stop whining, but I’ve learned that people on the Internet can be jerks, and I’m developing thicker skin.

 

Since that first article, I’ve published several more pieces with Huffington Post, and with elephant journal. Building my writing portfolio is what led to my hiring at Honolulu Publishing as the Editor for Spotlight on Hawaii and Waikiki Menus.

 

I write and edit for these magazines. They may be free for tourists, but they’re mine creatively. That feels good. I love knowing that I live and work in Hawaii, working as a paid writer. I thought getting actually paid for writing was a myth or reserved solely for the Stephen Kings of the world. But I’m doing it. I can’t say how good that feels.

 

As the year draws to a close I’m thankful. I really have been lucky. I joke that I’m full of luck- both good and bad. I never do things in half measures. I’d say this year has proven that. I’d like to hope the luck will hold through 2016, but I won’t push it. I also know that I’m starting to make my own luck through working towards goals I never honestly thought I’d achieve.

 

2015 has come and now gone, and while it may have been an arbitrary mark of time, looking back shows me just how much one year can change a person.


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Winning my First Trophy

“Excuse me,” I began after I approached the race info booth. A young man looked up. “Do you know if you’ll be awarding prizes to the top 3 male and female finishers in each age division, or just the top three male and female finishers overall?”

It’s my standard pre-race question. I generally finish in the top 10% of female finishers, but that usually doesn’t earn me a medal unless it’s a really small race with lots of age brackets.

“Just the top three men and women overall,” he responded. “We have trophies for the winners.”

A trophy.

I’d never won a trophy before. I’m not young enough to have always received a prize at any lost competition. All I ever got was a cheap burgundy ribbon with “participant” scrawled in gold lettering. I always wanted a real trophy.

I surveyed the field. There were plenty of thin women in fancy running gear. But this was both a 5k and a 10k. I was only running the 5k, which would narrow the field. I might have a chance.

The 10k race started first. More than half of the runners who’d turned out were running the longer race. By the time they cleared the start area, I looked around and realized it was mostly the slowpokes left. Excellent.

The 5k lined up, and a buzzer let us know to start running. One woman glided easily in front of me, and a small girl followed closely in her wake. I was the third one out.

I expected the child to tucker out after a minute and fall back. It’s fairly common in races that include children. Instead she kept going, keeping a solid 20 feet in front of me.

I’d like to say that I was happy for her- silently rooting on her progress. She was, after all, a child with much shorter legs than mine, but still running at a fast clip. In reality, I was plotting how to best overtake her. It took about a mile, but eventually the little girl started walking and I plodded on, now in second place.

I maintained my place through the rest of the race, and was frustrated when my watch hit 3.1 miles, and saw that the finish line was still a ways off. I’d measured my energy for a 5k, and was out of internal fuel to run more. I walked for a moment out of frustration, then picked up my run again, cursing the naval construction unit that had measured the course.

Finally I crossed the finish line, then immediately lost control of my bladder. (Thank God it wasn’t all that full.) It must have been bad karma from passing the little girl. Thankfully, I was already covered in sweat, so the urine more or less blended into the total ensemble. At least I maintained my place, and was going to get a trophy for it!

I looked around and realized that there weren’t many other finishers around, then remembered there was a 5k AND a 10k. I would have to wait around, soaked in pee, until finishers from both races were done and I could claim my prize.

I waited. And waited. In hindsight, I realized I could have gone home, showered, and come back in clothes that weren’t covered in piss, and still made it back in time for the awards ceremony. But I couldn’t have known at the time, and I was determined.

Around an hour after I finished the race, the awards ceremony finally began. I thought it never would. They gathered the winners around. This was it! I was finally getting my freakin trophy.

The trophy, as it turned out, was a cheap tumbler with “Second Place Women’s Finisher” etched into the glass.

Are you kidding me? A glass tumbler that wasn’t big enough to quench my thirst when full? Geez. I mean, I know I should be proud of myself, and grateful to win something, but this was clearly a case of false advertisement. Since when was a gilded trophy synonymous with a shitty water glass?

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I received my award with aplomb, and made my way back home, contemplating the notion of second place being the first loser.

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Becoming a Yogini

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I’m buzzing, glowing, exhausted, thrilled, and totally at peace after teaching my very first yoga class.

12 days ago I graduated from yoga teacher training. Today I took the step towards teaching, while remaining mindful that I’m always a student. Even though I taught, I learned a lot in that first class, like not to fall down while demonstrating a posture.

The class wasn’t flawless. Several times I got feet and hands confused in giving directions. I also mixed up right and left and my eagle pose was a disaster. Thankfully there were no terrible repercussions. It was ok. I lived. My students lived. They seemed to enjoy my class, and not just the friends I forced to attend. I did it.

When I moved to Hawaii, I realized that as a military spouse, working a traditional corporate job probably wasn’t realistic. I decided that I wanted to teach violin and write. Eventually I’d look into yoga teacher training because I’d wanted to do that for years.

A few weeks before my move on a lark, I applied for a marketing job in Honolulu, because I lacked faith that I’d be able to make it with the passions I wanted to explore. I got the position, and felt obligated to be the working professional I thought I should be.

I was miserable. My coworkers and supervisor were amazing. The work was fine, but I felt constantly drained. I hated not working for myself and feeling like I had to stay. Nobody was making me.

I felt so guilty at the thought of not maintaining a 40-hour workweek when I was capable. Never mind that it was costing my sanity. I felt like there was something wrong with me for being constantly miserable in the full-time desk jobs I held after college.

Everyone in my family has always worked corporate jobs. My parents met in the workplace. While I was always told I could do whatever I wanted, and was very supported, for some reason I still felt like I had to work a high-stress job to be successful. But stress isn’t the measure of success.

I left my marketing job for another in non-profit, but still wasn’t happy sitting at a desk all day. Finally I had to come to terms with the fact that working in an office isn’t for me.

I registered for an intensive yoga teacher training. It was three weeks of 10-hour days with no day off in the middle. A few times I lost my mind to uncontrollable giggles or fell asleep through a 7am asana practice. I learned anatomy, some Sanskrit, philosophy and sequencing. It was a lot to force into my brain, but miraculously I retained most of it (and kept my manuals just in case).

In training I met some of the most beautiful souls. There was Liz, the laughter captain, Amanda the powerful, Misha the fabulous, Lauren the soulful, Kaylee the beautiful, Jax the forthright mama-to-be and Jaimie the storyteller who brings babies into the world. These are just a small handful of the community we forged, each woman with her own unique talent, and too many to list here. I’ve never felt so instantly welcome and loved.

My instructors were remarkable. I’m not afraid to say I have active girl crushes on them all. They had so much talent, strength and flexibility, both physical and mental. Adria shepherded our spirits, Kilty made us love anatomy, and Courtney wowed us with her physical abilities while always making us laugh.

On the first day of training, each instructor introduced herself. During Kilty’s introduction she said that she frequently reminds herself “I am enough.” I’d never thought that before. I’ve always assumed some level of lacking. I thought of the areas where I can improve in life as a void constituting my utter insufficiency. Being imperfect doesn’t make me deficient in some way though. It just means that I have space to grow. I’m still enough wherever I am.

Starting to believe that I am enough as an individual (it’s still a daily struggle to remind myself and have faith), gave me a glimpse of who I might really be. I’ve always defined myself externally. How do I earn money? Where do I live? Who is my spouse and how does he earn? These things can all provide clues to my true self, but aren’t everything.

I am more than a job, or home or spouse, although my husband brings me more strength than I’ve ever had on my own. He helps me find power that I didn’t know I had. He supports every decision, even when I can’t muster support myself. I believe everyone must find a way to define him or herself internally, but I also know that without the support system my husband provides, I might never have tried to do that which challenges me. I’m so thankful for the opportunity.

I’m still learning who I can be without labels. It’s a process, and not an easy one. But yoga is honestly helping me feel like I can take the journey.

There’s a word in Sanskrit that roughly translates to bliss: ananda. It’s a dance on the tongue, a smile on the lips, a light in the heart, and a radiance through the soul. Ananda.

I didn’t know I’d been lacking ananda, but now that I’ve seen it, I feel it daily. It’s fleeting and impermanent, but each darting glance brings me one step closer to knowing myself.

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Friendships and Facebook

In 2004 I started college at UC Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is an eclectic place, which is illustrated by the student body’s decision to cast a banana slug as our illustrious mascot. Somewhere in my first quarter of freshman year, a friend introduced me to The Facebook. It hadn’t yet shifted to the singularly iconic “Facebook” by then. I remember thinking that it wasn’t as good as MySpace.

Back then Facebook was useful. You had to have a “.edu” email account to register. I could list all of my classes at UCSC in my profile, and find other students in the same courses. That way if I missed a lecture it was an easy search and message to find someone with notes. By the time I graduated, this feature was gone.

I initially interacted with my first real boyfriend on Facebook. He was the son of my mom’s work friend. She told me to find some way to ask him if we could carpool for coming home at Thanksgiving. Our innocent messages turned to a clandestine flirtation, and then about a year and a half of dating. My next major college boyfriend also started via some profile stalking and flirtatious messages.

Soon it was everywhere. My first job out of college relied on me to create a social media presence. In the years since, I’ve specialized in social media marketing, a field that I never thought would net me any funds.

Now my mom is on Facebook. My octogenarian great aunt has an account. I’ve had to go through old photos and delete anything that wasn’t business friendly, because something that was once devoted to personal friendships is now searchable by potential employers.

Truth be told, this is all a preamble. I feel like these developments in social media can be regrettable, but understandable. The real problem with social media is how we, as participants, use it.

In the last 3 years, I’ve found out two friends have died via Facebook. The first was Dominic. He was 23. He died in 2012. We were in high school orchestra together. He was a freshman when I was a junior. Our conductor paired us to play the second movement of the Bach Double Concerto. It was the slow movement, and we both had terrible stage fright. It was not pretty. But like soldiers from the same horrific battle, we had remained oddly connected. At least I felt that way, and he’s not here to argue.

The second was Summer. She was 25, and she died last month. She and I had moved through the same circles in Monterey. I’m not sure where we actually met, but we connected one lunch where we discovered we’d primarily dated the same men in the previous year. Some women would have been threatened. We compared notes.

That one lunch was enough to solidify a friendship. She was one of the funniest people I ever met. In times of crisis, she was there. She was solid. When I met my husband I let us drift apart. I didn’t stop caring about her welfare, but I didn’t have the time to maintain an active friendship. I was a bad friend. Instead of actually talking to her, I watched her wall, and liked what she posted that made it to my newsfeed. It made me feel like we were still close.

The newsfeed can be a deceptive device. The average Facebook user has 338 friends according to a quick search. Think on that number. I’m quite gregarious, and I have over 400 “friends.” Of those 400 folks, I see only the updates from a few dozen online. It’s not that the rest aren’t posting ever, it’s just that Facebook has an algorithm that narrows down newsfeed options to only whatever you are likely to interact with. This is generally determined by recent friend ads, likes, and common searches.

The folks who make it to your newsfeed might never see what you post. Conversely, someone may see everything that you do when none of his or her posts make your feed. You never know who is really paying attention.

But it’s so easy to imagine that if you see something someone has said or done online to feel like you’re still real friends. Who knows how many people feel that way about you that you’ve never thought twice about?

The other issue is that we only ever see what someone decides to share. Most people will only show the good side of things. I suffer from depression and anxiety, but my social media posts are generally light-hearted and funny. You would never know from my online presence that my life is anything but bliss. It’s impossible to know anything more than broad strokes of a person’s life by how they present themselves online. I never knew Dominic was so sick or Summer so sad by watching their posts alone.

If it wasn’t for Facebook though, I might not have even known they died. I’m not sure if that’s worse. Then again, would I have continued to feel so connected and then so heartbroken by their deaths had it not been for social media?

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with Facebook or social media. It can be a useful tool to help people communicate. I have lived in 4 states and nearly a dozen towns in my life, and social media provides a constant to help me stay in touch. The problem arises when anyone, myself included, starts to rely on social media to maintain or affirm friendships.

I am guilty of allowing myself into the lull of passive online friendships. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t believe that quitting social media is the answer. That removes one symptom but doesn’t alleviate the underlying problem. Instead I plan to participate with caution, and rely on active communication to keep relationships alive.


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To my 100 year-old self

I recently entered my first writing competition, with high hopes. I didn’t win. That’s ok. I’m still proud of what I wrote. I’d like to share here. Please note, it is a work of fiction, and not my usual honest story. Here is the prompt:

Write an essay to yourself on your 100th birthday. What would you say to yourself at that age? What would your 100-year-old self tell you back? Would it be a conversation of praise and/or regret? Perhaps praise for the achievements in your career, but regrets about a lost family? Or warnings about the mistakes you made in your projected future or in your past; pitfalls you happened to be dragged into, temptations you could not resist; or celebrations for the good character you were able to display and sustain over a life; a precious life wasted or a life lived as it was meant to be.

This was my submission:

To my 100-year-old self,

Growing up, I never really saw myself past college. Through that point, everything was planned for me. Each step was clear to completion. I would graduate high school, be accepted to some university, and get a degree in whatever seemed most suitable. After that was a blank in my mind’s eye. Sometimes I assumed I would die young.

I drifted. I worked jobs that seemed professional. I paid my bills. I dated boys who had no promise just to feel connected. For a time I put my hope in Dean. It was safe to pine for someone I knew never wanted me. When that crumpled I felt lost again.

Then Cameron came along. We were both adrift. We knew our core selves, but lacked direction. We met at a party in Monterey that neither of us were invited to. Do you still remember that night?

It was a mustache and wig party, which was very much in vogue in 2011. Cameron had a mullet wig and a drawn-on handlebar mustache. He chain-smoked and drank Cobra malt liquor from a paper bag. You wanted nothing to do with him. Not only was he mildly repellent, but he was also a naval officer, and those were off-limits.

God he was persistent. He called, texted, emailed and showed up at the office to make sure I’d go out with him. It worked. Less than a year later we were married, and we have changed around each other and are both better for it. Today he is my heart and hopes.

With Cameron and his career, I’m not lost. I have a path that will take us through the next dozen years before he can retire. But again I find that I don’t see anything beyond what the Navy throws at him with me in tow. Perhaps that’s why I’m not entirely certain what to say to myself at a wizened old age.

Today, the oldest man I know is Mr. Byrd. I’m sure that by 100 the time I spent working in his office will be an insignificant blip, but to me today, it is encompassing.

Mr. Byrd is 86, 14 years younger than you, and to me he is ancient. I cannot fathom myself at his age or beyond. He walks with a cane and it looks like all of his heft has settled low on is torso, as if his skin was a cloth bag where all of the contents drifted down to the bottom in lumps. Every morning I ask how he is and he consistently responds “still here- still alive.” Then chuckles to himself as I giggle uncomfortably. His frame may be old, but his wit hasn’t ebbed.

Will I be like that one day? With papery thin skin that breaks and bruises with little provocation? Will I maintain my mind even as my body ages and fails me? Or will I be like mom’s mom, Grandmae, and slowly lose my purchase on reality until I no longer recognize my own grandchildren? I’ll admit both prospects frighten me.

What frightens me most though is the idea that I’ll never truly become anything. I want to be a mother. I want to be a writer. I want to be able to climb out of my depths when I fall. I want to define myself outside of the life of an officer’s wife.

I assume we’ll have children. I ache for them. But I am so afraid I won’t be able to. If we do, I’m so scared that I’ll do something wrong. I want to be a good mother. Even though I have great parents, I have no idea what to do. Will I be alright? Will I even be able?

What will I regret the most? What will fill me with the most joy? Will I survive Cameron’s deployments? Will he? We’ve never had to deal with the uncertainty of months apart and I’m terrified that it will break me, or us.

I hope by 100 I’ll have everything figured out. I hope to accomplish the things I have set forth for myself to feel fulfilled. I hope Cameron is still with me at a cantankerous 103. I hope to have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to carry on in my passing. I hope to be unafraid. I hope to still be me.

With that, I’ll sign off. I hope to meet you one day.

-Me (28 years, 4 months, 29 days)

To my younger self,

At 28 we were living in Hawaii- weren’t we? In the course of Cameron’s career, we moved 8 times in 14 years. I recall Mr. Byrd though, and he was in the Hawaii days.

I’d forgotten how afraid and anxious I was back then. Everything seemed up to chance and I agonized over every decision, trying to see every way that it might impact my future. If there’s one thing I’d like you to know now, it’s not to worry so much. It never did any good.

Jobs will come and go. A stable career wasn’t exactly possible with Cameron in service. You’ll freelance write and teach music classes around the world. It will fill your time and make you feel useful.

Deployments will be hard. Cameron’s longest deployment was 11 months and 3 days, and I missed him the whole time. There will be temptations for you both. I can’t say you’ll be flawless. You’ll drink too much and one especially lonely night you’ll kiss another man.

That mistake will haunt you. Many women will have full-blown affairs and never feel an ounce of guilt. One kiss was enough to spiral into shame and never feel tempted again. Cameron forgave you in an instant, but it took longer for you to forgive yourself. Be careful with your heart.

There will be hardships. Nothing will shake you to your bones more than dad’s death. There are tales from antiquity of wailing women beating their breasts in grief. The modern age doesn’t allow for these demonstrations; grief is supposed to be kept impersonal. A post to your online profiles (there will be many) and insincere nods to condolences are all that’s expected. But you’ll know the primal urge to cry out to the universe and shout to the injustice that rips away someone you love.

Dad will be the first to strike you down, unexpected and earlier than you’d dreamed, but mom will follow in years, then others you’ll learn love along the way. People will say that time will heal the void, but it won’t. In time you’ll mold yourself around these gaps and learn to survive the loss. The wounds will never leave.

You’ll only ever try it once, and it was a feeble attempt.   Barely more than a nick below the heel of your hand that won’t even pierce the vein. The pearl of crimson will be enough to break the spell of despair and make you crave life again.

A miscarriage triggered the attempt. It was before we knew if we would have children, and not long after dad. Cameron was deployed. It was a perfect storm of hopelessness that left you teetering between numbness and a tear in the soul. I thought there was no way to soldier on. But we did.

Sometimes, all you need is a good dog. Even when you can’t take care of yourself and grow gaunt in despair, you won’t be able to keep from caring for a dog. And a dog will comfort and care for you when you feel alone. Rico, the Portuguese Water Dog, kept you going through that dark time, and within 2 years you were ripe with motherhood.

There will be moments of supreme joy. You will conceive, carry and birth a child. It will be the most terrifying action of your existence, but it will be worth it. You will get splendidly fat and happy in pregnancy. You will feel full to breaking with glee when you first see our child’s face. It will be covered in blood and birth, and even so you will hold her tight and smother her with kisses.

You will not be perfect. No parent is. Every cut, bruise, break or hardship she feels will cause you more anguish than her. You’ll blame yourself for every pain she ever meets, but know that it won’t be your fault. You can’t save her from living and if you could, it wouldn’t be worth having her.

Cameron will blossom in fatherhood. He will allow our girl to put clips in his short hair and drink countless cups of imaginary tea. You will fall more in love with him as he forgets all self-consciousness in order to make her happy. Those years when she is young will be the happiest and hardest you’ll ever know.

When Cameron goes, part of you will too. He was basically deaf at the end, and cancer had plagued him for years. I know it was a mercy. I know he hurt, but my selfish heart wanted him to stay with me for always. You’ll know by now that it wasn’t always rosy. We bickered constantly. But we only ever fought because we cared, and that caring won’t die with him.

Through it all, you became yourself. In our youth, we felt the need for titles, for acceptance and for validation from others. We fought doing anything for simple pleasure. We fought turning inward to see what in life would make us happy. We tried to always do what was within some outside view of what we thought the world intended for us. None of that really matters.

The world will continue to be beautiful yet hideous, exciting but mundane, frantic and still. It will continue to change beyond recognition, but stay constant. The same is true in us.

-Still Me (100 years and a day

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