therapy time.

I am a therapist.

I listen, reflect, and respond. I pause, think deeply, and try my best to give meaningful advice to those I am either working with professionally or talking to on a personal level. I never planned to be a therapist but rather fell into it and saw it unfold before me. Talking to people was not necessarily easy for me, but it’s not easy for most therapists. Helping people though– I’ve always enjoyed that. Helping people combined with the small amounts of gratification every therapist gets when they watch the “ah ha” moment shoot across their clients face- as they understand what happened to them as a child is indeed affecting their love life today, what daddy issues really mean, why there are communication issues in their relationships, why the love they have for their dog borders on unhealthy and obsessive- is why I do this.

I’ve worked with parents, families, and children. I’ve worked with those struggling with alcoholism and drug abuse issues. I’ve worked with youth that are gang affiliated and coming out of the juvenile justice system. Although I am young, I am seasoned, and am not new to the therapy world. I have made mistakes, I have learned, and I have taken every job as a chance to grow and evolve.

However, I am RELATIVELY new as a military wife, and that has changed things for me again. I was ready to leave my area and move to a whole new place. I wanted to actually leave the country and try to counsel in a completely new continent! I wanted to not only expand my language ability, but better understand and see how I would be as a therapist in a whole new world.  Obviously my life didn’t turn out that way, and I am living in this town, working in this town, married in this town. And I am still a therapist in this town.

Marrying into the military world has shown me something that I never would have understood before. Don’t get me wrong- I may have been able to read about it, and I definitely could have found evidence based studies about it. I’ve seen television shows and movies, watched clips on youtube and felt empathy towards people walking past me on the street. But I had no connection and therefore felt no understanding until I married into this life-understanding about how complicated, how many layers to the onion there are to being a soldier’s, a sailor’s, an airman’s, a coastie’s wife (or husband!).

There are MILLIONS of layers, and so often people assume it’s all about deployment. Sadly, so often people assume that the struggle only comes when the people you love packs up and leaves for however long. The assumption doesn’t include the struggle that there is for the people who pack up their lives every few years and move to a new state, leaving behind friends, jobs, schools, and social lives. That assumption doesn’t include wives who have to be both parents to children when their significant others are working insane hours and not getting paid nearly enough (salary of a Private in the U.S. Army with about two years of experience is $18,194. Salary that Derek Jeter, shortstop of the NY Yankees received in 2013 is 17 million. Love the Yanks, but was DJ out there risking his life, missing important family moments?  I don’t think so!)

I’m not the first military spouse to rant about this, but I do know that I am tired of being a number, of just another Navy wife. My whole point to this blog is to say that after writing to Navy wives, giving them my phone number, telling them that I am a trained therapist with multiple masters, I’ve realized that I would love to just work with military wives and their children. I don’t want to work with soldiers or sailors. Just the families. I want to help the people who I can empathize with. I have spent years learning how to create boundaries; I am confident about that. Now it is time to utilize my skill set and make this happen (and if anyone has any ideas how, LET ME KNOW!) J

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Dear Husband

On April 1, 2012 I wrote the following letter. I didn’t know my husband at the time. I was frustrated with the men I had been dating and feeling angry with everyone around me. A close friend advised me to write a letter to my (future) “husband”, wherever he was in the universe, thanking him for his love, telling him how I felt about him, appreciating him.

In the beginning I told her that she was absolutely insane. Then I texted her back and asked her for more details. She told me that it was simple, that I was overcomplicating it. She explained that it was more for me than anything else (but that it couldn’t harm putting it out to the universe). My friend added that I should  say a quick prayer (and I am NOT the religious type),  seal it and give it to my husband to read the night before my wedding (whenever that would occur).

Here is the letter:

“Dear        ,

I want to start this letter by telling you how much I love you. I’ve waited my whole life for you, as cliche as that sounds. I remember believing that men before you were ‘the one’, but it quickly, whether I was willing to see it or not, became apparent that they were not. After awhile I came to the realization that I just had to be patient because you were making your way towards me, and that we would walk to each other when fate wanted us to.

There are so many things I love about you. I love that you challenge me. You don’t let anything come too easily. You also understand how stubborn I am, and winning is never more important than our relationship. You listen to me, and care about what I am saying. I know that you remember what I tell you, whether it is a painful childhood memory or what type of wine to get. My words have meaning. You make me feel valuable. You know when I need space and you don’t take it personally. I’m not always as easy. I understand that. My whole life, I’ve felt like I put in 100% effort, and got back 60%. Then you come along, and that changed.

You not only tolerate my family, you LIKE them. That’s amazing, because I don’t like them half the time. You make me laugh babe, laugh and snort so hard my stomach hurts. Please, always make me laugh that hard.

I love that I can be awkward around you and that we never fight in public, and that we talk things out. That’s always been so important to me. I know I have a quick trigger. Your being laid back is such a good balance for me. I love that you understand my need to work so much. You put me first. YOU PUT ME FIRST. I had to write that twice because it’s so significant. It’s easy to say that you’ll put someone else first- I’ve had my first share of men say that- but you DO that, AND your actions have proven that. Your actions show the type of man you are.

You grocery shop without too many complaints, and you cook (as long as I clean). I used to feel bad; I really used to feel like I was damaged goods, like I would be alone forever because there was not way that anyone good would be with me. It wasn’t even that I was self criticizing, although in a way I was; it was more like after meeting and dating “great” men I’d truly started to feel like no one would want “damaged goods” like me. What I really failed to realize and truly accept at that time was what I wrote earlier- that it just wasn’t our time yet. I know now that you were fighting through the crowds towards me.

I’m so lucky to be loved by you. I love when you sing, I love when you are silly, when you are sweet, when you are romantic, when you’re intelligent. I love you, and I can’t believe that I get to fall more and more in love with you.

Thank you for finding me.

Love your about to be wife-

Cassie

(and in the margins it says:Just so you know, I love our weekend adventures, random hikes, the way your eyes light up when I am dressed up, your secret garden skills, your loyalty, your dedication, how you hog the blankets, your music addiction– you!)

My husband and I eloped, and agreed to give each other letter’s the night before. I didn’t want to tell him that I had written a letter to him almost a year before, so I waited until we were by the water and explained about his letter. Expecting my logical husband to tease me, he kissed me and believed that I had written the letter the year before. He was excited to open it, and read it privately. Returning to me, his face was filled with emotions. He let me read the letter– by then, I had forgotten what I had written.

I had described my husband, a man I didn’t know, so well. Reading the letter now, typing it up today, it’s hard to believe the letter was not written after I met James. He even grocery shops.

My point is this- love and relationships can be crappy. People can be disrespectful to each other and being with someone can be a lonely place. They can leave you questioning so much of who you are, who you have evolved into, who you will become. When I wrote this letter, I had no idea I would be married a year later, that I was about to meet James and that my whole life would change. I met him and took a blind leap of faith, and it was the best decision I ever made. For me, it was the right time, and I was in the right place in my life to (as he saidi in one of his first love letters to me) take a leap with a silly navy boy from Texas with a huge heart who fell in love with me on our first date. OUR FIRST DATE!

It’s possible. :) Image

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Rant.

I really, really get so frustrated with the Navy.

I wasn’t writing for a week, and I was hoping my next blog post would be super positive with something great that the Navy was doing but unfortunately that isn’t going to happen.

I understand that the Navy can be a great thing. But for me more often than not I just get insanely frustrated. Lets take yesterday, for example. James got stuck at work late and we missed an appointment. Or today, when something happened and hes not working late every day this week- and this is his DAYS week! Hes supposed to actually be home by 5!

I don’t expect anyone who is a civilian wife to understand this. Your husband may work overtime a couple days, or a weekend or two. My husband has eight days a month when he is home around 5pm. He goes to sleep by 8, and I am in school three or four days of the week. This gives us two days to spend three hours together. Not much time, but precious, because he is not deployed and he is home. And then, of course, someone else makes a mistake, someone gets arrested for drinking too much (our town seems to be infamous for catching people up drinking and basically handing them DWIs) and BOOM! , husband stuck at work, the dog and I are fumbling around.

It’s hard to appreciate the good parts of the Navy when things like that happen. Hell, it’s hard to make a LIST of anything good when that happens. It’s hard to like the Navy when you can’t get leave because there aren’t enough staff to cover your husband’s section- my list can go on. And basically, I just get frustrated. I wonder if this makes me selfish. I don’t know how to comfort him or make him feel better- because I know that he feels bad and is frustrated too. So most of the time we roll our eyes and let it go. But I think that we need to do a little more than that at some point. The Navy isn’t going anywhere. It’s a huge part of our lives. The fact that we cannot control it and that choices are made for us is a part of our lives.

I’ve said it before- I was never really prepared for this life. I know some women that I grew up with that saw marrying into the Navy as a ticket out. I never did, because I never needed someone else to get me out of my hometown. I did that all by myself. I love my husband, but the Navy feels like its drowning sometimes.

Sigh. Just a few more years to go.

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Terrorism

I was sixteen when the towers fell, tucked away in my very safe home with my mother and sister. I was in my bedroom, getting ready for a funeral when someone called our house and told us to turn on the news. I sat on my bed and watched as the second plane crashed, watched as the towers crashed down, listened in the radio in the car as announcers spoke of the most terrible tragedy I have ever seen happen to this country in my own lifetime. But my life went back to normal. I went back to school, went back to my friends. I didn’t lose any family, and didn’t lose any friends. I was able to still row on my crew team, learn to drive a car with my parents, and fight with my sister every day. My own personal freedoms did not seem to be affected by the tragedy that basically tore our nation apart.

Then I left for college and went to school five blocks from the World Trade Center. Once a bustling area, downtown Manhattan was a ghost town two years later. When the towers fell, they took more than the two buildings with them, and I am not just being metaphorical. Buildings were severely damaged that were ten, twenty blocks away. Store fronts were completely blown out, restaurants had the front end and no back. Many business owners were either unable to afford to fix the damage or stay open in the ghost town no one wanted to visit. Two years after 9/11, downtown Manhattan was a place for the walking dead, for the ghosts. And I had decided to live right in the middle of it.

The World Trade Center site was eerie. Pardoned off, the memorial that is there now was just a dream. Construction had not begun. It was a dangerous and dark place at night, foreboding and filled me with a sense of dread. During the day people crowded there, lamenting, pouring out their hearts, leaving mementos and religious relics. I didn’t know it was that powerful until I stood there myself, day after day.

Over the next four years, downtown Manhattan evolved. New York City tends to do that; it has a power I haven’t recognized in other cities. As stores closed, new ones open. As restaurants faced bankruptcy, new ones came in and gave Lower Manhattan the fresh air it so desperately needed. The dark cloud that had literally fallen on 9/11 slowly- very, very slowly- began to lift.

I became involved in an Oral History project at my undergrad college, the goal of which was to record the testimonies of those involved or impacted by 9/11 in some way. I interviewed a New York City detective who had logged body parts at the World Trade Center site for six months. As he looked at me with sad, heavy eyes I realized 9/11 had taken him as a victim. He would never be the same. He told me that playing baseball with his son took an effort because he flinched when a ball came toward him. I interviewed a student who was at my college on that day, who had walked 72 blocks in smoke and soot and debris that was quite likely things we both could not put into words  (we could, but didn’t want to actually articulate) to her father, who worked in a building uptown, until she finally felt safe and had holes in her sandals. She said she was leaving New York City and moving somewhere in the Midwest. She told me that no matter where she settled she would always be unsettled.

There have been acts of terrorism, foreign and domestic, both before and after 9/11. We are naive to believe there have not and will not be more. Today, Boston was bombed. No, we don’t know the details (right now, at 6:04pm). What we do know is people were hurt. And this always stirs up the same things in all of us- fear, horror, confusion.  It’s posted everywhere-the news, newspapers, instagram, facebook, twitter, imagr. We can’t escape it. In such a media driven society, news like this is directly in your face—I am so thankful it was NOT like this 12 years ago.

However, living in downtown Manhattan in the wake of 9/11, watching New Yorkers put themselves together after such a tragedy, being involved in oral history projects and seeing the evolution of downtown always restores such a hope in me. I don’t get scared. I know that for every person who wants to cause fear, there are ten more who will restore hope.

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Time Out!

First off, I want to say that I really appreciate the comments, text, and messages after the last post. That’s a big part of what this blog is for. Please continue to do so.

My husband and I met a year ago and we have, like many military couples, had a relatively quick courtship. We were living together within three months, engaged within four months and married six months after that. A huge wedding was planned but we decided to elope instead, again like many military couples choose to do.

I’ve had more long term relationships than my husband, and came close to settling down once but I was never as sure as anything as I am with him. And we are very, very different people. James is more introverted than I am. He listens to different music than I, watches different movies, and would choose the mountains over the beach (I love the beach!). He despises country music (even though he is from Texas, and yes I am stereotyping) which I love, romantic comedies (my favorite), and television dramas that are not British made. James would rather cook than eat out (please, take me out to eat any day) and doesn’t really enjoy sweets (brownies, cookies, cupcakes, I love them all). And that is the more surface things. We have many differences in our belief systems, the ways we were raised, our childhoods (which occurred across the country from each other), and family units.

People always throw out the cliché that opposites attract, but I’ve learned that it is so much deeper than that, and I have only been at this for one year. James and I ARE different. He is blue and I am yellow, and we are making our own very green world (no pun intended, we are not pregnant or anything). What I mean by that is what we have done is started to create a world that is a mix of the two of us- and adding the military into it, which is now a huge part of James’ life. For example, I will watch a television show with James (Dr. Who), and he will go to a movie I pick (despite it’s rating on rotten tomatoes, and he will not protest).  James will cook dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday, and we will go out for date night at a restaurant we mutually choose (or I choose and he agrees with!). We are building this world that is filled with compromises and agreed upon decisions. And when something cannot be agreed upon, whether it is as petty as a television show or more significant, like whether our children should be raised in a certain religion, we are learning everyday more about each other’s triggers, when the other needs a time out, when to take a break. We recently agreed on a code word that could be used in our heated verbal  discussions (I say that because we don’t fight- James is too calm most of the time for fights) if one of us is hurt/angry/sad and feeling exceptionally unheard. James is good at stopping when he is frustrated if I call out this magic word. I am extremely emotional and passionate; I struggle to quell my own emotions to hear him. I’m working on it. This was James’ idea and it is something that I wish everyone could use. Everyone can use a time out when you’re heated.

Marriage takes so much more effort than I thought possible. It takes James and myself mutually putting in effort in order to make an improvement constantly. It is also, however, a lot of fun. And I am very, very lucky for that.

This is my husband and I on our latest date night, painting a picture together. The end product resulted in a picture that looked like it was painted by one person, even though it was the two of us painting on two separate canvases together. And that just proved how I feel even more so- our world is coming together. And it’s pretty awesome.

Image

Final picture! What do you think? Do you agree?

paint and sip 1

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Its not always easy.

I always read inspirational posts- on other blogs, facebook, twitter, pintrest- about how great a joy it is to be a Navy wife. I want so desperately to be on that bandwagon. I would like nothing more than to be able to run a parallel life to my husband and not be phased by the lack of control we have in our day to day lives. However, I am just not there. I wish I was though.

My husband is not deployed, which I am obviously extremely thankful for, but is an instructor who works different shifts. This means that there is one actual four day weekend off a month, and three working shifts which are all over the time clock: early morning to late afternoon, early afternoon to late night, overnight. As a student, before qualifying, he worked over 12 hours a shift, sometimes longer. Now his shifts can still extend past 10 hours, which, depending on the time he is working, well, just sucks. I was under the naïve assumption that once he qualified (graduated, for all you non-military people) and was lucky enough to become staff instructor- so we would have the opportunity to stay in my hometown- we would be able to spend more time together. Not necessarily the truth. His sleep schedule is always changing. Because he isn’t off at the same date/times “Regular” people are off, it’s hard to make plans, yet along make plans with other people. My own schedule doesn’t always match his, and I often change or manipulate my own plans so we can see each other. Taking a day off is a process and there are designated weeks where time off is not an option. Parties have been planned around his schedule- and not just parties that are for him and I.

My meltdown occurred Saturday night in a local restaurant. I have, on average, three or four “I can’t stand this Navy life” meltdowns a month.  Like I said in an earlier post, I did not grow up in a military family or want a military life. I met my husband and fell in love with him, and when we first began talking I didn’t even know he was a sailor (probably fate ensuring that I actually speak to him instead of walking away immediately). I had spent Friday at a bonfire party for friends, and was going out that night as well for a different occasion. Of course, he was on a different shift, and was not able to do so to join me. I could be the single girl in a group of couple. Before I met James, this never phased me. I loved being the single girl with my married friends. But I am not single. I am married to the most amazing man ever. And I want to shout it from the roof tops. I want to show him off and laugh with him and look at him across the room and just smile. Not an option though.

So that sparked it. From there, it became the list of things that are different in military life and civilian life, from choosing where we live, being able to call him during the day if something happens, having him stay home if I am sick (or vice versa!), planning for kids and staying around our families, time off.   Luckily for me, my husband is a calm person, and our fight was more of an emotional discussion than an argument. We always get to the same place: I say that he choose the Navy long before I met him, that this was his life, and he calmly states that while that may be true, I married him, and even if I did not realize how stressful it is, I am living this life now and we are doing it together, side by side.

Living this life now. Even typing the words makes me slightly uncomfortable. I have never been afraid to get up, move, change something if I wanted to. I’ve moved from continent to continent, urban to rural in search of what I needed. I like change. I crave it. To have something bigger than me dictate my life makes me angry, uncomfortable and sometimes even unsafe. I admire other Navy wives who can throw it up to a bigger spirit and learn to roll with the punches. I have growing to do, because I am still throwing some killer right hooks.

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Married the Navy.

Earlier today at lunch, my sister asked me how I am writing a Navy blog if I was talking about drinking, dancing, and old men in Ireland in my first post.

It was a valid point, yet as I sat there I couldn’t help but smile. I understood my post, my mission statement. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else would/will/should.

I am writing this blog to talk about my perspective in my world. My own bubble.  My life, my experiences. And let’s be real here- my life is not all about the Navy. The Navy has most definitely come to shape and evolve a significant portion of the choices I have made in the last year. Meeting James, my husband, was the single most life changing experience of my life—as it probably should be. But the Navy doesn’t define who I am.  I am smiling as I type that because if I pretended that it did, this whole blog would be bullshit, and it would turn from non-fiction to fiction in seconds (non a bad idea for a novel, although so cliché!)

So as I have introduced before, I’m Cassie. I live in a small town in upstate New York. And let me make something explicitly clear from the very beginning– I never liked the Navy. And I have never liked Navy guys.  

I am also not very patriotic, never really knew many I love America songs, or owned anything that is red, white and blue. For a while I had no idea that there was an Air Force Base and Army base within 45 miles of my hometown. Clueless to the military presence here, I respected them during 9/11- as every good teenager did- but continued to live my life, moving to New York City, partying,  going on adventures, and very much enjoying my 20’s.

Please do not assume I am a bad person or awful military wife. Just have an open mind and keep reading.

Back in my relatively small hometown, there has been a Navy base for at least 25 years. It is not a typical base (please do not ask if it is like one on ARMY wives. Mostly because I have no idea), but much smaller, with limited base housing, a small commissary, bank, and some support services. I’ve driven by the base without having any idea it was there more times than I can count. Just didn’t pay any attention to it.

At the same time, Navy guys, in my town have filled an archetype- drunk, obnoxious, loud. They are always downtown at our bars- rude, lewd, vulgar. I’ve seen Navy guys engage in fistfights with local boys for no reason, punching and hitting and receive what appeared to be no repercussions while my friends were put in handcuffs. I watched Navy guys mock girls at bars, tear their appearance apart and make sly comments as women walked by. No, I never liked, respected, or appreciated the Navy presence in my town.

Of course, life is filled with ironies, and things rarely turn out how we assume they will. And as I made assumptions about all Navy guys (even if they were built on some truth), I ended up married to one. And friends with other Navy guys, all who were kind, funny, interesting, and nothing like the stereotype in my head.

Funny how that works out, isn’t it? How life can twist and turn, and you can go from being the least patriotic person to having a yellow ribbon on your keychain and supporting the Wounded Warrior project?

I am hoping this is a good second introduction into a little more about me, this blog, about how I got here. I never wanted to be a part of this life- I know some women search to be a part of it- but here I am, figuring it out each day. I am not used to the shift work, nights alone, trying to figure out when I can see my husband and how to adjust when he has to miss important work/family/life events. I am not used to not having someone be able to call out sick or have a personal day when I need them. I am not used to not having someone I can call whenever I want, work or at home. I am not used to not being able to reach my significant other at my own discretion. I married James, but in so many ways, I married the Navy.

Biggest irony of all.

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