The following is an email that the mom sent me. It’s dated so you can see just how long I have been mulling this over. Afterwards, I tell you what it did to me. As always, mom knew exactly what to say. And even if she didn’t know, she did it anyway.
February 14, 2009
Happy Valentine’s Day! I don’t suppose it’s much different than any other day there, but I wanted to say it anyway.
What I’m really writing about is your blog. I hope you can read this without becoming angry and just think about what I am saying. I’m very sorry that you decided to take your blog private. I think you have some really intelligent thoughts and ideas that should be read by many more people than the limited amount of readers you have invited.
Shakespeare wrote “Discretion is the better part of valor” (or something like that). I think that means that you are not a coward if you back down when you think your energy and resources could be better used at another time or place. We’ve had this discussion many times about freedom of the press and the right of free speech. When the founding fathers gave us that right, they could not have imagined the way in which society has evolved. They couldn’t know that radio, TV, and the Internet would invade our lives and homes to the extent that it has. I still believe that you have those rights, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I’m saying that although you have the right to criticize people, that doesn’t mean you should be mean and nasty when you do it. Recent additions to your blog have been giving me the feeling that your old high school attitude has been resurrected: Don’t tell me no. That just makes me want to do it more.
In this instance (your blog) I think you are leading with your attitude and not your incredible intellect. I know you’ve always had more consideration for dogs than for people, but try to think about people now. If you are presenting a case where your superiors and you do not see eye to eye on a situation, they would be more receptive to any criticism or suggestions if you presented a problem, thought, or idea in a well thought out manner, using proper English and without degrading expletives. They might actually ponder what you have to say. When you begin with swearing and nasty names, people tend to disregard your writing as ignorant rants and raves. They also get their defenses up and refute or dismiss what you have to say.
Someone once said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (It’s been attributed to Voltaire, but also to one of his biographers.) I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to write or say what you want in your blog, but I will take exception to how you say it. Another old saying: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar”. Those words are worth thinking about.
I’ve always been incredibly proud of you and TJ, and I am now. TJ read your tribute to Auntie Buddie at her memorial. So many people complimented your writing and even asked for a copy of it. So you know you can project your feelings in a more acceptable format. Think about it.
More later. I love you and I miss you. Love, Attila the Mom
Gotta love her. She is something else. So that little note of hers got me thinking. Which as anyone who has read more than three paragraphs of my writing knows is never a good thing.
So where did my thinking start? Just like she said it would, I don’t care what you say, I am going to do it anyway. Which, I admit is a bit childish. But we all already know that I am a bit childish. Its just what I do. Let’s call it my great character flaw. The fact that emotionally, I stopped maturing right around sixteen and have held steady ever since. At least I am consistent.
I think that she knows this, and I think that is part of the reason she does what she does. You remember the movie “The Crow”, well there’s a line in there where the Crow says to some lady, “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of all children.” Now I figure that line came from someone a lot smarter than the guy who wrote that movie, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a truism, and it doesn’t change the fact that regardless of how old I get, I am still her child. She reminds me of this constantly. But what does she do that makes her seem so transcendent sometimes?
It’s the way that she is able to say one thing to me, that she knows will send my mind into a tailspin. Just because that is what she knows my mind does. However, she manages to do it in such a way, and with so much love and affection that it disarms the rather formidable defenses that my mind and personality have set up to protect me from any and all attacks from anyone who doesn’t think exactly as I do, and she nudges me into thinking about things differently and after a while I manage to come out a little bit better, or a little bit smarter on the other end.
Well that being said, I would like to tell you mother dear, that this tailspin was a bit longer, a bit stormier, and just generally a larger pain in the ass than they usually are. (I can say ass, its in the Bible) And she always manages to do this kind of stuff when I am in some sort of funk, or depressed about something, or just in one of those general malaises that people get into sometime. Gee, you would think that she could tell, or she knew somehow! (Sarcasm intended)
Well, for the last few weeks my depression level has been epic. I tried to snap myself out of it, but nothing I was doing was working. As it turns out, all I needed was that little nudge to start thinking about the right things. And as has happened so many times before, mommy didn’t even bother to nudge me in the right direction. She took out her verbal baseball bat, and knocked some sense into me. It’s kind of nice to know that no matter how old I get she’s always going to do what she does. That kind of continuity in life is good for a bipolar lunatic such as I. I wonder if she even consciously understands what her words do to me sometimes. Or is it just some kind of maternal voodoo that gets her to do it. Either way, it works, so let’s run with it, shall we.
So I started thinking about the blog, I started thinking about all the things that I have written about, I started thinking about all of it. Basically, this blog is the literary reflection of my life since last July. Normally, that wouldn’t be much to talk about, but given the circumstances, quite a bit has been jammed into that time. There has been a million things happening, new friends, rekindling old ones (facebook is a wonderful thing), explosions, gun fire, boredom, excitement, paying off bills, trying to deal with being a stranger to my own life, working, and the lot of it. It’s been quite an eventful 8 months thus far, and it should be a whole lot more of the same for the next four or five.
Well what does all this random babbling mean? Like I said before, my mind slips into these tailspins. Which normally take me from where I started to someplace completely foreign to where I began. It started as a note on the blog that was supposed to convince me to quit swearing so much, it ended with me snapping out of a depression and getting back on the horse that I had so ungracefully fell off of.
Between this company that I am a part of, this war (if you can still call it that), home, this blog, and a lot of other things, I had completely swung to the low end of the bipolar spectrum. I don’t even know if I qualify as bipolar anymore. I would venture a guess that if any of you saw some of my mood swings you would actually call me schizophrenic, because it has got to be at least two different people. No rational, functioning human can fluctuate from one to the other within the span of four and a half seconds. Rest assured, my well read friends, I do it all the time.
Now my thinking started with the blog, moved onto the events described therein, and finished up with what I was feeling because of all of it. Then I started to think about why those things made me feel that way. Then I figured out why, then I started thinking about why this place, in general, is just so depressing. Then I figured out that it wasn’t so much depression that had taken hold of me. I mean, to a point it was, but for the most part it was a deep seated feeling of pity, coupled with a very strong feeling of thankfulness, which made me ashamed of myself. (Don’t worry I know that probably didn’t make much sense, but I’ll explain it, but right now I need a cigarette. Give me a minute.)
Alright, I’m back. So where does the pity come from. Be advised, do not read the following unless you are ready for a bout of depression.
Here, a baby dying is just luck of the draw.
Home, a baby dying is a rare tragedy.
Here, dirt walls and floors is just the way it is.
Home, we don’t think anyone should live that way.
Here, a person missing limbs is commonplace.
Home, a person missing limbs is an anomaly.
Here, violence and war is a way of life.
Home, war is something that our land hasn’t seen since 2001 and prior to that it was 1941. Sure
we’ve been in a bunch of them, but they never touched our shores. I wish I could say the same about violence, but for the most part it is still something that most of us only see on television.
Here, medical attention is a rare privilege.
Home, most if not all of us, consider it a right. At least emergency care.
Here, children start working before they’ve gotten their first zit.
Home, American children don’t even like to work well into their twenties.
Here, people live to be about 47.
Home, I actually heard the guy on the television say that thirty is the new twenty.
Here, kids beg for food.
Home, kids are roughly the size of Volkswagen’s.
Here, walking from one village to the next is a death race.
Home, walking is considered too big a chore.
Here, a used winter coat is like manna from heaven.
Home, a used coat is considered beneath us.
Here, having the lives of your children threatened if you don’t do something that the Taliban wants is normal.
Home, well has anyone ever had their children’s lives threatened?
Here, being oppressed by this thing or that, Taliban, the police, the army, neighboring tribes, your family, religion, or whatever, is just par for the course.
Home, once again, when was the last time you were oppressed? And I mean oppressed, as in at the end of a gun.
I could go on and on, ad infinitum. But for all our sanity’s sake I won’t. But that’s what I was feeling. Thankfulness, and pity. In my mind, the equation thankfulness + pity = depression. Probably because I was ashamed of myself for having so much and being thankful for it when these people haven’t got a thing, comparatively.
Then I got a chance to talk to the Chaplain (military priests), we weren’t talking about anything in particular, just chatting. Pigpen got around to telling him about how he’s been feeling the same way I have. So I figured that I should stay around and hear what the Chaplain had to say about it. Little bit of free therapy without all the touchy feely, tell me about your mother shit. So as we got to talking, he moved into the words of wisdom part, and he said this. “Yesterday ended last night, today is another day.” I guess he meant that you can’t let all this stuff build up and build up, one thing on top of another until you have an elephant sitting on your head. At least that is how I took it, and for the purposes of this entry that’s all that matters.
I started to mull that one over, and I figured that in this place, whether I like it or not, there are going to be things that suck. There are going to be people that I dislike, disdain or downright loathe. All that I can really do is take everything, one thing at a time, everyday one day at a time, every bag of ass, one bag of ass at a time. I never realized that functioning in the military was tantamount to joining AA. But I digress.
Then, without much effort on my part, it felt like someone removed a rather large hippopotamus from my chest. I could go into all the psycho-babble about this event, but I don’t feel like it.
My happiness level skyrocketed, which hasn’t happened in a while.
Then I started thinking about all of this stuff differently. All these guys that I hate here, and wouldn’t mind seeing them trampled by a herd of Haji goats. I just started looking at them as what they are. Just someone who is passing through my life. You’ll be here for a while, then the deployment will end and I’ll never have to see you again. So to hell with you. All these things that piss me off, once again, the deployment will end and these things will never matter again. All the stuff at home that aggravates me because I am here, which means I either can’t do anything about it, or I can’t be a part of it. Well that stuff, while a bit more meaningful than the previous two, will also pass. So why get my panties in a bunch about any of it.
Basically, I went from thinking the sky was falling. To remembering that the sun will come up tomorrow and today won’t mean a thing. I even got over the pity thing. Pity won’t help anyone. These people don’t need my pity, nor do they want it. They could care less. These guys have been living like this forever. Who the hell am I to judge them and/or their lives. I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure, the way they live is so much harder than the way that I do that I am almost envious of them given the fact that they can do it.
This is what my brain does. I can go from my mom telling me to stop swearing to figuring out some (in my own tiny mind) cosmic secret that wrests me from the grip of one hell of a depression.
So here we go, its another day... And thanks again Mom. You always say the right thing. Whether you know it or not.
And with that, I am done.
I love you mom...