Take The Good With The Bad

I’m at a very bad truck stop tonight in North Carolina. It’s the kind of stop you don’t want to walk around at night so I take Vinny out one last time at dusk. Here you see the usual trash cast aside by those with no respect for others.

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Like I always do I try to find some corner of content, a little wedge of clear elegance in the midst of human disregard. I think I succeeded.

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This field of wheat reminds us that even surrounded by people that don’t care, in the middle of the decay of society as a whole, the beauty of nature shines through to give us something to be thankful for. For one to truly live a life of fulfillment we must learn to look past the jagged edges, through the barbed wire, and take the good with the bad.

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What Is Wisdom, And Where Can I Buy Some?

We all would like to think we are wise, refined in our thinking, complete in our depth of thought. Bold in our actions with the assurance of our ability to discern the proper path, the right way of things. With our perceived knowledge of a sage and the foresight of a prophet we sometimes fall prey to our own misguided plans that lead to sorrow or pain. I have been down this road, sometimes more than once. After careful thought I believe the path to wisdom is found in the realization of our mistakes and the focus of thought in not perpetuating the same.

Over the past few weeks since my father died I have been caught in a battle between sorrow and hope, disbelief and fortitude. On one side I feel the loss of someone dear, a wound only now realized in it’s pain. On the other I feel the excitement of my plans for a fuller life, the freedom of the seas and the restless longing for travel. I feel torn as to how long to mourn before release, how long to wait till I no longer feel guilty for past sins. I am not as wise as I wish for I have no answer.

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I question the wisdom of a job that can be very dangerous at times. One false move and my best friend and I could be injured or killed in the blink of an eye. I tell myself that the journey to happiness is fraught with danger. Only those who are willing to pay will succeed. Again, I hope I am right.

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There are days when the majesty of the open road take my breath away, the beauty of nature overwhelms you and you feel like all is good in the world. Moments like this are the saving grace in my life, the recharge of my internal batteries I so need at this time.

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When I drive in the early morning I feel a sense of peace as the sun rises. A new day has come, another chance to get it right. Even as I write this, tears well in my eyes with the hope of a future filled with the things I am most inspired by. Nature, photography, sailing, solitude, giving back to those in need. I will fulfill my goals no matter how long it takes.

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While stopping at a rest area I notice these two trees. They seem so lopsided in the growth of their limbs, very few between them. It comes to me the simple wisdom of it. It make no sense to grow limbs in the shade of each other, better to send more limbs and leaves into the sunny side. So too should be my life. No more standing in the shade of despair. Better to stand in the light of hopefulness, basking in the glow of the brilliant light of another day. Better to squint in the sunshine than stumble in the shade.

PS: In a shocking LACK of wisdom, the hospital that last treated my father sent a package to my mother a week ago…in that package was my fathers false teeth. Even though they knew he was sent to hospice, they felt compelled to mail them. Unbelievable.

The Perceived Enlightenment 

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Weary am I as the sun fades through the trees. The daily crusade of miles and time demand payment, and stop I must to pay my dues.  A day of introspective assessment behind me now, the solace of quiet as the miles rolled by, only the rumble of the highway received by my ears.  As I nourish body and mind I reflect on my thoughts, search for the thread that binds them together. An index written to allow words to form, a ballet in type. Difficult is the task as eyes grow heavy.

I pondered the image of a life to date, lessons learned and some forgotten. Wiser than I have traveled the same, they too stumbled and fell. We go through life with a perceived enlightenment, a belief that we have the answers to many things, assured by experience we justify actions. Blinded are we who follow this path, trusting in a mindset befallen with error. Only with time can we see the image of truth, only with the acceptance that we know nothing can we truly see the light. Enlightenment comes from the realization we have much to learn.

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Just as this flower blooms with all it’s majesty and beauty, just when it has given it’s all, the hold it has in this world fades, back to the earth from which it came. So too is the life of us mortals, from dust we come and to dust we return. Just like the flower all we can hope for is do some small part to beautify this world, make at least one persons life better, if only for a moment. It’s never to late to make amends, never to late to learn more and build a book of wisdom to base the remainder of your life on, even share with those who seek the same. Like a favorite lyric from a song I know, these words hold great wisdom to follow, a belief to live by…“Life is a lesson, you learn it when your through.”

Suite Madame Blue

Time after time I sit and I wait for your call
I know I’m a fool but why can I say
Whatever the price I’ll pay for you,
Madame Blue

Once long ago, a word from your lips and the world turned around
But somehow you’ve changed, you’re so far away
I long for the past and dream of the days with you,
Madame Blue

Suite Madame Blue, gaze in your looking glass
You’re not a child anymore
Suite Madame Blue, the future is all but past
Dressed in your jewels, you made your own rules
You conquered the world and more, heaven’s door

Oh

America, America, America, America
America, America, America, America
America, America, America, America
America, America, America, America
America, America, America, America
America, America, America, America

Red white and blue, gaze in your looking glass
You’re not a child anymore
Red, white, and blue, the future is all but past
So lift up your heart, make a new start
And lead us away from here

Suite Madame Blue – Styx

My short time on this earth has taught me anything of real value comes at a price, nothing is free. It’s also taught me that time is fleeting, every moment of your life is to be cherished not squandered. When I look out over the vast stretches of Madame Blue, I see more than open ocean, seagulls and dolphins. More than the morning sun as it struggles to break free of Poseidon’s grasp. More than the foreboding feeling as waves grow tall with the setting sun, and the darkness once again takes control. I see my past being washed away in the wake of my sailboat. Each bad memory fading from view as I trim my sails and and stay true to the decided course.

It’s been just over a decade since I walked away from the lifestyle that held me in a prison of doubt and fear, a way of life fraught with anxiety and sadness. I feel I have grown more in that time then in all the time before. With a clear head I have looked at all the things I couldn’t see in my youth through the eyes of an outsider of sorts. No longer clouded by drugs I find I can play God with my past, slowly discarding the mistakes and fleshing out the real person that lies within. I feel an urgency to get my life in order before the future is past again. If you’ve never been in that place you can’t possibly understand the willpower it takes to turn away from the hold it has on you. I will never go back.

The passing of my father has shown me how much I still have to learn, how much I overlooked. Like many John Wayne characters, my father did not sit with me and teach me about life lessons he had learned, it was not his way. Instead he taught by example, though it took his death for me to see it. When I think of my struggles, then look to his past, I see no comparison. My fathers past was much more devastating than anything I have been through, yet he stayed strong and steady until the end. In his last days of life I watched his hold on this world slowly slip from his grasp, his body slowly melt away a little more each day. Even when he slipped into a coma, no food or water for over 8 days, he would not give up. My father was the strongest man I have ever known, and I will try to live up to his example.

I look to my future with hope for a change, thanks in large part to the lessons I have learned from both my parents. The sum of my experiences and the steadfast will both my father and mother have shown gives me the strength to carry on each day, the will to make my dream a reality in the near future. When my father is buried, his flag will come with me on my boat as a symbol of what it means to be a man, his lessons not lost on me. He will be with me in every storm, sunny day, distant anchorage and marina. I will remember how he never gave up, never backed down. Though his back was bowed with the burdens he carried, he gladly put that yoke on each morning and made his way through life with few complaints. I will do my best to become half the man he was.

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Simple Man

Mama told me when I was young
“Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day”

“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love
And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above”

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

“Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Oh yes, I will

“Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can”

Baby, be a simple, really simple man
Oh, be something you love and understand

Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd

I’ve been thinking about this post for days, trying to find the words to best portray the thoughts in my mind. A vision is coming into focus of the person I want to be, the lifestyle I wish to lead, and what it will take to get there. A friend recently commented on a post about the people that inspire her. People that understand what truly gives one happiness, how simple and fulfilling life can be when lived at it’s most basic level. There is one man that really inspires me, one man who’s footsteps I would like to follow, albeit with a slightly different abode. That man is Richard Proenneke.

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Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke
(May 4, 1916 – April 20, 2003) was a self-educated naturalist who lived alone for nearly thirty years in the mountains of Alaska in a log cabin he had constructed by hand near the shore of Twin Lakes. Proenneke hunted, fished, raised and gathered his own food, and also had supplies flown in occasionally. He documented his activities in journals and on film, and also recorded valuable meteorological and natural data. The journals and film were later used by others to write books and produce documentaries about his time in the wilderness.
(copied from Wikipedia)

This man was a true naturist, not some granola crunching nut who ties them self to a tree or lays on a highway to try and stop a drilling rig. This man lived in and with nature in it’s purest form. He lived mostly from the land, both animal and vegetable, cultivated and culled by his own hands. He brought with him only the tools he could not make, and only the best quality so they would last. He understood what it meant to be self sufficient, unlike many today who wouldn’t last a week without a supermarket or Starbucks.

If you watch the PBS documentary about his time in Alaska you cant help but come away with a deep respect for this man, a sorrowful feeling of having never met him. I wish I could have spent a day talking with him about his philosophy on life, whether he had any unfulfilled dreams, any regrets. I bet he had none. I think that alone is something we should all strive for…no regrets.

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This is also my quest, to test myself. When my sailboat is purchased and fitted out with only the needed, and best quality equipment, I will try to find my inner peace. I will separate myself from society as much as reasonably possible and live a life in harmony with nature instead of trying to control it. I will have to work some but I will choose an occupation I enjoy even at a much lower income. I miss looking forward to going to work.

I look forward to honing my photography skills, maybe have some pictures published. Sharing my boat and time with those who could use some real quality time with their children such as Veterans. Exploring my writing wherever it leads. Letting go of the regrets of my past and replacing them with feelings of accomplishment and generosity. I want my life to mean something other than just another name in a computer, another face lost in the masses.

Like you Osyth I admire people who see life for what it is, not what we surround ourselves with. There is so much in this world that people walk right by each day and never fully appreciate the beauty of it, so much we take for granted. When was the last time you spent time with someone just talking? No TV, radio, cellphones or any other distractions, just words and eye contact? It’s part of what make’s relationships work over the long run. The true understanding of others only comes from direct and meaningful conversation.

In time I will be writing my posts from the cockpit of my boat anchored in some quiet bay. I will share the pictures I took that day in the hopes of letting you see the world through my eyes, feel the day as I experienced it. My life will mean something when I have found the skill to help others immerse themselves into a world of simple pleasures from a simple man.

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Forward, Ever Forward….Never Give Up

If I made a list of the 10 worst places I have had to reset, this place would make the list. But let’s back up a little, the trip here was OK…here’s a sample.

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I delivered the load yesterday and today I did some shopping and sleeping! I ran really hard the last few days and I needed this day off. There’s not many truck stops in this area and I think I found the worst one! Everywhere you look it’s trash, junk and more trash. The building was run down and even the sign was dirty!

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But if you frame your shot just right, there’s still some interesting pictures to be found.

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I could look at this day as a disappointment, a day spent in a dirty place. I could resent the fact I’m not where I want to be, out of my comfort zone. But that would be pointless. Today is just another test, another moment in my life that will make my future plans seem all the better. Each time I complete a day like this, the days on my future sailboat will be all the sweeter, the reward deeper and more meaningful. I will pay the price, continue doing things I really don’t like.

The road to fulfillment is paved with disappointments, rewards are shadowed by trials of life. Only through perseverance can we attain the best things in life, only by the sweat of our brow will our dreams come true. Forward, ever forward….never give up.

 

Every Day I Write The Book

Don’t tell me you don’t know what love is
When you’re old enough to know better
When you find strange hands in your sweater
When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote
I’m a man with a mission in two or three editions

And I’m giving you a longing look
Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book

Chapter one we didn’t really get along
Chapter two I think I fell in love with you
You said you’d stand by me in the middle of chapter three
But you were up to your old tricks in chapters four, five and six

The way you walk
The way you talk, and try to kiss me, and laugh
In four or five paragraphs
All your compliments and your cutting remarks
Are captured here in my quotation marks

Don’t tell me you don’t know the difference
Between a lover and a fighter
With my pen and my electric typewriter
Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal
I’d still own the film rights and be working on the sequel

Every Day I Write The Book – Elvis Costello

Is that the 80’s or what! Don’t you just love the Charles and Diana look a likes? The lyrics perfectly describe youthful love, the in between years after Jr High, but before you start to settle down. A time when relationships were as fleeting as the last rays of sun on a winter day. But I also see a different parallel to my every day life.

I see every day as a chance to write more than a page, but another chapter in my life. Each day is so much more than can be written in just a few hundred words, each day is a chapter full of sights and sounds, smells and tastes. A day of wonder at the sky and clouds, searching for a thought to surround the view, encompass the colors. The fresh smell of the trees in spring, the scent of salt water fueling your fantasies with images of faraway lands covered in swaying palm trees.

The taste of fresh fruit, savoring every splash of flavor as it accosts your senses with it’s brilliance. The feel of a cool breeze flowing over your skin combined with the warmth of a thousand rays eager to lull you into sleep. The soft cry of birds courting in the sunset, the sound of joy and fulfillment for a lover found. All of these and more fill my days, brightens my soul.

Such are the thoughts of a simple man trying to make his way in this world. Each day brings me closer to the dream, one more step down the path towards my final destination, my vision of what will bring me happiness. Only through hard work can we hope to achieve a life worth living. Only through sacrifice can we finally behold what brings us the most joy. Only through an understanding of oneself can you do more than dream. Every day I write the book of me.

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Where The Streets Have No Name

I want to run
I want to hide
I want to break down the walls
That hold me inside
I want to reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name

I want to feel
The sun on my face
I see the dust cloud disappear
Without a trace
I want to take shelter
From poisoned rain
Where the streets have no name

Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
We’re still building
Then burning down love
Burning down love
And when I go there
I go there with you
Where the streets have no name

I can’t take my eyes off of you
I love you baby
And if it’s quite all right
I need you baby
To warm my lonely nights
So let me love you baby
Let me love you

The city’s a flood
Our love turns to rust
We’re beaten and blown by the wind
Trampled in dust
I’ll show you a place
High on a desert plain
Where the streets have no name

Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
We’re still building
Then burning down love
Burning down love
And when I go there
It’s all I can do
Where the streets have no name

I can’t take my eyes off of you
Love you baby
Let me love you
Where the streets have no name

Where The Streets Have No Name – U2

This song is from The Joshua Tree album released in 1987. I was 22 years old then, and I still remember the first time I heard this on the radio. I liked U2 before this album, and even though my favorite song is by another group, they became my favorite band from that point to date. I can’t think of one song by U2 I don’t like. I think this album planted the seeds of my dream, I just didn’t know it.

Years ago when I started driving, I went to a school in Tennessee to get my CDL license. I rode a Greyhound bus from Bangor Maine all the way to Memphis. Someday I’ll write a post about that adventure! After school I was trained further by a mentor in his truck for six weeks. He was from Joshua Tree California and we spent four days there at his house.

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Words cannot describe the unearthly scene to someone who grew up surrounded by trees. I had never been in a desert before and the majesty was not lost on me. This is the closest thing to walking on the moon that I could imagine. 90 degrees in the day, 35 degrees at night. I saw my life in that space, the stark contrast undeniable.

I lived my young life in a mental desert, a place where the streets had no name. Wandering from place to place in search of something I couldn’t quite see, an unconscious need yearning for the light of understanding to satiate it’s thirst. The burning sun of misdeeds and mistakes draining me of my will, emboldening the hold of what kept me down.

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Now I travel those same streets, but they have names after all. Endurance, willpower, trust, vision, truth, commitment. These are the names of the streets that are leading me to my future, the roads to a better way of life. Even though they have rough spots, I will continue to travel forward, the journey is not always easy. I may be tired, but the goal is coming closer every day.

You get out of this life what you put into it. You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you cope, what your response is to the struggles you endure. If you fail, if you give up, you have no one to blame but yourself. Whatever you can’t control, you must adapt to and face. You can’t cry for long because adversity will still be there waiting for you to finish. Life does not forgive quitters.

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I remember taking this picture in Colorado and thinking how hard it would be to climb this mountain. We are so small in the grand scheme of things, and life is this hill. It’s best not to look at the top, just focus on the next step. I’ve taken the biggest steps, and if I stay focused the rest will be easy.

 

 

 

I Can Do This…But How?

Should I go through the hassle of starting a non profit organization?  Will other Veterans organizations work with me if I don’t?  Should I just try to secure direct food, fuel or other non cash donations?  Should I start a “GoFundMe” page and see what happens?  Maybe it’s a combination of all, I’m not sure.  I will pursue this topic with my lawyer when I get back to Maine soon.  (I’m sitting at a TA truckstop in Springfield MO!)

A fellow blogger and sailor named Chad at Live Free 2 Sail Fast asked me about my plans and the boats I’ve been looking at, so here goes!  The plan started as just an idea one day, a way to honor my dad and help veterans with PTSD find the close bonds with their children that I missed out on.

P753Our service men and women paid dearly for their commitment to this country and our way of life, and sometimes they did not receive the support they needed when the job was done.  I’ve seen first hand what PTSD can do to a person, the toll it takes on their soul.  My father saw things no person should have to see. He left the US a young man, full of life and hope for the future.  He volunteered willingly in an effort to do his part.  He came back physically from Korea, but left part of himself behind.  Too this day he carries the emotional scars of what happened, he relives it every night.

All gave some, some gave all.

As a young boy I didn’t understand what was wrong.  All I knew was he didn’t seem to have much time for me.  Part of it was his upbringing, his father never spent much time with him either, but I think most of it was the undiagnosed PTSD.  From what I’ve read the lack of a deep connection to family is not an uncommon problem.

img_6537-largeMost veterans were never given the help they really needed after the war.  They were just sent home with a pat on the back and $100.00.  Our duty to our veterans didn’t stop when the war ended, it only just began. It’s so wrong on many levels to have a person thrust into a life or death situation, kill or be killed on a daily basis, only to come home with no support for the absolute devastation of the mind that comes from combat.

The VA is much better now at diagnosing and treating PTSD than years past, but there’s always room for improvement.  If I can do a small part, give a veteran the chance to spend some time together with their child in a safe and secure environment, I will be in some small way connecting with my dad.  As an adult I know he loved me in his own way.  He never wanted me to feel so alone as a child, he just couldn’t see his way through the aftermath of his wartime experiences.  “I just want you to know I don’t blame you dad, I just wish I had gained this understanding sooner so I could have helped you more. “

That is the basic plan and the reasoning behind it Chad, and thank you for asking!  Now on to the boat!  It’s well known in the boating industry that New England is one of the best areas to purchase a used sailboat.  The simple reasoning is first the amount of boats in the area along with the fact that used boats in this area are in much better shape because they only spend 5 or 6 months a year in the water.  Boats pulled out every year tend to have better maintenance histories.  Another factor is the winds off the east coast are milder than other areas so the sails last longer.

Here’s a few examples of boats for sale in New England right now.  They are all production boats as customs are WAY out of my price point!  Click on the link beside each photo for full info.

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Pearson 36 Cutter (367)
$36,500    This is a Pearson 367 Cutter and would be my second choice.  Only 49 of these boats were produced and almost all are still sailing.  Many have circumnavigated the globe.  They are very stout and sturdy boats and would make a fine vessel for sailing the coast.

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Camper & Nicholson 35
$37,999    This is a world class cruising boat!  Camper & Nicholson have been building sailboats since 1821 so I think they have it figured out by now!

 


pan-oceanic-38Pan Oceanic 38
$29,000    Pan Oceanic 38.  I absolutely LOVE this boat and would be my first choice!!!  It’s even for sale 12 miles from the home base of the company I drive for!  Perhaps as few as 10 of these were built, not even the designer knows for sure.  They were built in the Philippines and have cruised the globe many times.  It’s been on the market for quite awhile and my thoughts are that it’s in bad shape and would require alot of work to be made into a viable candidate.  If it’s still on the market when I have the funds, I will definitely take a look!  One can only hope!

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S2 11.0A
$29,500    This is a S2 11.0a.  I have shown pics of a sister boat before but this one is for sale in Maine and would be my 3rd choice.  This is the one you liked before Chad!  Great interior, easy handling, and plenty of room for guests.  Every review I have read about these boats has been positive.


capital-gulf-32Capital Gulf 32
$29,500   Another boat I really like!!!  Capital Gulf 32.  Very sturdy with helm controls inside and out…great for Maine’s crazy weather!  It’s a little small but I think it would do the job.

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Bristol 31.1
$27,500    Bristol 31.1.  The smallest boat I’ve shown you but a very well built one.  This is another boat that has sailed around the world.  You cant say much more about a boat than that!

 

 
Though I would prefer the larger boats, the smaller ones are workable.  Smaller boats are less costly in the long run also.  It all depends on how much money I can put aside over the next 2 years or so.  No matter what, it needs to be a boat I can live on, my “Tiny House” on the sea.  I can do this because I have the will.  I have overcome much worse in my life and I am determined to make a difference in someone else’s.

In The End

It starts with one thing
I don’t know why
It doesn’t even matter how hard you try
Keep that in mind
I designed this rhyme
To explain in due time
All I know
Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away

It’s so unreal
Didn’t look out below
Watch the time go right out the window
Trying to hold on, but you didn’t even know
Wasted it all just to watch you go
I kept everything inside
And even though I tried, it all fell apart
What it meant to me
Will eventually be a memory of a time when

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

One thing, I don’t know why
It doesn’t even matter how hard you try
Keep that in mind
I designed this rhyme
To remind myself of a time when
I tried so hard
In spite of the way you were mocking me
Acting like I was part of your property
Remembering all the times you fought with me
I’m surprised it got so
Things aren’t the way they were before
You wouldn’t even recognize me anymore
Not that you knew me back then
But it all comes back to me in the end
You kept everything inside
And even though I tried, it all fell apart
What it meant to me will eventually be a memory of a time when

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

I’ve put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
For all this
There’s only one thing you should know
I’ve put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go
For all this
There’s only one thing you should know

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

In The End – Linkin Park

I first heard this song during my divorce, and it really hit home. It was such a snapshot of how I felt at the time it was downright spooky! As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was extremely hurt by what happened to bring about the end of my marriage, and even all these years later the scars to my pride and the wounds to my heart are still there.

I first met Christine when I was working for a traveling carnival. My job was to help set up, tear down and operate a 90 foot tall Ferris wheel made by Chance Rides. I was 26 years old and in my prime. Crazy endurance, 6’1″ 195 lbs and no fear of heights. A typical tear down consisted of the following…On Sunday I would operate the ride from 10 am to 11 pm, then tear down the ride without sleep. This ride filled 4 tractor trailers and took myself and 8 others all night to pack away. Drive to the next site in the morning, sleep maybe 2 or 3 hours, then spend 12 more hours setting it back up. NOW we could go to sleep, many times in my dirty greasy clothes I was so tired! I bet I could still remember all the steps but the stamina is long gone!

We were married on August 9, 1992 in Everett Mass, the same day Hurricane Andrew hit Florida. We soon moved to Gray Maine into a small trailer by the same High School I went to. Things went well at first. We both had decent jobs and enough money to afford 2 nice vehicles. After about a year, things started to change.

I worked for a Turf Maintenance company and made good money for Maine, but Christine lost interest in her nursing job, quit and took a job at a department store for half the pay. I tried to be supportive but it didn’t take long for the money to get tight. Like most young couples, we lived right at our means so there was no room to spare. Soon we lost one vehicle to repossession and she lost her job due to missed time. It was the beginning of the end though I didn’t know it.

We struggled for a time, then her sister offered us the chance at a new start in Naples Florida. She and her husband had a successful variety store and offered free room and board while we got our feet under us. It took me 4 hours the first day to get a job, and I started the second day, but it took Christine 2 months to find work. Most days she just watched her sisters kids and did nothing to look for work. She finally found a job as a server and started making great money, so we found a nice little cottage rental.

One morning I awoke to flashlights shinning in the windows. It was the local Police and we found out someone had been in our cottage while we slept along with 2 other houses down the street. That spooked me pretty good, but Christine never got over it. Her paranoia escalated to the point of barricading the door at night with anything she could. It took 5 minutes to get out to go to work! She was not sleeping well and had been using sleeping pills for some time now. Little did I know she was taking 5 times the dose and hiding the empty packages from me.

This went on for a time until one day she called me at work, and I couldn’t understand what she was saying on the phone. When I went home, she was on the couch, open eyed but unresponsive. Well I freaked out! I picked her up and took her to the hospital. After her exam they told me it was possibly a Psychotic Break. The lights were on but nobody was home! It took 2 days to get her to talk about what had brought this on. She said she  had not slept in 7 days. I felt so guilty I had not seen this happening, but she was a good deceiver.

The idiot doctor gave her Valium and sent her home! Are you kidding me? Still, I was so naive I didn’t realize until it was too late, she took a months worth of Valium in a week. When she ran out, she asked me to get her more. Once again, deep in withdrawals, I took her to the hospital where she spent a week this time. Her diagnosis was extreme Bipolar Disorder along with acute trauma from the burglary. She started counseling and I tried to keep her going to it, but she refused after awhile. She did level out so I hoped for the best.

We eventually moved back to Maine and I started a small landscape business. My first 2 seasons were quite successful, but the 3rd year was marred by Christine falling back into her old pattern. She had not worked much since Florida, and she had taken up pot use quite heavily. I think at this time I wanted it to be over. I found myself distancing myself away from her. She stayed up all night and slept all day, the only time we spent together was to eat dinner and smoke pot. She would them retreat to the computer and the web, and I to tv and sleep. Our relationship was basically over.

She came to me one day and said she was leaving, going back to her mom’s house.  I think in a way I was relieved, almost glad she was leaving. Little did I know she was pregnant, and not by me. The next time I saw her was at the divorce 7 months later. Boy was I surprised to see her state! She told me, as matter of fact as could be, not to worry as the child was not mine. Hows that for a slap in the face! 2 months later she had the nerve to send my mother a birth notice of her child with my last name! We were together for over 13 years, and it was then that I realized just how much she had used me.

For many years I was very bitter about what had happened. I hid behind a mask of false bravado, told myself it didn’t matter. As I reflect back on those days I now understand that even though I made some mistakes, the real problem was something neither of us had control over. No matter how hard I tried, it all fell apart. No matter what, I walk away knowing I gave it my all.

I also realize, there are things I do have control over, and that’s how I deal with what is thrown at me. I could curl up in a ball, hide away from the world as I did for many years. I could wallow in self pity, never really letting go of the past. But now, I am done with that, I have forgiven her and I am free.

Free from the pain and confusion, free from the regret and despair of a moment in time that cut so deeply. Free to open my heart again to new experiences and dreams. Free to believe in myself and my worth in this world. With this newfound freedom comes the strength of will to chase my dream of Independence, my dream of new shores and friends. In the end, I now know what it means to be who I was meant to be. In the end, I am truly free to be me.