“I’m the valet. You have to give me your car.”

person in bunny suit sitting on a bench

I’ve been reading (audio) books by actors of late.  It started with How to American:  An Immigrants Guide to Disappointing Your Parents, by Jimmy O. Yang.  It was so good I finished in two days.  (I laughed so hard, I don’t recommend listening in public.)  It made me fall in love with America all over again.  If you don’t read it, I feel sorry for you.  Next, I listened to The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide, by Jenna Fischer.  I loved it.

I have no plans of becoming an actor, but she mentioned it on the Office Ladies podcast, and it sounded like useful information regardless.  It turned out to be fascinating.  I learned a lot, and it led to thoughts about defining success, how to recognize it, gather it, and how to continue growing despite it.  Since it means something different to each person, I think Jenna Fischer did a brilliant job of conveying her journey in a manner easily translated to alternate paths.

I loved hearing it in her voice, too.  The authors narrate these books, (and when the reader is an actor, it’s excellent.)  I mean.  Duh.  They’re professional storytellers.  Damn.  I just typed the obvious.  I laughed a lot with this book, too.  (I should probably make a rule about listening to podcasts and audiobooks by funny people in public.)  I’m currently more than halfway through reading The Bassoon King:  Art, Idiocy, and Other Sordid Tales from the Band Room, by Rainn Wilson.

making shadows

I like Rainn Wilson even more than Dwight Schrute.  I saw him on Mom recently playing a therapist.  He was great in that, too.  After reading about how these actors struggled when building their careers, I remember a moment of feeling retro alarmed.  In all three books, they emphasized the significance of seeking out opportunities in areas that correspond to your strengths.  I thought back to when I joined the Army, and how I chose my MOS (military occupational specialty.)

Before joining, everyone takes the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test.  It’s a tool you can use to help choose your job.  I scored well overall, so I picked a job that would help me improve in the area I scored lowest, not a job that required skills I already possessed.  To me, it was the most obvious thing in the world.  And I just found out it’s probably the opposite of what most would decide.  Whoops.

Fortunately, I got to learn some amazing stuff I had no idea even existed.  I also got to help pioneer a new job opened for women in the Army (my ego still appreciates that bit.)  Unfortunately, I loved the training and theory but felt no passion for the job, which mattered because it led to my getting into shenanigans with tearful consequences out of boredom.  So I went back to training and did it again.

cliche fake nose glasses

The second area entailed nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare training.  (sings, hated it.)  I decided if there’s ever a nuclear explosion, to run toward the flash.  I don’t even want to talk about the other two.  Guess what?  I went back and trained again.  They called me The Educated Soldier at one point because I was continually going on TDY for school.  It did help me figure out I was destined to be a chairborne warrior, though.  Anything with a computer was my eventual specialty.  Heh.

I don’t regret taking the scenic route. Skill-building does lovely things for my self-esteem.  I love being more capable than people expect.  I think one of the coolest things I learned is there are all sorts of ways to be intelligent, and most of them don’t include what they claimed in classrooms as kids.  I met soldiers who could talk to engines the way I talk to computers.  They awed me; (aside from that time, they sent me out to fill all the tires on the tracked vehicles.)  I’m off to continue my book.  💜✌🏽

“You’ve got a little rage.”

child swinging over water

Welp.  I’m still sporting Distracted by Everything mode.  Instead of pouting about it, I’m going to have a ramble.  First, shout out (into the void) for the cop and theme park worker who fist-bumped Karma, recently.  Way to flex your inner superheroes.  So shiny.  I’m proud of you both.  (Hey everyone, lets copy.)

(Rips off bandaid)  I got a thorough, tailored to fit like a glove, still has me a wee bit shaken, earned, course correction, the other day.  Sofa king ow.  And after much thought, the only thing I have to say in response, is, thank you, Maryam Hasnaa.  Okay, maybe more than a wee bit.  Shook, but extraordinarily and helpfully.  (How did they do that?)

I started reading; The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. It was recommended on The Friend Zone podcast recently. World rocked. So hard.  Must read.

toy soldiers

I’ve accidentally remembered and resolved several things from childhood, just from the information presented so far. There are no cures in the book, duh. But it has resources galore, and at least three of the methods defined will undoubtedly work for me (PTSD.) I’m not even done reading it yet!

Then my VA trauma popped up and said, hey. So I burned through a shitload of rage energy with my drum kit. I’m angry there exists numerous, cheap, quickly taught, scientifically supported treatments for PTSD, and not one of them were ever offered to me by the VA, despite the fact I endured several stays in the Mental Health Ward over the years and acquired the autoimmune issues that often accompany.

I’m furious to know I lost years of my life suffering needlessly, merely because the VA only decided a few days ago to follow up on giving a shit about veterans’ health. Also, that 82% trust rating of the VA hospital system by veterans is bullshit. (You only asked the ones who still bother going there.)

That’s, How To Further Lose Our Trust 101: Lie to us about how we feel about your not holding up your end of the deal ever, VA. 🖕🏽Just legalize weed and focus on the ones coming home today. The damage exists, and greedy indifference is mostly why. Maintain for us, do better for them.

masked person flipping the bird

Train all in the Mental Health department to recognize, understand, and assist veterans learning to cope with mental illness via the useful studies and tools that have been available for decades, but have been passed over in favor of medicating us. (You bastards. Shame on you. You put government contract shenanigans ahead of our health, and we know it.)  Congress, we know your part in this.  Stop fucking us for doing what most of you wouldn’t.

Years of my life spent barely functioning, believing all I could do was battle the symptoms from hour to hour, and keep my rage in check. The few times, I managed to accomplish incredible feats, such as completing my education, were hugely expensive to my body. That’s what trusting the VA got me.  My rage is healthy. I’m learning all sorts of things that are eventually going to lead to my being a devastatingly effective bitch who will get off on making sure the VA evolves into what it should have been all along. I’ve had a lot of time and experiences to draw on. Glad I got that off my chest.  ✌🏽💜

“Stop crying and fight your father!”

fight prep

Welp.  I did something today I didn’t think I would.  I reached out to the VA for care.  Granted, M has strongly suggested I do so repeatedly.  As a doctor, it seems it’s excruciating for him to watch my health decline for lack of care.  I also reached out to the Patient Care Advocacy to assist in ensuring I’m not subjected to further abuse.  (They’re but the first in the chain-of-command.)

It’s not the first time I’ve sought their aid.  While the advocate I worked with was kind and recognized the abuse, her efforts, unfortunately, led to retaliatory mistreatment from other VA employees.  It led to my retreating under the rock.  The fact I don’t speak on the phone (and informed them several times) hasn’t helped matters since the online communication tool rarely works correctly.

Most times, I’m unable to respond to messages received.  When I’ve sought technical assistance, I was met with questions about my status, as if I’m new to the VA system.  The few times I’ve gotten through, I was offered phone appointments, much to my fury.  It’s also rare that the same individual reads or responds to anything I’ve written.  It’s a mountain of racism and bureaucratic bullshit I’m facing.

The number of hoops to jump through is astonishing.  I’ve decided to break my silence about the abuse I’ve endured.  I’m going to fight as if my life depends on it.  (It does.)  Fortunately, my education and military service taught me a great deal about how to get results from people who would prefer I crawl back under the rock and rot.  I won’t.

Shout it out

While I anticipate I’m facing an epic battle, it shouldn’t be this way.  There are no excuses for this treatment by the VA.  I’ve done my research, acquired legal counsel, and am as ready as I’ll ever be to fight until my pigmentation level and lack of a penis cease to prevent me from being recognized as a human being at the VA.  I’m so disgusted and traumatized by what I’ve endured.  I can’t even drive past the VA hospital without having a panic attack.

While not everyone at the Sioux Falls VA is vile and dishonorable, those who are have made it a nightmare.  I’m genuinely astonished by the lack of professionalism and decency I’ve witnessed in multiple areas of the hospital.  I don’t want to be another veteran suicide statistic, of course.  However, the mistreatment has repeatedly increased the likelihood immensely.

The irony is a bitter pill to swallow.  Even the medication bottles have stickers to remind veterans to reach out to the VA instead of killing yourself.  They’re proudly displayed all over the place, but none of them inform veterans it could be that very action that pushes them over the edge.  None of them warn of the fact that the VA’s concept of treatment varies tremendously by skin color, gender, and whether or not your provider likes you.

I’ve endured while my PTSD symptoms have worsened and my life has become a shell of what it could be with proper care.  I’ve cowered and raged over the unfairness.  My mind replays each event whenever I attempt to sleep.  Often I end up weeping and give up trying to sleep until so exhausted I can’t prevent it.  Then I’m unable to awaken myself when the nightmares overwhelm.  I’ve forgotten how well-rested feels.

VA crisis line - at your own risk

I’ve kept extensive written accounts of each incident, and plan on being very public and open about everything.  I have no qualms about naming people who’ve mistreated me.  I’ve begun my thesis on racism in the VA and already have interested publishers.  In the light, it will all come out.  I disclosed my plan to Patient Care Advocacy to utilize recording apparatus whenever I enter the building.  (I’ve done so in the past to keep accurate, provable records.)  Beneath the trauma, I’m still a fierce warrior who understands war.  It’s on like Donkey Kong.

“Let’s go, Pop. White belt, white pants, white shoes, get in the back.”

What you gonna do?

Okay.  I had to let go of my rage.  I can’t afford to waste any more energy.  I do apologize for throwing all cops under the bus in my anger, knowing not all of them are racist pricks.  None have ever abused their authority with me (that I know of.)  My fears, although rational, are frustrating because I can’t identify a racist by sight.  Unless they’re wearing a MAGAt uniform or something, that is.  (No hesitation to say that with confidence anymore, dontchaknow.  The bridge pic in front of a youth indoctrination center in my last post did it.)

I decided I’m not going to respond to the letter.  If the police show up, come what may.  I’m not thick enough to answer the door.  I’m not likely to forget I’m black.  😂🤣  Yep.  I’m bitter.  I think it’s because being hated doesn’t grant me the ability to hate back.  Heather was a racist by age seven.  I don’t think it’s fair I can’t even fake it.  We had the same freaking environment and were only 13 months apart.  This can’t be my planet.

I told M. to give me a week before we talk about him coming back.  You know why so many veterans succeed at committing suicide?  It’s because we’re trained to only attempt that which we’re sure to acomplish.  We instinctively include redundancy, and don’t shy away from gruesomely violent methods.  We’re also more likely to own weapons.  Twenty-two veterans will commit suicide today, according to statistics.  (Google it.  I’m cranky.)  And tomorrow.  And the day after that.  You get it.  (I’m being morbid because I’m hurt, offended, and not trying very hard to adult.)

I think the veteran suicide rate is by design.  Mostly because it makes fiscal sense.  If you’ve read more than a few of my posts, you know I analyze the shit out of everything.  Why the hell do you think I joined the Army?  Sure, partly because I was an arrogant, spoiled rotten brat an inch away from rationalizing my way into some white collar crime that wasn’t technically invented yet, and I didn’t truthfully want that easy, easy path in life.  But mostly because I wanted answers to several questions, am impatient, and didn’t understand what fear meant yet.  The shortest distance from spoiled rotten brat to adult was surrendering to Uncle Sam’s ironic call for volunteers.

plastic soldier

Oddly, it had to be either the Army or the Marines.  I did my research.  I didn’t do enough joint operations with Navy or Air Force to narrow down why.  Coast Guard seemed a silly choice for a Dakotan.  I didn’t consider the Marines at all.  I’m pretty confident I would not have lasted another two weeks in boot camp, thankyouverymuch.  (Failing basic is usually because you changed your mind, or you got hurt, in my opinion.)  The only hard part is acting despite fear, staying awake on fire watch, and living with 49 other children experiencing the same trauma.  If you want it enough, you graduate.

I came too close to a meltdown today, so my brain is defragmenting.  I’m amazed I’ve stuck to something resembling a topic this long.  I’m operating on dark humor and cynicism.  (I don’t mind this phase of the process because it mostly amuses me.)  This weekend is ruined, though.  I can tell I won’t be sleeping anytime soon.  I can’t even work on my song because the Muse won’t acknowledge my existence when I’m carrying around negativity for no reason. I already forgave my cat for continuously thwarting my ability to off myself without going through the agonizing mental exercise first.  (I haven’t needed a plan in years.)

Yep, I’m that weird.  I don’t care.  (You wouldn’t either if you were me.)  I forgot to eat today.  +10 for remembering before midnight.  Although, I broke a tooth from grinding my teeth too hard a bit ago.  Thanks, Prozac, you evil, dry-mouth causing bitch.  Even when I’m just recovering from losing my shit, I’m still aware I have an indefinable bond with my healing sisters, (Stevie Nicks, Amy Lee, Lorde, etc.)  It’s probably why I’m able to talk shit while my CPU is under such a heavy load.  I’m as strong as I am weird, now.  I bet that scares you.  😂  (No, seriously, I hope not.)  I’m going to go eat before I type something even more regrettable.  Seeya.

“Do they really need the abuse of being compared to a rhinoceros on top of everything else?”

Art installation from The Burning Man exhibit, 2015.
Inner Child – art installation from The Burning Man-2015

M. gave me a gift today.  It’s an F*** Box from the UK.  It’s a grid of 16 buttons that play sound bytes of the F word being used in various ways (with feeling) by people with British accents.  I effing love it!  I need to hack it a bit to lower the volume, though, (this is the midwest.)  It’s the size of a deck of cards, and it now resides on my desk where I can press and giggle at will.

I saw a young woman speak horribly to a man earlier.  As I cringed, I thought to myself she should have served in the military.  It provides excellent training on how to treat humans, regardless of their social grouping.  I didn’t say anything because I couldn’t think of anything besides shaming her.  (I know from trial and error this isn’t a practical method for civilians.)

I used to be her.  Only for about a week, (because I was in the Army when I finally realized males aren’t disgusting after all.)  I trampled on a man’s ego as if it made me cute in earshot of a woman, once.  She corrected the shit out of my behavior. (It was terrifying to be a girl in the Army.  The women watch everything you do at all times as if every mistake you make halves their paycheck.)

I got kicked out of the barracks and had to move in with her and her three kids in military housing.  At first, I was in shock and had the gall to act like I was unjustly singled out and punished.  I didn’t even get a private room or bed.  I had to sleep with a toddler who wet the bed at least once a week.  I learned baby pee is no biggie, and they don’t take up much room.

Then I learned how to treat men by spending all my free time with two little boys and a toddler baby girl.  I don’t remember how long it took before I was allowed to move back into the barracks.  It’s not that living in the barracks was highly desirable;  more that I eventually figured out how shameful it was to be someone who couldn’t be trusted to live there without (verbally) abusing the 200 or so young men who also lived there.

I do remember what I did that got me in so much trouble.  A man who was in my battalion but not my battery, asked me out while we were standing in line for chow.  I was 18 at the time, and he was 25.  (Lowering my head in shame)  I said, “Eww.”  To his face.  In front of others.  And I didn’t realize I just kicked him in the nuts and set his hair on fire.  So I turned around and made the, Can you believe this guy? motion I learned from TV.  (And then assumed it was perfectly fine to go on living my life like I didn’t just do that.)

children

Whew.  I’m still paying for it in regret and shame.  My SSG told me whenever I look at a man, also see the cute little boy operating the man-sized avatar, because that’s where we all keep our feelings.  Spending time with her kids was a lot of fun, I’ll admit.  I adored them and still think of them sometimes.  The oldest was 13, and we were an even match in basketball.  (We spent more energy on talking shit than playing, though.)

The middle boy was 9ish.  It’s possible he was sweeter than Amelia Bedelia is now, and that’s saying something.  The baby was 3 or 4.  We used to watch music videos of The Boys, our mutually adored band, then dance in front of the mirror.  She was adorable and fascinating.  I was awestruck by how developed her personality was at such a young age.  She’s an incredible woman now, just like her mom.

It was the first and last time I abused a man.  It’s hard to see young women and girls make the mistakes I did and not intervene, but I’m nobody’s SSG, and this isn’t the military.  It’s easy to copy the behaviors and words we see on TV and in movies.  Especially those of us on the autism spectrum.  I couldn’t communicate with people if I couldn’t study actors to show me how and teach me the scripts.  Naturally, I assume everyone uses this tool to some degree.  🙃

Not everything we see actors do on TV is things we can copy, for many reasons.  There has to be a consideration in real life, because of real feelings.  No matter how someone looks on the outside, they’re still that adorable child (often operating their adult avatar.)  I don’t need help remembering anymore, but you know what I did.  I’m super thankful my SSG took the time to teach me this vital life lesson.  Hopefully, others can benefit as well, (without getting peed on.)