Mission First, People Always

So, I don’t know if you guys know this, and I don’t remember if I’ve ever blogged about this, but I know I haven’t recently, so here we go. My dad is a Major in the Royal Norwegian Air Force. He joined the military when he was 18, met my mom when he was almost 24, and they had me, and my brother. My parents are still together, a rarity these days, so I consider myself lucky.

For the last few years, I’ve noticed it especially since I moved to the city and started uni, every time there’s something involving military families on a TV show, whether it be good or bad, I always tear up and get emotional. Every time I rewatch Army Wives, it’s really just me crying my way through 7 seasons one episode at a time. But occasionally there is military stuff on other shows too, cop shows, medical shows, even comedy/family type shows do episodes dedicated to the armed forces. In Norway, life in a military family is quite different from that we see on shows like Army Wives; I didn’t grow up on a base or post or anything like that, but there are still things that are true for every family, regardless of where they live.

And that is your loved one being away. Whether it is your dad, mom, brother, sister, son, daughter… being away from someone is never easy, especially when you know that they are in a dangerous situation. Thinking back to my childhood, I remember my dad being away three times. Once to Turkey, twice to Italy. I know he was in Italy during the Kosovo war, but back then I didn’t know what that was or meant. I just knew that my dad was away and we didn’t know when he’d be back.

There is particularly one morning that I remember from when my dad was in Italy, and that was the last morning we had together. I remember because I’d had to give my teacher in school (I was in the first grade)  a note beforehand, notifying her that I would be late for school because daddy was going to war and we didn’t know when we’d see him again, so we were gonna have a family breakfast together. And I remember eggs, which we normally only had on Sundays, and orange juice.

I don’t remember much of my dad being away. I remember before I started school, when I was in daycare, my mom was driving me and she let me eat breakfast at home before we left, whereas when my dad took me there on his way to work I had to take breakfast with me and eat it there. I remember my dad coming back. Once, I got a pink kitchen for my Barbie dolls. I think that was from Turkey. I know I have some jewelry from Turkey as well, but I don’t remember getting it. Once, I got roller skates. And my brother got a tiny bike with Mickey Mouse on it that my dad had in his suitcase, which was crazy! I remember ridiculously green aloe-vera. And a giant plastic bag of coins – most of which have disappeared, some I still have in my room at my parents’ house. But I don’t remember asking my mom about him. I don’t remember whether he missed any holidays or birthdays. I don’t remember much of him being gone at all.

Maybe that’s just the way the brain works. Defense mechanisms, blocking out painful memories. After all, this all happened before I turned 7, and how much does one really remember from that age, apart from select memories, good or bad, that somehow made it through? I remember one thing from back when I was 2, my earliest memory is from after I fell off the slide in my back yard, and my mom had to call my dad to take me to the ER to get stitches on my forehead – I remember holding a washcloth to my head, it was red, but I don’t know if that was the washcloth or blood. That was probably traumatic. But that was a single event, not weeks and months at a time.

A few years later, my dad got a job in a different part of the country. I think my mom didn’t want to move, didn’t want to uproot our lives in our hometown, because it was decided that my dad would commute. Apparently he was gone for 2-3 weeks at a time in the beginning, but I don’t remember much of that either. This was towards the end of my mandatory education, I know he had this job for a few years and got a new one while I did my exchange year in high school, so it was at least most of my middle school years, if not all. Towards the end though, he left at 7am on Tuesday mornings and arrived back home around 7.30pm Thursday nights. I remember that time a lot, especially when I was in middle school which ended at 2pm, because I would have a larger meal after school because dinner would be late on Thursdays (we usually eat dinner between 4 and 5). Funny, how many of my memories are related to food, isn’t it?

My dad’s new job required travels to the US, but at least that was only 2-3 weeks every time and only a couple times a year at most. But now he doesn’t have that job anymore either. He did go to the US before Christmas though, I got some nice presents, including a coffee mug and some lovely tea!

Where my dad works now… it’s closer to home, but he has to travel a lot. Sometimes just for a day, sometimes for a few days or a week… but now he’s been gone for 3 weeks and not been able to come home on weekends even. I thought that it wouldn’t affect me, since I’m not home either, but I think a lot about how it affects my mom. My brother lives at home, but he has school and friends and social stuff so he’s not there all the time, and my mom is home alone, which makes me feel bad for not being there. But he got to go home yesterday, and I’m going home on Monday, so at least I’ll get to see my entire family then. I haven’t spoken to my dad since Easter, except for a few text messages, which feels weird. So I’m happy I get to go home and spend our Constitution day (May 17th) with him and the rest of my family!

I wanted to write something earlier this week, as last Monday, May 8th, is a significant day for Norway and for military men and women present and past. We call it Liberation Day, because it is the day that World War II ended and Norway was no longer occupied by the Nazis. It’s also our Veteran’s Day. Some say that the focus should be exclusively on the Veterans of WWII, but I am among those who believe that ALL Veterans should be honored on this day. War, no matter what you call the war, is gruesome, and it affects the people in uniform as well as their families. Happy late Veteran’s Day, dad.

Now, you might be wondering what’s with the title of this entry. It’s a military quote, I first heard it on Army Wives. As I am writing this, I am remembering that I’ve definitely written about this before. I thought at first it was on tumblr, but I couldn’t find it, and then I realized that this will actually be the 2nd entry on my blog with this title; you can read the first one here. You don’t need to read the whole thing, the most important bit is at the top, which I’ll recap for you here now:

This is a quote I learned when I was watching the Lifetime TV show Army Wives. However, I did grow up with a father in uniform. And this is one of my all-time favorite quotes. When I told a friend about it, he didn’t get it. But then I explained.

To me it’s like, people are what matter, people are what’s important. Not all people – but like, the people that matter to you. Your friends, family, who you love… They’re the most important thing in your life. And I’ll always choose them over doing something. Not like, use them to avoid doing something I wanna do but like, if/when they need me, I’ll choose them over sleep and I’ll ditch a lecture and I’ll drop what I’d been looking forward to doing on my day off to be with them because they’re more important than things. Mission first. People always.

The quote within the quote is a bit messy, because that was copy pasted from a conversation I had through some social media or other, and my thoughts aren’t always coherent when I’m trying to explain something. But I hope you get the gist of it.

And speaking of incoherent – this entry might be becoming it. So I think I want to end it here.

Have any of my readers got people close to them in uniform?

~ Julie

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I feel old…

Right next to where I live, there is an elementary school, and a middle school. These are just the terms I use, since I’ve lived in the US; you might call them something else. Elementary in Norway is 1st through 7th grade, middle is 8th through 10th, and that’s all the compulsory school there is; it’s illegal for a parent not to have their child attend school for those 10 years (I don’t know the rules regarding home-school, long term illness and such, but in general, 10 years of school is compulsory). Next month, it’ll be 9 years since I finished grade 10, and I’ve forgotten a lot of things, but living next to a school triggers memories of when you were in school yourself.

I was not yet 6 years old when I started 1st grade, and I had to walk to the middle school to take the bus to the elementary school. I remembered getting in line for the bus, and being scared by the middle school kids, because they were so much older, and scary. But I noticed things about them – some of them smoked, which was something only adults were allowed to do. Some of them wore a lot of black and a lot of makeup. And some of them wore chokers. This was in 1998.

Almost 20 years later, chokers are now back in fashion. The last few years, I’ve started noticing things that I remember from my childhood coming back, and it’s a weird feeling when you notice it for the first time. When I was in maybe 5th grade I was allowed to get a rainbow colored choker, and a while later I got a black one (black was edgy, and a little bit scary). Being almost 25 and seeing them back in style now, is weird, and personally I cannot imagine myself wearing one. It’ll probably happen, someday, when I find one I like, but I can’t imagine it. The same goes for faded, light blue jeans that are not skinny jeans. And mustard yellow clothing. I cannot imagine wearing it, because I remember it being worn by older people when I was a child. I know that fashion always goes around, but I didn’t expect it to come back around so soon.

I probably make myself sound old.

There is a development up the hill from where I live. I live at the bottom of the hill, and a bit further down the road is where the schools are. A lot of the school children live further up the hill, and therefore I can see them walking past my window around 2pm every day that I am home. And one thing that I’ve noticed is the surprising amount of people who wear sweatpants to school. When I was a child, sweatpants is something you only wore when you were sick. I didn’t even wear them when traveling in a car for 10 hours. For many years I didn’t even own a pair. And now everyone wears them, all the time. When I was in school, we wore jeans. Boot cut jeans, most of the time, before jeans that had cuffs around the ankles became popular. And at some point it was in to have your socks on the outside of your jeans, to imitate cuffs, before cuff jeans were a thing. And at one point, camouflage pants in all colors were in, too; around 7th-8th grade for me. I had a pink and a blue pair. And hoodies, from “WOW”, at the same time. I only ever owned one because they were expensive.

And if you didn’t wear makeup, you were weird. I found that out on my first day of middle school, when it was just me and one other girl who didn’t wear any. She had chosen not to – but no one had informed me of the unspoken rule of popularity that if you didn’t wear makeup you were weird. I haven’t studied the faces of the girls walking past my window, so I don’t know if they wear makeup or not. I know some girls in town walk around with a full face of makeup and sweatpants. Such a contradiction, to me. If I’m gonna do my makeup, I’m gonna wear proper clothes. If I’m gonna wear sweatpants, I’m not gonna bother putting on any makeup, or at least not more than some mascara at most. But that might just be me.

I find it strange how, at the age of almost 25, I’m sat here feeling old, because fashion is recurring and I’m shaking my head at the clothes worn by girls in middle school. I’m sure people my age have always done that. I just didn’t really realize it until just now.

Until  next time,

~ Julie

Unpopular Opinion: Daily Showers

Do you judge people when they say that no, they don’t actually shower daily? If the answer is yes, you should stop. There are many reasons why someone might choose not to shower every day.

People say it’s bad, unhygienic, smelly… but daily showers or daily baths is a fairly recent phenomenon. People didn’t use to wash their hair daily, or shower/bathe daily. I’ve already talked about my decision to only wash my hair twice a week here. But I also don’t shower every day. I shower every two or three days, depending on what I do or if it’s hot or I’m cold or I feel like it. That’s not to say I am unhygienic. I clean myself, like most other people. I just don’t like to use soap and water all over my body. My skin has issues. It gets dry and itchy and patchy, sometimes it resembles fish scales, or I get rashes. Soap and water doesn’t help. Soap makes it worse.

Just like the natural oils your scalp produces is good for your hair, and daily shampooing strips the scalp of these oils causing over-production of oil, the skin all over your body does too. No matter how many creams or ointments you put on your skin, they are outsiders forcing themselves on you, and they cannot replace the natural oils your skin produce. At some point in human history, we went from never washing, to washing often enough to stay clean and healthy and hygienic, to obsessing over showering once or twice or three times a day! I met a girl on a field trip who showered and washed her hair twice a day: in the morning because she’s slept and at night to get rid of dirt and dust. I went to middle school with a girl who said she would shower three or four times a day on days when she had football (soccer) games: in the morning, after gym class, before the game, and after the game.

Over-washing is not good for your health, just like under-washing isn’t good for your health. And most people don’t shower four times a day. Once a day is normal in the world as we know it, and people tend to judge people if they find out they don’t shower every day. Some people might be lazy. Some people might not have time to shower in the morning. Someone might have skin condition necessitating not showering on a daily basis. Most of the time you’re probably surrounded by a lot of people who didn’t shower this morning, or last night, and you don’t even know it. Because most of the time you can’t tell. But once someone says it, it’s somehow “so gross”? Get over yourself.

~ Julie

Invisible Illness

I will gladly admit that I am a little more than just slightly upset in writing moment. Someone close to me just posted online that they have gotten negative comments in the shape of “don’t do that” on the fact that they can go for a walk and share pictures online even though they’re on sick leave from work and have been for nearly 6 months now.

If a doctor has put you on sick leave because you’re not in good enough shape to go to work, then there is a reason for that. YOU may not see it, but a doctor did study medicine for years before even being allowed to look at a patient, and there is a reason that it is the longest lasting program of study in most countries! If a DOCTOR has said that you are not able to work so you should stay home and rest, but live your life as normally as you can, then that’s going to include things such as going for walks and sharing pictures on social media! That’s the normal part! That’s what everyone does these days! Regardless of health and the life you have chosen or not chosen to live!

You don’t actually think that everyone who’s on long term sick leave lies in bed for months on end, do you? You don’t actually think that they would rather be exhausted and in pain than doing the job they love, do you? Because if you do, you’re damn lucky I am sat in a far-away corner of the world typing this on my laptop and not stood in front of you screaming at your face because I don’t think I’d be able to prevent myself from slapping you!

If you’re on sick leave for a week because you have the flu, then fair enough. You’re supposed to be in bed and drink plenty of fluids and rest and recover, because your body is under attack from an outside force, and you should NOT be outside doing everyday stuff and sharing pictures of it. But if you’re on sick leave because your body is attacking itself and there are no medications for it, nothing that can be done, then all you can do is take one day at a time and live life as normally as you can. Something that used to take a couple of hours, like cleaning the house, might now take you a week or two to complete because you have to lie down due to pain and exhaustion. Going for a walk one morning might mean that you’ll be laid on the couch for the rest of that day, and the next day. Going to the store might seem like a terrible chore one week, and something you look forward to doing because it gets you out of the house the next.

Someone who is living with an invisible illness has enough to deal with, being at war with their own body and mind. They do not need you to open your big fat mouth, telling them how they should be living their life according to you, a healthy person, who has no such struggle to deal with.

A Note On Love

I’ve spent a great part of my life thinking that, you shouldn’t love someone who doesn’t or can’t love you back. My reason for this is quite natural: it only ends up hurting you. However, over the past several months, I’ve come to realize that I don’t quite like this anymore. And therefore, I wanted to share something with my readers, wherever you are, whatever your situation is, whether you’re in a happy loving relationship or you love someone you can’t have or you think you can’t love anymore because the last person you loved left you in pieces.

Love. Love everyone. Love all the time. Don’t let past experiences make you hard. Don’t let the world make you empty. Let yourself love people. Even if they don’t love you. Only love can fill the cracks and holes caused by loneliness, rejection, and betrayal. Only love can make us whole again. Maybe they can’t because they don’t know how to. Show them. Spread love everywhere you go. Leave pieces of yourself with everyone you meet. Love without the aim of being loved bad. Just love.

“Love until your heart gives out.” (writingsforwinter)

Allow yourself to feel. Allow yourself to love. Cercei Lannister was wrong; loving people doesn’t make you weak. It opens you up and makes you different but it does not make you weak. Love is not weakness. Love is strength.

Give your all or give nothing. Devote yourself completely. Love with all you have and all that you are. Just love. When your love is rejected, do not dwell. Give more love, give love to someone else, to everyone else, Leave love everywhere. Love because you know what it feels like to be loved. Love because of what it feels like to love someone.

Don’t cross oceans for people who wouldn’t cross a puddle for you.

No, do it. Do cross oceans for people. Love people, all people. No conditions, no strings attached, no wondering whether or not they’re worthy. Cross oceans, climb mountains. Life and love isn’t about what you gain, it’s about what you give. Tell people you love them. Not to hear it back or to get anything out of it. Tell people you love them to make sure they know you do.

I am a firm believer in that only love can mend a broken heart. Love will make your heart soft. Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness. Bukowski said, how can you say you love one person when there are ten thousand people in the world that you would love more if you ever met them?

And when your heart breaks… Fill all the cracks with love. Love people, romantically or otherwise. And if you can’t do that yet, fall in love with things. Fall in love with music. Fall in love with hobbies. Love. Until you’re able to love again. Love until your cracks become scars that eventually fade completely. Love until you become whole again.

Just a thought about validation

People. Myself as well as others. We very often need validation from other people to feel okay with being who we are. And that really sucks. I know from experience that when I don’t hear from people for a few days I start to think I must not be interesting enough or important enough to them, otherwise we would have spoken. Constantly needing confirmation and reassurance that people want you in their life is exhausting. Not only do you feel like they may not want you in their life, but when this happens with many people at the same time you also start to feel incredibly lonely and abandoned.

Writing the word “abandoned” just now made me think of abandoned buildings and train tracks and things left in forests. You’ve probably seen “abandoned places” accounts on twitter for example. I always thought that they were beautiful and interesting. And perhaps that is the case with humans too? We can still be beautiful and interesting even though people don’t talk to us all the time. I think maybe that’s a way I need to try to start thinking on days like today…

– Julie 

How We Should Protect Ourselves (but never do)

Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.
– 
Holden, The Catcher in the Rye

Personally, I have a twist on this quote, an idea I would like to share with you. Something I wish I was more capable of controlling myself. It goes like this:

Don’t ever think anything about anybody. If you do, you start missing everybody.

What I mean about this is… As people, when we get to know other people, we start thinking things. Imagining things. Creating scenarios in our heads that the people are a part of. It’s all good and well so far. We’re aware that they’re just daydreams and imaginations, they’re not real. But the people are. These imaginations and scenarios are things we want to do with these people. Things that maybe someday will happen. Conversations we’ll maybe have, someday. Places we’ll maybe go to. All good and well so far.

The problem with this, I propose to you, goes something like this: those people aren’t real either. They are our imagined versions of these people. How we want them to be. The things we want them to say. Things we imagine maybe someday they will actually say. We know them, we know how they talk and behave, and all we do is take this a step furter and create situations in our heads. Correction: All we think we do. But something else happens, that we may or may not be aware of. We begin to apply the imagined version to the real person. We look for traits in the real people that fit the fantasy. We begin to believe that the imaginary version is the real person. But they’re not.

People, sooner or later, in one way or another, will let you down. They’ll say or do or be something that doesn’t fit with the imagination. They’ll shatter the illusion. Naturally, we blame them. “This isn’t who you are, you’ve changed, you’ve never been like this before” we might say. It’s their fault. They don’t fit the version that we’ve created. The version WE’VE created. We. Us. I. The individual. Our mind. We are to blame. We created the imaginary version of the real person. We are to blame, not the person. They never promised to be this or do that or say a certain thing. We expected them to because the made-up version of them did. But the actual person never agreed to being who the imagined version them are.

We let ourselves down. We lead ourselves on. We break our own hearts. The person didn’t do anything wrong. They didn’t do anythign at all. They just weren’t how you made them out to be in your head. And that’s your fault, my fault, each our own fault, and not the person’s fault. We hurt ourselves. If we didn’t do this, we’d be more protected. But it’s impossible not to. We can’t fight what’s inside of us. Well sometimes we can, but fighting ourselves is the most unnatural thing in the world because we are everything that we are. Maybe. Not necessarily. Other sides of this can be argued (think: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are”). But if you drag that statement into this it becomes a matter of distinguishing right from wrong and knowing the difference. What I propose is that imagining scenarios and creating versions of people is on the light side, the right side, we don’t see anything wrong with it, which is why it’s unnatural to fight this part of who we are.

Before I lose my point completely: the last part of my twist on the famous sentence from the famous book taught in most high school literature classes. If you do, you start missing everybody. People turn out not to be how we imagined them, how we wanted them to be. When we find this out, we have to come to terms with that. Accept that they’re not who we thought they were. And that isn’t necessarily easy. You may feel like you’ve been lied to (by the person, but really by your head). If you can come to terms with who they are, who the REAL person is, then maybe you can have a wonderful friendship (or relationship or whatever it is that you might have). But if you can’t, you’ll probably end up not having anything to do with them. And you may find yourself missing them. But you don’t miss the real person, you miss the imaginations, the fantasies, the daydreams, about the person you have by this point discovered doesn’t exist. Holding on to those is hard to do once you know the person isn’t like that. So you end up missing them, too.

Don’t ever think anything about anybody. If you do, you start missing everybody.

This entry was inspired by this tumblr post.

~ Julie