Happiness. Everyone pursues it in some way; it’s core to our motivations, right above the survival instinct.
After all, it’s only human.
Babies’ pursuits of happiness are bliss: the desire to feed, be held, clean, loved, and accepted (which, after all, is a form of love). So I know that must have been me.
From what I’ve been told, I was born dying in a foreign land, a foreign hospital. Father was so disappointed that I wasn’t a little girl he refused to hold me for the first 2 weeks, or have anything to do with me for months. My mom, busy with a 1-1/2 year old, plus far from family and friends, feeling sufforcated by . . . life. Abused as a child herself; from a broken family into one dominated by a war veteran with severe PTSD . . . beaten, etc. I’m sure she gave better than what she got, though I’m not excusing her. And from what I know, I shudder to think of a baby (“those icky, drooling from both end THINGS” – is how she refers to them to this day) – in her hands. She won’t deal with them until they can a) walk, b) talk, and c) are ‘house trained’ (meaning toilet).
So I reckon ‘happiness’ score there was … low?
Toddlers are like babies, just a bit more demanding – things to explore and find, things to learn, toys to bedazzle their imaginations . . . I was an explorer from day one, LOL!
Might explain those burnt hands. After all, what do you see parents do to curious toddlers – “No!” and pop the hand (not hard!). But mom . . . jeez, wooden spoons? Probably. That or whatever was handy to beat with. And toddlers, like all children, need love, care, affection, acceptance, something to build spirits on . . .
Okay, not so good. But we tried. We accepted. We zoned out. We tried to do as we were told, even if it hurt (okay, you find the post on that one, I can’t go there tonight, see our ‘Little Shop of Horrors”). We stayed quiet, didn’t cry unless we were hurt bad. We stayed silent while brother cried. In our hearts we begged for acceptance. Yet I’ve been told by an old, old friend he remembers being introduced to me by mom as: “My son – the Brat.” That introduction sticks in their minds despite 44 years – and he was my age: 5-1/2.
But we tried. We were a brave little soldier for poppa; for momma, too, since dad wasn’t there. He was off fighting in the wars, and he came home mean. We did as we were told, didn’t bleed inside, tried to bleed outside (we made a mistake one time and had to go to the hospital) – and were nice to cat. We tried to keep the peace with brother, but brother was always starting fights. He hated us, but that was okay; he was our brother even if he did shoot us a bunch of times with his BB gun, so what, a little pain won’t hurt you.
So we were brave and we tried, still wanting that love – driven to pursue happiness by some stupid part of our soul – one which we value now very much. And so we ended up somewhere else. We won’t go into that. Lets just say . . . we got molested. A lot.
So childhood, ages 5-11 – again, not so good. Plans aren’t going well. The pedophile betrays us – twice! – maybe 3 times, if you count other rejections at the ‘parties’. Love ain’t whut it’s supposed to be – something I’m just starting to figure out as best a young abused emotionally wounded child can. It can hurt BAD.
30 Day Notice: We are to move, leaving all we know behind. Everything but some clothes and small stuff. It’s off to Germany.
Things change. I change. M2 is born.
At 13 or so, M2 is tired, so very tired of moving. We’ve lost every friend we ever had. In our dreams we go back to the ‘hood – but everything has changed; none of our friends are there. And then: waa-laa!
We are back in the ‘hood and the nightmare is true. We live in the pedophile’s house, too: strange. They crack the septic tank open and it’s just a thick pink scum of used condoms – so thick and rich that even the septic tank men are laughing. We are embarrassed. I don’t know why. He didn’t use a condom.
M2 lost his last best friend when he left Germany – a guy he would have done anything for. Yeah, even that. We’re like that – it’s about love, not by gender. So what. My business, not yours, if you feel threatened, I just wonder: by what? But we loved him dearly, for when we love, we love wholeheartedly and sometimes stupidly. That’s why we hate love; it hurt us just once too much. And our hatred of love grows and grows . . . we are 13.
But that was it. Switch 2 schools within 6 months. Bad things . . . always. Home life: hard. School life: even harder. Friendless, we dive into the pyschology and abnormal psych books father is presenting us; we do as we did in Germany: gobbling novels and books, 3 or 4 a day, wagon loads per week from the libraries.
Then the divorce and rapid remarriage of monsters. I could have thrown rocks at them on their second wedding, held 1 day after their divorce was finalized. And again: we are 13.
There went all the college money everyone had set aside for us. Gone. Pfifft!
By 1977, we’ve read every science fiction book in every library everywhere we go. We have to give up our favorite genre, and make a strict rule: 1 fiction for every 3 non-fictions, we’ll return to sci-fi in our old age – when more is written. So even reading has lost the escapism I sought – though it made me a lot smarter than my contemporaries – a Jr. college level reading / comprehension skills by 7th grade; science skills rated by one teacher as ‘genius’. (I love science!) We are also smokin’ dope, drinkin’ beer, and running around with our one friend, who has another we don’t much like, but tolerate – and scare him when he breaks a cue stick across our back and we just turn and give him a cold ass smile. Wimping wussy. We are mean and tough when needed; nice whenever possible; polite, always – unless we are drunk.
“Boy,” they said as they stepped on the plane to Germany. I am 16-1/2. “You’re gonna have to make it on your own – put yourself through school. We’ll help if we can.” Gotta go through the MARS network to call – I haven’t a clue – they never showed me where the station was at the nearby army base. A letter takes 6 weeks – one way. Need help? Yer on yer own, kiddo. Go figure.
How are we doing on that ol’ “pursuit of happiness” thing?
Well, lets go back a bit.
Pursing my Eagle (B.S.A) at 15, I had to do ‘community service’. So I worked a year as a volunteer at a V.A., shuttling old dudes around, making them feel better. And I noticed something. You had these two distinct groups. Sour and dour, dwelling on their illnesses, and then Mr. Perky, the old guy trapped in his wheelchair, a urine bag on one side, poop on the other – with the biggest grin and “Glad to see ya!” you ever seen – never minding his troubles, always willing to listen (and help!) with your own, and even on a ‘bad’ day, “smokin’ and jokin’,” so to speak.
One day, I said, looking most carefully at all these old men, I’m gonna be like them. Which one do I want to be? Sour and dour? Or like my good buddy over here, Smokin’ Joe? The answer was obvious (though I didn’t know why – instinct, I guess. I chose ‘Smokin’ Joe’.
I work restaurants and bars at night; I pursue a med career (wanted to be a vet) during the day. During my VA stint I put in 1-1/2 years in the animal labs – I know things – the VA docs took me under their arms (bright boy!, they said, interested in learning! Well – come on!). But . . .
I party. I am free. Drugs, alcohol. I have to stay up until 3 am (bars close at 2:30, gotta clean up). I get up at 5 am. I go to school. I get out at 5, though I have labs at 7, 7:30 pm sometimes. I work. I do it again. Over and over and over . . .
A year and a half later . . . I have to drop out. I’m exhausted. I’m smokin’ my weed; have a month long part, wake up – everyone is gone, I’m alone, a trash can full of unpaid bills, no money, no car – and the folks are coming back. I almost O.D.’d once (on Vivarin, of all things, LOL! Sooo tired.) So . . . I end up in the Marines. Escape!!! Plus … brother had done this and failed. I will not fail. I am a better soldier than he is and am going to prove it.
Early 20’s – Weird, even my fellow Marines are scared of my rages (though I never – EVER hurt them! – just throw things . . . like my momma used to, come to think about it! LOL, told you this blog was for therapy!). My C.O. says he’s scared to take me to a war – I’m too violent. For a friggin’ war. Oh my God, I think. But . . . I was trained from day one for “BATTLE!”. Gee whiz.
Out of the Marines. Spend a weird year and a half spiraling down the road of a meth addict, with a lot of other drugs thrown in for good measure. Favorite? 8-Balls, straight injected; booster included. Drug lingo. Meth with heroin to ‘take the edge off’. Did the Thompson Hunter thing: adrenalin straight from the ampule, pharma grade. They called me “Sparky” after that, LOL! I lived with a junkie, his girl friend, and their two little girls. And yes: the children came FIRST in every – every! – thing. We all insisted on it. Despite being junkies, we were good ‘parents’ – off to school, help with homework, keep them clothed and fed. I remember living in an apartment without a stick of furniture for any of us, no food to eat – but those children had a bed, and we went to the store and stole steaks for them. Them alone – I insisted, Tom went along (my junkie friend). Strange days indeed . . .
Drugs: happiness quota . . . okay, mixed reviews, but not good. Lots of stress, poverty included, and children do NOT belong in that type of environment.
The wreck brought that to an abrupt end. I also set a new legal precedent in Georgia, by the way. Yeah, me and Fate: we like to dance, don’t we, Dear – and sometimes you have me dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight, my Dear. My life seems filled with stuff like this. I look to the Dream and think I know why. There’s something to be said about ‘interesting’, and it ain’t always good.
A year later: working for the Army. Okay, now I can say I’ve been with the military from birth . . . 28 years. Shouldn’t I be getting free shrink help and a retirement check? Oh, wait, yeah . . . I was a dependent. I was a ‘180 day’ wonder who kept going 180 days … getting 3 days leave … going 180 days. (That way the Marine Corps didn’t have to give me benefits, always on a ‘training’ mission, no matter how many died. Oh well. Marine Corp.)
Happiness quota: damn near zero now. We’ve gone backwards in our pursuit. Somewhere during this time I see that National Geographic photo of the beggar I mentioned in another post.
So here I am, nursing bleeding knuckles every day at work, really laid back (except road rage) the rest of the time – wild, crazy, yes, but cool. I get adopted into a family. A kid looks me in the eyes and I know I am loved. Kewl story, BTW, sad ending. He and his siblings saved my life: their love, and my love for them kept me from ‘doing it’. You know. The Big S.O. As in, “Sorry – its Over” – and putting a bullet through my brain.
But . . . now I still am miserable – not my kids, not my family, though I sorta live there (yet have a place of my own . . . always have a place. Living in the woods is not good.)
So we look at this happiness thing. And we discover something we already knew by extensive journaling coupled with our being forced to take psychology informally while daddy-o got his Master’s Degree. He highlighted EVERYTHING he wanted me to read – and entire pages and sections of books. I was the trained lab rat. My brother was the other: not trained. IMO, he got the worst of the deal, and daddy-o thought I was totally insane by the time I was 16. LOL, we knew all the wrong answers to give, and had an alarm rigged on the bedroom door: NO ONE could come in without waking us up. You learn these kinds of things in that kind of environment.
Because we’ve realized: we can’t be happy if we’re mad.
We are still working on it. It’s a goal, a worthy goal. Every time I think it’s not – I see that little old beggar smiling up at me, his squinting laughing eyes possessed with a wisdom that I want to possess. How to be happy despite everything, with everything, always and forever.