January 9, 2021 – Second Chances

Aside from concerns about the direction my country is headed, today was actually a pretty good day. I got my blood draw at the lab knocked out right away, ate breakfast, put a grocery list together, and then headed out the door to run some errands. While I was out running errands, I thought about what my brother Clover suggested after I called him a few days ago and told him about my husband’s lousy birthday last week. “Have a do-over,” he said. “Naw,” I initially responded, “It’s over and done with. I’m just going to wait until next year and then try to make it up to him.” But as I was driving around town, I mulled over that conversation. “He’s right!” I thought to myself, “I should have a do-over. What’s stopping me?” The only person stopping me was me. I didn’t need to wait almost an entire year to make it up to him. His birthday was only 9 days ago. What better time than the present?!

I have to tell you, if you really want to brighten someone’s day, throw them an unexpected birthday party! I think they’re actually better! There are literally NO expectations so almost anything you do is appreciated. It’s extremely fulfilling, especially to see the affect it has on the the party-receiver. It’s a ‘win-win’. And since all I did last week was make my husband a birthday card and pick up dinner on his actual birthday, I went ‘the whole nine yards’ this time. This time I bought him flowers, a card, balloons, his favorite cake and dinner. I even made a point to place a candle on his cake, light it and sing ‘happy birthday’. A birthday isn’t a birthday without an opportunity to ‘make a wish’. It was just the two of us (and the dog). My husband didn’t seem to mind and besides, from his reaction, I could tell it really made his day. It would have been nice to have had some people over but sometimes you’ve got to work with what you’ve got.

Aside from the joy it brings, the beauty of a ‘do-over’ is that it gives you an opportunity to ‘right any wrongs’. It’s tantamount to a ‘second chance’. I feel a lightness now that I didn’t have before. I no longer feel it necessary to lament the lousy job I did last week and continually berate myself. Let the healing begin! That’s what is really incredible about being a human being. ‘Change’ is possible! We can make mistakes but we can also fix them and/or learn from them. When situations involve other people, sometimes you cannot go back and make reparations. There is often too much scar tissue. BUT you can learn from what happened and do things differently as you move forward. I’ve been given a number of ‘second chances’ in my life. I’m not exactly sure why. I often don’t feel that I deserve them, but I get them nonetheless. Sometimes they can be pretty insignificant, like an opportunity to retake a test and sometimes they can be life-changing.

When I think back to the first significant ‘second chance’ that I ever experienced, I ‘see’ a really unhappy, confused young woman, ‘looking for love in all the wrong places’. I’m talking about me, of course. I was serving in the military and had just arrived in Germany at my first assignment after graduating from tech school. Barely 19 years old, I was ‘the new girl’ in the barracks and getting a lot of attention. ‘Reckless’ is the best way to describe my behavior and it wasn’t long before I discovered that I was pregnant. Most women are excited when they find out they’re going to have a baby. I was anything but. I had gotten myself into a real predicament and didn’t know how to get myself out of it. Being pregnant wasn’t in the plans and it really complicated matters. It affected my ability to ‘go out in the field’ to participate in ‘exercises’. Worse than that, I became a pariah. Few people wanted anything to do with me after that, especially other women.

It’s amazing how people ‘change’ when you find yourself in a predicament. I was ostracized and called a ‘ho’ and another word that is comprised of a ‘t’ an ‘l’ an ‘s’ and a ‘u’. I cannot write it out. It’s such an ugly word, I don’t even like to say it aloud. In the barracks, I had a message board on the outside of my door and one night, someone wrote that ugly word on it and then spit on it. When I woke up in the morning to use the communal restroom, I noticed it when I opened the door into the hallway. Immediately, I closed the door and burst into tears. I wanted to curl up in a ball and die. When I finally got the courage to leave my room, I felt like I was wearing a giant scarlet ‘S’ People said terrible things behind my back as well as in front of my face. Did I share my situation with my family? Are you kidding? No way! I was so ashamed of what I had done. I knew my mom would have been so angry and upset and what could she have done anyway? She lived on another continent, thousands of miles away.

What did I do? I suffered in silence while I tried to determine what options I had available to me. I looked into all of the choices a woman has with an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy but I couldn’t bring myself to terminate it. That left me with two other options, carry the baby to term and give it up for adoption or keep it and raise it myself. Adoption felt the most ‘right’ but I decided to wait a bit before I made a move because it was still so early in the pregnancy. Days came and went. Each morning, dread consumed me, my heart heavy and filled with despair. And then one afternoon, everything changed. I had left the barracks and I remember walking across a grassy field on the base and suddenly experiencing an excruciating pain in my abdomen. It was so incredibly painful, that it took my breath away. I dropped to my knees in the grass, holding my stomach as I tried to catch my breath. I knew something was wrong so as soon as I got my bearings, I went straight to the hospital.

The first procedure performed was an ultrasound. I was escorted to a room and then a nurse appeared and asked me to put on a gown and lay on top of the hospital bed. After I did, she applied a cold ‘gel’ to my abdomen and then started moving a wand slowly across it to check on the baby. After a minute or two, she was able to ‘detect’ the baby but clearly something was wrong. It was completely still and there was no heartbeat. We both knew what that meant. “I am so sorry,” she said. After the procedure, I was wheeled into a different room. A doctor appeared after a while and ‘officially’ told me that the baby had died (at 4 months gestation) and then briefed me on what was to happen next. Most women probably would have wailed and been inconsolable. I was happy. I never wanted the baby. And this solved everything. I didn’t have to worry about having to make a huge decision that would impact me for the rest of my life. Whether to keep the baby or give it away was no longer a concern. I got a second chance!

Life gave me a ‘do-over’. And I really needed it. Everything that happened taught me so much. I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about others. Things like that really teach you who your real friends are. And I was so grateful to be able to start ‘anew’. Was everything ‘gravy’ after that? Haha! That’s not reality, that’s a fairytale ending! No, my reputation was sullied after that. Many people distanced themselves from me. It wasn’t until my husband and I got married and moved to a new base that I could truly get the gorilla off my back. Still, I carried around ‘shame’ like a 40-lb bag of dog food after that for many, many years. There are days when I rehash all of the mistakes I have made throughout my life and that one was a doozy, so it’s bound to come up. But then I have to remind myself that if I continually look in the rearview mirror, I cannot go forward. It doesn’t serve any of us well to constantly ‘exhume’ all of our skeletons.

One step at a time. That’s all any of us can really do. And sometimes that turns into one step forward and two steps back. Whenever I do that, I take a pause and remind myself that I’m not perfect. I’m a flawed human being. The great thing is, we’re all flawed! It’s just that some of us are better at covering up our flaws than others. I figure, why bother? It takes too much energy, energy that I don’t have a great deal of anymore. I’d rather just be real. Want to hang out? I’ll show you my warts if you show me yours. Just kidding! I do have a pretty good blister on the back of my left foot if you’d like to check it out. Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.

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