Sunday, February 3, 2013

When my white picket fence no longer matched the American Dream

Riding down the road today I was contemplating how year before last was so difficult.  I turned 30 just a couple weeks before Thanksgiving and I almost couldn't bear to utter the simplest thing that I was thankful for.  I didn't really look forward to Christmas and life seemed bleak at best.  2012 brought better days.  Even with a host of awful days and horrific symptoms of John's traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and seizures, I could get a bit of relief from the dreadfulness of never ending bad days.

After I pointed out to him that for three years in a row, I had been with him at the VA hospital on my birthday, John was convinced I would not spend my 31st birthday there.  This was harder than it seemed because he desperately needed hospitalization to stabilize some of his issues; however, we put it off until Black Friday. It was then that he was admitted with chest pain and underwent some tests and came home the following day.

A decade ago, I was a single graduate student at Georgia Southern.  I was pursuing a degree in Clinical Psychology.  I shared a nice trailor with my sister on a family farm about 30 minutes away from campus.  One of my first orders of business was to put up 4 pieces of white picket fence.  We had a beautiful view.  We lived in a pecan orchard and there was a pond just beyond the fence.  After John and I married, we lived there together. 

The year after John and I were married, I bought a home in Fitzgerald while he was deployed.  It was a beautiful historic home in the downtown with a picket fence around the back yard. I went and picked out a bloodhound puppy just before John came home. 

the ideal American life as fed by the media; 2.3 children, white picket fences surrounding a split-level house with a dog and a cat, and a station wagon or a minivan to take the kids to sports practice; impossible by its' nature

"The reason it's called the American Dream is you have to be asleep to believe it." - George Carlin -

On my drive this evening, I pondered the fact that we no longer have a picket fence.  The fence was unconsciously quintessential to me in years past.  Even without a picket fence, our house today is valued at over $100,000 more than the one we lived in just a few years ago.  Sill, I miss my picket fence.  I miss what it represented.  I miss the simplicity of life.  I thought of my depression during the year before last.  It wasn't just a picket fence that I missed, It was the fact that life had not turned out the way I expected.

Sure, we all can expect the worst when a loved one deploys.  I would venture to say anyone that says they don't ruminate on that possibility is denying a normal part of facing a high risk deployment.  My American Dream was not the one I imagined a decade prior.  My American Dream did not include a husband coming home after 12 months in combat and having invisible injuries that took years to diagnose and treat.

Parts of our American Dream were seemingly perfect.  We had two kids.  Yet, I never expected that our children would have to endure so much.  They have seen John suffer and have learned to be compassionate and caring beings in the process. They have learned to pray for John's headaches.  We have taught them to pray for the troops.  They bring pillows when he falls.  We teach them that they even pray for their enemies.  John and I have reiterated that even the bad guys that tried to kill dad (enemies) need prayers to become good guys. 

It has taken a while for us to adjust to life as we know it.  It has taken time for us to adapt to our new American Dream.  Just a few minutes ago, John called me into the bedroom to show me that he hung the canvas photo that he ordered for our December anniversary.  I acknowledged that I had already seen it and thanked him.  He went on to tell me that he loved that picture, a picture of our first dance and a kiss.  It was not posed or planned.  He said, "It was in that moment that I knew I would always have someone to love me and be with me regardless."  He said he had never had such a moment.  Our new dream is that we are able to appreciate each other, cherish the good days, love our children, appreciate our home (regardless of the neighborhood or status of the picket fence) and learn to accept help from others and admit when we are weak.  We want to become better people, better spouses, better parents. 

Embrace life.  Embrace your dreams.  Love each other unconditionally.  Dismiss faults and don't hold grudges.  All easier said than done.  Live life to the fullest.


  1. Beautifully written. Your writing is most likely touching more people than you know.

    1. Thanks, Nicole. That's why I do it. I post it and I pin it and get it out there because there are so many people that are in the same place without awesome support systems like we have. We want to take the taboo out of the topics.

  2. Awesome to read! I really enjoy it. Thanks for the share.

    White Picket Fence

  3. Once it was dry (and this stuff dries pretty fast, which is good for people like me who are too impatient to wait for paint to dry), we sanded it with fine sandpaper focusing on the edges first.
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