In the army whenever anyone told a story about a past experience related to a tour of duty or past military event we'd like to preface it jokingly with, "There I was." Well, there I was at the VA hospital just as I mentioned in my last blog and since it was my first time I really didn't know what to expect, or so I told myself. Given the fact that it was the Spinal Cord Injury / Disorder Service unit I guess in some ways I expected to see lots of wounded veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who had suffered injuries resulting in loss of the use of some or all of their limbs. While there may have been some of these folks in the unit the ones I encountered were either older and therefore from previous wars/conflicts like WWII or Korea or Viet Nam, and some were there due to diseases that had nothing to do with their service but because they are veterans, there they were.
One such gentleman was in the hospital due to advanced Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptoms. His name is Chris and turns out he has a wife and children and lives in a burb not too far from where I live. Despite his advanced stage of MS, Chris could talk and talk he did. I have to say that he was one of the most upbeat and happiest people I've ever met. He didn't have the use of his hands or legs, had to take a drink from a tube suspended in the air and he had to raise his head to get his mouth around it, but damn the man was happy. He talked proudly of his service, his family and his life. We shared stories about children and life in general - he's only a few years older than I am.
I went to the Hines VA with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for the first time and I was so pysched about going there to help others when in fact Chris helped me. I'm going through a particularly unpleasant time in my life with the breakup of my second marriage and the disappointment that such a situation naturally invokes, but talking with Chris I realized that life really can be enjoyed regardless your situaiton. I've actually been fairly upbeat throughout most of this ordeal. I've often said to people that despite my pending divorce I feel very blessed. I'm not in Iraq being shot at and I'm not an unemployed mother with five children to feed. I have a stable job and my daughter is almost finished with her undergraduate studies - and despite the debt from the student loans I've been able to make most of my ends meet. So, there!
I'm ready to send out my first fiction query letter for a novel I just wrote - and rewrote, and rewrote, and did yet more rewritting - and you know what? I think it's pretty damn good. Doesn't mean the publisher will think so but that's okay. I enjoyed writing so much that the journey of writing the book was a reward in and of itself. Now, I won't lie to you. I want to have my novel published as well as the next one and the one after that and so on and so on, but I'm happy with the work I've done so far. At a previous Love is Murder Conference (LoveIsMurder.net) our guest author, David Morrell (http://www.davidmorrell.net/) gave an awe inspiring speech about being a writing and the state of the current publishing industry. His main advice - or at least a key part that I took from his speech - If you are going to spend a year of your life writing something you may as well be happy with it and proud of your efforts whether or not it results in a publishing contract. He's right! Yes, we writers want that publishing contract and we salivate at all the bones publishers and agents throw our way, but in the end our happiness comes from being proud of what we write, not the contract itself.
So, find happiness in everything you do or at least one thing you do and if that doesn't work, go visit a VA Hospital, or any hospital, or shelter, or whatever, to remind yourself just how good things really are in terms of your own humanity and your individual life. We'll save the current economic woes for another blog.
If none of the above work, put on any version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens or It's a Wonderful Life. Talk about therapeutic!
For more information on the Hines Spinal Cord Injury / Disorder Service unit here's the link: