By David Cahn, Marines, USMC/ 1973-2008
Writing Type: Prose
By David Cahn
You only accept the love you believe you deserve. It’s been a while since my discharge. I still feel the physical and emotional toll from the myriad deployments. Like many vets and others who have gone through periods of extreme trauma, I too often struggle to maintain my sanity.
Hypervigilance and anxiety are what kept you alive and made you a better warrior. It's not what you did while ordered; it's what you did when not ordered to do it. The strong desire for violence was proper, and we did it well. The reality of conflict is not what the public generally sees on TV. On the ground we win wars. Once home we learned through various means and actions that continued thoughts of proving yourself through fighting are mentally unhealthy.
After going through a distinctly horrendous tragedy, I felt intimate relations were similar to the Love Boat meets Somali pirates. In my mind there was no room for innocent relationships. I was too full of bitterness, distrust and misery for any other heart. I felt when life gives you lemons you squirt it in the eye. I thought I had buried it all.
Through the good people at the VA and an amazing lady, I now fully understand that the suicide attempt afterglow only lasts for so long. The time has come for an internal cease fire. I have blown those thoughts away, and hopefully they are gone forever.
While I was living in my new world, a lovely lady walked out of the light. Scientists say we only use 10 percent of our brains. The same went for my heart until I met the elegant Celly. Intelligent, charming, beautiful, delightful, full of wisdom, well versed in human behavior, physical fitness as well as a host of other matters and well spoken, possessing an enchanting melodic voice. She was so much fun and alive with adventure. In her impish smile there was something more beautiful than the stars. Even her posture was perfect.
Without my knowing, Celly brought me out of the darkness. I invited her into my empty heart. I even went to the extent of introducing her to my few remaining friends because I wanted her entirely in my world. For her I, if I could, would have taken the moon out of the sky and presented it to her just to see her smile. Essentially, together we put the hot in psychotic.
I felt like a ghost before I met her. This special person made me feel exceptional. For the first time since too long, I felt alive. Just being around Celly was amazing. Together we laughed, loved, ran, took trips, held hands, watched movies, spoke of our past and future plans, joked, dined, waited for her to finish work (very much worth waiting for), pampered each other, shared secrets, cared for each other, looked into each other's eyes saying nothing yet knowing what we meant to each other.
Whenever I thought of Celly I smiled, and I smiled a lot. Yes, smiled--something that was missing from my profile. I found that in lieu of ruminating about lost comrades, I was thinking of her alluring soft eyes that could melt titanium. Instead of dreams of rocket-propelled grenades a few feet from my position, enemy mortars so close I could hear their rounds going down the tubes, and the yells and screams of men, not knowing if they were ours or theirs, I dreamt of her amazing ways as just one of her many weapons.
I kid you not, to this day I still try to keep everything wired tight, musing on too many of us having been tagged and bagged. Some nights I’m still not getting much Zs. Yet, carrying me away from the tribulations are the thoughts of wonderful Celly. My previous dreams were replaced by a tranquility I didn’t even believe existed. With Celly I could live in the quiet mind once again.
Overseas, when one sees an inbound shipment of body bags, you know what that means. Sometimes the thought crosses your mind: at least it's a ride home. Those notions do not go away easily. Every time seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking and best of all being with Celly annihilated those negative impulses and the emotional bricks collapsed. When I held beautiful Celly in my arms we were one. We were safe. Celly literately was a dream come true. I was even beginning to believe that with love for a good woman, all things are possible.
We have learned to avoid self harm, yet we can still self sabotage, ultimately ending in destruction. We have learned how to take physical pain. It's the emotional turmoil that throbs real bad. Let it be known that Celly is brimming with intestinal fortitude and is emotionally, morally, and physically as strong as any military person I've met. No one would call Celly quiet. She has a brilliant mind and does not hesitate to use it. When she speaks no one is able to not love her. Angels never hide their gifts; people just fail to see them. I was at one point all a gentleman could be, full of integrity, thoughtfulness, feeling and caring, Dave 1.0.
After the last tragedy I became something much less, a Dave 2.0. To live is to make mistakes. I thought with Celly I found my path. Through my actions and my actions alone I blew it. Bewitching Celly and I are no longer together. You don't know what you have until you lose it, and that is so true of relationships made in heaven. All the colors have faded since she's been gone. The feelings we felt and the many times we laughed are now a memory. You drown not by hitting the water. You drown by staying submerged. I am adrift. I now realize where my heart truly lies, and I’m becoming a new Dave, a Dave 3.0. All the greatness of 1.0 with the experience, knowledge and tragedy of 2.0. The new Dave 3.0.
For those veterans and others fighting internal demons, know this: At times when we push those we care about away, that’s when we need to be resisted.