I should have known Melissa was already on top of it.
This is the story of Victoria Diehl Holm, the woman who created our personal tree art.
And my one of my very own retreat sisters. ~Kristina
Here I sit and struggle that I have to get the mower with the flat on the trailer, my push mower died, the other mower switch broke, the grass I cut is growing faster then the kids and now my Ford has a flat tire that's Un-fixable. I really just feel like to crying. Idk. Maybe it's because Memorial Day is looming in the future and my soldier is half way around the world? Maybe it's issue after issue that falls so heavily on my shoulders?. Maybe it's the fact that I miss my husbands face and he may be extended? With each breath that I take exhaustion sets in, life seems to just ware me out. The list grows.
Memorial Day reminds me that losses are greater for so many others, shame on me. I just feel a little selfish right now.
Pity party has begun.
Now let it go.
Breathe, just breathe.
Breathe, just breathe.
People ask all the time if I need help and usually I'm ok. I think I can do it all. I guess everything just gets a little over whelming sometimes...
To think it all started with a letter, 1990, I wrote "An any service member letter" and my now husband's friend opened it, thought I was "full of it", my husband said. He picked it up because of the art I drew on the outside of the envelope that cradled probably a ten page typed letter that I wrote for weeks on my UNIX each break I took. That was the beginning of our beautiful, sometimes bumpy, never boring, never ending, truelove story.
My husband I met when he was in the Marine Corps, Special Forces. I can't share much about that, you understand, that would be another story completely.
This ones about me...
We started our family a little early, we married, as our family grew he was in the IRR, the Marines kept their grip on him for a while. Which didn't work as well now that he had a family. He chose to leave the Marines and joined the more local National Guard in NY, where he served for years. Activation's for natural disasters were many and on 9/11 our lives forever changed. He was a first responder and worked on the search/rescue & search/recovery for weeks. We made it through okay but the military called him to go away to school for 6 months. I decided I didn't want to stay in NY alone. It was a scary time there and we were unsure of our safety. We packed up the kids and went to live on base with him. I quickly realized how much better life was being on an actual Military base with other people who understood what it was all about. The good and bad, I felt more comfortable there, more connected then I did in my hometown.
I left my family and job behind, to think of it, I think left myself behind too.
Life went on, the kids grew, we had deployments and relocations. Our story was a little different because we were Civilian & Military. Between military schools, civilian work and military responsibilities I struggled silently. Raising the kids alone, without family and missing dear friends. I thought nothing of putting the kids in the car and traveling 18 hours to spend some time with my best friends who understood what I was going through.
Don't get me wrong, I am blessed in many ways, family, friends, husband who loves me, and good health. After many years I was really feeling lost, without direction because I was the one to "keep the peace" in the house. Taking care of all the families needs while unintentionally leaving my own behind. I did run, worked out and I loved being a mom. I Just fell into the caretaker roll very well, or at least I thought I did. The kids inform me that "This mom is a yeller and I'd have to agree. I look back and see that I was frustrated and lonely, I guess, unhappy too but I didn't know why.
A Military friend told me about an organization, Her War, Her Voice, (HWHV) that was doing a military spouse retreat. She told me to write a letter explaining why I felt I needed to be there. So, in the middle of photographing a friends weekend wedding I wrote and submitted my essay, never thinking I would be selected. To my surprise I was. I would be one of the first 15 woman to attend the retreat in Tennessee.
I left my family for the first time for a week and went off into the mountains of Tennessee with the other women and my best friend, who was also selected. We lived 875 miles apart and we talked frequently, but now we'd get together to explore this HWHV retreat. I couldn't pick a better friend to go with.
The retreat helped me to peel away the layers of leather like skin, that formed around who I once was, uncovering a happier more joyful me. We talked, walked, ate, cried, laughed, and I want to say that I bled from deep inside. I/We shared our deepest fears, thoughts, emotions for the first time ever...I wasn't alone. Others felt the way I did. It was as though I had an epiphany. I don't know exactly when it happened. It could have been at any point but I just recall waking up and breathing in the air. I could breath again and it was glorious.
When I lived on base we never really talked about the feelings we had. We just supported each other the best way we knew. Whatever it was we understood. Sometimes no words were spoken but we understood. Now we talked about the proverbial elephant in the room, life & death, fears & joys, sorrow and laughter. All the things we kept inside.
When I went home to the coffee shop to have coffee with some friends they told me I looked 10 years younger. I felt joy again. I was happy to be home. I didn't feel like I was struggling because my struggles were set free. It wasn't just HWHV but it was the work I did, the chance I took, being able to let it go, expose myself, taking a chance paid off.
I was asked to Photograph a retreat in Montana and that in itself was an amazing gift to be given. To be a participant in the working sense, I was observing from the outside, jumping into their lives and capturing it all on film. To see the struggles and understand the process for having been there once myself, I knew, I remembered, I understood. To witness the transformation of a wounded soul, I witnessed the beginning of their healing. I received their joy and sorrows. I cried when they cried. I felt honored to be the listener and offered experiences of my own and enjoyed watching each person grow.
At home time went on and I started to fit my creative self in again. I began doing graphics and creating jewelry. I started to paint and even recently started to throw on a wheel again. Through the darkest times I struggled with how to feel true joy and happiness. The ability to start peeling away at the garbage that held me back, to feel as though I have emerged a better person, friend, mom, and wife. I believe this all became possible with my attendance of a HWHV retreat.
When I was asked to paint the trees for each HWHV group, I don't really remember how I felt about it, other then, being excited to give back. Until I started talking to each one, interviewing them and understanding why they chose that particular tree. The resilience of how they survived their unimaginable stories. Each one individually sculpted into its unique form. Representing its individualized strength and beauty.
For years I didn't feel confident in my abilities to put my art out here. Which to me is a silly considering all the moves, all the friends, all the jobs, all the plans I've dropped, and missed. While we were making, all the friends, all the plans, and adventures together without realizing it. I am so glad I've been able to put the struggles behind before I am too old to enjoy and embrace how I became who I am today. A better mom, a better wife and a better friend then I ever thought possible.
I am braver then I ever thought I could/would be.
Victoria Diehl Holm is an artist and military wife. For more information or to learn more about Vicki, check out her blog at: http://vdhgrafx.blogspot.com