Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Stranger than Fiction

"This may sound like gibberish to you... but I think I'm in a tragedy."

For the last couple of years, I have tried to keep this blog as a place to share my travel stories and keep friends and loved ones in the loop on my life's random adventures. Although I used to use it to vent about my life's ups and downs, I had really strayed away from it. Some of this was a conscious decision... and some of this was because I was truly happy with the direction my life was headed. [Editor's Note: I'm still very happy with the direction life has headed. That said, and as you'll soon read, life has made it somewhat difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel lately.]

As some of you know, the last two months have been hard. I've had to say goodbye to new friends unexpectedly, experienced two surprising disappointments in my personal life, suffered from a horrible case of strep throat and the flu (from which I am STILL coughing), and recently learned that an ill family member's health has suddenly and rapidly declined. On top of this, I was summoned to jury duty, which led me on an unexpectedly emotional and draining journey that I haven't been able to shake for weeks. As a result, my sleep has suffered and I've been more emotionally distant from friends and loved ones than I have been in a long time. 

My family's story is one that you wouldn't believe if I told it to you. On paper, I look like the stereotypical middle class, white collar worker bee... steadily working at a corporate job and working to pay off debt and support her family. What you don't see on the surface, however, is the series of events and familial history that have shaped me into the rather strange woman that stands before you today. I don't talk about my family to a lot of people... not because I'm not proud to be part of my family, mind you, but out of respect for their privacy. I am incredibly (and somewhat frustratingly) loyal to my family - their lives have a direct impact on how I live mine. But my immediate family has experienced such enormous tragedy that I'm amazed that any of us are standing at all. And while I've kept this to myself for the most part, and revealed it only to a small circle of selected few... I have to get a bit of it off my chest. 

You see... what I didn't expect from jury duty was to find out how unusual my life story is from so many. After being summoned to jury duty, I was almost immediately selected to sit on the initial jury for a trial. During the group Q&A, the judge asked us a lot of typical jury questions... "Do any of us have conflicts that may exempt us from participating in this trial?" "Do we personally know the judge, the attorneys, or the accused?" "Have we ever served on a jury before?" After these questions, the judge got more personal, asking: "Have you ever been the victim of a crime?" raises hand "Has anyone in your family been the victim of a crime?" raises hand "Have you ever been accused of a crime?" whew - not me! "Has anyone in your family been accused of a crime?" raises hand

As I raised my hand to some of these questions, I was shocked to find that I was only one of two people (out of 17) that had been the victim of a crime, I was one of only two people whose family member(s) had been the victim(s) of a crime, and was the only one who had either been accused of a crime or had family members who had been accused of a crime. Really? Out of 17 people? I knew my family story was rare, but not THAT rare. I heard audible gasps from one of the attorneys and from the remaining jury pool as I listed the crimes that either I or my family had been the victim of: burglary, assault, kidnapping, robbery, rape, murder... When the judge asked me to list crimes committed by family members, I became even more shy as I described the cases I knew about, including drunk driving, drug trafficking, drug smuggling, assault... The attorneys and the judge took down lengthy notes as I listed this out, and I hung my head as I felt the eyes of every juror and person in the room watch me as I finished.

Later in the day, the attorneys took turns questioning random jurors... trying to evaluate whether each of us (or any of us) was worthy to sit on the jury for the trial. Most people got simple questions about their feelings on crime or police in general, and were asked about minor things that may be potential issues for this case. Each time a question was aimed at me, however, I felt as if I were on trial. I was asked very personal questions, and was asked to describe in great detail the cases I knew about where either myself or my family was the victim of a crime. The judge took note of this, and quickly asked if I would prefer to continue the Q&A in private - I happily accepted the offer. 

What ensued for the next 10 minutes (which felt like an hour) was a quick shootout of questions from both sides. I understood why they asked the questions, but I didn't expect them to make me feel the way that I did. I became so emotional that I had to choke back tears while describing one family member's trial in particular (where the family member was the victim in a highly publicized case back home), leading the judge to stop the questioning. I felt horrible. I was not trying to get excused from the jury, but I worried that they may think I was. I couldn't bring myself to even look the accused in the eyes... I felt like I had failed them (I have no idea whether or not they are guilty... I just felt like they deserved a good juror). 

I cried all the way home when I was finally excused/dismissed from the jury at the end of the day. I was exhausted, and I really just wanted to fly home to New Mexico to hug everyone in my family. On a day to day basis, I try to live in the moment and not focus on the past. Our past is too hard, and while I certainly don't forget what has happened, I don't think it does anyone any favors to wallow in what has happened to us. Life is a terrific gift, and every tragic moment is fleeting. Things can and do get better, so I always try to focus on that. 

Earlier tonight, a good friend of mine treated me to dinner and I told her a bit of this story. I revealed to her a bit of my family's history (stories of murder, suicide, cancer, and accidents), and was unsurprised when my friend said that she was shocked at how much my family has experienced. Heck, I think that if I were to write down each of these stories into a memoir, some of my best friends might not believe what they had read. That said... I know that there are people in the world who have experienced unthinkable tragedy and have suffered unbelievable loss. While my story is rare, it is not the worst I have ever heard. People are amazingly resilient creatures, and my family (and me myself) are a living testament to that!

Lately, I've been down in the dumps. I'm trying to focus on positive beginnings and direct my energy toward the future, but things keep happening that knock this optimism down a peg or two. In the last 10 weeks, however, I have re-discovered a love for the gym that I had long left behind in college. Although I had attempted to get back in the habit occasionally in the years since then, I had always given up and wallowed in work rather than mustering up the strength to move past it and dedicate my free time to my health and wellness. I'm not sure if it was the falling of the dominos in my life over the last couple of months that have forced me to rediscover my love for fitness, or if it is my body telling my heart that I need it in order to get through this moment in my life... but whatever it is, I'm glad to have found it again. Working out has been the therapy my body has so desperately needed... and I'm oh-so-glad to have it!

I know I dropped just enough bombs in this blog post to probably pique your curiosity and interest, but I do hope you respect my reasoning for keeping it intentionally vague enough so as to not violate my family's privacy. Someday, I hope to tell this story... I think it's one worth telling, and it may even help others feel less alone. But for the time being, this little (long) blog post was just the therapy that I needed. This... and the gym time I am already committing to tomorrow :) 

If you stuck with me through the end, kudos! And if you did stick through this and want to talk, just let me know. But please don't be offended if I don't share as much as you may want to know (also... don't be surprised if I tell you more than you expect!). Either way, I'll be happy to know you care :) So... thank you. I love y'all more than I love cake (and that's saying something from a fat kid like me... ha!)! 

Until next time...

--- Becks