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Apr-29-2013 13:06printcomments


Sometimes mistakes can lead to profound change and understanding.

Erica Townsend
The is Echo Townsend's first article

(PORTLAND, OR) - I wish I could impart some practical words of wisdom from my experience such as “don’t marry a soldier returning from war” or “don’t get married 4 months after meeting a person” and “definitely don’t marry just because you know it won’t last.” I can't offer comfort in these conventional words of wisdom because I sought to defy this wisdom. I said yes to the adventure, and the rest of my life, which began one September 29th in 2004!

I was warned by my friends that night the 501st Infantry had returned from Afghanistan; "don’t get involved with guys coming back from war," they said. “They are crazy”.

Funny thing was, my future ex-husband didn’t look military or even 21 years old for that matter. He tried to convince me that he'd been shot in the arm, and was a “War Hero.” Then he tried to convince me to marry him for military benefits. This tenacious dick was oddly charming. Cohen, his battle buddy, called it “Dan Charm.”

The Jell-O shots and Vodka Redbull sarcastically proclaimed from my mouth “I’m sold!”

I broke all my rules. Don’t date military. Don’t date younger. Don’t date someone you met in a bar. Don’t rush into relationships. Don’t (fill in the blank with all the rules we women are taught to obey.) I emancipated myself from the inconvenience of conventional wisdom and sought profound change in my life.

I got married either February 1st or the 3rd, I really can’t remember. He woke me up that day by asking me to go pick up his friend, Jesus, which turned out to be a hoax after I got dressed, “That’s the thing, everyone is looking for Jesus. We are getting married today.” Ummm….no, I thought to myself.

I spent the next 2 hours in the shower. “Echo, you can’t stay in there forever!” he told me. I was willing to try even if I turned into a fish. I then convinced myself that if I was going to get married, I would make it a great story. A story that only I can say I was crazy enough to do. However, I think Tina Fey’s character from “30 Rock” beat my story with her Princess Leia costume.

I was married behind an Adult Video store in a small log cabin named “The Chapel of Love.” I was not in Vegas. I was in Anchorage, AK where the temperatures were in their teens that day. My future ex-husband had just had his wisdom teeth pulled, and had chipmunk cheeks. He had cheerfully coerced homeless people with packs of cigarettes to be our witnesses.

I wore a white, silver, and blue Chinese Cheongsam dress, with stripper shoes, blue gloves and a bright blue wig in the style of a 1930’s flapper. I couldn’t breathe in my tight dress. The air in the cold log cabin was moldy-moist and I couldn’t hear anything over the din of my own nervousness.

My thoughts were racing. Do I look fat? Is the wig too much? Are people going to think I'm crazy? Am I really doing this? Occasionally I burst into inappropriate laughter and would revert back to biting the silver glitter lip gloss that tasted like an unidentifiable artificial flavor. I would remind myself not to touch my fake eyelashes in fear I would get super-glue all over me. The homeless people’s faces echoed my self-doubt. In short, the homeless people thought I was crazy.

I laughed at the formality of getting married; so many rules and rituals I have never been formally introduced to. I laughed because I was so very nervous. However, if I was to ever get married, that was the only way I could have done it. Conventional wisdom would judge my wedding as a frivolous moment of poor judgment, and yet it was the best decision I ever made.

I want you to know that I actually took my marriage seriously. I want you to know that I looked for lessons to be learned and perceived my relationship as “my greatest teacher.” I want you to know that my unconventional belief in a higher deity was working hard at helping me find the answers I sought in a marriage with an unknown expiration date. This is not a love story. This is a story of transcendence.

Fast forward through a couple years of witnessing a man tear himself down and acting to prevent him from killing himself. This relationship reality is Operation Enduring Military PTSD. Everything you have ever been told about what ruins a relationship is peppered throughout a relationship enduring PSTD. The multitude of things seen and unseen have effects on this relationship that cannot be created or destroyed; those things were always there. Peace is the name of this unseen mental demon. Peace became my enemy.

There is only one rule to life, entropy. The pendulum of entropy swings violently between chaos and order occasionally giving spark to profound growth and transcendence: caterpillars morph to butterflies, tadpoles to frogs, two people into union, and nebulas to stars.

The youth of this relationship was both the spark and the breakdown. What did I know of being a military wife? What did he know about being in a relationship? Eventually, he didn’t want to be in a relationship anymore, and I worked too hard to just let it go. This is where most people go crazy.

Entropy’s finger can just as easily end a relationship, erode a mountain, and destroy a galaxy. We begin to perceive things as insecure or unsatisfactory as if something is always changing and therefore seemingly incapable of giving us a lasting sense of completion or fulfillment. Silence and Solitude work our metamorphosis behind closed curtains, while we fight the Universe and declare we won’t let change occur.

I wonder if butterflies experience pain in the cocoon like humans experience the pain of change. We have all had the experience of letting go before we were ready.

When one realizes they cannot fight this natural law, there’s a journey of letting go, allowing for the inevitable flow of change, and realizing rather than holding on to something we believe will make us eternally happy, we give it freedom to change too. This is love.

As with all things in nature, love is not always benevolent. Sometimes it’s messy, disgusting, inconvenient, and hurtful, and there is no conventional wisdom on how to get through it. All advice you hear or read is bullshit. Some people build walls, become emotionally unavailable, look for excuses, make rules as to why they cannot let go; why they cannot give themselves freedom to change. After the wind dies and the ocean becomes calm, I remember that even mountains erode, but they become sand beaches.

Seven years after our divorce, he is still my best friend. I hope to make more mistakes that bring profound change, like my Blue Wigged Wedding did.


Echo Townsend

Echo Townsend is a recent 2011 graduate from Portland State University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health.

Raised in Haines Alaska, Townsend is a longtime Oregon resident. Townsend has written nonfiction works regarding the complexity of PTSD, Veterans health issues and also personal memoir.

Townsend continues to write about socially pertinent issues that directly effect veterans and marginalized members of Oregon's diverse and often unseen community populations.


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