Why does every day have to be a fight?

I can’t remember the last time that I wasn’t struggling with how I feel now.  It’s seems like I am always a mere moment away from blowing up or making my family feel on edge, and that’s not fair.  It’s not fair to them and I really feel like it’s not fair to me either.  Most of our familial difficulties seems to come from cleaning the house.  And I know that’s not really the reason that we are having difficulty…my children are afraid, my wife is frustrated…heck, even my dog is confused.  They don’t understand what is going on with me and to be honest, most days neither do I.  I feel sad; I feel angry; I feel disappointed; I feel hurt; I feel weak; sometimes I feel nothing.  This last tour I had so many days where I was just focusing on getting through so that I could come home.  So why don’t I feel like I ever did?  I truly feel like I need to have a good cry, I can literally feel the emotions behind some kind of wall that I can’t seem to break.  It’s the same with my sleep.  I am so tired at night, but I just can’t seem to turn off my keeping watch.  I sleep so lightly all night because I can’t seem to allow myself to just relax.  As soon as the sun comes out and the family is up and around, I finally fall into deep sleep…for about an hour and then I have to get to my day.  Seriously, most weekends now I sleep wonderfully from about 7am to noon.

I don’t know what will happen but I know that I want to be here.  I want to enjoy my family and I want to sleep at night without feeling like I need to be on guard.  I want to fix my plumbing and build a shed with my boys.  I want to laugh with my daughter and play legos with my youngest.  I want to be romantic with my wife without her thinking I just need some.  I want to spend time with my parents and fix my truck.  I want to start running with Layla again…

I haven’t figured a lot of things out, clearly, but I do know that every hump starts with one step.  Back in my grunt days the first step was never really the hard part for me.  I had no problem in moving out.  I never had difficulty in stopping either.  I was never tempted to fall out or quit, I was too scared of what my brothers around me would think.  No, the area that I struggled in was in the mental preparation BEFORE we actually stepped off.  My platoon would have a forced march every Monday morning so I would spend all weekend worrying about how much it was going to hurt and how there was no way I could make it.  I always made it…even that one time where I partially dislocated my shoulder.  I suppose I should take that into account with my life journey now, but I have never had so many things going on at the same time.  Life back then was simple.  March there, set up position here, report there, etc.  Now, I not only have to figure out my own confused responses to everything, I have to do it with fragile emotions, little sleep AND take into account the feelings and lives of 5 other people.  I don’t want to run my family like a squad in a platoon, but I keep finding myself falling back into those habits.  It’s just that when my teenagers do something half-hearted, or talk back with disrespect, or just shut down, my first instinct is to lock them up and begin to go NCO on them.  And it doesn’t work.  It just makes things worse but I just don’t know what else to do.

I wrote a paper in seminary that had to deal with the stages of belief in Christianity.  When you first begin your walk you tend to be very self-centric and think very little of others.  After time and growth, you should move into a more other-centric stage that eventually should find you being God-centric.  Right now, I feel like I have become totally self-centric.  Like all of my symptoms, aches, pains, and struggles are all that I and my family focus upon.  I have spent so long dealing with others issues that I feel like I need to be a little self-centric, but I know that I have taken it to a terrible extreme.  I just don’t know how to change it.

I know that this entry is very disjointed and doesn’t seem to have format, and that is probably appropriate because that is exactly how I feel.

Shooting back-azimuth,

Qmo

A Good Day

Today was a good day.  I know that it is likely not going to be like this every day, but I think it is more than okay to celebrate when a day like this happens.  There really was nothing special about today.  Two of my kids stayed home from school sick; my wife and I both had work.  But today I was able to start my day off with a visit to my new physical therapist and after one hour I had peace of mind about my chronic hip pain and a new goal to meet to getting back into shape.  Upon getting to work, I was able to look around and see that the sun was out, both figuratively and literally.  In Oregon, a rare winter day has as much as sun as we saw today.  But more than that I was able to feel like things were looking up today.  My hip has been hurting and concerning me since last summer, and I was worried that I might not ever figure out how to deal with the pain.  While the answers I was given today are not an easy or quick fix, it is finally a direction to head in with a good chance at returning me to ability to run again.  The good day seemed to keep going even after the normal stress and some unexpected stress arrived at work today.  I was even feeling up to doing some much needed pruning in my yard this evening.  Even when I fell off my stairs and ended up with some good bumps, cuts, and bruises, it was still a good day.  I spent the late evening getting caught up on some laundry and had fun this evening holding my daughter and laughing with my family.  I even took the dog for a late walk after playing some Battlefront and reached my 10,000 step goal today.  Today was one of those put a smile on your face regardless of the situation days. Will tomorrow hold the same outcomes?  Who cares?  Today was a good day…

Qmo

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When We Expect Bad News

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What are we supposed to do when we expect bad news?  I had been taught in my time in the Marines to “suck it up” and just move forward.  That is how I have done things for a large part of my life, but it really doesn’t seem to engage the situation, merely just puts it into the background with bravado and show.  Perhaps I am just older or perhaps I just can’t deal with things by not dealing with them any longer.  I recently found out that there is something wrong with my liver.  What is wrong, I have no clue yet and neither do the Docs.  Undergoing tests, which with each successive one peels back the need for another and more questions.  It is very disconcerting and if I were to handle it according to my training, I would simply say “no big deal, let’s move out.”  However, in this case, I have to face it.  Face it and taste the feelings…because to do nothing could be very bad.  It may turn out to be a minor thing, though it also may turn out to be a major thing, I just don’t know.  I do know that I am tending to think the worst of situations right now, though I am having to temper my feelings to focus on what is known.  But the fear and the uncertainty can be very draining…

I remember one specific day among many in Iraq in 2008.  My unit was in Tikrit and I found myself on a convoy to a small MITT Team next to the Horseman’s Gate in the middle of the city.  Just like normal as we were moving out of COB Speicher I found myself struggling with those inner feelings as we moved out.  The local insurgents had been hitting convoys hard and we were heading into the city.  Of course, SGT Qmo can’t show any emotions except to radiate that calm and collected assurance that it’s just another crappy day in Iraq.  It really is an important lesson to learn about how you project to the junior Soldiers around you…the worst thing that a senior leader can do is to add to their fear and uncertainty.  But inside, I was very worried that this convoy, this trip might be the one that finally was one too many.  I struggled greatly with this almost crushing feeling that we were going to hit an IED or come under significant assault and perhaps be injured or killed.  It was one of those moments that made crystal clear what was important in life.  I would’ve given anything in that moment to be at home with my wife and children.  The anxiety in my mind was growing so much so that I felt I would lose control and my stomach was doing twists.  I quickly figured out that I couldn’t handle the situation as it stood any longer and that I was going to need to do something to focus and accomplish the mission, knowing also that I was going to be doing this for a year and that I couldn’t expect myself to manage every trip or mission like this, that eventually I’d break from stress.  So I did something about it.  I gave up.

There was absolutely nothing I could do to change the fact that I was in Iraq and that people there wanted to kill me and my friends.  There was absolutely nothing I could do to change my mission or avoid taking risk to accomplish it.  And there was absolutely nothing I could do to affect anything outside of the small control I had on my fire team.  Other anxiety and energy was a waste, so I gave it all up.  I started a practice that day that I continued for the remainder of my career, I prayed.  I took a quick moment to prepare myself for whatever occurred, but it was much more than just a ritual.  It was my way of sincerely preparing myself for death.  That day as we rolled out and as we did our final checks I said the following: “Lord, if today is the day that my life is required of me I ask that you allow me to meet You on my feet and with honor.  Amen.”  Then I would breathe a cleansing breath and be about my business.

I wish I knew why it seemed so black and white over there and so clouded here, but I do know that my recent medical issues have brought back those same feelings of anxiety and fear that easily could swamp me to the point that I’ll break.  I suppose the simple answer is that I need to give up again.  That I need to do something about it and prepare myself for the reality that I could easily die tomorrow by some moron behind a wheel or in a few months or years because of a liver problem.  Either way I don’t want to react to the bad news of life in a manner that causes me to not see what is important in life, but instead meet my Lord with that same resolve that I used to have:  “Lord, if today is the day that my life is required of me I ask that you allow me to meet You on my feet and with honor.”

Amen and Amen,

Qmo

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