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Love is…

Looking at love realistically, we understand that those who have it are often dissatisfied with the ways in which in manifest.  Love is messy.  Love is loud fights.  Love is late night arguments.

Love is as terrifying as it is terrific.  Love is scandalous.  Love is savory and sweet.  Love is often why we can’t have nice things.  Love is verb. Love is an action word.  Most of all, sometimes, love will fail.  It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t really love, it just means that (in the words of the Tina Turner song) love had very little to do with what happening at the time.

Love is boastful; have you seen the number of wedding/ engagement posts on social media? Love is, at times a little envious; ask anyone who sees other relationships progressing to marriage while their’s stands still. Love keeps no record of wrongdoings, EXCEPT in situations where you’re trying to prove a point.

I am certain that whomever wrote that part of 1Corinthians 13: 4-8 wasn’t referring to the love that exists between people.  Not only does love keep records, love gets really angry when the other person’s account of what happens doesn’t match yours.  Love gets down and dirty because ultimately, it is love that we all seek.
Love is not always patient. We want what we want when we want it.  Love isn’t always kind.  Sometimes, unkind things are said out of fear of losing the love we have.  Love can be selfish as evidenced in the initial stages of any relationship. The more time we spend together – the more time we spend together.  Love is a game changer.  Love is like Bruce Lee’s one inch punch:
  So the next time you’re feeling frustrated, a little down and out, and angry, know that most likely, you are loved.

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Unsupported Support…

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We are the unsupported support. We  provide support services to those deployed in far away places.  We are the keepers of their secrets; at times, they are the keepers of ours as well.  We become part of the “far away family” that only those familiar with long term deployments can relate to.  We celebrate their successes, share in their sadness, and stand side by side with them in places others would dare not go.  We create sacred and safe places within which they disclose the deepest secrets and fears.  We maintain the integrity of the moment and when they introduce to us their demons, we welcome them with open arms.  We provide normalcy in places where abnormal becomes the norm.  We normalize the experience of disbelief and despair.  We walk with them through the battlefields that remain active within them.  We mourn their losses.  We deactivate the demons that fuel rages, OCD like behaviors, and drinking binges that only a select few understand. We are the unsupported support.  We reap the reward of beneficial part of their breakthroughs.  When we can, we see them safely thru to other side of the images that, before us, they could not escape.  We provide the peace of mind that acceptance provides.  With us they are not judged.  With us they nothing more than individuals who did what what they had to do in less than optimum conditions. We support them in their darkest hours and become the light by which they find their way home.

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Turkish Taxi…

The taxi driver insisted that I sit in the front seat. As we exited the airport area I immediately noticed the run down buildings on either side of us. A combination of different stages of renovation; some were bare concrete, some had been partially knocked down, and others were painted bright pastel like colors. I assumed that the buildings still standing had stronger, more solid foundations. Perhaps the others were simply outdated and/or too old to remain useful. Oddly enough each one, in its own way, added to the uniqueness of the area.

I noticed a man, wearing a rumpled white button down dress shirt that was more out than tucked in. His blue jeans were loose but even as he walked under the light, the slight bow of his legs was very noticeable. The bright reddish orange glow from the cigarette he held in his hand seemed to set the pace for his walk. Occasionally, he would look up, take a drag, look down again, and then continue walking. The backpack and small suitcase on wheels that he pulled along slightly behind him, made me wonder if perhaps he lived nearby. He didn’t seem to be in any sort of rush. Maybe he was going to surprise someone? Maybe he was going home to an empty apartment? Maybe someone had simply forgotten to pick him up from the airport? Who knows? I watched this man, in the side mirror until I couldn’t see him any more. As I meandered through the many metaphors in my mind, I exhaled a little bit. I was almost relaxed when the taxi driver said something. I was lost in my own thoughts and (since I don’t speak the language) I didn’t try to figure it out.

Suddenly, all of the buildings seemed to become one big blur. We went from a cruising along slowly to warp speed in all of what felt like a few seconds. This man who, obviously thought we had to have been there yesterday, loved driving with lightening speed. He was laughing (probably at the terrified look on my face ) and saying something (again) that I didn’t understand. I think I almost saw a very large Mosque but cannot be sure because it went by in a flash. When he finally slowed down to “too fast” I was beyond relieved. When we stopped in front of the hotel, I remained seated. Not because I wanted to spend any more time in the taxi, I just needed to wait until my legs stopped shaking. I used the weight of my backpack to steady myself as I paid the taxi driver. Ironically, the very thing that I  complained about earlier ( the weight of my backpack as I lugged it around the airport terminal), was now the only thing that kept me grounded.

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Pack Light…

Pack light…

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It doesn’t matter where I am seated, watching the other passengers rush to exit the airplane is something that I enjoy. This trip was no different. As soon as they were able, damn near everybody, stood up. Some were standing in isles, some were doing a half stand, and hanging on to the back of the seat in front of them. It always makes me laugh a little inside. The door to the exit hasn’t yet been opened but there they are – awkward stances in all – holding on to carry on’s with all their might, staring eagerly ahead. They are like children waiting for the recess bell to ring. Just like that, the door open and they’re off. Everyone, except of course me…the people watcher.

Everything about this trip had tested my resolve. From realizing that I would have to pay an additional three hundred dollars to check an extra bag to the trip (literally) down the stairs. The back pack that had been my pride and joy, acted as a constant reminder of what happens when we refuse to let go.

We are burdened down by the things we chose to hold on to; either because we think we need them, or simply because we don’t know how to let them go. That “trip”down the stairs from the plane was, for me, life’s little metaphor. Figure out what you really need and take only half of that with you. Leave the rest behind or you will stumble, fall, and/or get caught up in your own stuff.

Technically, my back pack landed on Turkish ground before me. I think (what was left of) my pride did too. I collected myself and headed toward the little shuttle – only to be told by someone who’s expression was everything but friendly, to move over to the other side of the runway. It isn’t that I understood him. Clearly, he thought I had a hearing problem because he began saying the same thing over and over louder and louder each time. Finally, he began motioning, pointing, and making gestures with his hands, until I began doing as I was told.

I made my way over to few other people who were standing off to the side of the plane. Since none of them spoke English, no one tried to make conversation. Still, however, standing there in silence gave me time to collect my thoughts. Being there with them, was also much better than standing alone. When they moved, I moved. When they stopped, I stopped. Gave new meaning to “following the crowd.” I was laughing to myself and wondering (since they were the only other people there), if this meant that I was finally part of the “in-crowd” when the airport man began saying something. After he finished speaking, they started to walk towards the glass doors, so I did too.

Three very large, very heavy, and very, very, overpacked suitcases waited for me in the baggage claim area. I was more than thankful for the attendant. He put my luggage on a cart, pushed it outside, and waited with me until he was able to summon a taxi. Such a simple thing, but for me, it meant feeling less alone. He made conversation, and although his English was very bad, and my Turkish non-existent, I realized that I was just happy to have someone to talk to. It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes but in those 10 minutes the tenor of my trip changed. I began to feel proud of myself for having made it this far.

The attendant said something to another person who was standing there, and within minutes, a taxi arrived. He spoke with the taxi driver in their language. I only know this because I recognized the name of my hotel when he said it. The taxi driver popped open the trunk, of what looked a like a toy car, and then began to struggle with my suitcases. After quite some time, a great deal of effort, and the airport attendant’s help, they were finally able to secure my luggage.

Another one of life’s little metaphor’s; when you refuse to let go other people sometimes struggle with the stuff you hold on to.

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Getting there….

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By the time I boarded the plane from Istanbul to Adana exhaustion had become my constant companion. I don’t remember falling asleep. I only remember the flight steward shaking my arm to wake me up.

Standing in the passport line only to be told by the guard that I needed to go get a Visa then return was only the beginning of my frustration. He never made eye contact with me. It was almost as if I were invisible. He looked at me, but he never really saw me. To be looked at and not seen is troubling. This man had more regard for the pen in his hand than he did for me. In his eyes, I was nothing more than someone he needed to tell to move one. I stood there, stunned, frustrated, sweat dripping profusely into my eyes, so when he waved me away with his hand, I was more than ready to go.

On my second trip through the passport line, I was even more aware of the different people. Everyone seemed to be in a rush. People spoke amongst themselves, but no one made eye contact with anyone they didn’t already know. The line was much longer this time, so I amused myself by attempting to make eye contact with people who appeared to be trying their hardest to avoid it. That’s when saw her. Long flowing black linen covered every part of her. The space for her eyes was so small that I almost couldn’t see them. I wondered if she had seen me. The moment that she looked up, I looked away. She was isolated. There, in a crowd of at least two or three hundred people she stood completely still. Not looking, not shifting her weight. She was a silhouette, standing among people, who, like me, did their best not to acknowledge her. Everybody looked at her, but no one really saw her.

The passport/visa line took up 3 of the 6 hour layover and for that I am grateful. When I was finally able to get through to the airport terminal, it occurred to me that I was completely lost, so I found a chair and sat down. A group of Americans from different states were waiting for one more couple’s flight to come in. I sat back and listened and immersed myself in the sounds of English. (Note to self – when deciding to venture overseas again be sure to check out Ex-Pat communities).

Finding my way to the correct terminal was a feat that I was (and still am) proud of. I found Starbucks, the bathroom, and an excellent place to sit, read, and people watch. I made up little stories in my head about the people who passed by. The image of the woman I had seen earlier was still quite clear when, three women, covered in flowing black robes with just enough space for their eyes to be seen, stood briefly in front of me. It is important to note here that in addition to her robes, one of them had on gloves and scarf too. This time, however, I looked. This time, I saw them; standing there, heads held high. Their pride was very apparent in an extremely humble sort of way. Their posture said “this is who we are, able to make a statement without ever saying a word.” There was strength. There was dignity. There was respect. It is a moment that will remain with me always.

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Dying to Live…

 

 

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“Country Grammar” by Nelly was playing at level 60 on the car stereo.  It was a beautiful day.  Nothing spectacular but last night’s rain made everything seem clean and fresh.  My ruby red lipstick matched my weekend hair.  I enjoyed a quick breakfast with my colleagues; eggs, fresh spinach, salsa, cinnamon bagel with butter, and coffee.  The conversation was flavored with both frustration over unrealistic expectations and laughter about how neither of them had recognized the fully made up “weekend” me.   

It was hard for me to focus. I was excited about the upcoming week/weekend so, I said a quick good-bye and headed towards the lobby doors. Honestly, I don’t even remember if I waited for a response.  After all, the drive ahead was long, it wasn’t’ like we weren’t all staying in the same hotel, so, I was certain we could continue the conversation when I got back. 

The clouds were like marshmallow puffs that moved slowly back and forth against the brilliant blue sky.  Water on the plants glistened from the previous night’s rain and even though the sun was shining brilliantly, the chill in the air made me consider wearing my jacket instead of carrying it.  I stopped for brief minute to take in the beauty of my surroundings.  Just as began to marvel and how so many simple things could work so well together to produce such an amazing result, I remembered that I “had things to do” and walked away. 

I stopped for gas. Fiddled with a gadget I purchased to hold the phone which, of course didn’t work correctly.  ” Damn, I needed those 10 minutes!” Frustrated over “wasted” time, I threw the gadget, the box it came in, in a bag, tossed it in the backseat and got on about the business of getting on about the business of my day. 

In my infinite wisdom, I decided that if I drove a little faster I could make up for the time that I had lost earlier.  To be completely honest, I fell in love with the feel of the way the engine feels when the car does what it was intended.  In retrospect, the open road, and the music were the invitation.  Running late (aka needing more time) was my “RSVP” and from that moment on it was full speed ahead. 

I didn’t have any deep thoughts.  I would like to say that I was contemplating the meaning of life but I was just enjoying the music from my Spotify playlist.   

I was laughing to myself.  I was thinking that, in a few years, people from my generation would say things like “In my day, our lyrics were deep…” and then put on DMX, Trick Daddy, Nelly, Ja Rule, and Ludacris.  It was funny to me. The music was like a soundtrack to a movie that constantly plays (in my mind) and I am the star.  There was nothing on my mind but the moment.  Nelly’s Country Grammar began and he and I were”goin down down baby low speed in a Range Rover” and that’s when it happened. 

There was a little blue car with Montana plates in front of me.  I remember the plates because I kept staring at them. I wanted them (and the big rig) in front of them to “get the hell out of my way.” Clearly, whomever was driving wasn’t having as much fun as me.  Their sole purpose for being out today was to piss me off. Did they take some secret joy in getting in my damn way?  I know it makes no sense but Montana and the Semi really needed move on.  My time was extremely, limited however, getting there within the time frame was only part of the issue.  

The experience of the engine coming to life underneath me was beyond exquisite.  Even now, there aren’t words descriptive enough to take you there.  (It’s a feeling so unique that each time I think of it, I immediately begin to breathe deeply, move slowly, and sigh. I stop however, because here in Starbucks I dare not draw attention to myself🙂). 

I might have forgotten to mention that this is a 2 lane highway.  Every so often there are designated passing lanes but through the course of the 84 miles they are farther and fewer in between.  My patience is growing thin.  So, when Montana moves to pass the semi, I know that my time is coming. I laughed out loud because it almost “my time had come” to be ” one with the road.”  

“Now I’m knockin like Jehovah; let me in now” was the lyrical line that was playing as I attempted to make my next pass. Facing oncoming traffic is not the best time to realize the semi is longer than you anticipated but that’s what happened. I could see a car coming directly towards me but the speed at which I and the semi were traveling did not allow me to slow down to get behind.  Montana was in front of the semi.  I was on the side Nelly was going on about having “money to lend his friends now” and the car directly in my path was getting closer.  Just as Nelly was making his way “down down in a Range Rover” I stepped on the gas was able to get between the semi and Montana. 

My first thought was that I had no specific thought. (This isn’t like those Hollywood movies at all.)  There was only then and there.  As I continued to drive, my second thought was that this was my second strike (the other occurred at stoplight several years ago).  Then from nowhere the song that my mother (aka Gumby Girl) used to sing “Aint’ No Mountain High Enough” came on.  In my mind, it was her way of reaching out to me and allowing me to tap into a place that choose not to go.  The tears came.  I thought about how much I miss her and how I would give anything to sit and talk with her or just to hold her hand. I thought about how alone I feel and how (no matter what was happening) as long she and I had each other we knew that everything would be okay.  Those thoughts made me miss her more. During the time the song played it was as if she were sitting right there with me, reminding me that I am the glue. For them, I am the glue and that’s when it hit me.  Her words came to me. She would tell me that the hardest part of dying was leaving me behind.  She didn’t want to leave me alone.  In her mind, dying would have been easier had I been married but that was not the case.  She held on as long as she could but eventually she had no choice but to let go. Then just as quickly as the tears and sadness came upon me DMX  started with “Y’all goin make me lose my mind…up in here…up in here…” Came on.  Gumby’s way of saying ” Why in the hell would you take a foolish chance like that?  Why would you wish your experience on them?” If you knew my Gumby Girl then it would make perfect sense.    

I may be at peace with my life but the lives I would leave behind would not be at peace with me.  There are some things that we cannot control.  Actually, most things we cannot control, but the few that we can, I intend to.  Speed limits are there for a reason.  I intend to follow them.  The exquisiteness of the engine purring beneath me pale in comparison to watching the Natives (Abby, Kevlar, Scooter, Kaydie, Lilah, Natalia, and Gibby) learn, grow, and venture out into the world.  Of all things I could have done differently, better, or not at all, when I look at and/or think about them, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I love them with all that I am.  We have learned a lot.  We continue to learn.  Today was huge for me. So now as yet another artist attempts to make good on Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” I realize that for me, it really is “a new day.” I sincerely hope it is for you too.© 

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A Different Kind of Deployment…

“You feel like a shadow on the front porch of what used to be your life; looking in, very present, but only on the periphery.”

Traversing the world is wonderful, but missing out on time with your family, is not.  So, when the opportunity to take an assignment in my home state arose, I couldn’t have been happier.  If only I had known….

As difficult as being deployed is for the loved ones of those serving in the various branches in the military, it is that much harder on the service member. This is a “different kind of deployment” because although the service member hasn’t gone, their training schedules can keep them away for weeks at time and, in many ways, being just far away enough not to go home every day is much more difficult that not being able to go home at all.

You’re doing what you have to do to support them.  They are doing what they have to do as well – but it takes its toll on all involved.  There is distance – where before there was none.  You feel like a shadow on the front porch of what used to be your life; looking in, very present, but only on the periphery.

The back and forth takes its toll. Now you see them, now you don’t.  You look forward to being with them when you can, but even more than that, you dread having to “readjust” when you return to your life without them. You wonder if they really understand and/or appreciate the sacrifices that you are making on their behalf.  You don’t tell them how hard it really is and they don’t tell you.  Your conversations consist of things you will do and how great it will be.  It’s easier that way…but not really.  Things will never really be the same again. You dare not tell them…but it’s okay… because they probably already know.