I have been moving through the world in a bizarre state of sweet sadness lately. I don't know if it is the changing of the seasons that is getting to me, or the fact that, once again, I've had to accept that love and awesomeness aren't always enough, or if it's just another mood cycle for me. Whatever it is, it has been affecting me deeply. I am ready for this term to be over, to be done with grading papers and evaluating students. I am ready for the world to burst into blossom, to feel the sun on my back, to have more time to write...
I have been thinking a lot about a new friend. Well, a friend I made and then pretty much lost almost immediately. His name is Chris, a.k.a Cat, and he is a member of the USMC. I will admit that I didn't know much about what it is to be a Marine when I met him, but my conversation with him made me realize how, despite having strong opinions about war and government, I had managed to grow up woefully ignorant of how the military functions and what life must be like for those who see combat. Meeting Chris made me radically rethink a lot of things. I've been watching documentaries and other films, I've been reading various news reports, and researching USMC training. I have been thinking a lot about how smart and funny and sweet Chris is and feeling rather stupid about how irrationally heartbroken I've been to think of him being shipped off to Afghanistan and what he will likely encounter there. I've been thinking of how little the media shares of what these men are doing there (laying roads and building the necessary infrastructure, in addition to taking out military targets, like high ranking members of the Taliban) and how little we hear of just how horrifying Al Qaeda and the Taliban really are... it's not just sensationalism. There are some messed up things going on over there and reading about it makes me grateful to have been born a western woman in the era I was born.
I can only imagine the sorts of things he is likely to face, the things he has already seen and survived. I had no special fondness for men in uniform; I have not developed any sort of military fetish. I had the good fortune to meet one amazing human being and to get to talk with him, to learn something about him, and to have my eyes opened to things I had not looked at directly before. I gave him my address, if he wanted to exchange letters while he was gone, but in the end he made it clear he was not comfortable investing in a new friendship when he would be leaving so soon.I think I understand this now, though I didn't at first. Who am I to him? Apart from family, it seems there are few who would really be willing to support a soldier deployed overseas and who, sadly, may not return. Why would he believe a new friend be willing to endure the emotional strain or loss, or maybe more to the point, why would he believe that such a new friend would actually be invested enough in that friendship to care at all?
I have had only one friend ever who I corresponded with while he was in the military. I went to high school with him and we'd been close friends before he joined the Navy. We exchanged letters while he was at sea. He is now married with children and we are not close now, but I remember that friendship fondly and I remember how important those letters were at the time. Chris and I didn't have time to develop a proper friendship, and yet he's already had a big influence on my life. Perhaps the fact that I am at a crossroads in my life made the conversation I had with him more significant than it might have been, but I like to think that we connected in a genuinely human way, and I hope that he is not anxious about leaving and that he is safe while he is there. I hope the Pashto he has learned will spare him from having to ever fire his weapon and that he will eventually return home and will be able to live his life in whatever fashion he chooses. Again, I feel stupid for being so sentimental, so moved by such a brief exchange with someone I hardly even got to know. I'm almost certain I'll never hear from him again, and just as certain I won't ever forget him. Weird.
I guess knowing he is leaving (maybe even this week?) has brought him to the forefront of my mind again. Thinking of his circumstances sort of puts my life more in perspective. I'm listening to David Bowie's lyrics "Every time I thought I'd got it made / It seemed the taste was not so sweet / So I turned myself to face me..." and I'm thinking of what it must be like to carry your life in a bag, to know that any day might be your last, and to move through your day unencumbered by fear. I am actually fairly self aware, as much as any monkey can be anyway, but I realize that I am not always as honest with myself as I'd like to be. I sometime listen to my fears and accept less than I want or deserve. I sometimes don't reveal what is my heart, or hide behind a wall of armor for fear of what might happen if I stood as naked and vulnerable as I actually am. I am at my best when my fear is least. So, in the service of this feeling, I have taken to running, to focusing on getting stronger, to making some important changes in my life. I have renewed my desire to rid myself of all unnecessary objects and unproductive habits. I want to distill my life down to its essentials. I want clarity of purpose.
I'm not there. I am as confused as ever. I am on the precipice of letting go of a very significant relationship in my life; I honestly don't know whether to hang on or let go, or what that will look like either way. I only know that I need something to change and that I must clear out what is unnecessary in order to create the space in which I can see what I truly need and what I want my next move to be. I also know that meeting Chris has somehow set the wheels turning in my mind and I have been reevaluating what is important to me as a result. Whatever my politics are, most of the gripes in my life pale in comparison to what he is going to face, what he has already seen during his last tour. I will, thankfully, never see combat myself, nor will those I hold most dear, but I don't want my gripes to be petty.
I want to have the courage to honor my heart in all facets of my life and to commit to what my heart directs me toward, no matter the obstacles. I have always had a fierce determination to live my life with authenticity and integrity. I guess I am feeling like I must take it to the next level. I want to move forward without fear. I want to know what it is like to live my life without fear. And, as I said before, I want clarity of purpose. Winter is transitioning to spring, old ways are passing and new possibilities are unfolding. The world is awakening; its riches are stirring. I am stirring too. I am not content to be less than what I am. Big changes are afoot and I have no idea where I will land.