May 26, 2010

Bounding, tripping, no… surefooted again. Rocks crushed under my feet. I feel the cadence, concentrating on form: chi? pose? traditional? Flying down the trail the balls of my feet skipping over rocks, boulders, branches. The creek to my left and 60 feet of ancient underground aquifer jutting towards the sky on my right. I am fenced in, funneled down the trail, flying over the weathered rocks. Form. Cadence. Drums….I hear drums. I have to hurry. My lungs work hard, rhythmically united with my legs. The rocks passing under my feet jolt my breath and interrupt my cadence. Back on beat, then I lose it. Rough going. Hurry. Drums. Over a log and under some branches. The trail widens. The sun beats down with radiation pulling sweat from my pores, emptying my body of crucial moisture. Salt burning my eyes behind Oakleys that protect them. The trail slams shut again. Not a breath of wind. So close that the branches slap my skin as I hurtle over the rocks. I can’t see the ground for the vegetation. Disaster awaits with every root and rock I can’t see. I want to slow down, I can’t. Drums. Hurry. Cadence. Form. Hurry. I think of the Latin parts that I will break. Tibia, Fibula, Mortis. I think of the pseudonyms for my future injury, Dancer’s Fracture? Maison-Neuve Fracture? Which bone will snap, which ligament tear? My lungs burn and my skin itches. Millions of pores working overtime. I can see the ground now, smooth sailing, make up time. Drums. Hurry. Tripping, recover before I hit the ground. Up, moving, thinking, don’t think. Adjust. Release. Know the ground under me. Sense the trail. Silence now. No drums. I can feel the soft pedals brush my shoulders as their sticky sweetness assaults my nose. I drink it in. Slow motion. Everything balanced. Perfect form executed on the flowing trail beneath me. My time stops. The world turns without me. I fly. I float down the trail barely touching the ground. My breath draws sharp and leaves me slowly. Steady. Strong. Take the left fork, then the right. Sun sprinkling down through the canopy. Calm. Come back now. Pay attention. Rocks, up and over. Keep going. Hurry now. Concentrate. Duck under a branch. Root sends me flying, sprawling. Arms outstretched reaching for a broken bone. My knee hits first skidding as my chest and chin bounce off the trail. A broken 2″ root is sliding down my torso, scraping its way till it halts, jammed against my right testicle. My breath is stolen. I am up. Drums. Move. Elbow bleeding. Don’t look at your knee. Shake out, everything still works. Cadence. Form. Keep on the move. Drums. Hurry. Smile. You love this. You are fast. You are Dianekes. A flash. A runner from another history and place. An Indian. Jump over the rock. Step fast. Steady. Cadence. Almost done. Flying again as branches and trees wash past. Warp speed. Go high to pass the mountain biker. Drop back down. Drumming in my head. Its living metronome urging me faster. Almost done. almost done. Unique bend in the trail and beep on my watch let me know it’s over. Finished. My lungs scream. My heart beats in my ears, my head. Drums.

Last night I danced with a UT psychology major, slept on a complete stranger’s couch in South Austin, and met a Texas Rollergirl.  Because I can.  Broken and melancholy, I went downtown without knowing where I would end up.  Within 3 hours my drinks were being paid for, and I was hanging with said psych student and her friends.  Later I was sitting on the back deck of a beautiful house on a creek off of Manchaca road. Texas hospitality is something that I have sorely missed.  I might have snored as the couch and I were locked in drunken embrace.  The roller derby chick I met as I slipped from the house this morning.  She was next door, painting an old table so it matched the sky and told me that she worked nights so she was up crazy hours like a crackhead.  Her words not mine.  I got her derby name and her real name but stopped short of asking her to accompany me for coffee.  There is only so much I want to bite off in one night and the weekend is just getting started.  Now, I sit at a newly discovered Panera Bread next to REI typing you this drivel once again- because I can.  I thought about you last night.  We woulda made quick work of the waitresses and girls at Lavaca Street Bar.  The groove that I slide into here in Austin is refreshing.  It is a laid back Matthew McConaughey style of talking and introducing myself.  It is still me but the stuff that doesn’t fly in DC, NC and some other places.  I have to get used to the idea of going out to the club in shorts, flipflops, and no collar again.  It is surreal being in jeans, Merrell’s and a longsleeve t-shirt and being overdressed.  I love this town. 
      Of course, the bar scene is not where I would rather be but about the second or third down that list.  It does however give me a chance to spread my clipped wings a bit and hop around.  Sort of like the aviary at the zoo.  You see the birds in their magnificance parading around the enclosure.  The Peacock looks as regal as ever and beats his hurl in the air, assaulting you with his importance.  You almost don’t notice the small metal band on his wings keeping him earthbound and locally available for the display.  What would he do without that metal band?  What could he do?  He could fly and go anywhere- the sky is literally the limit.  Luckily for him he does not espouse to the same qualities of love and family.  Nor does he care about other’s feelings.  If he could fly off today he would do it without remorse.  The problem for the Peacock is he can’t affect his situation at all.  He is stuck in the aviary until someone else decides to turn him loose or just take his feathers.  Those of us in parallel situations as humans are both rightly bound by duty and commitment to their vows and yet possess the ablilty to change their situation at any time.  This leaves us with questions we need answers to and behavior we have consequences for.  We are cursed with the imagination to ask those questions and the ability to breed that behavior. 

Charlie Mike

May 4, 2010

Transition. It is the hardest part of a mission that involves the use of Unconventional Warfare. The return to the status quo after a war is dicey and the part most likely to be mishandled causing chaos and years of strife. I know this. I know how to head off these problems before countries fall into anarchy. They taught me that. Whether the politicians will use the knowledge and skillset that they paid good money to teach me is always a consideration. But I know how. I have the skills. In our personal lives, transition is just as treacherous and unstable. Many soldiers come home from the war, long activations or deployments and cannot reconstitute their lives. They fall while chasing the dream that was their life before they left. They ride back into the home on their white horse and try to be the man of the house. They take control again. They ruin it all. Like a drunk behind the wheel, they overcorrect and crash. It escapes them that they are not the head of the household anymore. Someone else has been paying the bills, disciplining the children, mowing the yard, fixing the garage door. Their spouse taught the son how to hit a baseball while dad was gone. She pushed the seat giving forward momentum when he first got on the bike that she bought him for Christmas. She had to bequeath him the knowledge of how to use the hole in the front of the underwear to facilitate peeing without pulling down pants. Dad comes home and drops right into this like he never left. He screws up the most sensitive part of the whole operation by not realizing how important proper transition is. I know better than that. I have been taught. I know how to ease back into a household that has been without me for 32 months. The right things are always done. The rapport is built. The gradual assumption of the duties of head of household are conveyed when the time is right or they are kept where they are pending the next deployment. They give us training on this too. How to avoid the pitfalls of returning after a long absence. Knowing all that I know, I still find myself crashing on a friend’s couch while I look for a place to live. Marriage and fatherhood now hang in the balance as I walk along a precipice trying not to fall down onto the rocks of divorce and broken lives which lay below.

Still my training doesn’t fail me. I stay calm and have constructive discussions on what I need to do make it right. The proper course of action is settled and I make this my next mission. Even when things have gone disastrously wrong in my personal life I treat it like a mission, another job. That is what I do. Sometimes without believing in it. I am a problem solver for my country. I am a problem solver for my family. On the couch while she is in tears I listen. I receive my mission. The puppet master at work. Trained in manipulation and able to sense how I am perceived by other people at almost every minute. Nary a single word carelessly loosed. Constant adaptation. A task is placed in front of me and I analyze it, break it down, make a list of the goals and objectives and then proceed. I have been taught to only worry about the “how“. In the military a situation waits for me wrapped up in a box. The box has wires hanging out of it and is ticking. It is wrapped in barbed wire, covered with spikes, and will explode if I get too close. My job is to open the box and fix the problem. Is this is just another box? Another mission. Another situation where lives hang in the balance. Young lives, whose course will change with my every decision. Should I be more emotional about it? Well, I cried some earlier today. Just a bit when I left the house with a backpack full of clothes and a shaving kit. When I thought of the two youngsters that would again come home to a fatherless home. All I can think about is getting back there. Fixing the broken. Unwronging what appears not right. But, staying objective and minimizing my emotions will help with clear thinking and sharp decision making. Leaving no stone unturned and addressing all the angles. Covering the tracks that need to be covered. Eliminating error. Methodical and rational planning, inserting a timeline. Clarity to adapt the approach. You can’t do that when you’re an emotional wreck. Then again, I begin to wonder if that is how I ended up here in the first place. Lack of emotion? Hardly. Misplaced emotion? Maybe.

I had thought that my biggest issue would be getting the inlaws to talk to me again. It has been almost 3 years since we last spoke. When I made my decision to serve they withdrew moral, emotional, and spiritual help. I truly believe that they may have prayed against me. Against us. They might have hoped for the failure and even encouraged it. I have no proof of this and do not know what transpired after I left. It will always be a mystery to me how a loved one can shun another. Every family has plenty of relatives that they don’t agree with. They may argue for hours over the misdirection of life work, misspent youth, or misemployed opportunity. However, at the end of the day, they should never withdraw emotional support. Especially when that person is doing what they think is right. I did what I thought was right. Very few will agree with my choice, although I retain much support from my peers, at least to my face. Who do I listen to? Who tells me that I made the right call? There is a note written on a dry erase board in my garage by one of my friends sometime after I left. It says “D. You are doing right.“ How much does the opinion of your peers matter as you life falls apart in front of them? What is the gauge of whether or not one made the right decision? Is it that one can sleep at night? Should we apply some sort of cost/benefit analysis to these decisions, a formula written so that we can justify the ruin that we left around us after the fact? I can potentially lose everything here. My loving wife, my two sons, my dog. On a more minimal note, half of my belongings and my financial stability in the future. The good I do could outweigh the cost. But to whom? Countries that I conquer don’t weigh the same as the lives that I shatter at home. The oppressed people that I free won’t make me a good father to my sons. Even the example that I set for them may fall on deaf ears that are made so by resentment. Even a bad father can be good if he is around a lot. Whereas a vacant father is the caretaker of a field laid fallow.

Can I fix this? Will the love of my life stop being angry long enough to see the good in what I have done? Will she say that it was worth it in the long run, if our run is to be long? Hopefully my intentions bear fruit that is nourishing and healthy, not just leave empty gaps in what would have been a happy childhood. Time will tell. “Time and Pressure” just like in The Shawshank Redemption. For now I draw my battle plan and continue the mission. I open the box and address it wisely and competently.