This might take some time…the mind has slipped into a strange blender of exhaustion and acute, frightening alertness to every sound in the hotel. It occurs to me that I could take a walk, but this is not the neighborhood to stroll through at 3 in the morning. The energy is all wrong for tourist loitering and these are the witching hours in neighborhoods like this all across the planet. The only people outside are criminals, party animals and the people who clean up their mess. I have no business being out there any longer. So alas I sit and make a vain attempt of writing.
I remember thinking, as I hit I-15 heading south towards Los Angeles that I was going to focus this blog or whatever on the three big lost loves…i.e. those who nearly killed me once we ended. Although each woman kind enough to spend any time with me left an impact, there were three who left an indelible mark upon my mind and spirit.
Even though I have spent a large amount of time running through the wreckage, rubbish, and wonders of my past, I continue to process whatever comes to mind, remaining brightly in plain sight. Full of gratitude, I have determined that each event, either positive or negative (based on my judgment of such things) was essential to drive me to wherever I happen to be in this moment... and this moment is pretty fucking amazing if I am honest.
Knowing they have all shaped me to some degree, no matter how slight it might appear at first glance was enough inspiration to get me spinning in the right direction. Those who came into my life like a flickering, intense flame blowing out much too fast were like a knockout punch. Once the cobwebs cleared, I could breathe again, and slowly I could see and think straight. Therefore it seemed only natural to move on as that elusive and subjective sanity returned. Whether the decision was mine or theirs it always seemed absolutely right to accept that moment of fate as fitting perfectly in time with the universe.
The big three however, are those main events in human history which govern the movements of societies. I know this is a slight exaggeration, but I am also certain you understand the connection. Time heals the wounds absolute, but no amount of time goes by wherein the mind cannot be pulled into reflection on these beauties. Thankfully through the recovery process, this is no longer morbid.
Their incredible presence in my life is real, filling me with a deep sense of peace, knowing I have indeed lived life to the best of my ability. I am grateful to know there is no regret or bitterness alive in my heart for these relationships. The big three in fact carry the sweet memory of what love really felt like and its very possibility.
The desert always strikes a very romantic chord in me; whatever small romantic part is left that is. It catches me off guard at first, as I rarely think in romantics anymore. My life seems to consist of logic and practicalities more and more. However, if the past has shown me anything; it is that although romantic love is quite absurd and completely illogical, there is a very real and solid place for it in the world… and perhaps even for me. I will leave that stuff for God.
The entire six hour drive from Las Vegas to San Diego was filled with musings and memories of the big three. The tape rolled through easily and joyfully, leaving me with wonderfully vivid ideas and directions to take this missive.
However, once I woke up in San Diego everything changed.
The first full day in town, I noticed the large amount of young veterans everywhere I went. Immediately the original subject matter lost its level of importance. I could barely remember what I had intended to write as a matter of fact even though I had begun the night before.
How do you tell that story…and briefly?
As I get older, it appears that I think on and imagine different things, but that is not entirely true. What has happened, God willing will continue, is looking at the same things through different eyes. From the spiritual awakening came an illumination in perspective. That does not mean I believe I am correct in my perspective, only that it seems I am seeing through brand new, constantly changing eyes… by the grace of God.
Sitting at a stop light, feeling the tears well up as the thoughts of all those who sacrifice so that I can in fact be exactly where I am in that moment. My mind began to blow up on itself; perhaps it imploded in some respect…regardless I felt my spirit swell with gratitude. The kind I felt when I realized I never had to drink or use drugs again…one day at a time.
The sensation was immediately overwhelming and although I am not much of a crier these days, I began to feel the sting of warm, salty tears run from my eyes. In those odd moments, I recognize it is in fact the oddest of coincidences that when I cry I happen to be alone in my car. I do not believe in coincidences.
It occurred to me that although I may or may not have lived a full life to this point; I could not possibly contribute enough to make up for the sacrifices those who serve or have served make. The question of how began to burn a small hole into my mind, as I watched the surfers freely move with the breaking waves…
Just as I turned away to make my way back down the peer… the wheel fell off and the hamster crashed into the floor.
I was walking, well limping when I stumbled into a group of Marines. How did I know they were Marines? It is impossible to mistake the confidence with which they carry themselves. Even the fellow, who was in a wheel chair due to a double amputation of his legs just below the hips, had a look on his face that told me he was one of them.
I felt compelled to speak, actually wanted to ask for their autographs, but stumbled through a very awkward and loud “Thank you for your service gentlemen!” They stared at me for a moment and said just as awkwardly, “you’re welcome.”
I just stood there, mind fixated on the Marine in the wheel chair as an overwhelming sadness swallowed me whole. I asked where they served and they said, “wherever they send us” and laughed. They told me Afghanistan; I nearly burst into tears right there and grabbed each of them and hugged them, but common sense won over valor. I might regret not hugging them but for now I believe it was the right choice to make. That would have made things extremely awkward…I am sure.
The Marine in the wheel chair was my younger brother, Nathan’s age. I said thank you again and they went on their way.
I had to sit down and compose myself. My spirit was outraged, saddened, full of gratitude and love, and completely humbled by their presence. When I found a bench I sat, let out the deepest sigh (an attempt to keep the tears away) and a very loud “fuck” escaped my mouth.
Thoughts turned to prayer and meditation and gradually I calmed down; my reaction shocked me. I simply allowed myself to be shocked and emotionally overwhelmed…what was the alternative? It seemed the emotions were charging up from deep within me and needed to be felt…like emotions are want to do.
“thank You God… for the men and women who constantly place themselves in harm’s way that we may live such lives as these…may You bless and keep them God. May You direct me to become the person You would have me be…whatever that may be God. May I serve You and others more fervently and selflessly than I am capable of today, God. May You direct me God that I can be of use… I know that I can never repay these men and women who give so much…may You be the strength and courage I need to become and do better than I am today… in Your loving name, Amen”
Some version of that prayer ran constantly through my mind as I sat there, trying not to cry, unsuccessfully I might add. I was grateful I wasn’t sobbing, which I have been known to do when my spirit swells with such agony and gratitude all at once.
As I sat the group returned, heading to the beach. His friends carried the wheel chair down the stairs and he maneuvered himself expertly down and across the sand walking only on his hands, dragging torso slowly behind him. I did not hear him complain; I could only hear his laughter as he joked with his comrades and pulled himself across the sand towards the water.
It is moments like this, which remind me that although I could never repay even this one man’s sacrifice, I need to try better today to be even better than I could possibly imagine being. I do not want their sacrifices to be in vain. I do not want to rest my head on my soft pillow, my body on a soft bed, resting easy because of them without repeating as often as I can…thank you. Thank you and showing my gratitude in helping others…thank you. It will be by God’s grace that is for certain and in His strength alone.
When I take account of the day ahead of me and that which lies behind me, I want to feel that at the least I tried to contribute to the idea and ideal these men and women are trying to protect. I do not imagine this idea to be consumerism, consumption, or belligerent elitism. That is not what I see and hear in the people on the street. The idea I see is freedom of spirit, mind, and body. Knowing that I will fail to do anything near enough, it will be some small consolation when I think of them and when I see them, that I can say thank you; and that in any given day, I can make a serious and specific effort to help my fellows as much as possible.
I will try and remember every morning and throughout the day as well; I will not complain and I will not allow self-pity, by the grace of God, to rule in my life… these are tall tasks, but in them perhaps my salvation for not being able to pay them back. My hope is that whoever you are, wherever you are, you find your way to give back to these people past and present…