Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Problem With Not Writing...

…is that nothing gets written.

Do you ever have that feeling, when you’ve been working on something really hard, and you know, suddenly, when you have reached the point when you know it’s going to happen?

I arm wrestled a young relative recently. I thought for sure he would win, the first few seconds of the challenge. But I held on, and managed to get us back to an even, straight-up position. We locked into it, and I just made up my mind to hold on. I didn’t think I could win, but I was pretty sure at that point I could just stay steady. So we kept going, the laughter set aside for the moment as we gripped each other's hand intensely.

And then, somehow, I suddenly knew I was going to win. And I did – to, I will add, astonishment and laughter and a certain respect from the other guys in the room. It was all in good fun, but what an experience!

This experience of having my son doing stuff in the course of his job which, while not always dangerous, certainly has its moments, has been hard. I have struggled with fear on a daily basis. Often my first thought on waking has been of him, and the last one before sleeping. All this despite me knowing that statistically he is very safe.

So every day, I said my prayers that he would make good* decisions when needed and that other people, including the folks shooting at them, would make good decisions, so that in creating an environment where good was encouraged, it had a better chance of happening.

*Note: my personal definition of a “good” decision while engaging in conflict with another group, be it a tiny conflict or a national one:

1. that you follow the orders and procedures you have promised to follow, except where doing so would more deeply endanger the lives and safety of those you have pledged to protect

2. that you take good care of yourself as well

3. that we keep an open mind, and, when no one is in direct danger, and where no orders are being contradicted, when a decision is made, the path which offers the most good for all involved, including one’s adversaries, is chosen, whether the good be immediate or future.

4. that, wherever possible, compassion and kindness are weighed as heavily as personal gain in making the decision

I just figured that the worry would never leave me. That’s okay. I was prepared to stay locked in with it.

But two things happened: I finally got one of the newsletters sent from Louise Yeager, the Family Readiness Officer whose job is help keep up morale of families back home. Her primary service is to young husbands and wives and children of those on deployment, but moms can benefit too! The pictures of young soldiers fooling around doing Halloween stuff – dressing in costume, decorating the area with Halloween icons, etc -was hugely healing.

I always had the sense that they worked, ate, slept and got up to work again. It was so great to see them…playing.

And in talking about those pictures with Zach, just before Christmas, he gave me a huge present. He said, “Oh yeah. There’s still time for shenanigans.”

The word shenanigans has a great connotation in our family. Understanding what it means exactly is complicated, but it was a blazing lighthouse signal to me that he was really okay. That despite the physical hardship and boredom and fatigue and all that, he’s still finding ways to laugh and have fun.

That little comment broke the months-long logjam of fear in my mind - and that was that. Just like in the arm-wrestling match, a little bit later, I suddenly knew I had won the battle with fear for this deployment. I felt it deep in my body, a sense of release, of not carrying that weight any more.

I’m at peace.

I trust that Zach and his squadron will be fine and come home fine, happy, and safe in body, mind and spirit.

Fear is not nipping at my core or eroding little happy moments, any longer.

What happiness!

In the busy days of holidays and blizzards and work and deciding to paint during blizzards and the house being a mess and trying to sum up these feelings, I have procrastinated writing in this journal.

It’s been bothering me. The problem with not writing is that nothing gets written. And the longer I don’t write, the harder it is to start again.

There is so much backstory still. Stuff I can’t put into the blog that caused a lot of the fear. Close calls, danger faced, that kind of stuff. But with the fear gone, all that stuff becomes stories to hear when Zach gets home. Serious stuff...and shenanigans.

Thanks for checking in,

Ps. there is no doubt in my mind that my dear young relative is going to come back and crush me in arm wrestling next year - ! In the same way, fear of something may attack me again, and I may struggle again. But both of these contests, the small one arm-wrestling and this big one of fear-wrestling have taught me an invaluable, bone-deep experience: Just Hang On, and in so doing, you may achieve something you never thought possible.

Pps. if you too want to understand the lighthearted silliness that the word shenanigans can convey, rent a movie called Supertroopers. It’s absolute pure nonsense…but sometimes truly deep, truly giddy silliness really is a powerful antidote to the evils of boredom, meanness, and fear.


  1. Here is the site to all the newsletters.

  2. I too have had the same fears, and was encouraged by the knowledge that even though our loved ones serving in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan are often in danger, they do have good days too, days of a bit of fun, good friendships, good food. They are also serving in their chosen livlihood and surrounded by many likeminded "brothers in arms"....and as my daughter used to point out to me, "Mom, he is doing what he wanted to do, and he could be killed here at home just driving to the God to care for him."

    I learned I was more fearful and worried than my son was. Great post and perspective.