Better than starving

I popped my op(eration) cherry yesterday with Team Rubicon and drove south to help out with the beginning stages of Operation We Found It! down in Eureka, Kansas. Eureka was hit with an F3 and and F2 tornado on the same night as the Dallas police shootings. Over 50 homes were damaged or destroyed in this little town and they are just beginning to get the work done.

Here are my thoughts...

So many things to ponder and chew on from yesterday. What a difference between Trigger and this op. Aside from the obvious - Trigger was a training event, hundreds of people, partnership with HFHO, etc., and this was an actual disaster response operation. My approach to it was different. My perspective was different. My involvement was different. But the results are the same - it fed my soul. It fed my heart. I was where I needed to be at that moment. 

I learned so much. Made me feel ALIVE. Useful. Purposeful. 

Recently, the topic of feeling ’safe’ versus feeling ‘comfortable’ has come up in a few discussions I’ve had with people. I don’t feel comfortable in too many places. If I had to put a number to it, I’d say 10, maybe 15  tops if we’re naming specific friends’ houses. Ask me to number the places I feel SAFE and that number comes down to 3: my home, the pool deck (I am in my element and bulletproof), and with TR. Feeling safe, for me, comes from a combination of things: feeling competent and in my element, and knowing that the people I am with have my back. If I don’t have those two things, I might feel comfortable but I will not feel safe. Every time I’ve been involved in anything TR-related, I’ve had both of those things. 

Being able to add something to that incredibly short list of safe places just feels…sweet. When I was in labor with my daughter, the hospital wouldn’t admit me just yet because I wasn’t dilated far enough. They told us to go walk so we went to the Commissary (it was Fairbanks, Alaska…there weren’t too many places to go if you’re a woman in labor). We wandered the aisle and wound up at the deli in the back. It dawned on me that I was hungry - SO hungry - so I ordered a sandwich. Black forest ham with provolone and this pineapple mustard relish spread. And it was THE BEST SANDWICH I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. No sandwich before or since has come close to measuring up. I remember every bite, every taste, every flavor. It was perfect and I was SO hungry. That is how ‘finding’ TR has felt - like it was the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life!

When my husband was deployed back in 2006, I had some health stuff going on and was wickedly anemic but didn’t know it. I was exhausted all the time - bone-achingly tired, no matter how much I slept. I looked awful. I felt worse. I couldn’t get my brain straight. I felt like I was walking around with a bowl full of water over my head. I’d forget things that shouldn’t be forgotten - appointments, closing the garage door or the car doors and leaving them open all night long, etc. But I had no clue. I just thought I was tired from being a single parent of two little kids. When I finally went to the doctor, they determined that I was so anemic that I needed a blood transfusion and to be hospitalized. I refused the hospitalization (no one I trusted to watch the kids) but they got things under control and it was only then - once I got healthy again - that I was able to look back and see what a disaster I was. It scared me. Deeply. I was responsible for a 3 and a 5 year old and I was only functioning at 30% of my normal, if that. I operated a motor vehicle with my children in the car. I’m still surprised I didn’t forget a child somewhere or worse. It rocked me to my core and still worries me. I didn’t see it until I was on the other side of it.

Looking back at the past few years of my life - prior to whatever switch it was that got thrown in my head a few months back where I started actually LIVING my life again rather than just kind of slogging my way through it - I realize I was pretty much back to where I was in 2006. Anemic. Exhausted. Listless. I couldn’t get my brain straight. Do you remember in "Back to the Future" where Marty is on stage, playing guitar and, because George hasn’t kissed Lorraine, Marty is literally disappearing from the picture? That is (in hindsight) how I felt. And I don’t know what happened. I didn’t make any kind of conscious decision that ‘TODAY is the day and I’m going to start living again’. I don’t think *I* had anything really to do with it. Personally, I think God had enough of my listless crap and kicked me in the ass. I’m not complaining. But again, it scares me because I didn’t *see* it. I was in survival mode so deeply that I didn’t realize I was drowning. I was just putting one foot in front of the other but I was doing so while walking on the bottom of a pool.

It is insidious. It crept up on me. I never *saw* it coming. I never truly saw it at all; only in hindsight. What worries me is how do I defend against it and prevent it from happening again? I know part of the answer is to avoid isolating myself. I did a bang-up job of that when we left Hawaii. Leaving my ‘framily’ in Hawaii was brutal and my response to pain - physical, mental, emotional - is to turn inward - like the roly poly bugs I played with as a kid. Easy to do when you move to a new place. No need to make friends. MacGyver’s Army career ended so that eliminated that friend pool. 

Then we moved to Korea so I was able to walk away from the few friends we had here. We were planning on being in Korea for a while so I actually started making friends there. I let myself open up, connect with people, really start to lean in. It’s easy to do in Korea because the American population is so small and you’re away from your family, your country, everything you know and love. You HAVE to lean in and rely on the people around you. Then it fell apart and we were coming back to the states and that wound was ripped open again. So I vowed NEVER to uncover that wound again. And the easiest way to do that was to just isolate myself. So I did. And I did it well. 

But I realize now what a bad move that was. It set me up to starve, basically. And I was starving. I could literally feel myself wasting away like the people in the picture from Back to the Future. And then it was like someone placed a platter of delicious food - all the foods I love - right in front of me and now I’m feasting. I can’t get enough. Some days I feel like about to come out of my skin with energy and potential. Often, I don’t know what to do with it. It’s nice to have an outlet - be it TR, writing, hiking, swimming, jiu-jitsu, being on deck, and soon my EMT class/paramedic training. I think I’d explode otherwise. 

My biggest fear in all of this is that the carpet is going to be yanked out from under me yet again. There are a variety of different ways that could happen and I don’t want to list them or really even think about them. I don’t want to go back to square one. I don’t want to feel like I’m starving again. Ever. 

And I think the best way I can defend against this is to do the opposite of what is my nature (isolation in the face of difficult things) and surround myself with the people I care about most, outside of my family (I can’t seem to escape them no matter how tightly I ball up!). My inner circle, if you will. My friends were the ones that were there for me when things got ugly years ago - my family (outside of my immediate family) weren’t in positions to be of help. But my friends were there through the ugly. And I’m blessed to have the same caliber of friends now, so it’s time to lean in. Even if I’m terrified.

Which I am.

Pretty much all the time.

It’s a low-grade terror, not the kind I feel when driving over bridges. Just kind of emotional background noise. But it’s there. That confidence that people see in me (or arrogance, depending on who’s talking)? Much of it is true confidence, but some of it is to cover up that terror; to fool myself into believing that I’m ok. AA calls it ‘fake it till you make it’. Works for me. 

All the feelz. I have them. Lots of them. Usually they overwhelm me - I always feel too much of things - love, hate, happiness, anger, frustration, sadness, joy - especially in the beginning. You name it, it overwhelms me. But it’s better than starving.

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