In Response to March

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In response to March and things no longer feared, I remember pastel houses.

Lemon yellow. Toy boat blue. Baby doll pink.

The broken breeze on an ocean that slaps against the hard sides of small boats, big boats, the cruise ship we were on. I remember water everywhere.

A ship may sail on the water, but water is more. Water is greater. The ship may be beautiful and built to withstand the harshest of conditions, but if the water desires, it will win. Every time.

~~~

The day I knew I couldn’t turn back started in Miami, where taxis conquer hills with stomach-swooping speed, my father’s friends bang their heads falling off bar chairs and the streets are bright but filled with people who don’t own light inside them.

Light bleeds quiet and lonely and makes rips in the sky at nightfall. One color blends into the next until the water and the sky are seamed by the black silhouettes of palms.

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The hotel room felt like one: temporary.

The hotel room looked like Miami: eccentric, with its leopard-print pillows and abstract paintings.

But it was still a patchwork piece of America. I had never left the country before, had never needed that blue passport tucked safely in my father’s bag, and though new adventure sat silently in the ocean the night before we left, my heart clung to the dirt until I realized I had no choice.

I wanted to be somewhere unfamiliar.

I wanted to do something that felt uncomfortable.

I wanted change so that I could change, so that things would change as they should, as they always will.

~~~

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No one loved that trip more than my sister.

While I found freedom on the hours spent off the ship, Holly found freedom on it. With a room key that doubled as a credit card to be spent on long-table buffets and services, Holly liked weaving through the pinched corridors in the core of the ship and sipping glasses of ginger ale on the top deck, where she could see the endless plane of ocean and breathe in salty air. I believe she still has that card somewhere among the rest of her memories.

At thirteen, it was Holly’s first taste of independence. At fifteen, it was my first taste of ultimate confinement.

My mother had deemed it unlikely I’d be able to feel the sway of the boat, but the uncertainty beneath my feet was noticeably nauseating. It was especially prominent in the shower, where the bleached white column offered zero perspective and sometimes made me stumble for balance.

I wanted to be a part of the scene on-deck, but I felt better laying in the soft upper bunk in our room watching films, sleeping, and waiting for the ship to dock the next morning so I could take joy in listening to the rhythmic accents of the people and explore.

One morning, we were told the ship couldn’t dock due to difficulties with the weather. I spent the day sedated with Dramamine, dozing and trying to finish documenting my thoughts into a journal. That night, I dressed up in black to join the group for dinner, but began to feel drained of color and even more sick than I had before. One of the women we were with was a nurse, and told me based on information I gave her that I’d taken too much medicine.

Holly came to the room. We turned on a movie and ordered dinner. She made me laugh. I began to feel better. We ate it all, and ordered dessert.

~~~

Every morning, my mother would prop herself up with pillows, sip hot coffee and watch the waves outside the window. Endless waves, collapsing into one another as far as the eye could see. I liked watching her sit there, with the light touching the curtains, the beds, her curls. She was quiet and content. Silenced by thought.

I never did ask her what she was thinking about.

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~~~

I remember small, specific things from the islands.

For example, the sand there is different than the harsh, grainy river banks in Idaho. It is light and cakey, easily malleable. My feet felt as if they were walking over moon powder.

Once, a large group of us had to crowd into a windowless Jeep driven by a man called The Preacher. His accented words flowed through gapped teeth with as much ease as the steering wheel filtered through his hands. He was knowledgeable, he was humble, and he was kind.

Travis tried to scramble up a palm tree for Holly, who desperately wanted a coconut. We laughed and took pictures as he wrestled for traction against the tree, and finally gave up.

There were familiar places, like the Starbucks where Mom bought us patterned travel mugs, and unfamiliar places that took the form of small sales huts and family-owned restaurants, where the glasses didn’t look particularly clean and the ketchup bottles were empty. There was a large hotel that appeared so mermaid-esque in detail that it belonged under the sea. There was a dreadlocked black woman who asked if she could braid my hair. There were golden horse statues leaping from fountains of water, and there were the quiet walks I took from one place to the next where the seconds stretched longer than the rest.

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~~~

In response to March and things no longer feared, I remember pastel houses.

Lemon yellow. Toy boat blue. Baby doll pink.

I remember “Here is Gone” blaring through my headphones during a dark flight in a small, unstable plane where no one could see me shaking.

I remember fighting with my parents on the drive home form the airport.

I remember standing in the hot steam of the shower in my home, finding it strange how the sway of the boat still had me grappling for balance on land, where the ground wasn’t moving at all.

This is one trip I don’t think of often. But when I do, I remember the broken breeze on an ocean that slaps against the hard sides of small boats, big boats, the cruise ship we were on. I remember water everywhere.

A ship may sail on the water, but water is more. Water is greater. The ship may be beautiful and built to withstand the harshest of conditions, but if the water desires, it will win. Every time.

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Hot or Cold

I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

-Revelation 3:15-16

~photo courtesy of freepeople.com~

~photo courtesy of freepeople.com~

In some situations it pays to be a little off-balance.

Balance is something we, as busy 21st-century people with careers and families and friends and interests and physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs that get pushed to the wayside, are constantly striving to find. Self-help books, health magazines, and bohemian blog sites tell you what you already know you lack when it comes to evenly distributing your focus, but we keep reading them in hopes their advice will sink in fast enough for something to change.

Look at the way our public universities are structured. We’re taking classes completely unrelated to our majors to provide educational backgrounds that are “well-rounded.”

Doctors show us charts of recommended “well-balanced” meals, because everything is “good in moderation.”

Psychiatrists and school counselors advise their stressed-out clients to find equilibrium between work and play, “opposites attract,” and time is always rounded to the nearest even number.

Society is based off this belief that balance is always better. And it leaves us feeling inadequate, because it’s an ideal that no one has perfected.

Maybe finding that perfect balance is not as beneficial as it sounds.

Reading through Revelation yesterday, I found the piece of scripture above: “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

It struck me for a few reasons.

It reemphasized a realization I had this past summer in California that Jesus does not want us to have hearts that are halfway through His door. You can stand with one foot in, one foot out, and oftentimes barely notice that you haven’t fully committed. So many of us want that escape route in case expectations get high, but mostly we feel like halfway is enough–it is “balanced.” And, it maintains our false sense of control.

This applies to more earthly areas of our lives as well. We don’t always give our all, because doing so requires pulling energy from one area of our lives into another and expending it on that one goal, one person, or one activity. This, too, creates a lack of balance, and our culture does not condone that. It does not recommend that. It is considered unhealthy, maybe obsessive, perhaps uncultured or close-minded or unstable. And yet, is there an Olympic gold medalist that ate or trained like the average person? Is there a bestselling author that did not occasionally give up family time to write in a quiet, dark room? Is there a husband or wife that did not spend more time with one another than they did their friends while dating? Is there a famous guitarist that did not toy around with their guitar for hours after school, or a 4.0 student who did not prepare well for every class?

Did Jesus not give His all?

No. The answer is no. Jesus fully committed himself to the Father and His plan, and every sort of person mentioned previous to Him committed themselves to one thing or another with full hearts and gritty determination.

And, all of those people operated with a purposeful lack of balance.

Are you hot or cold? In or out? There is nothing extraordinary about moderation, and average levels of effort reap average results. Goals and relationships, whether they be earthly or spiritual, do not prosper without openly giving more in one area than another. This takes sacrifice, this takes passion, this takes commitment and an unevenly distributed focus.

Untroubled Water

You learn things, driving.

You relearn your childhood, back to front like the alphabet, up and down like the chains on a swing.

Your hear music. Loud music, a cacophony of pitch and poetry that bends with the road and changes the weather inside of you.

You scale back on volume to listen to the GPS telling you where you are, and how to get where you’re going.

You learn, over and over, which way is the wrong way.

You don’t laugh, because you are alone. But there are things you think of that pulls at each corner of your mouth until you are grinning, things that you remember and dream of that are light and dear and very, very real.

You learn how to be still at 70 miles per hour.

You learn that the mountains are big, and you are not.

___

At the edge of Seattle, there is a bridge that allows you to see the stack of buildings molded together by lights in windows and their reflections on the water. It is a brief tongue of road that tells asks you if you know what you’re doing.

Every time, I am certain, and say yes.

I am ready for the joy. I am ready for the pain. I am ready for the memories and the making of more.

This is a bridge over untroubled water. On February 27, 2015–my grandmother’s birthday, a day that only those who survived her light candles for–my tires hit the bridge and the peace of the water enters me. I may have taken a few wrong turns, but the rasp of the tires on the bridge and the understanding inside me are sound. The windows are down, and the cool air flicks my hair around and loudly pours into my car. The song on the radio is like oxygen.

Everything, I think, will always be okay.

There is a line of expensive homes on the water, but no life inside those houses could be as rich as the man in the hat floating in a row boat as the moon joined the blue and sealed the day.

Remember this when you’re lost.

Remember this when you lose something good.

Remember this when your heart is broken.

Let it rain.

___

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In Seattle, there are more markets than Pike’s.

Abi takes me to one near the U District on the morning of February 28, 2015. My birthday.

No one understands the importance of birthdays like Abi does. Before she was my roommate, or my friend, she was my friend’s roommate, sitting on one of the rolling office chairs in her dorm room, scrawling my name in her birthday book. The birthday book was a large slab of a thing that detailed the qualities each person has in correspondence to the date they were born. Like most mystic things, Abi swears by it.

At the market, Abi purchases a bundle of flowers. They smell fresh. Some have not opened their eyes yet.

At the market, Abi has one of the two gaunt, Edgar Allen Poe-esque men in black sitting at typewriters to write me a poem.

At the market, Abi and I sit on a low-slung wall in front of an old, abandoned school with slumped walls and big windows. It is under construction but no one is working on it. It is the type of building that doesn’t want to be bothered.

We sit and say nothing, because we are fascinated with the man in a black Bible-verse shirt, straw hat, cut-off shorts, tall socks and sandals. He is carrying a basket and terrorizing every stand he approaches.

At the market, Abi and I can’t stop laughing.

___

In Seattle, there are overlooked shops and overlooked people hunkered low on the sidewalks. There are diverse languages creating a Babelous quilt of conversation. There are purple UW letters unifying the masses. There is the smell of pollution and ethnic food and there is sunshine and rain.

There are bikes tethered to lamp posts, with withering reeds exploding between the spindly wheel wires and pine bough wreaths haloing the broken handlebars. There are sleek buildings that tell me I am enough.

___

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There is no one that has spent more birthdays by my side than Emily.

Abi and I have a hard time finding her at the bus station. On my end of the phone, I am in the passenger seat of Danny’s truck, excited and thankful that my longtime friend has made the four-hour trek from Vancouver B.C. to Seattle for two days, just to celebrate with me. On her end of the phone, she is hungry and annoyed that the big white truck has not found her yet.

I see her before she sees us.She looks effortlessly fashionable, as usual. She presses the cell phone to her ear, and her free arm toys with the bag at her side.Her big, brown eyes squirrel back and forth, searching. Finally, she sees us.

And she climbs in the back.

And it’s easy. It’s as if she’d never left.

___

21 looks like a silver star.

It sounds like, “ding!”

It smells like Marc Jacobs perfume.

It feels sophisticated.

It doesn’t taste like alcohol. At least, not for me.

___

At dinner, I order the same drink Abi did on her twenty-first.. I take a few sips and don’t even come close to finishing it.

Abi gets up and goes to the bathroom. Emily sits across from me, narrow-shouldered with her hands in her lap.

“Is it safe?”

I glance up at our waiter. He is in another room, visible only because of the glass encasement.

“Yup. Go,” I reply.

Emily slides the drink her way and sucks down as much as she can. In Vancouver, she is of age. Here, she is not.

“Stop.”

She slides the drink toward me. I play with the straw.

“All right. Go.”

We repeat until Abi returns. Then, we pay and leave.

___

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___

Black beaches.

The last time I had to worry about sand finding its way into my shoes was in San Diego seven months ago.

Maybe it’s the fire Abi nurtures to life, or the charcoal colored sky. Maybe it’s the smell of smoke that clings to my hair and clothes. Maybe it’s the dry roughness of the strip of sand edging close to the water, but I am a thumbprint in a scene that is charred.

We sit on the log and talk in hushed words. Fire speak.

We barely sip the alcohol I purchased. I suppose I bought it just because I could.

Behind us, in a neat, bright building, we can hear music and see teenagers dancing through the windows. I feel happy for their happiness. I am also glad to no longer be that young.

I watch the water.

Someone lights lanterns and lets them float high into the sky. They look like paper beehives with lights inside of them, wanting desperately to be stars.

I think of Thailand’s lantern festival. I think to tell Ruben about it.

“God must have taken a special interest in your birthday,” Ruben responded. “It looks like I’m the only one who has to go to Thailand now.”

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In Seattle, soft pink petals grace the ground in the springtime. They fill cracks in the sidewalks and topple over cars when the wind shakes.

There are houses that are crooked. There are houses that are straight. Young people live in the houses that are old and old people live in the houses that are new.

In Seattle, there are things that are overlooked. I don’t want to overlook a thing.

In Seattle, there are pictures to be taken. Always.

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Seattle is a series of bookends. And everything between those bookends is of substance.

You learn things in Seattle.

Before I was 21, I was 20. And I slept on the floor after a concert and held tight a secret.

Before I was 21, I was frail and hoped music might fill me.

Before I was 21, I was 19 in an evening gown without expectations.

Before I was 21, I was 17 and aced an interview with a Cornish photography professor.

Before I was 21, I was 14, shivering in a bathroom of an Opera house, wishing myself stronger.

Before I was 21, I was 9, watching my father contort a clothes hanger so that he could stick it down a drain gate and retrieve my necklace.

You learn things in Seattle.

___

The drive over is the good part. It’s the drive back that is unsettling.

I apologize to a city I never wronged. My illusion of escapement dissolves as the evergreens fade into empty fields. The hours stretch like taffy.

Remember that serenity you had on the bridge, I tell myself. Recapture it.

The reminders shudder through me.

Words will always be there.

Rain will still come.

That white house still exists, even if you never see it again.

Mornings will rise with you.

This, too, shall pass.

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April

Over a week ago, I visited a deserted yet mysteriously ever-changing place I’d like to call one of my favorites.

It was night, not day. The stars were screamingly clear. The air slipped coldly down my throat and pulled out in warm huffs. The usual February sponginess of the ground was nonexistent, as if it’d escaped with the low-swinging blunt of emotion that usually comes with the long drag of winter and married off somewhere far away from me.

Nothing looked the same, but does it ever? With my heels sinking into the grass and my head wheeling around the black silhouettes of claw-topped trees, surrounded by sheds stripped by wear and weather and bucking hills, I was far from time and close to the little white church on the hill.

“Go in peace,” the sign swinging over the parking lot says. I find it ironic that sign hangs by chains, when freedom is its message.

There is a river inside me. It cuts cold and sweet, bending but unbroken, fresh and moving, always moving.

Rivers, they flow, but they are always going somewhere. Rivers speak. Rivers are vessels of life, needed and boundless and now one gushes through me. Wastelands split wide and I no longer wait.

___

Five years ago, I photographed a fresh-faced young woman named April at this exact place. To this day, April is one of the most at-ease models I have ever worked with. Her allure came not from plastic placement or forced sultriness, but rather a genuine comfort and ballerina-learned love of performance and aesthetic. As quickly as April could turn on her toes at the start of a song, she could channel that grace and apply it to each shutter click.

Returning to the location we took those photographs so many years ago, I was reminded of our time then, my time now and time in general. How walls, both worldly and those inside of us, get torn down. How the night bleeds into the day, and the day gives way to night, and how circles are the shape of chains but somehow freedom is found in binding yourself to the right things. How this body is the same one I’ve been living in since the beginning of my days, and the breaths I took were as numbered as the sheds standing still. I thought of my visits to that place, how I’ve grown older and April has grown older and that the girl in these photographs were products of a second in time and nothing more. One shutter click to the next, we aged.

Wastelands split wide and I no longer wait.

There are rivers now.

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Never Out of the Fight

It may, or may not, pay to be a winner.

Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S)

Photo cred: commons.wikimedia.org

            Navy SEALs have fascinated psychologists, medical experts, and the general public for years. While they are held to high physical standards, it is the unique, positive mental attributes that separate successful SEAL candidates from the rest in the grueling BUD/S course and in future combat situations. According to Marouf Hasian, Jr. in his article “American Exceptionalism and the bin Laden Raid,” this fascination is reinforced by media-covered missions emphasizing the power and privilege of those sworn to serve, fulfilling a desired but distant relationship between them and interested media consumers worldwide.

Despite the deeply-rooted resilience of America’s modern-day warrior, studies show SEALs suffer from psychological and physical issues in lieu of tragedy. Every day, military departments work with experts to solve post-combat issues trending among veterans and rehabilitate training tactics to prevent future traumas, all fueled by the same fascination with the will and power of the human spirit that gave SEALs their coveted titles in the first place.

We’re not gonna stop until we get at least one quitter.

Photo Cred: Navy SEALs.com

Photo Cred: Navy SEALs.com

            Enduring the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALs training course is essential to becoming a SEAL. Because of the intense level at which the course toys with SEAL hopefuls physically and mentally, BUD/S sees a DOR (Drop on Request) rate of approximately 70-80 percent depending on the class, according to Examined Existence. Prior to Hell Week, the most grueling five-and-a-half-day stretch of first phase BUD/S, candidates are required to spend five to nine weeks at Naval Warfare Preparatory School in Great Lakes, Ill. After successfully completing prep school, candidates are transferred to Coronado Island, a small, neat military leg jutting off of San Diego, California, where they spend 24 weeks in California if a DOR is not submitted (SEALSWWC.COM).  This includes a three week introduction, a first, second, and third phase, Hell Week, and is followed by SEAL Qualification Training, which polishes the skills of new SEALs in Niland, Ca. for West coast teams and Camp A.P. Hill for East coast teams (SQT-SEAL). The entirety of this process not only brings militants’ abilities and knowledge of demolition warfare, navigation, weaponry, survival strategies, engagement, leadership, teamwork, underwater techniques, medical management, parachuting and air warfare and more to a select level—it intimately challenges the mind and body.

Most DORs occur during Hell Week, when candidates are expected to perform at high levels despite intentional injustices, continuous runs through the sand, endless sets of push-ups and other exercises, ice-cold ocean plunges that bring candidates near the brink of hypothermia, executed in a chaotic environment complete with simulated explosions and gunfire. If the regiment isn’t exhausting enough, candidates do it all despite calorie deficits and an approximate four hours of sleep over a five-and-a-half day period  (Nichols).

Though instructors would never allow a candidate to perish during Hell Week, SEAL member and renowned author Marcus Luttrell described his experience as “fighting within an inch of my life” in his book, Lone Survivor, which begins with a detailed step-by-step take on Luttrell’s experience at BUD/S. He recalls an ambulance was parked on the shore at all times, which came in useful when he became so overworked he began hallucinating and couldn’t remember his name.

Surviving BUD/S separates the good from the best. Though combat missions be tough, the willingness to strive and mental drive to succeed in BUD/S alone has sparked the interest of psychologists, professionals, and public and contributed to the slowly growing bank of information derived from studies on the matter.

There are two ways to do something: the right way, and again.

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Photo cred: commons.wikimedia.org

The phrase “mind over matter” may be common, but the ability to push one’s physical boundaries despite instinctive distress signals of the body because of a mind-over-matter mentality isn’t common at all.

“Today, our primary weapons systems are our people’s heads,” said SEAL Team 10 Commander Executive Officer Mike H. “You want to excel in all the physical areas, but the physical is just a prerequisite to be a SEAL. Mental weakness is what actually screens you out.” (NavySEALs.com)

According to one of the few studies on the topic conducted by the Naval Health Research Center and funneled into a report by D.E. Braun and N.C. Pratt, SEALs scores differed from that of the average male population as follows:

-Lower in Neuroticism and Agreeableness facets

-Similar in the Openness facet

-Higher in Extroversion, Assertiveness, Conscientiousness and Excitement-Seeking facets

On even keel between the opposing study subjects were the hostility, impulsiveness, and feelings and values facets. This attests SEALs are born leaders, are less prone to negative emotions related to depression, and are more capable of handling stressful situations in comparison to their average male counterparts.

The study summarizes: “This subset of SEALs appear to be calm, hardy, secure, and not prone to excessive psychological stress or anxiety. They are level-headed, practical and collected even under very stressful or dangerous situations. They are rarely impulsive and have strong control over cravings or urges. Active and assertive, they prefer being in large groups and are usually energetic and optimistic. They seek excitement and stimulation and prefer complex and dangerous environments. They are very competitive, skeptical of others’ intentions, and are likely to aggressively defend their own interests, but are not hostile. Finally, they are purposeful, well organized, persistent, and very reliable.”

In Lars Draeger’s book Navy SEAL Training Guide: Mental Toughness, he chalked BUD/S candidates’ and active SEALs’ successes up to four tendencies: goal setting, mental visualization, positive self-talk and arousal control. More elaborately, successful candidates are known to attack one challenge at a time instead of focusing on an overwhelming big-picture achievement (for example, focusing on one set of push-ups or mile instead of the entire completion of Hell Week.) Luttrell lends his success to this, saying that the men who quit focused on the agony of the future instead of dealing with each moment of pain singularly. Mental visualization, or conceptualizing a success and believing it possible for oneself, supports the goal-setting tactic and incorporates positive self-talk. Arousal control is the ability to suppress panic in favor of clear, rational decision-making and the task hand. These four abilities are at the core of resilience and have been recognized not only in the forming of Navy SEALs as helpful practices, but in large companies and self-help enthusiasts looking to strengthen themselves and institutions (Mann.)

On your backs, on your bellies, on your backs, on your bellies. Feet!

commons.wikimedia.org

Photo cred: commons.wikimedia.org

Despite the mental resilience advantage SEALs have, it has become evident they are not exempt from post-combat mental and physical disorders.

National Geographic recently shed light on mild TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) in Caroline Alexander’s article “The Invisible War on the Brain.” The term “shell shocked” has been used since World War I, symptomized by nervous or disconnected behavior as well as physical debilitation, such as hearing loss, memory issues, headaches, dizziness, seizures, and prolonged mood abnormalities that resemble those of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), issues which surface after exposure to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or long periods of ordnance testing. The U.S. Department of Defense said approximately 230,000 soldiers/veterans were diagnosed with issues related to TBIs between 2001 and 2014. Medical professionals are stunned by the variances in which TBIs present themselves, and confirm that the issue is “unique to military experience.”

Though numbers are high for TBIs, they are put to shame by the high rate of veterans suffering from PTSD. In his article “Are We Winning the War Against PTSD?” Richard J. McNally estimates that most wars generate an approximate 30% PTSD rate among veterans, who will try to readapt to civilian life struggling with anxiety, depression, and/or thoughts of suicide. Many develop substance dependencies in an attempt to cope (Brady) and further their inability to function properly in society as they did prior to deployment (PTSD Prevalence).

In Janice A. Aloi’s “A Theoretical Study of the Hidden Wounds of War: Disenfranchised Grief and the Impact on Nursing Practice,” she states that many veterans are not able to fully heal due to stunted progression on the Kubler-Ross grieving table.

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross assembled grief into five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. According to Kubler-Ross, everyone experiencing grief naturally advances through the five stages with time—however, Aloi says in her article that many veterans are not able to reach full emotional health because they do not progress past the denial stage.

Admitting internal conflict is the first step toward addressing the issue. If this step is not completed, a healthy end result becomes less likely. Disenfranchised grief, or an external insinuation that a soldier or veteran are misunderstood or should not feel a certain way, contributes to the grieving militant’s inability to admit feelings of distress.

You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

Photo cred: the BRIGADE

Photo cred: the BRIGADE

While veterans are guaranteed help post-combat if desired, it has become clear that preparing soldiers’ minds for war—alongside their bodies—creates insurance for medical and military departments trying to scale back PTSD numbers among veterans.

A stunning immersion journalism article titled “A State of Military Mind” by Brian Mockenhaupt reported that the military’s understanding and development of prevention tactics are rapidly growing. Meditation, yoga, and teaching soldiers how to “learn under stress” instead of simply minimizing it has become an urgent concern for military departments.

One technique used throughout the training processes is called habituation. Habituation is the continuous exposure to real-life incidences—familiarizing soldiers with potentially damaging scenarios in hopes of conditioning, desensitizing, and nearly immunizing soldiers to natural emotional responses (“Fear and Mental Toughness”). Though habituation has proven to lessen the level of suffering in militants post-combat, it has not even come close to erasing it. The advancement of technology has allowed for very realistic situations to be simulated in training environments, but instructors are still looking for ways to intensify the personality of simulated practice and emphasize habituation to better prepare their soldiers.

As they say in BUD/s, “It’s all mind over matter. If I don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Nothing lasts forever.

“Commanders at all levels must become more knowledgeable and proactive in developing ways to prepare their formations to deal with adversity during combat operations. Although Commanders are conducting tough and realistic training prior to deployment, the high number of returnees diagnosed with PTSD indicates we are not doing enough. In training it is difficult to replicate the true nature of war; specifically graphic injuries to Soldiers or other traumatic events. The Army must assist commanders by conducting effective mental health screening on Soldiers prior to deploying, provide training that strengthens Soldiers through resilience and exposure, and provide forward mental health support,” said Colonel Ricardo M. Love in Psychological Resilience: Preparing Our Soldiers for War.

Though a basic understanding of the rare SEAL mentality and development of the modern-day warrior has been documented, as well as the statistically stunning causes-and-effects of stress disorders in lieu of traumatic experiences, society has the potential to flourish and overcome these issues in and alongside the protectors of this nation if the number of directed studies increased, funded, performed, and released.

This includes, and is not limited to, studies on familial receptions and relations in order to lower divorce rates and misperceptions among military families, PTSD and TBI coping solutions and resources, pre-combat mind-honing techniques, medical advancements, and continued study that supports the unique gift of SEAL mentality and ability.

SEALs remember BUD/s as one of the most difficult challenges overcome. Many more trials via real-life missions and post-deployments arise as former militants adjust to being home again. Though the lives of SEALs are often extraordinarily uncommon, it is important that professionals explore all possible solutions to ensure veterans can reflect on their experiences with a separation and peace.

“I will never quit,” the SEAL Creed states. “I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

Photo cred: madworldnews.com

Photo cred: madworldnews.com

Bibliography

Alexander, Caroline. “The Invisible War On the Brain.” National Geographic 1 Jan. 2015. Print.

Aloi, Janice A. “A Theoretical Study of the Hidden Wounds of War: Disenfranchised Grief and the Impact on Nursing Practice.” Hindawi Publishing Company 2011 (2011). International Scholarly Research Notices. Hindawi Publishing Company. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2011/954081/&gt;.

Boss, Jeff. 10 Inspirational Quotes from Navy SEAL Training (Entrepreneur)http://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/232209

Brady, T. Back, Sudie E. Coffee, Scott F. Substance Abuse and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 13, No. 5 (Oct., 2004), pp. 206-209. Print.

Braun, D. E., and N. C. Pratt. “PERSONALITY PROFILES OF U.S. NAVY SEA-AIR-LAND (SEAL) PERSONNEL.” The Black Vault. Naval Health Research Center. Web. 31 Jan. 2015. <http://documents.theblackvault.com/documents/defenseissues/ADA281692.pdf&gt;.

Draeger, Lars. Navy SEAL Training Guide: Mental Toughness. Special Operations Media, 2013. Print.

“Fear and Mental Toughness.” Navy Seals.com. Navy Seals.com. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://navyseals.com/nsw/fear-and-mental-toughness/&gt;

Hasian Jr.,Marouf. “American Exceptionalism and the bin Laden Raid.” Third World Quarterly. Vol. 33, No. 10 (2012) (pp. 1803-1820).

“How to Be Mentally Tough Like a Navy Seal.” Examined Existence.Www.examinedexistence.com. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://examinedexistence.com/how-to-be-mentally-tough-like-a-navy-seal/&gt;.

Love, Colonel Ricardo M. PSYCHOLOGICAL RESILIENCE:PREPARING OUR SOLDIERSFOR WAR. 23 March 2011. Print.

Luttrell, Marcus. Robinson, Patrick. Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. Little, Brown. New York. 2007.

Mann, Don. How to Become a Navy SEAL: Everything You Need to Know to Become a Member of US Navy’s Elite Force. Sky Horse. Print.

Mark, Divine. “SEAL Code: A Warrior Creed.” Navy Seals.com.Www.navyseals.com. Web. 30 Jan. 2015. <http://navyseals.com/nsw/seal-code-warrior-creed/&gt;.

McNally, Richard J. ARE WE WINNING THE WAR AGAINST POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER? Science, New Series, Vol. 336, No. 6083 (18 May 2012), pp. 872-87.

Mockenhaupt, Brian. “A State of Military Mind.” Pacific Standard. Pacific Standard.com. 18 Jun 2012 <http://www.psmag.com/books-and-culture/a-state-military-mind-42839>.

Navy SEAL BUD/S Training Stages Overview – SEALSWCC.COM | Official Website U.S. Navy SEALs (SEALSWCC.COM)

http://www.sealswcc.com/navy-seals-buds-training-stages-

Nichols, Katie. “Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Become a US Navy SEAL?” The Sport In Mind. TheSportInMind.com. 23 Oct 2013 <http://www.thesportinmind.com/articles/are-you-mentally-tough-enough-to-become-a-us-navy-seal/>.

PTSD Prevalence, Associated Exposures, and Functional Health Outcomes in a Large, Population-Based Military. CohortTyler C. SmithDeborah L. Wingard,Margaret A.K. RyanDonna Kritz-SilversteinDonald J. Slymen,James F. SallisPublic Health Reports (1974-), Vol. 124, No. 1 (JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2009), pp. 90-102.

SQT-SEAL Qualification Training. Navy Seals.com. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <http://navyseals.com/nsw/sqt-seal-qualification-training/&gt;.

22

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// What’s In a Name? //

Cara /ˈkɑːrə/ (Latin): Beloved

Cara /ˈkɑːrə/ (Irish): Friend

Beloved friend.

How fitting.

// Playgrounds and Parties //

My mother will tell you that as a child, I made friends everywhere I went. I’d stand in the sandy center of a public playground, swivel my head, and pick someone. I’d march up to them, introduce myself, and ask them to play.

I love people. If there’s one thing I’ve never been without, it’s an abundance of good friends.

So, this past fall, it was a bit jarring to find myself staring over the heads of people crowded into my friend Kyle’s apartment, feeling slightly lonely.

As a freshman in college, I was meeting new people on the daily. As a junior in college, I found that pattern slowly digressing.

Not only did I feel isolated from a pool of potential fresh-faced friends; I was also struggling with the fact that many of the people closest to me were either on exchange, married, very busy or attending university far away. For the first time in my life, I felt disconnected despite the constant contact and well-spaced visits I kept with those dearest.

I was wondering if there was anyone new and special to meet when my friend Patrick walked through the door with a wild-haired blonde girl in black and boots.

“This is Cara,” Patrick said. “And Cara, this is Miranda.”

I get a deep, intuitive feel for people the moment I meet them. Energy is so prevalent, and so telling.

If I had been seven years old, looking over my options at the playground, Cara would’ve been the one I’d approached first.

// Aura //

Cara is soft-spoken, but has opinions and insights and says hard things anyway.

Cara is a welcoming, gentle halo of light that is not needy or inquiring or obnoxiously exuberant. She frames tired, corrupted situations with angles of positivity. She lets herself feel, but not too long.

Cara stays up late to swing dance, drink wine, listen to jazz music and watch good movies.

Cara rises early to brew coffee and do yoga.

Cara is unashamed to admit she is a fan of One Direction, and loves peeling through the newest editions of Vanity Fair.

She uses the word “wonderful” a lot.

Cara is life-thirsty and restlessly scavenges memories she’ll want to return to. She says she doesn’t like to be sad, and wants to surround herself with beautiful things.

She craves a light that is already inside of her.

Cara doesn’t see all that she is.

// Boots //

“I knew you two would get along,” Patrick said, “because you both like boots.”

We also both like black.

“I don’t know why I only like to wear black,” Cara said. “I get up in the morning and think I’m going to wear a color, and then change my mind. I’m a happy person, I swear!”

Cara’s European style, with her pea coats, boots, scarves and neutrals say little about the small, farming town she came from and a lot about her.

The first night we spent time together as new friends, we sat at her dinner table and she told me a story about Paris. She was sitting outside the Notre Dame when a young man began babbling at her in French. She told him she only spoke English. Immediately, he switched languages.

In that busy courtyard, they sat and talked about anything and everything. Cara said it was natural and smooth. Interesting. A perfect picture of serendipity.

When it was time to leave, the man said that he had to talk to the prettiest girl in front of the Notre Dame. She smiled. They parted ways, and never saw one another again.

Good things come quick.

Good things leave fast.

Good things should leave a note explaining why they left.

The absence of something good leaves room for more good.

The best things in life are unexpected.

Timing is everything.

// Serendipity //

Though Cara and I carve out time to spend with one another, most of our meetings are happenstance.

At the gym. On our way to class. At writing meetings and in coffee shops and, once, when she was waiting for her roommate to pick her up on the side of the road.

I picked her up instead. We curved through town. We made a mediocre day better.

// 22 //

Yesterday was Cara’s 22nd birthday.

She loves Taylor Swift. I hope she listened to Taylor’s song “22” on repeat. I hope she ate delicious cake and buys herself a pretty black dress for our joint birthday trip to Seattle.

Cara and I have tread the same ground and spent time with the same friends and for a few years now. It’s a mystery as to why this past fall was the first time we’d crossed paths, but there’s no denying that it happened when it was supposed to.

This gives me hope for future things.

If there’s one thing I’ve never been without, it’s an abundance of good friends.

Night Changes

IMG_20150205_174003

Going out tonight

Changes into something red

Her mother doesn’t like that kind of dress

Everything she never had she’s showing off

IMG_20150205_174654

Driving too fast

Moon is breaking through her hair

She said it was something that she won’t forget

Having no regrets is all that she really wants

IMG_20150205_000423

We’re only getting older baby

And I’ve been thinking about it lately

Does it ever drive you crazy

Just how fast the night changes?

IMG_20150205_000837

Everything that you’ve ever dreamed of

Disappearing when you wake up

But there’s nothing to be afraid of

Even when the night changes

IMG_20150205_000625

It will never change me and you.

Chasing it tonight

Doubts are running ’round her head

He’s waiting, hides behind a cigarette

Heart is beating loud, she doesn’t want it to stop

IMG_20150205_000739

Moving too fast

Moon is lighting up her skin

She’s falling, doesn’t even know it yet

Having no regrets is all that she really wants

IMG_20150205_173910

We’re only getting older baby

And I’ve been thinking about it lately

Does it ever drive you crazy

Just how fast the night changes?

IMG_20150205_173830

Everything that you’ve ever dreamed of

Disappearing when you wake up

But there’s nothing to be afraid of

Even when the night changes

IMG_20150205_174113

It will never change me and you.

Going out tonight

Changes into something red

Her mother doesn’t like that kind of dress

Reminds her of a missing piece of innocence she lost

IMG_20150205_001634

We’re only getting older baby

And I’ve been thinking about it lately

Does it ever drive you crazy

Just how fast the night changes?

IMG_20150205_001954

Everything that you’ve ever dreamed of

Disappearing when you wake up

But there’s nothing to be afraid of

Even when the night changes

IMG_20150205_001555

It will never change me and you.

________

“Night Changes” by Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Jamie Scott, Julian Bunetta, and John Ryan