Veterans Day 2015

I’ve got a friend who has tried to get me into yoga for several years now.  Every couple months or so she’ll invite me to tag along to a class with her.  It’s been interesting and the reality is that I do know it’d be good for me, I just need to commit and start doing it regularly, my body needs it.  The bad part is that it was something that I was talking about doing with PG and we never got around to signing up together and now I’ve got a little bit of a block against doing it on my own.

Anyways, my friend recently moved into a new place with a giant art studio attached to the house so she’s started having private classes there.  She had one tonight and invited me and a bunch of other people to join.  I got there a tiny bit late because of a bad accident on the road, so they were already starting some warm up breathing and stretching when I got there.  I hurried to an empty corner and got my mat setup and started to settle into the routine.  The instructor was telling us to find a place of gratitude with each breath.  He said that we needed to remember that we were exactly where we were supposed to be at that moment, and that we needed to be grateful for it.  That we would have some temporary suffering in the class, but that he wanted us to peel the layers of the suffering back and find the gratitude beneath them.

That hit me like a lightening bolt.  Being Veterans Day, I was feeling grateful to have survived my deployment tours already.  It’s a little ironic, I’ve talked about my parents with a lot of negativity, but the reality is that every negative thing I’ve complained about could be considered a blessing in some ways as well.  I’m tough.  I’m stubborn.  I’m self reliant and self contained. I’m a survivor and that’s because of them.  Last year almost broke me.  While my childhood and my upbringing was largely responsible for the emotional barriers I’ve thrown up between me and people I love and that’s a large part of why I kept pushing PG away, it’s also what kept me from wrapping my car around a tree or swallowing the barrel of one of my pistols.  Not just because she broke up with me, but the guilt that I’d hurt someone so special, the awareness that I was partly responsible for ruining something so wonderful, the remembering of various events from my childhood and the understanding of how those had impacted me for so, so long.  Weaker people have done so for less.  It’s why PTSD and the ringing in my ears and the guilt of not seeing worse stuff and the horrors of seeing what I did see haven’t made me part of the statistic of 22 vets a day who commit suicide.  But it was never a consideration for me because of the foundation my parents built.

So I sat there, and felt the gratitude wash over me.  Gratitude that I’m still here.  Gratitude that I’m equipped to handle things.  Gratitude that I’m evolving and changing, and that I have a chance to, but tempered with the understanding that I’m okay just as I am.  And I kept trying to stay in that feeling as the session progressed, as the breathing got tougher, as the muscles strained and the joints ached.  And the ghosts came to me.  Keppler and Kit, Clint and Teddy and Dane.  The crew from the 42nd who burned up in their truck in front of us, the engineer from Louisiana who we saw at the checkpoint leaving the FOB less than 15 minutes before he was killed in an ambush.  I didn’t feel guilty that I was there and they weren’t.  I didn’t feel relief either.  I just felt like it was ok to be me, and to be me right there, in that moment.  That there was no hard feelings from them.  That they were where they need to be as well.  It was the first time in a long time, if ever that I felt at peace with all of them and their loss.  Kind of like Kitowski not haunting me just because I wear his bracelet, but on a larger, deeper scale.  It was exactly what yoga is supposed to be, a cleansing, life-affirming experience.

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