One of the reasons I think transition is so challenging to SMBRs (service members) is that pleasure is hard to come by.
I think it's hard to feel pleasure when you have trained yourself to be prepared for pain.
On a mission in south Baghdad, we were sent to a house that had been rocketed. We roll up and, sure enough, there was this huge hole in the side of the house.
The commander and my team leader talked with the occupants while the rest pulled security.
As was often the case, a kid walked up to me. Turns out it was his house that got hit.
I didn't pay too much attention to this kid and just kept smoking my cigarette. Then this little kid starts asking me why I smoke.
I wanna explain to the kid that I smoke because a cigarette is like a good friend I can call on whenever I need to pass the time, but he doesn't speak English well enough.
Well, he ends up gesturing how bad cigarettes are for me by coughing and pounding on his chest.
This kid really annoyed me and I was happy to leave.
On our way home my team leader told me that the family was targeted for being Sunni. Without getting into too much detail about the history of sectarian violence in Iraq, just know that the Sunnis and Shiites have hated each other for thousands of years.
I remember lighting a smoke and shaking my head. How the hell were we going to solve that issue?
Anyway, as we are driving back to our base we see a huge pillar of black smoke rising in the distance. We all laughed because black smoke always means bad shit.
Well, the closer we get to our base, the closer we get to the smoke.
Turns out its our friggen base that's on fire. As we roll back in the wire we see that 45 shed sized coils of special electrical cables have caught fire during a mortar attack.
These cables, worth millions of dollars were slated to go to Sadr city to help then with their power grid.
That was a dark week in Iraq. The future looked bleak.
To protect myself against the inevitable disappointments of our missions, I armored up against the darkness. The more armored I became the less sadness I felt.
The less I felt of anything for that matter. You wanna burn your future, fine? I will protect myself from caring.
Last week during Christmas Eve Mass, the priest began his homily by pointing at Jesus in the manger and saying "we believe that little baby is God."
He went on to say that that belief sustains us when there is darkness.
That really sat with me this year. I let go a little bit more. Settled in to the pew a little bit more, relaxed a little bit more and let my faith allow me to be optimistic a little bit more.
The essence of faith is the belief in the unseen. You can't close yourself off from faith in order to feel it.
You can hide from its absence with distractions, but ultimately you will wear yourself down.
The only way forward is to open. Let go of fear. Have faith that the unseen has a future for you.
It's friggen weird at first, but over time, the warmth of the light begins to feel really good.
This post was guided by the 42th stanza of the Art of Peace, a book written by Morihei Ueshiba
Armor Down now has a website. Check it out.
Like the AD Facebook page and I'll email you the PDF of a book called "Mindfulness in Practical English".
Lisa Wimberger's meditations:
Grounding Your Armor
Riding the Sun
Thrive as a civilian.