That immortal place
in time and space …
There is no human experience
There is no experience
in this place we call life,
that reaffirms more,
with and without limitation,
all at once,
endless and boundless,
defined and tied,
to not your pain,
but your exhaustion,
until there is nothing left,
not a single choice,
to push you forward,
But until then,
until that terminal moment,
all you have,
all there is,
is the choice,
the one that defines you,
reaffirming your essence,
what it means to be,
the soul of the beast.
No skin holds tighter
than the uniform.
No foothold grounds
like the boot.
If ever man knew
his own limitations,
it were cloaked in armor.
If he ever understood
his limitless potential,
it were hard on his back
recovering from the mission.
Only in war
does man discover
the truth of his self,
of not why he exists,
in what form,
what is and is not possible.
On a plank of plywood,
hair and face,
relishing one more victory
conquered and defeated,
all at once.
There I exist,
there I am real,
a passing dream,
soon to be forgotten.
I did not go
in search of this truth,
I knew men
who went before me
spinning yarn around this core.
This isn’t what I came for,
but it is,
what I found.
With one finger, I pushed around a bunch of cheap rings in my little jewelry box looking for something I wanted to wear, but none of them looked quite right. And that’s when the annoying, eerie feeling came over me again …
My whole life, I’ve worn silver. I was never a gold girl. I was one of those teenagers who had a ring on every finger. Cheap, artisan, hippy silver wrapped around some earth stone. Onyx, amethyst, amber—you get the idea. Except, none of the rings in my little box looked like that. They just looked like junky costume jewelry, and for a second, I got totally aggravated. When I left for Iraq, silver was still the cheap metal, and I had a fist full of rings. When I came back from Iraq, silver had skyrocketed right out of the artisan’s price range, and at the same time, my small collection of it had mysteriously disappeared.
I of course didn’t wear a bunch of rings on my fingers while I was deployed; I stuffed them into a bag and knew that they’d be one of those small comforts that would help me feel like a normal human being again when I came home. They were one of the first things I put on when I left on leave, and they went right back into the bag when I returned to my uniform and walked back onto the plane. I know I put them in a zippered pocket where I thought they’d be safe, and then I forgot about them for another eight months or so.
When it was time to pack up and go home for good, I tore apart every bag I owned looking for them, but they were gone. It’s possible they were stolen, but not likely. The best I can figure is that I probably lost them clearing customs when I had to dump everything out onto the table, right down to the lint in my pockets. I can’t imagine not paying special attention to the rings, and to this day, I still check in a pocket of a bag I think I might have missed the last 100 times or so I checked because I just can’t believe I would have lost them, but that’s the best guess I’ve got.
I wasn’t aggravated poking around my jewelry box, however, because I lost my rings. It’s true, I don’t even want to think about how much silver I’ve misplaced over my lifetime with silver trading at $35 an ounce right now, but that’s not why I was aggravated. I was aggravated because I couldn’t—still can’t—remember, for the life of me, what a single one of those rings looked like. I’m not even sure how many I had. Three, four maybe. Maybe more. It’s been that way with my memory ever since I’ve been back, which is particularly frustrating for me because I’ve always had a memory like an elephant. My friends used to call me the human tape recorder. They would call on me to settle arguments if I had been present for a conversation that was in dispute because I could reiterate to everyone concerned exactly what they said. Now my husband has to tell me what I said half the time.
I recently read in Scientific American that one of the fun consequences of extreme stress is that your brain turns to mush. Well, not the whole brain—just the more highly evolved frontal lobe. You know, the smart part of your brain. Made perfect sense to me. No matter how hard I wrack my noggin, I can’t remember what those damn rings looked like, and standing in front of my little jewelry box, trying to remember, that’s when the familiar eerie feeling washed away any anger or frustration I was experiencing and replaced it with a terribly unsettling question …
What if I never actually came back? Suddenly I felt like a ghost running over the same ground over and over again, looking for the locket her lover gave her, tearing through the same drawers over, and over, and over, looking for something that isn’t there, that she can’t quite remember how or where she lost it.
I used to get the feeling a lot right after we came home. My husband and I talked about it a few times. We moved into my parent’s house when I was 7 months pregnant with my son. My parents were still down in Florida for the winter, so we had the place to ourselves for the next couple months until the birth. I have no idea if the T.A.P.S. groupies would tell you that being pregnant somehow attracts paranormal activity or not, but I can tell you some strange things happened in the house in those few months.
There were your usual, run-of-the-mill, spooky moments, like when my sister brought her dog over, and he climbed up onto the couch and started sniffing the wall. A week later, my husband took a picture of me sitting on the same couch, and there were crazy broad streaks of discoloration on the wall behind me. Maybe not so spooky we had to move into a hotel, but spooky enough that I didn’t want to sit on that couch so much anymore.
Then there were the crazier events, like the giant crashing noise that woke us up out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night on more than one occasion. If you’ve ever seen Paranormal Activity, it was freaky close to that (and it was before the movie ever came out, so I can’t even blame it on the power of suggestion!) These were the types of events that gave the house that creepy, wintery, otherworld sort of feeling, especially in the middle of the night, and left my husband and I sometimes wondering, what if we never actually made it back?
I have to stop here because I feel so guilty sharing this experience. We, of course, did come back, and so many soldiers didn’t. We had friends who never got to come home with us. But writing has always been my release, and this feeling is so haunting, I feel compelled to write about it. We are so blessed that we not only made it home, but we made it back without any serious injuries to speak of. Still, when we first returned, in the creepy dark hours of that first winter, sometimes we weren’t so sure.
When we finally did talk to each other about these surreal moments in virtual purgatory, the next natural question to arise after, “What if we never actually made it back,” was “What really happened then?” If we were circling through my parent’s sad empty house together, like the undiscerning ghosts in The Others, then the logical assumption was that we went out together, but when? The answer to that question always brought me back to the same event …
The patrol base where I met my husband on most days had no running water. There was a shower closet that worked on and off, (more off than on), and portable hand washing stations, but that was it. We ate field chow out of a kitchen trailer, relieved ourselves in outhouses (not porta-potties—wooden outhouses), and brushed our teeth with bottled water. Seeing as I was the only female on the patrol base, even when the showers were working, I rarely got to use them, so most of the time I punched holes in the caps of water bottles and improvised.
The upside to this living situation was that once a week, every team got to go on refit. We got one day off to grab our laundry and drive up the highway to the nearest FOB (forward operating base), which happened to be another shithole, but it was a shithole with running water and laundry services. The food there wasn’t much better than the field chow, but the showers worked and there was no chance of being called out on an unexpected night mission.
There were empty tents with sleeping bag cots set aside for soldiers on refit. The same people generally took the same tents, and sense I was the only female tasked out to the unit, there was no female tent. Technically, I’m sure I was supposed to find a tent full of gals, but I always took a cot in the tent with my team. The general routine was drop the laundry, grab some chow, fund the insurgency by buying a cheap bootleg copy of an American film from the Haji mart, go back to the tent to watch said DVD on someone’s laptop, and try to ignore the moving shadow-head of the guy sitting in the row in front of the camera man.
One night I fell asleep curled up next to my husband. I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of mortar rounds. I awoke in half a daze, half a panic, and shook him hard.
“Doc! Wakeup! Incoming!”
He put his hand on my head and told me to go back to sleep.
“It’s outgoing,” he assured me. The tent was pitch black, and I wasn’t even entirely sure where I was. Was I on the PB? Back at my old FOB? On the refit FOB? Where had I fallen asleep?
“Are you sure?” I ask. “I didn’t think we were near the firing line.”
At my home-base (which I loved and actually began to think of as home by the time we left the country), I worked in a trailer that was on the edge of the FOB and butted up right next to the artillery firing line. When our guys shot outgoing mortars into the fields where their guys were setting up to fire at us, the kickback from the tanks would shake the whole trailer. Once the blast was so loud, I was certain it was incoming, and I ran right out of the can toward the bunker.
But at the refit FOB, the tent was no where near the firing line, or at least I didn’t think it was. The tent was in the middle of the FOB, and I never heard outgoing so loud that I mistook it for incoming. Still, the sleepy medic promised me,
“I’m sure. It’s okay. Go back to sleep.”
And so that’s what I did. I buried my head in the comfort of his chest and melted back into sleep.
Almost exactly one year later, now married and expecting, I looked at my husband one lonely evening and said,
“What if it wasn’t outgoing that night? What if it was incoming?”
It’s a funny thing. I can’t tell you what he said after that because no matter how hard I wrack my noggin, I just can’t remember.
Rockdale native Katherine Davis confessed, “I’ll admit being a spoiled brat in my younger days, but after high school I realized I needed to transform my life. After talking to recruiters I knew the toughest challenge would be the Marines.”
OnJune 06, 2005Davisboarded a Marine bus atFt.GillemforParris Island,SC.
“My mom cried,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Katherine, what have you done, girl?’”
365 is a blog that honors vets and their stories. This is one story from a female Marine who served in Iraq. I had a similar experience with a little girl while out on patrol, and I totally agree it was the highlight of my service. In the Army, we didn’t cover our faces while serving in Iraq, but with all my gear on, my sunglasses and my helmet, the locals often just assumed I was a man! One day while out on patrol with my team, a little girl ran up to the medic behind me (who is now my husband), pointed at me and asked in broken English, “Girl? She girl?” My husband laughed and said yes, that is a girl, and the little girl followed us around the whole village for the rest of the day, staring and smiling in awe. That was by far one of the best memories I have of Iraq!
SGT Mason L. Lewis
26 February 1981 – 16 November 2007
When I lived in NYC, I was always aggravated by the subway ads, not only because I was very cognizant of myself as a captive audience, unable to look away, but because my mild OCD made it impossible for me to not read every banner sign as I rocked along the dark corridor doing the daily grind. Instead of people watching, like most normal New Yorkers do to pass the time on the train, I tormented myself trying to figure out if I picked up any Spanish from years of reading bilingual poster ads.
Conspicuously absent on any given base in Iraq are advertisements. Sure, there are a few, but overall it’s nothing compared with what we are bombarded with here at home on a daily basis without even realizing it. On a FOB (forward operating base), there are no billboards, marquees, bus decals or those terribly annoying banner ads lining the ceiling of the subway. There really aren’t too many stores or restaurants with big flashy signs out front announcing their own presence. The only T.V. soldiers ever really get a chance to glimpse at is usually in the DFAC (dining facility), and soldiers are rarely there long enough to pay much attention to it. An American operating base in Iraq is remarkably free of corporate advertising.
What you do have, however, are equally annoying, good-old-fashioned, cork bulletin boards. You’re usually smacked in the face with one while standing outside the company office waiting to talk to 1st sergeant, or while hanging around some designated smoking area where someone took the time to build a really nice wooden gazebo next to one of those really aggravating boards. I say they’re aggravating because of that previously referenced OCD–the one that doesn’t let me walk past a sign without reading it–but also because there was almost never anything actually useful to the reader pinned to the board. It almost always served the needs of the individual who wrote the flier.
More specifically, the boards were generally used for warnings and to admonish disobedient soldiers who could not follow simple instructions. They almost looked like press releases complete with graphic and quite often disgusting photos that demonstrated the consequences of “doing your own thing” as it’s called in the Army. Sometimes I hoped that someone other than myself was reading certain signs, like the one that informed those in leadership positions that smoking soldiers (civilian translation: smoking is a form of physical punishment that usually involves some combination of push ups and sprinting like a jack rabbit) in full battle rattle (civ. trans: ceramic plated body armor vest weighing 20-50lbs depending on whether or not ammunition and other equipment was attached to it) in the middle of the desert on a 120 degree day was a BAD IDEA that could possibly lead to serious injury or death. I generally hoped someone other than myself read those announcements.
I did not care, however, to see the photo of the melted hand that some poor soldier ended up with after a firefight or some other kind of attack because he decided he wasn’t going to add gloves to the list of clothing items that made 120 degrees feel like 200 degrees in the middle of Hell on Earth. It generally irked me that someone felt this was an opportunity to warn soldiers that they should wear their standard issue gear while on mission, as if these kinds of grotesque wounds were simply the unfortunate result of a failure to follow instructions and weren’t somehow an expected consequence of war. I often suspected that the person who wrote the flier had himself (or herself) never actually been out on mission–or at least never stepped out of the vehicle–and would probably drop dead of shock if he had and learned that it wasn’t uncommon for soldiers to not only remove their gloves on hot days, but also their Kevlar helmets and sometimes even–gasp–their bullet proof vests!
The soldier’s body armor embodies the trade offs of modern civilization that remind us for all our advancements in technology keeping us safer, healthier, and protected from the cruelties of nature, there is a price. At the time I was in the Army, it seemed like they came out with a new version of the vest every year. They were constantly striving to make it more protective while at the same time it needed to be lighter, more flexible, and less cumbersome. When I deployed, the latest modification was the under-arm plate added to protect the area of the body that had become the kill shot for snipers. It was the most vulnerable spot in the vest. When a soldier lifted his or her arms in any direction, a huge area of the body became exposed, opening up the heart and lungs to penetration. The plates that were inserted into the vest closed some of this gap, but they also added a few pounds to the weight. More importantly, they seriously inhibited movement. We looked like an Army of Pillsbury Dough Boys running around with our arms pushed out. The vest saved lives, no doubt. But it also hampered the soldier’s mobility, which was a danger in itself.
While removing the vest wasn’t necessarily unheard of, most soldiers wore their vests most of the time while out on mission. Like I said, there’s no question the vest saved lives, and as a result, it got worn. Getting used to the body armor can be one of the most difficult adjustments for a new soldier to make in preparation for deployment. Most soldiers go through basic and advanced training wearing a much lighter version of the ballistic vest. It’s generally not until you get to your unit do you start going to the firing range and doing field training exercises wearing full battle rattle in an effort to get used to its weight and awkwardness. I remember I used to feel like a modern day knight walking around in it because it seemed almost as ridiculous as a full suit of medieval armor. (For a female soldier, having to squat to pee in the thing when you’re nowhere near a porta-potty is a nightmare). The vest incredibly hampers the mobility of the soldier, at least until he or she gets used to moving in it.
It was about halfway through my deployment, before I met my husband, when one day I was standing outside the company, waiting to talk to 1st sergeant, that I read a flier I will never forget. The message was to be careful while wearing your vest. It warned soldiers that simple tasks like turning around can require a great deal of care and balance when wearing body armor. There was a picture of some kind of lift parked next to a building. The flier went on to explain that an American soldier who was on a mission to help train Iraqi soldiers fell off the lift and died. He was only two stories up, but he was crushed by the weight of his vest when he fell and later died from the internal bleeding it caused.
I didn’t know the soldier, but I can’t even explain the feeling that came over me when I read his story. I will never forget what I thought: to come all this way over here, for your family to be back home worrying every day that you’re going to get shot or blown up, and to die in an accident–to be killed by the very thing that is supposed to save your life–I couldn’t make sense of it. It just didn’t seem fair. It didn’t seem right. I know war generally isn’t fair or even right, but this just smacked of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. ”Died in a non-combat related training accident.” That’s how it’s listed in Honor the Fallen, the Military Times online database (http://militarytimes.com/valor/army-sgt-mason-l-lewis/3194071). It wasn’t just non-combat related–he was on a mission to help the Iraqis learn how to protect themselves so that we could go home and get out of their country.
I had no idea at the time I learned of SGT Mason L. Lewis’s death that I would someday have a son who’s middle name would be chosen after him. I had no idea because I had not yet met my husband, and all of my husband’s friends, to know that the death of Mason Lewis left a hole in all of them. On this last Wednesday, like every November 16th since I’ve met my husband, a series of phone calls and texts rang in a circle across the country, between a small group of young men, just to say we remember the day, we remember Mason, are you okay? Some of them wear tattoos that say “Strength and Honor” in memory of him. All of them need that phone call on that day.
When I was pregnant with my son and reading through baby books looking for names, I asked my husband if he liked the name Mason. That’s when I learned that the soldier whose death had touched me in such a distant way was much closer to my life than I realized. I never had the honor of meeting Mason, but when my husband told me how he died, I knew exactly who he was. I never forgot him because I was so shaken by the way he died, and while my heart went out to my husband for the loss of his friend, it brought me some kind of selfish comfort to know that my husband knew the soldier on the bulletin board. He wasn’t just the poor soldier who died so unfairly anymore. He was missed and remembered, and I had the honor of witnessing how his life continued to be celebrated by his friends who loved him.
Mason’s death is a story of tragic ironies, and I suppose it’s fitting that the week before the anniversary of his death, the news was abuzz with a certain constitutional law professor at Suffolk University in Massachusetts named Michael Avery. Professor Avery responded to his institution’s request for support in sending care packages to troops that it is “shameful” to support men and women “who have gone overseas to kill other human beings” (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2808535/posts). The most accurate response I have to that statement is this: Professor Avery is an idiot. That may sound like an understatement, and it may not be very eloquent, but it is profoundly accurate. Professor Avery is an idiot because he has absolutely no idea what deployed soldiers actually do. That part’s not his fault. Most civilians don’t know what a soldier’s mission is. But unlike most civilians, he thinks he does.
The reality is that the actual conventional war part of the Iraq war was over in less than 60 days. We declared war on a nation and its leader. We invaded said nation. We captured said leader. Every second we stayed beyond that point was in an effort to rebuild the country and not leave it in a shambles when we left. Every firefight and bomb dropped since then has been in support of that mission. Even if you’re an ill-informed conspiracy theorist who thinks our ulterior motive is oil, that doesn’t change the above listed facts. I don’t want to detract from Mason Lewis by making this entry political. The point I’m getting to is poignantly relative to his sacrifice. No matter how anyone feels about the reasons we went or why we’re there or how long we stayed, what everyone needs to understand before forming any strong opinions about the war or the soldiers fighting in Iraq is that our armed forces devote more troop strength, time, energy, and I suspect money to building schools, roads, hospitals, bridges, clean water supplies, and training the Iraqis to take care of themselves than we do killing “other human beings.”
But that’s not what made me want to throw up when I heard the news of Professor Avery. What made me want to vomit was that not only do our soldiers sacrifice precious time with their families and years of their lives to go overseas and try to train Iraqi soldiers what should be obvious things, like you can’t slaughter a village just because they aren’t the same sect of Islam as you, or even something as simple as how to detain someone without beating them senseless, but many of our soldiers give their lives in the service of that mission.
When I heard Professor Avery’s comment, I immediately thought of SGT Mason Lewis. There is a Facebook page called R.I.P. Mason Lee Lewis (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=6476283260&v=info). There is only one thing on it really. It’s a newspaper article about how some of his friends organized Operation Mason in honor of his memory after he died. The article explains how Mason frequently asked his mother to send him toys for the kids in Iraq. He was deeply troubled by how kids in Iraq often played with dangerous things like sharp metal cans. Operation Mason was organized in his honor to request toy donations for Iraqi children.
Mason Lee Lewis didn’t go overseas “to kill other human beings.” He didn’t go down in a blaze of glory or earn a posthumous medal for being brave in a firefight or even roll over an IED in his vehicle or loose his life in a rocket attack. He lost his life doing something infinitely more heroic. His family can truly, quite literally say that Mason Lee Lewis sacrificed his life trying to bring peace and freedom to a war torn country. Mason Lewis lost his life trying to teach Iraqis how to protect and take care of themselves, and that self-sufficiency is the most fundamental cornerstone–the very essence–of freedom. I don’t know how to do justice to or properly honor someone I never met, except to say that his life and his death have profound meaning for me without ever even having met him. I hope his message speaks to everyone who reads this. I know it speaks far louder than a piece of paper on a bulletin board ever could.
I don’t want to turn this blog into a list of links, but this is an excellent article on a topic few people have ever heard anything about. As with all matters related to Saddam, it continues to demonstrate the lengths that he was willing to go to and the devastation he was willing to bring about in order to crush any and all opposition to his regime. There is something incredibly poignant about the fact that he was willing to destroy the very cradle of civilization in order to achieve his goals:
The photographer captured some great shots here of female soldiers on the PB and outside the wire:
Friday was an emotional day, much of it spent memorializing those who have passed on. The day began with the awful news that my sister-in-law made another failed suicide attempt the night before. Then while the rest of the house readied themselves for one memorial, I got myself and baby ready to attend a separate one. The first event was an annual golf benefit for cancer held in memory of my brother-in-law who succumbed to lung cancer while I was in Iraq. I don’t really golf, so I went on behalf of the family to pay respects at the funeral mass for my elderly neighbor who passed of natural causes earlier this week.
My brother-in-law married my sister when I was just a child. They had been married more than 20 years and had four healthy boys together. My father always said my brother-in-law worked like a dog to support his family. He was a mason, but he was not rough around the edges at all. He was mild mannered and easy going and always a kind face at family functions. This means a lot in a giant family where the feelings between people can sometimes be contentious.
His fight against cancer began before I left for Iraq, and I prayed for him every night. When his lung cancer appeared to be gone, I thought God really did answer prayers. But then they discovered that it had spread to his brain. When he died, no one told me. They didn’t want to upset me. It was only a week or so before my tour ended, and we were scheduled to come home. I learned he had passed from my nephew’s Myspace status. It read: “Loosing your dad really sucks.”
I hated not being there for my sister and my family while they were grieving, but the worst part was I never got to say goodbye. I only saw my brother-in-law once since he was diagnosed, and he was reeling from chemo and radiation therapy. I never got a chance to talk to him during his remission. I never got to talk to him at all really after he got sick. His last Christmas happened to be the first Christmas in 10 years that all of my brothers and sisters were together, celebrating with my parents on Christmas Eve, but I was in Iraq. It’s nobody’s fault. That’s just the way it happened. If I had just had the opportunity to spend that last Christmas, or a family function, or some other holiday with him, I think I’d be more at peace with being in Iraq when he died. It was a somber note to come home on.
I never really got a chance to say goodbye to my neighbor either. He was an elderly man and also a veteran. I didn’t have too many conversations with him, but my husband, who was very fond of him, had many. When we first moved here, my neighbor was lively and energetic. On warm days he was always outside tending to his flowers and his landscaping. He was a pretty spunky old guy who sort of grouched out everything he said in a way that made you laugh. But after his heart attack, everything changed for him. He made a strong recovery at first, but then he had a back operation that left him permanently paralyzed in one leg.
A man like him was never meant to be wheelchair bound. EMS made frequent visits because he often fell down trying to do things without help. My husband finally told his wife to call us before calling the ambulance, and he generally ran next door about once a week to help pick poor Charlie up off the floor. Once, when my husband was at work, I went in his place. Charlie’s wife was doubtful little old me had the strength to pick him up off the floor, but I assured her my combat load was much heavier than little ole’ Charlie.
We knew the end was near when hospice started making house calls and their out-of-town children came up to visit. It was one of those awkward situations where I wanted to stop by but I didn’t want to intrude. One morning, shortly after his children left, I woke up and saw out my window a dark station wagon backed up to their garage. I knew then he had passed.
The funeral service was held at the church by a priest whose services are always eloquent and inspiring. Refreshingly, he talked a lot about how at the official level, the church doesn’t pretend to know what happens to us after we die. He said a few kind words about Charlie, but I had a hard time focusing on why I was there. In basic training, even the atheists found a Sunday service to attend. It was the only hour or so out of the entire week you could escape the drill sergeants and think about something other than training. For some reason, these services were very emotional for me, and it was the same whenever I attended a service in Iraq. Ever since, for reasons I can’t entirely explain or put into words, church services feel almost overwhelming to me. All I could keep thinking at the funeral service was that there had to be something after this, because if there’s not, what’s the point?
My father believes when you die, you shut off like a light switch. Everything goes dark and that’s it. You just cease to exist. I can’t fathom that. Maybe it’s just the limits of my rational mind, like my inability to conceive of infinity even though I know, by logical necessity, either the universe itself or the original cause must be infinite, but I simply cannot imagine it anymore than I can imagine the end of my own existence. If there’s nothing after this life, why bother doing anything but trying to feel good while you’re here? If in the end, I will simply cease to exist, what difference does it make if it happens today or 50 years from now? What difference does it make what kind of legacy I leave behind me if we are all just some random cosmic accident that will eventually go the way of the dinosaurs? Anyway, this is where my thoughts kept drifting to while trying to honor my neighbor’s memory.
In between the funeral and the benefit dinner I attended after the golf tournament, I made a stop home to put the baby down for his nap. There were only two stories bouncing back and forth on the news: Mayor Bloomberg called for the first mandatory evacuation of flood zones for the first time in the history of NYC, and Former President George W. Bush gives an exclusive interview with the National Geographic Channel discussing his thoughts for the upcoming 10th anniversary of September 11th. In a clip, Bush described how walking onto Ground Zero was like walking into hell. In one big rush, I remembered how in the days following 9-11, walking through the city, how seeing my fellow New Yorkers and the looks on their faces was like bearing witness to each individual’s own personal hell, and I choked back tears. I don’t know why everything seemed to intersect on one random Friday last week, but it made for a very heavy day, leaving me with the thought that there has to be more than this, that this life must be part of some bigger plan we just aren’t privy to, because if it’s not, what the hell is the point?
Writing was one of my many abandoned careers before I decided to quit my last job, give up my highly coveted–albeit tiny–rent-stabilized studio on the Upper-Upper East Side of Manhattan, and enlist in the Army. I wouldn’t say I always had a passion for writing. It was more like a compulsion to write. I had this compulsion most of my life, and before the birth of my son, I was an obsessive journaler. After college I managed to eek out a living as small newspaper reporter and newsradio writer, but I found that trying to make money writing took the joy out of doing it. Working in a newsroom following the events of September 11th led to further frustration as I increasingly felt a growing need to do more, to contribute more. Ironically, most people are drawn to journalism because they feel it’s a career path where they can make a difference in the world, but for some reason, for me, it just never felt like enough. So I left the land of news and retreated back to the university where I immersed myself in the world of math and physics (a world I miss very much) until I finally mustered up the courage to answer the calling I had to become a soldier. After the most amazing journey of my life, which took me all the way to Iraq and back, I left the Army to get married and raise a family. My journey into motherhood has been every bit as amazing and challenging as my journey onto the battlefield, but sometimes it leaves me feeling a little disconnected with the outside world where I once felt so engaged. I’m new to the world of blogging, but I’m hoping that, paradoxically, it will help me feel reconnected to the world outside myself again. My even greater hope is that some reader of my blog will find something I share here relevant to his or her own life in some way, however big or small.