And today is also one of the first days that I've had
As much of a nutcase that I can be on some days, (I'm sure Stacy, Tori, Crystal, and many others would agree to this statement), I'm actually quite the rational person. And when it comes to my blog, I want it to feel right before I put pen to paper-- or, finger to keyboard.
I could have blogged about how nervous I was on Tuesday. It had been quite a few days since I had heard from Drew, and I just knew something didn't feel right.
I could have blogged about how I was up most of the early hours of Wednesday, after finding out about an unfortunate series of events that left 3 of Drew's platoon mates, (Ryan Theriot, Brandon Fessey, and Travis Mills), seriously injured-- with Travis suffering the worst of the injuries and losing all of his limbs from stepping on an IED in Afghanistan.
I could have blogged about how I spent all of Wednesday, home from work, trying to reason and understand and accept how something so horrid could happen to someone I know. And how my heart ached beyond belief for his wife, his 4 month old baby, their families... and our other soldiers who were there.
I could have blogged about how I went back to work on Thursday, still heavily distracted, depressed, and worried for all those involved. Or I could have mentioned that, despite the circumstances, we do not and will not have control over such situations, and we must push through the obstacles and stay strong for our soldiers and for those that need our support.
But I do need to take a moment to thank and recognize my friends and family, colleagues, and support system-- for their love and compassion. Because, although we may never truly understand how it feels to be those families of Ryan, Brandon, and Travis, we do mourn and empathize with them. Wholeheartedly.
So, that brings us to today: Friday the 13th.
I was damned determined to make it a good day. Yes, I find myself superstitious at times, but I was going to make conscious effort to ensure my day was happy, worry-free, and as normal as possible. And it was today, when my mind slowed down a bit, and I finally realized after the most-mega-rollercoaster-ride of a week... what I would blog about.
But before we get started, let's talk about Fayetteville.
Ahhhh, lovely Fayetteville, NC. You gotta love it. Award winning All-American City. It's close to the beach; it's close to the city; it's close to the mountains. It's home to the largest Army Installation in the world-- Fort Bragg.
It's also home to me, Linda Mills, the most annoyed Fayettevillian (I have no idea if that is even a word). And I am the most annoyed person in town thanks to the potpourri of citizens that call Fayetteville home. And with their lovely presence comes their lovely driving skills. Or lack thereof.
Every day, I drive down All American Expressway and Cliffdale Road on my way to work. Yes, I'm usually running a few minutes late. Yes, I like to get to where I'm going and wouldn't consider myself a slow driver... but holy moly!, I've never experienced such bad, FAST drivers in my life.
And it blows my mind. These people want to drive 80 in a 45 and rush to the next red light less than a quarter mile away. That's even if they can SEE that the light is red. And if they do, it doesn't matter to them. It's green in their world...
So after me really wanting to survive Friday the 13th, I slowed down more than I usually do and started my thinking...
People really need to slow down... not just on the roads, but in Life in general.
Everyone's in such a rush to get through the day, and they seem to move through Life only with their agenda on mind. We're rather selfish creatures if you ask me.
And it's not until after a loss, a tragedy, or a life-changing event that people really realize how grateful they truly should be or realize how wonderful something or someone was until it's too late.
And, lately for me, I feel like an outsider looking in. I try to appreciate everyone and everything in my life during this deployment. And as high strung, Type A, nutso that I am... I really have been trying to make a conscious effort to slow down.
So, now I'd like to share a story about part of my day today:
I was coming back into Fayetteville after taking a trip out to Raeford for some work obligations. After surviving the journey on the autobahn I like to call the "401 Bypass to Hell," I stopped in Wal-Mart over my lunch break. While browsing the greeting card section to find some cards of encouragement to send to those above-mentioned families, I looked up and was extremely startled by a gentleman that approached me.
He was an older man. With very inquisitive eyes. He was standing a little too close for my comfort. My first and only instinct was "Fight of Flight?!" I immediately chose Flight, of course, but was stopped in my tracks for some strange reason. We stared at each other for what felt like a lifetime.
I really don't know what motivated me to actually slow down, stop, and appease this gentleman. I feel like the "old" Linda would have brushed him off and ran down the next conveniently located greeting card aisle. But I didn't. I let myself process his presence, despite what felt to be an awkward eternity.
I never caught his name, but he basically wanted me to help him choose the "right" cards for many occasions: His wife's best friend's birthday, which was belated (April 1); his anniversary; Mother's Day; and the death of a cousin.
His wife had just had cancer removed for the 2nd time. She missed her best friend's birthday. She insisted that her husband NOT pick out a belated birthday card because that "just wasn't right." She wanted him to pick out a card about friendship. Then he wanted to pick out a perfect card for his wife for their anniversary and for Mother's day. At this time, he proceeded to tell me his life story about how he and his wife met:
They were in 9th grade. Friends which later developed into more. Upon graduation from high school, he joined the Navy and they went their separate ways. She married a man, a Colonel, who was abusive. I don't know if they divorced or he died, but my new friend and his long-lost love were reunited at their 35th High School Reunion in South Carolina. He exclaimed that it took him 4 more years of talking every day on the phone for him to convince her to marry him.
Now they're married. And she's apologizing for the Cancer. He shook his head at the thought of her ridiculousness.
I spent upwards of 15 minutes with this gentleman. And at the end of the conversation, his attention turned to me for the 1st time. We started talking about the reason I was there. And what cards I was buying. I gave him a one-sentence run down of what happened.
He bowed down a bit... and thanked me.
He disclosed that he felt I had one of the hardest jobs in the world. He said that he went to Vietnam twice, and it was no concern to him until his little brother went. He said, "when we're over there, us guys know that we just need to get our butts back home. But it's you wives that have to worry about us and everyone else."
We talked for a few more minutes about the military and how proud we both are.
And now I know why I didn't use my "flight" instinct. I knew God presented him to me for a reason. He wanted me to slow down and listen to this man's story-- a story that would uplift me and make me feel gracious. And to remind me of what I had been saying all week to many others-- about the roles the families play; about the War the the families fight back home. My life; my week-- was coming full circle.
And to wrap up my Friday the 13th, I had the honor and privilege to speak with Tom Sileo, with The Unknown Soldiers. I got to tell my story; Drew's story; our story. I got to represent the One Percent in the most wonderful of ways. Tom plans to use my words-- my experiences-- my opinions and emotions-- my passion and pride of the U.S. Army-- and share them with the rest of the world in his nationally syndicated newspaper column.
Now, how cool is that?!
So, I allowed myself a lot of time tonight to digest this week's events-- good and bad. And it hit me...
...And it's rather simple:
Slow down. Enjoy Life. Appreciate Life. And, as we say in the South: Be Blessed.