Places in between now and not yet. Places where you are suspended in memories, prayer, reflection, regret and wishes. A place perceived not friendly, welcoming or affable, but oh so necessary!
It is in these places where you find out who you are – what stuff you are made of.
Today is two days before Thanksgiving. I am in this place and yet strangely out of place – the family time of year – the fragrance of anticipation is in each inhalation, yet being alone somehow the fires of memories of Thanksgivings past blaze in my mind. Were they happy or obligatory events to be tolerated? Shopping, football, naps on the sofa, dirty dishes, dreading the arrival and awaiting the departure of the ‘favorite’ relative. Then starting the process of advent toward another holiday where you find your days and nights filled with frantic, frenetic and frenzied activities.
This year my Thanksgiving will be with those soldiers, who are too wounded and broken to go to their families and loved ones. The irony is that I too feel broken and wounded.
Before I fall headfirst into emptiness and spend too much time on dreams that have wilted, I will take Kelsie and smile for these young men and women. For this year, this is where I am supposed to be. This is my place between now and not yet. For this is the only moment I have for sure. And for them, nuzzling a dog might just make a difference, as they too sit in a place between now and not yet, a place where they might find that healing is where their story begins and realize they won’t be stuck up a tree forever.
And I will treasure it and breathe in peace and breathe out regret and fear. For finding what is true in my heart has lead me to this passion. And perhaps I can teach this to others. To find success and internal happiness they might find they need to be able to acknowledge where they are right now. The purpose of life is to find joy, love, contentment and fulfillment in what you are doing in this moment. Waiting for the right time, we spend much too much of our lives waiting – not living.
Perhaps you too will find that there is a coziness, not from a turkey in the oven, but from a life lived ecstatically. My life isn’t perfect but whose is? Perhaps in our imperfections we are perfect!
So this year I write. I write stories of soldiers. Because maybe, just maybe I see my life reflected back to me and wonder how I would cope in similar circumstances. Their stories are unique glimpses into how others struggle and cope. And perhaps a visit from a therapy dog on Thanksgiving just might help them along the way. These are America’s bravest, bearing the physical and psychological wounds of war and for some the battle will never end. Kelsie and I will make it our mission to give these guys an emotional break and for a moment the ability to just ‘be’, as we hope to reduce their anxiety and depression and convey support, empathy, affection and humor.
When a soldier meets Kelsie things happen that wouldn’t happen without her presence. For you see, Kelsie doesn’t have an agenda, nor is she faking enthusiasm. The abilities of both are enhanced by the presence of the other.
So many of us live in places where we feel exhausted and excluded! We all need someone willing to go looking for us when we are lost. We all want to find our way home again. Home to that place inside us that says we are okay and safe and comfortable. The bottom line is how do we deal with the tough stuff and find what we care about, what is our center, what and who do we truly, deep down inside, love.
C.S. Lewis said, “We tell our stories to know that we are not alone.” At the end of the day what I write turns out to deal with my deepest concerns and values. The important thing is to make the story powerful, by authentic emotions. My family this year will be strangers, yet best friends, men and women who have sacrificed a great deal so that we may celebrate Thanksgiving anyway we wish. To say thank you to them I will do my best to lift a spirit, bring a smile, change an outlook and give a little hope in the face of incredible life obstacles. The touch of a soft muzzle or a wag of a tail, just might change the focus to a time when the problem no longer exists.
Small steps can lead to large changes for all of us. And sometimes the simplest approach is frequently the best medicine.