Monday, March 29, 2010
THE RHYTHM OF NIGHTMARES
This morning I can't get it out of my head...a dream I had last night...or rather a nightmare. I was in my home, letting the dogs out into the back yard, I realized the antique iron side gate to the yard and the gate to the front yard were both missing. On the other side, of where the gate once hung, was a huge camouflage tarp in front of my house and the all too familiar sound of bulldozers.
I ran back inside, stumbling into the front window. I looked out and my entire subdivision was leveled, and in the rubble was a military transport plane loading soldiers, laden with heavy back packs, holding the leashes of their Military Working Dogs. Hundreds of people were scurrying around readying for war. I could smell the scene, and the dust, and the sand, while the roar of the engines permiated me.
I jolted myself out of this time and place and reached for the pillow next to me to find my little dog, Wally, sound asleep. As I petted him and placed my hand on his side, I felt his heart beating slowly, steadily and peacefully. I turned over and went back to dozing and fell into another nightmare, replacing the first. A friend and I were traveling by car and suddenly became lost. We came to the crest of a hill and found ourselves surrounded by total and complete darkness. I turned around and went to find somewhere to ask directions. This proved futile. There was a long line of people also seeking directions and there was no one no help.
Iraq and Afghanistan are places I can't imagine, places I have never been and never will be, but I feel deep inside that I know the loneliness, the fear, the attachment and bond to a dog and the safety and comfort provided. I undertand the places when you are afraid and know no way out and there is no one to give you directions. You just know that you have no choice but to push forward by faith. For me, no matter how many times I have been battered and knocked to the ground, I push on never quite sure where the reserves come from or how to get to where I want to go. But I know I have no choice.
I am reminded of Alan Alda when he said, "You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing."
This must be a similar sensation to ones experienced by our veterans, coming home to people that have no sense of where they have been emotionally or physically. People who love you and want to help, but don't know how. People whose lives have been disrupted and put on hold to be there for you, perhaps spending months and months and sometimes years with 'their soldier' in the hospital. Perhaps coming home missing an arm, both legs, blind or with severe burns or a traumatic brain injury or PTSD.
It is at this time Penny's From Heaven Foundation someday in the not too distant future wants to step in and offer another type of hero, a therapy dog or a service dog. A companion or an assistance dog that sees past the injuries and teaches us that the disfigured or critically injured are not defined by their differences, but rather by the things that mean the most to them - their loved ones, their values, their faith and their friends.
I think we all find that underneath we are all pretty much scared all the time. There is certainly no shame in that. The world is full of pain but also the overcoming of it.
Yes I have nightmares, and yes I struggle, and yes 'panic disorder' sometimes prevails, and yes my enemies attempt to shatter, but there is sometimes that one moment of grace that comes to us quite unexpectedly. It can almost make us catch our breath in awe. If we pay close attention, this single instant will often provide us with an amazing opportunity to do something creative, caring or valuable, or healing. And if we are lucky, something that just might leave the world, or even just one person, a little better for us having been here.
If I have learned nothing else in my lifetime, I have learned to be aware and attentive to where I am being led.
We must all learn to realize that we can't do it all alone. For this there are no choices. We must ask for guidance and then let go. Listen and pay attention. The answers will come. Life jumps into the middle of it and this, I promise you, is the most exciting stuff of all.
There are no guarantees. This too I have learned. And I have also learned that being present for these courageous soldiers is the greatest gift I have, and all I have to offer.
We all face battles. Small ones, medium ones, and sometimes those that knock the props out from under us. From these battles, and even nightmares, without exception, great lessons are to be learned. We need only to pay attention and be aware. It is from these battles that we grow in ways we never could have without them. Clearly, going through some of the painful times, is no picnic and often we wonder if the pain will ever go away. But next time you face a challenge, know that it will end, then just sit back and observe how you have become a better person because of having made it throught that time and place.
Life lessons are all around us. No one and nothing escapes them.
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We need your help now more than ever in reaching out to our warriors with wounds. Our goal is to provide trained therapy dogs, psychiatric support dogs and comfort dogs to these valiant young men and women. Your tax deductible contribution of any size is greatly appreciated.
Please help us help our soldiers.
In our culture it seems to prevail, "If it feels good, do it." And take it from me, there is nothing that feels better than doing something for someone else. You never know when the effort you make just might put something in motion. It could be a turning point in a life!!!