Well, one thing I know is that this comes with a price! A heavy price for those of us who 'serve' nonstop! There is such a thing as Compassion Fatigue, and I have come face to face with it more times than I wish to remember. Defined as a 'chronic lack of self care', it is also a 'Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder.' So the bottom line is that I suffer from the same thing as 'my' wounded warriors with PTSD!
I took three days off last week. They weren't enough, barely sufficient. I needed more. I prayed for more.
I sat on the beach wrapped in sunshine and the cries of seagulls. I watched pelicans dive into the sunrise for breakfast and sandpipers fight for the right-of-way on the beach, children building sandcastles that would soon disappear and young lovers walking hand in hand along the shore with a lifetime ahead of them. I wanted to disappear into the warm breeze that seemed to dust off the cobwebs and dust from my soul. I wanted to sleep, to absorb nothingness, to vanish into a place where nothing could disturb this beautiful peace.
The first morning my phone rang all day long, one crisis, one problem, after another. I cried and railed against it, until I realized this phone had an 'off' button. More importantly, I realized that the world would not stop if I made a conscious decision to not answer the phone. Suffice it to say it was glorious. I didn't care. I didn't want to know who called. I didn't check my messages. I walked on the beach at sunrise and sunset and envied the winter Texans who were there for months on end. It is a clean refreshing existence. One that I fear would be all too easily consume me. An existence where I could sit and write and remember and rejoice and breathe, as each wave would rush in to wash away the anxiety, the pain, and the never-ending stress.
I took bags of bread saved for just this occasion. As I tossed the bread skyward, seemingly hundreds of birds, arrived out of nowhere. With each slice torn and tossed, I tried to visualize a problem being sent skyway and devoured by the birds. With each piece thrown I visualized the knots being untied around me. I watched a grumpy sandpiper chase away other birds from his territory. Time and time again he would charge the other birds, sending them rushing in the opposite direction, only to return in a matter of moments. He was the boss, this was his few square feet on this earth. I felt akinship. For this day, these few square feet were mine as well. I too had turned off my phone and chased away interruptions in this time and place.
It didn't take long before it was the dreaded time to pack up my 'stuff' and a few shells to head back to reality. I haven't the answers, but I do know that for those few short hours I was in a place and time I didn't want to leave. I thought endlessly of sacrifices made daily that seem to devour me at every turn. But what is lost, if I no longer pursue this passion. Will the world end? No. But the answer eludes me. Words escape onto a computer, into groceries to be bought and dinner to cook and linens to be washed and cars to be filled with gas.
What is it our Marines, Soldiers, Navy, and Airmen fight for? Is it my right to have this choice to make? Perhaps so. But I know exactly how they feel when they return home with PTSD. They want to escape to peace, to nothingness, to a place where no one, nor anything, can ask anything of them.
A place, much like this island, where they can dig deep and find out who they are and what exactly they are made of.