Monthly Archives: November 2013

New Beginnings

New Beginnings


I have a lot to reconcile in life, but I’ve always learned from my mistakes and somehow I’ve kept going, pushing through the challenges and obstacles in life. I have come to believe that strength is in every one of us…that inner push that comes from something so unconscious in us that we don’t even know it’s there until it’s called upon.

I went to Afghanistan in search of something…a new start, some adventure, insight into this 12-year war…maybe it was a little of all of those. In many ways I identified with Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat Pray Love when she went off on a journey in search of living a fuller, more meaningful life…of course she chose Italy feasting on wine and pasta and I chose Afghanistan and war and barbed wire. Although her route was slightly more appealing, the missions were similar – to embark on a 1/3-life-crisis journey to reset and begin anew.

In Afghanistan I did find adventure, saw new lands, and met new friends, but my new start came in the most unexpected of ways. I was laying in a hospital bed shivering in a surgery gown waiting for surgery on my eye – an inexplicable infection – when a nurse came in with a funny look in her eyes. She explained that while I still needed surgery, I could no longer have pain medication due to the fact that I was pregnant. I was cold, in pain, and most of all, stunned in a state of segmented and incomplete thoughts except for the one clear memory from over a year prior when a doctor told me I would need science (fertility medicine or in-vitro fertilization) to get pregnant. I’m pretty sure my confused look urged the nurses to say something soothing, but all they managed to say was, “Congratulations!” In hindsight, a hard slap to the face and yelling “Surprise!” would have been so much better.

With an additional confirmation blood test, I went into eye surgery – only there had been an attack that day and I was low on the priority list for the operating room, so I got moved to the dental clinic. The doctor fumbled as he had no choice but to convert dental cleaning tools into surgical instruments for an eyelid. Without pain medication, I was alert and gripped the vinyl chair arms with all my strength to stay still as the doctor made incisions in my eyelid with the scalpel…or whatever he was using to cut. I felt tears streaming down my face, but I couldn’t tell whether they were from the shock of the news or the pain.

The doctor finally finished, patched up my eye, and sent me on my way. I was still in my one-eyed hazy shock on the helicopter ride back to my base unable to see the hills and mud huts below or even think past each successive minute. I got out of the helicopter when it landed, the deafening sound and wind coupled with my one eye fog made everything feel like a distant dream. I shuffled across the landing area to my tiny room, opened the door, and flung myself onto my bed for three days of crying. No food, no interaction, no work (they thought I was still up at the hospital), just crying. Have you ever cried for three straight days? It was a far cry (so to speak) from my strongest moment. I was confused, ashamed, regretful, angry and scared…and nowhere in all of that that could I even begin to reconcile a baby.

I always wanted to have a baby eventually with someone I loved, but I didn’t want one like this. The dad was not someone I was even in a relationship with, and I was suddenly looking at the reality of being a single mom. It’s taken me months and months to come to grips with this new beginning, this new journey. It’s only the start of a very new and scary and unknown journey, but it’s a start nonetheless.

I never pictured my life would turn out this way, but then again when DOES it go the way we plan? I’ve heard the saying more than once and have said it even more often, but if you wan to make God laugh, just tell him what you’re going to do tomorrow. I’m pretty sure He had a good laugh with me, and I had a few choice words for Him at first too. But my actions were clearly what leapfrogged me onto my new path and I couldn’t blame God or anyone else. Well, I could blame the dad, but as I’ve been reminded by friends when I’m all fired up, it takes two to tango.

Whether I agree with Mother Nature or not, this baby is coming – I find out tomorrow if it’s is a boy or a girl. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do it, and I know I’ll probably stumble along the way as I’ve done in the past, but I’ve accepted that this is indeed my new beginning.

Go Easy on Yourself

Go Easy on Yourself


Well, I’m back in the “real world” – back from Afghanistan. I’ve been back for about two weeks. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking I’m still there and have to walk across the gravel to get to the bathroom, while other mornings I wake up and the whole thing just seems like one, big dream. I was just in Afghanistan for more a year – even saying that sounds strange. There’s such an influx of soldiers and civilians trying to leave the country right now that it took me nearly a week to get on a plane out of the country. Imagine being stuck in a US airport for a week – it’s almost unheard of. Now imagine that airport being in Afghanistan and looking more like a giant metal warehouse. It was NOT fun.

As I continue to process what I just went through, I would like to put together a sort of “lessons learned” write-up. As it is, I’m still adjusting back to this world. That seems to surprise people that it’s a challenge, but unless people have been there, they don’t understand the whole “adjusting” back into life here. As I was leaving Afghanistan, a friend gave me some advice that has turned out to be very wise. She said, “Don’t expect too much of yourself, and don’t make too many plans.” It’s pretty much the exact opposite of how we as Americans today try to live our lives…try harder and do more. But now I get it. As stressful as life was back in “A-Stan,” it was at its roots very simple. There was very little (ok NO) natural beauty, so gravel and metal connex boxes became my scenery. Daily decisions were nearly obsolete – I chose between eggs and fruit for breakfast, and chicken and beef for lunch. Now, I sit and look at green grass and nearly cry because it’s so beautiful. When I’m hungry, I go online and find a million possible recipes from which to choose, then I go to the grocery store to get dinner supplies and find I’m completely overwhelmed by the number of choices I have and decisions I have to make just to leave with one simple basket of food. All the “normal stuff” suddenly seems to take twice the effort and energy as it used to. So I repeat the advice given to me as my new mantra, “Don’t expect too much of myself, and don’t make too many plans.”

Maybe this is the approach we should always take with ourselves as we transition from one phase of life to another. Can you imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if we were this gentle and forgiving of ourselves all the time? Whatever that transition may be, we’re always going through them – a divorce, a new city, a new job, a death, a new child…life’s changes sometimes drag us along whether we want to go or not. Perhaps that change is easier to adjust to and more enjoyably processed if we ease up on our own expectations and take one day at a time until we’re comfortable on our new paths. I’m not saying run away from the change, I’m saying accept it gently and slowly. It’s a concept that is foreign to today’s world. Even as I looked for quotes, nearly all the quotes pertained to “be harder on yourself,” or “expect less of others and more of yourself.” I’m putting my fist down and calling for the exact opposite. If I expected more of myself right now, I’d crumble. Instead I’m going to treat myself like a little child and walk myself through this transition one day at a time, and one grocery store basket of food at a time. I will find my new comfort zone eventually, but I’m not going to demand that it be tomorrow. Consider it.