War Is Exhausting

Speaking as a veteran’s wife, one thing people forget about war is how uncomfortable it is. I don’t mean in the obvious ways (bullets, bombs, fire), but the lost amenities that would comfort us on ordinary days.

Today, ask a question about each thing you touch: how would war affect it?

Could you still turn on the lights?

Take a hot shower?

Sleep through the night?

Clean your clothes?

Make tea?

Shop for food?

Go somewhere quiet?

Take a break?

Call a friend?

Check your social accounts?

Log in to your online banking?

Get through your To Do list?

Work and get paid?

Close your door and lock it?

In disaster areas, exhaustion is universal. Of many causes, one is that NOTHING is automatic or simple. Every tiny task becomes an arduous, often unsuccessful quest. Most needs are unmet, and it’s not possible for the average person to solve the problem.

Life, in fact, is out of control.

Control is a civilian, peace-time myth. In war, it is no longer sustainable. So if you still think you have it, give thanks for the lights and the food and your favorite corner of the sofa.

Oh Lord, comfort the comfortless.

Wishful Thinking on Independence Day

Close up of the American Flag

On this 4th of July, I am pondering the complexity of military service and national identity. As with many human conditions, the outward show of military life is a fraction of its meaning. Because they are the “instruments of foreign policy,” service members are held up as symbols of what is most loved and hated by proponents of various ideologies in our country. They live on the receiving end of assumptions that are more often based on emotion than information.

The crux of military service is an existence that would be unnecessary in a perfect world. Armed forces are the painfully tangible proof that human beings do not treat each other as they should. Many would argue that July 4th is not a military holiday. It is the commemoration of our birth as an independent nation. At some level, we all rebel against the idea that this independence is impossible without military force.

Military life teaches you to engage what IS. You won’t last long clinging to what you WISH would be. Military life is predicated on the understanding that you control far less of your reality than a civilian does. But it also reveals the truth that civilians control far less than they wish to. If I have learned nothing else, I have learned that evil is both totally unnecessary and extremely powerful. Stand in that space for a few minutes today – the space in which you know that evil could be stopped if enough good choices were made, and in which you also know that actual human beings, many of them, would rather die than make those choices.


Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash

Memorial Day

Anchor recovered from the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor

Anchor recovered from the USS Arizona at Pearl HarborIt’s about to be Memorial Day again. Remembering time. Truth is, what we have to remember is more than we can handle. People die, in a war, and that’s already too much to grasp. But there are other casualties. Hundreds of them, for every soldier, on both sides. These casualties seem small, and they sometimes fly past so quickly that there’s no time to name them. But the empty places left by these small deaths remain, and there will be years and years to feel the loss, after it’s too late to prevent it. Continue reading