Tag Archives: vulnerability

Core Choice

Every moment of every day there is precisely one choice to make, the Core Choice. All other choices serve this one.

NOTE: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past stress. We have looked at ten and leave one more for August. July is devoted to Discipline.

Light invaded as neurons transmitted perceptions to my mind and consciousness emerged from wherever it sleeps.

“Morning,” I affirmed. My bedroom in the north woods RV is less than 8 ft wide with a window on each side. Judging sunlit treetops out the south window, I concluded it was about 7am.

It does not take long for our minds to attach and reattach to man-made constructs like time.

“What do I have to do today? What day is it? Wednesday.” I looked out the north window at my garden that needs to be put to bed before Monday. “I have to do my blog!”

What to do first? That is the question easily answered by discipline.

For much of my life, personal discipline was replaced by obligation, by rules and rote behavior, on most Wednesdays. On others, when I was not working, the burden of choosing was mine.

Hobbies replace work for structuring time. We have created this advanced technology of time, the invention of tiny parcels of life, and this creation becomes our master. We fritter away our lives on meer man-made minutia of rules and rote lest we face…what?

The Great Reality. We structure our lives with addictions of habits that fill our time, distractions from The Great Reality.

You do not want me to tell you about The Great Reality. Do you?

“And I disagree with the way I’ve been living
But I can’t hold myself in line…” (Merle Haggard)

I wasted much of my life disagreeing with the way I was living. I lacked discipline, organization, and attention to detail. And in my disillusionment with myself, I became willing to face My Great Reality. So, this morning after most parts of my mind, body, and spirit seemed awake, I made my Core Choice. I dressed my body for the cool morning and my mind with disciplined willingness, and I followed my spirit outside. I mentally turned to feel the call to one of my small special places. I walked down to the edge of the stream valley where the sun kisses the shore and stood. There, The Great Reality is perceivable by mind, body, and spirit.

I witness Creation. It is happening. The stream valley I walked yesterday is changing, growing shrubs and trees, becoming an alder swamp, a swamp forest, a bottomland, and a fertile valley. My view where I saw the cougar is gone. My deer hunting firing lanes are gone. My world is changing and soon I will be gone. But the land will still be changing. The best I can do is to bequeath claim to this land to one who will belong to the land.

My choice this morning, my Core Choice, is to touch The Great Reality. I cannot tell you how that feels. Oh, I can say it is joy and sorrow, strength and weakness, brief and eternal, warm and cool, pleasure and pain. I can tell you it is the most important thing I can do, today, that I will endeavor to do it more than once today, that everything else I will do today will follow. I can share with you that my goal is to take every breath and step within The Great Reality…someday. I can report that days when I dwell within my Core Choice are good beyond comprehension–and that other days are wasted.

Deep, deep down inside you, do you feel a longing and a willingness to touch your Great Reality? The choice is yours.

Happy Tracking!

Perfect World

We live in prisons of our own creation, trapped between two contrasting worlds of our imagination. The first is our utopia, the way we come to believe the world should be. The second is our dystopia, the way we come to believe the world might be. Both are false.

NOTE: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past trauma. May aspires to Hope.

We spend our days and nights drowning in the cold dark sea of reality, desperately trying to climb the icebergs of our imagination, alternately trying to climb the iceberg of our fantasies where everything works out just right for us and trying to climb back on that iceberg of our past trauma just to, you know, fix things and make them right.

Like the icebergs, these worlds lie mostly below the surface of our awareness, in our subconscious. The rules we choose to govern our lives are those we accept without judgment, for judgment requires acknowledgement of their existence. We pretend these worlds are reality. We deny that they are our own creations.

We hold the visions in our heads, the dreams of our perfect world and the nightmare of our fears and traumas. We do not rule them for they rule us.

Now, that is depressing.

In a perfect world, our childish fantasies are cherished memories replaced in governance by the beautiful schema of reality. We come to know the way the world really works. We learn to negotiate reality, to manage our lives, to accept the way things are.

Many of us do not live in a perfect world. We fail to accept the rules of the universe, clinging to our fantasies. Things never seem to work out the way we believe they should. We live with high expectations and dashed hopes simply because we cling to the iceberg we created rather than to swim the reality we come to know through experience. We live in denial.

Some of us live in the darkness of dread, fears of terrible nightmares and repeated trauma. Our experiences have been too terrible to reconcile with our world views, especially if our world views are dream world fantasies.

Maybe I should get to the Hope, already.

The world is not falling apart. The world works perfectly according to immutable laws, principles we can discern with careful observation and honest reflection. Well, WE can as a community. Any one of us is unlikely to figure out very much on our own, but together we can understand reality. We can explain and predict, we can negotiate and manage, and we can appreciate and accept.

I am in da Nort’ Woods this day. My body is sharing time and space with my heart, that is, my passion.

I cannot cheat the woods. There are mosquitoes and ticks and bears here, and poison ivy, too. I cannot deny that, and I cannot change that. I wouldn’t if I could.

Who am I to disapprove of the woods? The woods does not disapprove of me. I am accepted here the same as the mosquitoes and ticks and bears. Nobody gets special treatment of favor or discrimination. There is a blessed egality in the woods, in all of Nature. I appreciate that. I accept that.

I cannot find egality at the mall, on cable news, or anywhere in manmade worlds. Here, in Nature, I cannot escape it.

So, why am I alone, here? No, I am not lonely. I just marvel that most people spend so little time in Nature. I surmise that most of us prefer to keep climbing the icebergs of our childhood fantasies or our traumas.

Do you want freedom from dread and depression? Do you want Hope?

Well, you are going to have to melt those icebergs, and that begins with acceptance. In my case, time in Nature always helps me to accept the way things are in reality, and that allows me to perceive and accept my imaginary worlds as that, imaginary. That helps me to see my dream as childish folly and my trauma as a reason to need Nature even more.

Yes, there is Hope if you will have it, and all you really have to do is put your childhood fantasies in the toy box, turn the light on the closet of your fears, and accept the world the way it is.

This is a Perfect World. Go wonder in Nature.

Happy Tracking!

V Is for Vulnerability

Wait, what? I thought “V” was for Valor?

There is no valor without vulnerability. True, vulnerability does not produce valor, but it is a prerequisite condition for the expression of it. Valor is a courageous behavioral response to trauma. Vulnerability is the escape from denial of trauma.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. April aspires to Faith.

Many months ago, I hit a pickup truck with my motorcycle. I was riding along a two-lane street at 40 mph on a December Sunday morning in Yuma, just living life, and I saw this older pickup begin to pull out from a stop sign on my right. I saw the front wheels turning and a young woman behind the wheel.

I recall hearing myself think, “She’s not going to pull out in front of me.” Yes, she was.

I braked and swerved to the right to go behind her. I thought I was going to make it all the way up to the time I was bouncing off her truck and muttering something profane, probably quite aloud.

The next thing I knew I was up walking around and a jogger I had just passed was asking me if I was alright. He looked at my chin and said that I might need stitches.

“Am I bleeding?” I asked.

“My hand hurts,” I said, and pulled off my left glove to find a laceration, actually a tear, on the inside of my ring finger, right where a ring might have been.

Another motorist stopped and used my phone to call the police while the jogger checked on the young lady. She was unhurt but shaken and sitting in a bunch of broken glass. I deduced that I had smacked her mirror, on that foldable aluminum frame pickups used to have, through her door window.

I had some bruises on my left hand, a couple of raspberries on my chin, and that little tear in my finger. That was all. My bike took the worst of it, but it is all better now, too.

I have pieced together what happened. There is a lot of traffic on 40th Street in the Yuma Foothills, particularly because I had just passed two large churches and was approaching two more small ones. The young lady, who did not have a license, was looking for a break in the traffic to her right and pulled out, but when she saw me, she stopped—otherwise I could have gotten around her. I still might have made it had I not hit her mirror with the shoulder armor in my jacket. That jerked me left into the side of her truck.

Of course I knew that riding motorcycle is a vulnerable act. It is a risk element activity. Combat veterans like that. But, until that day, I had only known it in my head, logically. Now I know it in my bones, emotionally.

I feel the vulnerability every time I ride. I watch all movements, especially front wheels. I am always expecting people to pull out in front of me or, worse, turn left across my lane.

There is one particularly bad road right by my house on the way home from work. I have to make a left turn onto four lanes at a light. So far, so good. There is an immediate Walmart entrance and exit on my right. I have to change into the right lane (and lots of people here turn left directly into that lane, as behind me). One block ahead is another Walmart street entrance and exit where vehicles pull out in front of me from the right. Other oncoming traffic turns left across in front of me.

That is more vulnerability than I am willing to endure, especially during winter when I come home in the dark. I seldom ride my bike to work anymore during the Snowbird season, November to March, and, yes, it makes me feel rather cowardly.

It is a terrible thing for a man who has faced the fire with diligence and something approaching valor to have to face his own vulnerability, but it happens to all of us. We get old, our eyesight fades, our reactions slow, and we get a lot smarter, smart enough to recognize the dangers.

We generally have two ways to face those realities:
1. We get depressed; or,
2. We get angry.

Sometimes we vacillate between the two.

Perhaps you can find tracks of vulnerability in your heart, but don’t dwell on them long.

We will soon address the cure: Acceptance.

Shades of Anger

Sometimes we have to be angry. We HAVE to be angry. Sometimes.

Still, anger is always a painful alternative to Faith.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. April aspires to Faith.

Anger is a feeling, an intense, unpleasant, often painful feeling.

So, why do we have to be angry, sometimes?

Because the alternative to individuals with Post Traumatic Stress symptoms is depression, and depression kills.

Anger swallowed is guilt—which leads to depression.

Anger accepted from others is shame—which leads to depression.

Anger blamed on others is resentment—which is poison to the mind, body, and soul, but it may avoid depression, temporarily.

Anger fueled becomes rage—which leads to loss of control and prison (or worse).

Lest I rouse anger, allow me to remind you that I am neither psychologist nor sociologist. I’m just an old soldier trying to claw his way back to mental and spiritual health who has done a little research.

Okay, now, resentment fueled becomes war—which leads to anger, guilt, shame, resentment, rage, and more war. That is a positive feedback loop that defines disease.

Oh, and anger turned sideways is comedy (of a sort), especially satire and sarcasm.

Getting depressed? Time to bring in the experts, a group of kindergarteners addressing the pain and remedy for anger in a short video called, “Just Breathe.”

Yes, I know, it is not that simple for those who have survived traumatic experiences, but it is good advice on two counts:
1. Anger does hurt; and,
2. Mindful breathing does help.

Here is the problem as I see it. The beast is chasing us toward the cliff and great chasm, a less than gorgeous gorge. If we leap, we will surely die. If we surrender to the beast, we will surely die. If we focus all of our energy by turning and fighting the beast, we just might survive for a little while—maybe.

Ah, but there is a bridge, flimsy ropes with a few rotting boards on the bottom, swinging in the wind; but, it crosses the chasm.

Are you afraid of heights?

Running across that bridge requires an act of faith, faith in the materials, the engineers, yourself, and maybe God Almighty.

And, there is our problem, a lack of Faith. It is hard to have faith in engineers you have never met (or, people at all) and a God that seems to have let you down, you know, back there in that ungodly experience of trauma.

No, I am not suggesting a leap of Faith. Your vulnerability is real and it can kill you. We will discuss that next week before we get to a way of escaping the beast.

In the meantime, you might take a brief look at the tracks of your anger, but be good to yourself.

Happy Tracking!

Harmony Hair

Harmony of self,
Of mind, body, and soul,
Waits upon harmony of mind,
And waits…

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. February is a meditation on harmony.

Each day is a wrestling match between two minds in one self, a logical mind which guides my rational life, and a feeling mind which becomes my emotional life.

“Left brain, talk to right brain,” is a mantra for some of us in Dr. Hart’s Combat PTSD after care group. It works, usually along with other tools like controlled breathing and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). It works because the feeling mind knows no boundaries of space and time, conflates here and now with then and there, and rages hormonal response to threats long past and far away. It works because we deliberately apply the processes of cognition to our immediate life and quell the nagging dread before it flares to blinding rage. It works because we have learned that it works and we rely upon it.

But, it only takes us so far—back down to a socially acceptable edge of anger, to a sublimation of our fears and resentments.

To go further is dangerous, to dance with our demons at the edge of a cliff of despair, the brink of depression. We hold onto our edge, which is our tolerable anger, rather than dare the vulnerability of crossing the chasm on an ethereal bridge to an imaginary land of Serenity.

It is okay. You have earned the right to stay, to hold onto the sanity of the safe place you have found, the edge against the world that protects you, your family, and the innocents you respect. It is okay simply to know that there is a real place of Serenity and a real bridge to get there when you are ready.

When you are ready—what no other can tell you.

When you are ready, you will need a hair. A long, curly hair.

It is a metaphor for a job that can never be finished, that always demands further attention.

It is a metaphor Tom Brown, Jr. gave us in a story. The hair kept the insistent genie busy because each time he straightened it and let go, it curled up, again. The genie’s job was never done, so he never raged his demand for another job.
My logical mind is where I live. I think for a living. I think for fun. I think for survival. I think because I am.

That logical mind is like my desk, like my entire office (both, at home and at work), full of ideas and problems that demand my attention.

Sitting quietly and waiting for harmony twixt my two minds is futile for an impatient soul with so much important stuff to do. I need a hair—you know—to keep my logical mind busy while my emotional mind expresses feelings to me (so that my dreams might be less disturbing).

I need activity to enthrall my logical mind. It may be yard work, a repair project, or a walk in the woods. But, we can go further, find a hair we can use at work, in a crowd, at a party. We need a mantra or mandala upon which we focus our logical minds while listening to our rational minds.

Find yours.

I like slow music, Native American flute or light New Age. I like sounds of Nature. I like visions and memories of safe places, beautiful places, peaceful places, a clear space, my Sacred Place.

You have such a place, across the chasm. It does exist for you. And, you have the way to get there, to your own Sacred Place. When you are ready.

I hope you find it, and Happy Tracking!

Blessed Breathing

Time will come when all that matters is the next breath. In that moment we will comprehend need and, as the breath comes, gratitude. Imagine contemplating each breath as both a desperate need and as a blessing received. Now, imagine living life as a succession of those moments. That is living prayer.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. February is a meditation on harmony.

The word, harmony, derives from a Greek root meaning joint as in the arm. Harmony is a state of being joined—and acceptance of that reality of being connected to other, to Earth, itself.

We all breathe the same air. What one exhales, another inhales. Twelve to twenty times each minute at rest or minimal exercise.

We take a breath every 5 seconds, more under stress.

Tom Brown, Jr. taught us “need” with an example something like this: Imagine holding your breath under water. Imagine the building urgency for your next breath. Hold it longer—until you must exhale and inhale. Hold it still. Now, slowly surface. Just before you reach the surface, you begin to comprehend need.

You might be wondering what this desperation has to do with meditation. Got you thinking about breathing, didn’t it?

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” (Thích Nhất Hạnh)

The second requirement for meditation (after relative comfort) that Tom taught us was controlled breathing. As we walk, sit, or lie in relative comfort, we breathe deliberately. Some may call it a beginning of mindfulness as we take conscious control of an otherwise autonomic function.

I will leave the theories of mindfulness and deep breathing benefits to others, today, and focus on the benefits toward harmony. Deep, controlled breathing contributes to our meditation in three ways I understand. First, it deepens our physical and mental relaxation. Second, it gives our busy logical minds something to do while our emotional minds are free to express feelings. Third, it becomes a metaphoric contemplation on need and blessing.

Intentional breathing generates an internal harmony of mind, body, and spirit as it accepts external harmony with the rest of Creation.

Is there something more you need from life?

Each breath inhaled is a need satisfied. It is a deep prompt for gratitude, and gratitude is healthy. Gratitude is one of those beneficial qualities that slips away from us as we sink deeper into the vulnerable self. One of the first things we lose when we feel threatened is the ability to breathe. We thrust our tongues to the hard palette roof of our mouths and hold our breath. It is a natural response to fear, real or imagined.

Those with Post Traumatic Stress have twenty (20) seconds to intervene—to breathe—before our endocrine systems begin to dump flight/fright hormones into our blood streams. If we miss that deadline, we have twenty (20) minutes to consciously reduce our anxiety before a full-fledged “dinosaur dump” of noradrenergic dysregulation plunges us into three or four days of painful anguish, days in which we just might do some irreversible, regrettable things.

Breathe.

On the other hand, a few minutes of relative comfort, controlled breathing, and body relaxation each day offers the increase of serotonin levels that promises quality sleep at night. We NEED sleep, too.

Are you aware of your breathing? Happy Tracking!

Selfish Snowflake

Creation is a process of separation.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

In the grand scheme, we can view all of physical reality, Creation, as separation from God.

When my daughter experienced a miscarriage, she wondered what happened to that soul. I suggested that was like asking what happens to a raindrop when it returns to the sea.

A raindrop is the result of separation of water molecules from the gas phase of the solution that is our atmosphere. Each raindrop possesses an identity separate from the rest of the world, with a boundary that defines inside from outside; however, it lacks recognizable individuality.

A snowflake is iconic individuality. Not only are snowflakes particularly unique, but they are products of a process some claim to be physically impossible: the spontaneous change from disorder to order. The exquisite structure of solid crystal lattice geometry springs forth from the relative chaos of a gaseous mixture without effort of energy.

Snowflakes are proof that order is built into the Laws of Creation.

So are we, you and me. We are separate individuals, unique in our own special ways, and that is okay. It really is.

There is no need to find the prettiest snowflake, the largest, the most ornate, symmetrical, or intricate.

There is no need to contrast the complicated snowflake with the simple raindrop, the peacock with the sparrow, the bramble with the oak, or the lion with the shrew.

So why do we do that to ourselves?

Ego is just another word for self much maligned in quotes from wounded egos blaming the wounding on other egos, and that’s okay, too. The separation that is our creation isolates us and frightens us. It threatens our existence as individuals.

It’s rather amusing. The separation that creates and defines our individuality is the same separation that threatens the survival of that individuality. Then we blame it on Freud’s creation, ego, which is actually blaming it on…wait for it…ourselves.

I have an idea: Let’s accept our egos because without an ego, individuals quite literally cease to exist. No, we do not have to be egoists or self-centered in any way. When we accept individual ego, we can become our true, complete self.

Charity is nothing more than sharing ourselves with others, but first, we have to accept ourselves so that we might become the best inchworm, teacher, salesman, or soldier we can be. We just have to be ourselves, and we do that by finding our own uniqueness, our gifts, our talents, our beauty.

Happy Tracking!

Flickering Joy

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. October looks at humility.

“Find a place inside where there is joy, and that joy will burn out the pain” (Joseph Campbell)

There is pain inside us, and that is the hard truth of it. We can live with the pain, maybe, but can we live well? Can our families?

Pain is a poison creating more pain and spreading through our secret selves, those parts we consider dark. Joy is the antidote.

A young Veteran on campus asked how he was supposed to relate to the younger students. When I told him that was a good question but that I did not have the answer, he said that nobody does, only excuses. But, he also acknowledged that he had a better chance of relating to them than they to him. After all, he had been young, but they had never faced the fire.

It has taken me several days, but I see the answer to his question in his own acknowledgement.

“You’ve never lived until you’ve almost died. For those who have fought for it, life has a flavor the protected never know.” (Guy de Maupassant)

I remember the second line from a wall in our C-Team compound in Bien Hoa.

The protected cannot know the pain inside us—unless we share it, and that is hard to do, maybe even dangerous. It feels dangerous, like reliving it. Sometimes, it smacks of weakness. Always, it bares the vulnerability of being misunderstood.

We can, however, remember being young. We can find the innocence of our youth, faint as it may be, and reconnect with that. We can find the joy that still lives inside, the joy we knew before we faced the fire.

That is the part of us we can share with the protected. We can connect with them by touching the good things we still remember inside ourselves, flickering lights of joy we tend to hide beneath a bushel of pain.

There came a time when I could not find my joy. I had buried all the pain so deep that when I looked inside, all I found was darkness. A few gifts of humility helped me find my way back home.

Yes, it is a kind of humility to find good things inside ourselves. I know it can feel like betrayal to feel joy in the presence of so much pain in our brothers and sisters. It is not. It is necessary, for it is life.

Sure, we must track down our own pain and face it (but not alone); however, if we are to reconnect with the protected including our own families, we will do well to find the light of our own joy to show us the way back home.

Happy Tracking.

One Among

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. October looks at humility.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” (C.S. Lewis)

At the time I joined my A Team in Vietnam, one of the NCOs was getting ready to leave. We all wore solid OD jungle fatigues, but he had some Army issued camouflaged fatigues, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol, I think. He was leaving them behind, they were my size, and I coveted them. As I was preparing for my first patrol in the jungle, I was thinking I might wear them. He thought not.

He asked, “Have you ever been at the small end of a funnel?”

I got the picture.

Most of my life I had seen myself as “special.” I had won academic and athletic accolades. I worked hard to be special, to stand out, and thought I had earned the recognition. Didn’t they even call us, “Special Forces?”

Looking special in a hostile jungle is not that special. It is being a target, one time when looking special is ill advised. I wore the same tiger fatigues that all the other Strike Force members wore, to blend in. I became just one among a group.

There is something about landing on an unsecured LZ that churns my stomach. I wore a steel pot helmet, as did many of our Strike Force, and I carried my own radio, which at that time was the size and weight of a boot box full of rocks. One reason was I had this fear of reaching for a radio handset to call for help and seeing my radio carrier lying on a hot LZ. The other reason was that I had heard of snipers targeting officers as the man ahead of the radio carrier with the tall antenna sticking out of the pack.

Blending in, being one among, has become my style. I wear camouflage, today—no, not literally, but really. If anyone were pressed to describe what I was wearing, on most days they would be unable. I blend in, look like everybody else. At a NASCAR race, I wear racing fan clothes. At a Packer game, I wear green and gold. At a Christmas party, I might even wear a Santa hat. But, on campus, I wear jeans or khakis and a simple shirt unless I am representing NAU off campus. Then I wear a tie.

A young Veteran student asked a profound question last week which I paraphrase. How are we supposed to relate to these teenagers on campus? It is a fact that military and Veteran students do stand out on campus, and everybody knows it. What we do not know is what can be done about it. I’m working on that.

My wife, Nancy, also a Veteran, went to school after service. She not only found it difficult to relate to students, but to relate to some faculty. Having been a medic in an obstetric unit of an Army hospital, she had held and fed many newborns. When she wrote about instinctual infant behavior in a psychology class, the professor got upset with her, claiming that all behavior is learned. Nancy asked him when the infants had classes on grasping and suckling.

The question as to how Veterans returning to campus can relate to students and faculty is an important one. I suggest a much more important question is to ask how students, and especially faculty, can relate to returning Veterans.

I choose to blend in because I simply do not like to stand out. This is not humility, however. Humility is more than the superficiality of my clothes, something deeper and, at the same time, more subtle. Humility leaves little to no track. How, then, can we know humility when it finds us?

You know what? That is not for me to say. I can sometimes recognize humility in others, but to even look for it in myself is to drive it from me.

I can, however, see the tracks of false pride in me, usually in some form of intolerance. When the elevation of my status depends upon the diminution of the status of some other, humility has escaped me.

Sometimes I can see my own tracks of false humility. Putting myself down is no closer to humility than is pumping myself up or putting someone else down.

Humility, I think, is a gift of gratitude for who I am with tolerance for who others may be. May you find tracks of humility from others and tolerance from yourself.

Happy tracking.

Lonesome Otherness

“Brotherhood is the very price and condition of man’s survival.” (Carlos P. Romulo)

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. October looks at humility.

You sent me alone, America. Did you know you did that? You trained me in platoons and teams, and then you sent me to Vietnam on a plane with about forty newly trained Green Beret Lieutenants. We processed through Long Binh, together, then got split up to go different ways. I rode the helicopter to my A-Team camp near the Cambodian border, alone.

A team was there, but I had never met them—any of them. I was the new guy, a fresh butter bar with a face of a teenager. We all knew our lives depended upon each other, but they had no measure of my mettle. I would have to prove that in live fire.

This is one of the worst things you can do to a person, to send them into combat, alone, and make no mistake, sending with strangers is sending, alone.

We coped. We got to know each other. We lived through a firefight or two. We learned to trust each other, but you kept splitting us up, sending some home and bringing in new guys.

I’m still kind of mad about that.

After about eight months at our border camp, you pulled us out, the lieutenants. You decided we were needed at the rear, for what we did not know.

I didn’t care. I had no career ambitions in uniform, and it was one step closer to home, to my family, by baby girl, and my return to UW Madison to study Genetics.

It did not take long for a group of combat veteran first lieutenants to bond. We became our own team, the “Crises Eliminators” (there were always crises at headquarters). My friend, Rod, was a performer with a great Flip Wilson impersonation. We became the Gorilla Club after Flip’s Reverend LeRoy of the What’s Happenin’ Now Congregation. Like Mr. G. O. Rilla in the zoo, “Whatever they said we did, we did it—and some more, besides.”

Then, we came home. Some of us shared a flight from Seattle to Minneapolis. Rod, who lived there, even waited a few hours with me until I got a flight to Madison. I saw him a couple of times after that. I have never seen any others from my A Team or the Gorilla Club. That leaves a hole in me nobody else seems to fill.

We are compelled to judge others, to determine who can be trusted. All people are so compelled. Animals, too. Combat veterans are particularly slow to trust. It becomes a problem for us.

We all know our survival depends upon brothers and sisters, but strangers are not to be trusted. Groups are threatening. Crowds are intolerable. Even others we want to trust are avoided.

Because, they go away.

Trapped between the threat of being alone and the vulnerability of trusting others who may attack, betray, fail, or abandon us, we live in desperate otherness, tending to fear and gravitating toward hate.

It’s alright. We can live with this condition if we are honest about it, honest enough to develop personal humility. Because, first we have to judge ourselves fairly enough to accept the way we are. We look deep inside to see the reality and the scars that make us this way, deep enough to accept the truth of it.

Looking upon these personal tracks is difficult—probably too difficult to do alone—but so liberating. May I suggest you find a new team of people who share some of the same scars and lean on each other?

Together, may you find happy tracking.