A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Pause Button

At poor peace I sing
To you strangers, (though song
Is a burning and crested act,
The fire of birds in
The world's turning wood,
For my sawn, splay sounds)

- Dylan Thomas,
Prologue to 'Collected Poems'

Written from Boulder, CO, in late February...

Since posting my last, I have already been warmly supported by readers, friends and family, and am extremely grateful for it.  In an urge to shed more light on the disjointed transition, allow me to refer to a vexing phenomenom I call "the pause button."  Not that I coined it...a chaplain who gave the mandatory post-deployment brief to a few of us at Camp Lejeune last month mentioned it.  Such briefs usually focus entirely on reuniting with family and coping with combat stress, but this one contained something more relevant to my situation: the notion our minds stubbornly build that life as we know it 'back home,' and for everyone else we know, is on pause.  No matter how irrational it may seem to those who haven't sequestered themselves in the deployed way of life for a time, it's a construct that becomes very real for some of us...a coping mechanism.

Again I'll insist that my plan, such as it was, was simply to catch you all up on the sights and tales of Afghanistan as I experienced it...not to pour forth a series of laments about post-adventure life.  But in the interest of bringing the journey full circle, it is significant as it's where I am now.  Transition back has not only overwhelmed me and left me devoid of purpose, but discouraged me from looking back much thus far.  Still, I do my best to stay attuned to events back in the 'stan, and feel a part of every development in the rush to build the capabilities of their nascent defense and police forces.  How can I not?  I just hope to focus enough mental energy on the present and future, which hopefully entails enjoying the West again and at least accepting that I won't have the answer tomorrow, or the next day.

That brings me back to the pause button.  When I receive updates on changes at NTM-A and in Afghanistan's Defense and Interior Ministries, I can process those.  If I returned, I wouldn't be surprised to find things quite different, and would likely be able to adjust quickly...there'd be no choice.  But here, head still spinning from the realization that my illusory life in the States is nothing like what I imagined it would be, it is a daily battle to get past the entrenched pause notion.  Everyone and everything continues to change, whether you accept that or not, and putting off decisions about what should come next...well, that's a killer when suddenly squeezed between depression and anxiety.  A key position in Kabul was easy by comparison.

Writing from Bronxville, NY, today...

Too stuck and overwhelmed in place, I took off for my old environs in the NYC and area for a frenzy of visits.  It's been food for the soul.  Over the past week I've been so fortunate to spend time with people who mean the world to me, who care about me, and who even do their best to point out that it wasn't just an odd dream...I actually did spend most of the past year on a mission in Afghanistan.

* Blogger has failed me once again.  The "add image" function has not been operable for a while.  Therefore, you are stuck with just words and no pretty pictures for now.  My humble apologies...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Major Dan,
The "pause button" is your mind re-registering, reconfiguring, re-adjusting, revisiting and relaying a tremendous amount of change. give it time.
Have you reached out to colleagues with similar experience.
It may help to focus that as a mentor you've left many positive impressions on young Afghans and made a difference in many lives. how many of us can say that.

March 7, 2011 at 12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Major Dan,

Your last post fits right without pictures. Because pictures can be distracting.


March 7, 2011 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Jami said...

I am glad you are sharing what has been going on since coming home. It is part of your journey and it’s great that you are comfortable being honest about your experience and sharing it with us.

I’m also very happy to hear you’re getting some good time with family and friends. After your last post, I just wanted to give you a hug! Just know that you have lots of support all around you; hopefully that will help with the adjustment to the changed life you came back to, even if it’s a slow and difficult process.

March 8, 2011 at 10:57 PM  

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