Memorial Day: Sad Lessons

Day 38

usa flagIn the United States we celebrate Memorial Day to remember the people who died while serving in the armed forces. It’s the time to visit cemeteries with flags and flowers. It’s the time to attend parades and celebrations.

I often think about the men and women who did not die in the war but took their lives after they returned home. The veterans who couldn’t deal with the trauma of what they experienced. Those who couldn’t turn off the sights, sounds, and terror of the night. They returned in a wounded state and were unable to function. Are they considered heroes as well? Are they celebrated and memorialized or is there a stigma attached to their death? It’s clear they weren’t killed by an enemy bullet but the enemy did have a part in their death.

The suicide rate for returning veterans is over 10 times higher than the general public. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not track suicide trends among veterans of specific military units. And some units do not track suicides of former service members at all. I’ve read that over 100,000 returning Vietnam vets have committed suicide. And now the younger men and women are following in their shoes. I’ve learned that we all have a story. This one needs to change.

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Day 37

I’ve learned to say Yes more often. To accept leadership roles, to hike a steep mountain, to visit large cities and small shops. I learned that I can say YES and if life gets too overwhelming to say, ENOUGH for now. I’ve learned by saying Yes, I am inviting an entire new set of circumstances into my life. New people, ideas, books, articles, opinions, tastes and vistas.

Arms out wide shouting YES!Saying Yes is scary too. It forces me to show up when I’d rather lie low. It makes me take deep breaths and look around with fresh eyes. Yes gets me in the door and then I can decide how long to stay.

Yes forces me to move whether I am ready or not. I said Yes at an early age to marriage, to motherhood, to uprooting and moving across the country, to returning to college to get my degree, to working as a waitress while I worked on my degree, to living life in a way that could only happen then. Without saying Yes, I would have missed out on meeting so many people who are now friends. At each workplace, I met someone new and wonderful. I learned from amazing bosses and bad administrators. I took chances and had friends in place to catch me when I fell.

I like going to the edge of my comfort zone and just sitting there for a bit until the discomfort fades away. The fear slowly subsides while I’m interacting with my environment – visiting the sites, meeting people, starting conversations, and staying engaged.

When I find myself in a rut, I start finding reasons to say Yes again. Yes to joining organizations, Yes to cleaning out my garage, Yes to asking for help, Yes to reading a new author, Yes to listening to new musicians, Yes to relocating, Yes to a trip — HECK yeah!

Then, in the quiet hours I reviewed the things that I said Yes to and get scared again. Why did I say Yes to that and that and that and that? What was I thinking? And yet, I learned something new, enjoyed a new band, walked a new trail, made a new friend. I know there are times to say NO and I will when the time comes. I promise I will but for now I realized I have more fun when I say Yes. I get more done and feel more satisfied at the end of the day.

For now, Yes is my friend and teacher.

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Day 36

I learned (once again) how much I love walking in the morning. I love the way the light shines on flowers and how clean the air smells. I try to take my camera with me in case there is something I want to capture. My tulips and flowers morning walk1favorite things include landscapes and colorful flowers. I wish I could capture the smell as well – that fresh early morning dewy smell.

 

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