Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Many Mondays???

Bizarro moment number 8,367 during lunch today.  As I was sitting outside grabbing a bite to eat, I was momentarily transported back to the Hula Hut in Austin early last summer.  The slight wind and balmy temps, no doubt brought this on.  Susan and Glenn were across from me, a Shiner Bock and a delightful seafood quesadilla, the lake shimmering….
Sometimes while I sit here, I have slivers of intense memories of friends, family and other places that are so at odds with my current reality.  It’s very much like waking up from a dream where you swear you were having a conversation with someone like Audrey Hepburn…only to realize, that you’ve never met Audrey Hepburn.  (I had a dream about Nick Faldo like that several years ago, but that’s clearly a topic for someone else’s blog.)
Again, many apologies for not having written anything on the blog in quite some time.  For the last two weeks I have been suffering from horrible jet-lag.  I’ve been averaging about 4-5 hours of sleep per night, with two full nights where I did not sleep at all.  This unfortunate condition was brought on by a most fortunate and lucky circumstance; I came back to the Washington DC area for about a week of TDY!!!!
I was able to spend 8 days at home with my family while working during the day up at the Pentagon and Cap Hill.  Not only did I get to spend precious and unexpected time with my husband and son, brothers, sisters, parents and friends…it also meant that I was able to take showers for 8 straight days without shower shoes!  I also didn’t see a porta-pottie the entire time I was home.  It’s the little things, people.

There are a great many things I realized while on the trip and during the epic journey back to Baghdad.  First, I have the most amazing family and group of friends.  Of course, I knew this on an emotional and intellectual level already.  But seeing them after three months was visceral.  It frightened me.  It unnerved me to the point that I went out of my way to NOT see most people.  It was overwhelming at times.  My joy at seeing them brought on intense anxiety as I knew I didn’t want to say good bye again.  I overcame some of it, but not all of it.  I am sorry if I offended anyone.  Truly.

There were two occasions on the trip where the ‘large group of people/anxiety rule’ was ignored and muddled through.  First, on the Sunday that I got back my parents had everyone over to their house for lunch and Christmas tree decorating.  It was so much fun seeing all my nieces and nephews scramble to get the ornaments up and the lights on the tree.  I was able to spend several hours with my parents and brothers and sisters; it was divine and very restorative.

The second occasion was the roughly 90 minutes I was able to spend with a group of girlfriends one night after work.  We went to a bar in Chinatown and visited for a little while, reminisced about silly things in the news business and generally reconnected.  These ladies mean a lot to me and I am so grateful I could spend time with them.

There were also a few surprises when I came back.  When you are deployed you have this vague notion that the world sort of pauses or even stops when you are gone.  Your reality is what you can see, touch and feel.  Emails, skyping and Facebook go a long way towards connectivity, but there is still a massive chasm.
My son had a BIG surprise for me; Toby.  A small orange and white kitten.  Ummmm. WHAT?????????  I am soooo not a cat person, but what can you do?  Conor wanted the cat and the neighbor gave it to him.  Our golden retriever/mutt (Cooper) loves him, so there doesn’t seem to be any discord in the house, nor any turning back.

I was shocked and a little irritated that this had happened while I was away.  My husband and son know that I don’t particularly care for cats, yet they still brought one in to the family.  I suppose the cat can be considered the symbol of my absenteeism for the last 16 months.  While I was in my bed, making coffee in my kitchen and generally interacting as though no time had passed; Toby was the physical reminder that I feel like a guest in my own home.  Strange.  Not devastating, but certainly disconcerting.  One of many things I’ll have to work through if I ever come home.

One of the other things that sort of took me by surprise (but I think can be paired up with the “anxiety about seeing people” thing) was my discomfort in the grocery store.  Everything was so bright and shiny, there were so many choices.  It was overwhelming.  I’ve only been in Iraq for a hair over two months, but have grown used to the monochromatic surroundings and lack of choice.  Being at home was like starring in a Technicolor movie in surround sound!

Back at work now, I've come to realize how much I enjoy the folks I work for and with.  As much as I don't want to be here, I do enjoy my job and I am learning a tremendous amount.  I also deeply believe in what we are doing to help Iraq move towards democracy.  Is that alone worth the trade-off of being away from home?  We'll see.

Finally, I'm sure traveling for 48 hours had something to do with it, but I could NOT wait to get back to my little room.  My own slice of privacy and space in this crazy environment.  But some things never change....like dreading the porta-pottie at 3am.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post and the "report" on your trip home. I know it was an immense gift to visit your husband and son, but at the same time, I thought "I could never have done that!" It would be so painful to go through the good-byes again. I feel for you. But the routine has a way of clicking off those days until you'll be happily at home again for good. And then, they can catch you up on any other "surprises." :) I've been back for 9 months, and we still refer to time as "when I was away" or "just before I got back," etc. I've just discovered all the stuff I missed little by little. JD