Of the Art of Integration.


I’ve been back on US soil for about a week now, maybe a little more. My room is–appropriately enough–decked out in something I like to call “Country Americana” meets “the Delta Sky Miles Gold Member.” There’s a strange mix of Asian art and American flag quilts, but the usual pile of books and comfortable chair remain, so I guess some things never change.  Even after 11 months, some things never change.

I’m sitting in that chair as I write this, listening to my brother strum (Pick? I don’t know the words for musical stuff.) out the next great Top 20 hit on the Singer/Songwriter charts. Can you tell I’m proud? He’s really great.

I mean, more than just great musically, obviously, although recently, that’s become pretty dang obvious.  His lyrics says things like,

I’d give my arms to be your anchor, love.

He ships out in around two weeks to Basic Training in Oklahoma. And I’ll be honest, I think it’s the smartest thing he could’ve chosen. He’s going to be a 68 Whisky, or, as it’s more commonly called, a Combat Medic, hopefully with an Infantry unit. This is a fast track to deployment, and everyone in my family knows it. The chances of him being on a plane to somewhere hostile within the year is highly above the line of possibility.

In the context of my heart waging war with my head, there’s not really a sign to see who’s winning. Each side has put forth a solid fight, but the quote-unquote big guns are far from being drawn. C’s deployment is just in the “too-hard-to-think-about” category. His music is a lot easier on my heart.

He was the one who started calling my Race a deployment. That’s how it was treated,too, like I was a soldier serving in a combat zone. Maybe that’s the only way that any self-respecting Army family can deal with long term separation: just expect the worst.  Expect not to hear from each other until you do. Expect Skype calls to be fuzzy and inadequate until they’re not. Expect that there is always the chance that the other person might not come home.

And I’m learning that there are a variety of ways that people can not come home.

I’m reading this book called Wrecked, by a guy named Jeff Goins. He’s a staffer at Adventures in Missions, the missions organization I went through, and his book is literally a balm to my heart. Reading it, I feel less crazy.

Because one of the ways people just don’t come home, at least, the way that I didn’t come home, is that I got wrecked this year. I got wrecked for an ordinary life that includes things like car payments and bookshelves. I got wrecked for a garden with heirloom tomatoes and a 9 to 5 job. I got wrecked for little girls with big smiles and sad eyes selling flowers in the Siem Reap market. And for the father of a boy with Down Syndrome, who smiled at his son like he was the best thing that could ever happen. I got wrecked for lady boys working the bars in Chaing Mai and for teammates with broken hearts.

And for myself. I got wrecked for myself.

And this is where that whole war between head and heart gets so fuzzy. Because there’s the side of me that so desperately still wants the life of car payments and heirloom tomatoes. But I can’t get those faces out of my dreams. I can’t stop seeing Pablo and Srey and Fahr and Mercedes and my incredible, unstoppable teammates.

And I don’t know which part of me is pulling for which thing: to give everything up and go back to a life of sacrifice or to give everything up and go back to a life that I love. And I don’t even know which thing belongs to which life.

There has to be a way to have both, right? There has to be a way to combine what I love from this life, this American life, and what I still long for from my World Race life. I’ve always been a black-and-white kind of girl, but maybe there’s something to be had for a woman trying to put on the grey.


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