We Are Messed Up

His name is Maverick. He is a dog. He lives with his human companion in our neighborhood. I think about him quite often even though I have had only several brief encounters with him in the past five or so months. Normally, most dogs when out on a walk are very friendly and looking to be lavishly loved upon by any willing passer by. But not Maverick. Every time I have come across him he growls viscously, bares his teeth, charges at me, and barks like he means it. It is not an honorary “I’m doing my job” dog bark, but rather, he barks like he wants to sink his teeth into some flesh. He barks like his life depended on his bark warding others off.

After a couple of these encounters, before I knew his name, I asked Maverick’s human companion who had a tight grip on his leash, whether Maverick was friendly or not.

The man holding the leash replied,                                                                                 “We just got back from Iraq from a tour of duty.                                                           We’re messed up.”

“Oh. Dear God”, I thought. And, I was so caught off guard by that TRUTH and the depth of its emotional repercussions, that I did not know how to reply. I think I said something that I hope that they both realize that they are in a different place and space, that they find peace and calm, and that they realize they are in peace and calm.

Then, as they went their way and I mine, and we passed by each other within a few feet, I FELT them. I felt their emotional struggles, their pain, and their fears: the fear, stress, and strain of always being “on guard”, the constant fear that their safety is never a sure thing, the fear of watching every step, the fear of not knowing if the ground below is safe to step on (IED -improvised explosive device), the fear of who or what may be around the corner, the fear that at any moment a  bullet may come from any direction, the fear that everyone they meet may be “out to get them”, the fear they may be killed and not live to tomorrow. Even though they were out of Iraq, Iraq was still not out of them. Iraq was still in their mental framework. The constant hyper-vigilance was still in their system and aura.

The Bunker Effect                                                                                                            A couple of years ago I attended a one day seminar with Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert*, author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Magic (and other books too) at Los Angles’ Wanderlust. At one point a lady in the audience spoke about a period of about 10 years in her life  where there was much chaos and tumultuousness. However, she was now in a peaceful and calm place, but because for such a long time she was always on edge and tense waiting for “the other shoe to drop” that she could not relax and calm down. She was still always on edge. Rob Bell called this “The Bunker Effect”. The war is over on the outside, but on the inside the person is still in hyper-vigilant mode. Then he gave her some tips on how to relax, calm down, and settle into this new reality of peace.

The Soldier and Maverick were in this phase of healing The Bunker Effect, or as is commonly known PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. That’s just part of the emotional exchange/download that I felt or experienced when we passed by each other. There were also all the images that they had seen and that had been imprinted on their Beings. The images of poverty, abuse, bombed out buildings and streets, and children and people with scars, wounds, and missing limbs. The images and experiences of their cohorts – some of which may have not come back. All of this, and more I am gathering was in their being, their sphere, their aura.

As we passed each other, I did not  actually “think” all those above things, it is only now in writing about the encounters that I am conceptualizing/articulating the flooding of emotions I felt  upon passing by them. In the most recent encounter I was heading toward my vehicle when I came upon them and that is when The Soldier told me why Maverick was so vigilant and constantly on offense mode. We spoke for not even a minute before they went on their way, but as I sat behind the steering wheel, the effect of that brief encounter triggered a flood of tears out me. I sat and cried until the tears stopped flowing. I have learned it is much better and healthier to let the flow of tears take their natural course as opposed to opposing and suppressing them.

Here Come the Tears                                                                                                        I cried and cried and cried. I cried with them. I cried for them. I cried for the soldiers, civilians, birds and animals. I cried for all of humanity. I cried for peace. And, I cried for myself. My tears were my prayer and my offering. My tears were my urgent plea for greater Grace and Healing  in the Minds and Hearts of suffering men and women. My tears were for the softening of Hearts and the opening of Minds. As I write this, again i am crying for Maverick, The Soldier, All, The Birds and Animals, and me. The suffering of one is the suffering of all (and vice versa too). Thanks to them, I soaked several tissues.

This is one soldier and one dog on their new path of healing their past journey and memories. As I begin to extrapolate this couple to all the soldiers, dogs, civilians, animals around the world that are or have experienced such trauma in their lives it overwhelms me. If I harp on it too long, it paralyzes me emotionally. This is why I can no longer read or watch the news. I had asked for the Gift of Feeling, since for a large portion of my life I suppressed and oppressed my feelings, and I received that Gift, abundantly. Little did I know that in The Gift of Feeling it not only attuned me to me, but to the Oneness of us All. With everything there are two sides of the coin, a blessing side and a side of responsibility in living with and managing the blessing.

I also saw and felt the bond and closeness between Maverick and The Soldier. I felt the deep love and trust they had for and toward each other. I saw how Maverick, who was an Iraqi native and was found and trained and served with and then brought to the USA by The Soldier, was wholeheartedly devoted to protecting his friend, family, and companion. I saw how The Soldier was fond of Maverick and that the canine’s presence was soothing and comforting to him.

They kept each other safe, sane, together and composed as best as they could. Their love gave warmth and comfort to their Hearts and lives. This side of their relationship was a Gift to behold.

And then I thought, maybe they are my mirrors. “They say” everything and everyone are a reflection of some accept of ourselves. My fears do not revolve around actual bombs, bullets, snipers, IEDs, and ambushes. But there was a long period in my life where I too had been in constant hyper-vigilant mode. We all have those periods where “We’re Messed Up” or where we come out of “The Bunker”. Then a new season comes in and it then takes an enormous amount of awareness, humility, and energy to let go of one season and embrace the next. Alone, this is not possible. With Grace and with The Gift of Others whom God places in out lives, this is very possible and doable. All we need do is invoke God’s Wisdom and Grace in each and every day, hour, moment  of our lives.

May God grant us all the Grace and Humility in being present and trusting to and in each season.

God Bless You,                                                                                                                  Irena As I Am                                                                                                           03/08/2018

*NOTE about Elizabeth Gilbert                                                                                           In the weeks and days leading up to this seminar, I really really really wanted to see Elizabeth Gilbert in person, outside of the seminar. And lo and behold it came to pass. It was outside the restroom. I walked out of the restroom and there she was in the hallway waiting in line. I knew the Universe set this up for the two of us. We had a brief chat and then exchanged a warm hug**. Her books have had a profound effect of my life and thus, seeing her in person and expressing my gratitude was a Gift beyond joy.

**NOTE NOTE about hug with Elizabeth Gilbert                                                                  The chat was going really really well and we were connecting, Soul to Soul, and then my ego stepped in and asked if I could take a picture with the two of us. At that point she closed up and the conversation ended very shortly after that.  Ah!

Džeki’s Lasting Legacy

In the beginning, my beginning, somewhere in the Balkans, I lived in the Garden of Eden. At least that is how it seemed and felt like through my child eyes. There were fields and forests, a brambling brook, a garden, fruit and nut trees, and my dearest and nearest companions, the animals. My first best friend had four rather short legs, wise eyes, a deep soul, a white fur coat, and a distinguished curly white tail. Others said he was just a dog. I KNEW BETTER THOUGH. He may have looked like a dog, but truly he was more than he appeared to the casual observer. He was my angel, guardian, adventure companion, and my first great teacher. He was Džeki the Great.

Others laughed at his curly tail: saying his tail resembled that of a pig’s tail and that no other dog in these here parts was known to have such a tail. Perhaps in his most previous past life he had been a pig and the tail was a remnant of that journey. He however, reveled in his curly white tail.  He however, had many and much more important ideas rolling through his mind and Heart than to spend time concerning himself with the opinions of others. What they thought of him was their business. Their opinion of him was their trouble projected. He was focused on more important things. He was focused on his own sparkle, his own uniqueness, and his next great exploration adventure, of which I had the privilege and joy of being his companion and compatriot. Džeki totally and completely and lovingly accepted himself as he was. It is said that children learn more by observing than by their verbal instruction. My observing and engaging with this angel, who come in the form of a dog named Džeki left a deep and lasting imprint on my psyche and soul.

The other distinguishing characteristic of Džeki was his lifestyle. He had total and complete free reign of his coming and going. He came as it pleased him and he went when it beckoned him. Sometimes the beckonings would keep him away for days. But he eventually always returned. His reappearing always included a warm welcome, lots of love, and a bowl of food. There were inquiries as to where he had been and what he had been up to, but he just kept that all to himself. That was his business, and his business alone. The other dogs in that time and those parts knew not such freedom for they were on a tether tied to a post. They had a collar around their neck. The collar and the chain kept their mobility to a very short radius. In contrast, Džeki had free reign and total freedom to come and go as it pleased his soul. At an impressionable young age, this leadership by example left a deep and lasting imprint on my being and spirit.

Life however, would take me far far far away from these two imprints. Life’s expectations would take me on a path that greatly contrasted these two imprints. But such is the way when one lives in tribes. Tribes have and need structure and a line of command. How else can order be kept in tribes. Tribes offer safety, comfort, and a point of reference for one’s existence. This way of life can give definition to one’s being. This way of life can also suffocate one’s being. But like an elephant never forgets, my soul too never forgot these two imprints. They become my North Star.They reverberated in my veins with every heartbeat, however faint they may have become. But nevertheless, THEY WERE THERE – sometimes barely palpable let alone perceptible. It took Great Grace to get me to wake up, pay attention to and stay focused on these two imprints.  It is in the journey of returning, remembering, and becoming these two Gifts that Life offered much support and much contrasting resistance. However, the more I let go of the way of the tribe and embraced the Way of Love, the more Love showed up for me. Love was there all along – even in, especially in, the wandering off from my North Star’s course.

When I asked the elders where Džeki had come from, no one could recall. It just seemed that he just “showed up in the yard” one day. Isn’t that the way of angels.

Eternally grateful,                                                                                                         Eternally remembered,                                                                                                   Eternally imprinted,                                                                                                           Irena As I Am