V F W

We have meeting halls for veterans of foreign wars. But I’m a little weird – I hear the opposite sometimes. Why are there no halls for veterans of local wars? And why are there no meeting halls to honor peacemakers? Surely those people who have dedicated their time to ensure peace are important. Surely they need places to meet to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time at Civil War memorial sites. There were huge obelisks dedicated to the dead, mostly young boys. There was a park just up the street from where I lived in Chattanooga. I played there often, climbing on the monuments and sitting on the cannons. Those marble soldiers were my companions.

The glorification of war has never made sense to me.

Sign up to be a soldier and we will pay for your education and give you discounts on home loans and at the hardware store. Sign up to fight and we will pay for your healthcare for life. Sign right here on the dotted line and everything will be fine.

Except it isn’t.

Soldiers die. If they don’t die in battle at the wrong end of an enemy weapon, they die from “friendly fire.” They die at their own hands from suicide. If they don’t die they are wounded so badly that they are disabled or disfigured irreparably.

If they make it back home in one piece they live a half life, haunted by demons in the night, nightmares and fears of being hunted. Depression, stress, and dysfunction follow them like feral wolves, ready to tear them to pieces.

We glorify war because it isn’t glorious. We sell this dream of honor to our children not because we love them, but because we need them. We need them to do our dirty work. We need them to go into danger and risk their lives, their bodies, their minds because we haven’t come up with a good alternative.

And we’ll keep building meeting halls and monuments for them. We’ll keep coming up with discounts and promotions to sweeten the deal.

We’ll keep dangling the carrot of free education and special holidays just for them, and they will keep reaching for that carrot, only to realize too late that it is booby trapped.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t have any alternatives. If we quit training soldiers, we will still have enemies. We will still have countries that hate us so much that the only way they know how to express their hatred is to harm us. I can’t see that dropping our guard will do us any good.

But I do think it is time to rethink America’s role in the world. I think it is time for us to stop acting like we are the policemen or the hall monitors of the world. I think that our incessant interfering in the internal affairs of other countries is what causes them to hate us so much, and is what causes them to target us.

Until we teach peace more than we teach war, we’ll continue to build meeting halls for the wounded and monuments for the dead.

I think we owe our children more.

Fighting the Nothing.

I went to yoga class today. This isn’t normally a big deal. But today was different because my wrist hurts.

I’ve skipped class for various reasons recently. It is too cold outside. I’m tired. I’m out of town. The last one is the only valid one. My wrist hurting seemed like a good reason as well, but I decided that I had to go anyway.

I think I’ve stretched a ligament at work. My work involves a lot twisting my wrist and picking up heavy books. My wrist is getting worn out from it. It would be great if we could replace body parts like we can with car parts. Some we can. Not always. Until then, rest is required.

There are several yoga classes at the Y that don’t do any moves that involve wrists. This is not one of them. Downward facing dog, plank, upward facing dog, fallen triangle – all wrist moves. This is the class I’ve committed to going to because this one is on my day off.

I haven’t been in the past three or so weeks. In part I’ve used the holidays as an excuse. But I’m starting to think that seasonal affective disorder doesn’t have so much to do with less sunlight and a lot to with less activity. Sure, they are connected. Less sunlight means it is colder outside, and it gets darker sooner. Thus, we are less inclined to go exercise outside, or at all. We think we’ll take a break, just like the Earth does. We’ll fly south for the winter, even if it is in our heads. We’ll hibernate as much as we are allowed. We still have to go to our jobs, but that is it as far as activity. Everything else can just wait.

This year of writing has taught me the danger of that. Slow down too much and the doldrums set in. We are dead in the water, going nowhere. There’s no wind in our sails.

Then depression comes for a visit.

And when depression comes to visit, it isn’t really interested in a quick stop. It stays, longer and longer, gathering energy while we lose it. Depression is self perpetuating. It feeds on itself and gets bigger and bigger while our control on our minds gets less and less.

Writing has taught me this. It has made me stop and see patterns that never made sense before. It has made me realize that the only way out of this funk is to pull out the paddles and start rowing for dear life.

So I went to class today. I went even though I could only do half the moves. I went even though it meant that I had to modify all the other ones. Downward facing dog became dolphin. Plank was done on my forearms as well. I’ve never looked forward to doing warrior one and two nearly so much as today. I took child’s pose a lot. I did some of my favorite twists at other times. I tried some moves on my fists instead. It wasn’t that great.

But I went. And I stayed. And I did what I could do and didn’t push myself today. Sometimes yoga is about pushing. Sometimes it is about backing off. You don’t ever want to hurt yourself. The motto “No pain, no gain” is not a healthy mantra.

But really, I did push myself. I pushed myself to get up out of bed, and showered, and dressed, and to the class on time. I know me. If I’d let the doldrums win, that horrible inertia, that nothing that just feeds on itself and gets bigger and bigger, then I would have stayed at home all day and done nothing. Then I’d feel worse. Then I’d do more nothing. And I’d use it as an excuse to not go next week.

And while I wrestle with the concept of stillness, I know that doing nothing is death.