~ My Faith In God Is What Carries Me Forward ~
Faith can move mountains, right?
Well, if that’s the case… then faith can lift your house right on up off the ground too, right?
Sure. Yeah, right. I guess so. Whatever you say…
But no joke guys, I think, and believe, it can. Faith can do it all. Faith can move anything. Including your house.
Faith has all the power. Faith holds all the cards. Faith can allow one to complete seemingly impossible undertakings, and surpass insurmountable feats.
And what were these past two years... if not - one big, gigantic feat?
Looking back, boy, what a time to be alive...
If there’s one way to express my feelings on these past two years, it is this:
In order to persevere... I must have a Foundation of Faith.
And that foundation, even though it might be floating up in the sky(?) is what has kept me grounded, and sane, during life’s tough challenges.
Would it make any sense to you if I told you right now that I am living my very best life? Literally - right now. Every single day.
Throughout this pandemic. Throughout the ups and downs of the coronavirus, the surges and down dips in deaths and hospitalizations and body counts. Throughout global strife, this year, and last. International relations at their very worst in my lifetime. National relations also-the same.
Despite everything that has happened, and everything that is going on, and maybe even everything that is still to come. I am still living my very best life, each and every day. And I attribute that fact to one reason, and one reason only - my faith.
And there’s no doubt that this year, and last, have presented some very difficult circumstances, both externally, and internally. Personally, and professionally. Nationally and internationally.
There are actually far too many of said circumstances and challenges to name here, and nor do I want to name them, each and all. But these challenges and obstacles and pure blockades, were, and are, beyond overwhelming. And I blow my own damn mind each and every day with my ability to maneuver around them.
It took me a very long while, but I have come to believe, and actually understand and comprehend, that a solid foundation is exactly what is needed during life's hardest and harshest moments. And it is that foundation of faith, and my faith alone, that gets me through each day.
That statement is so very true for me and I genuinely believe it. And in my eyes, it is simply and purely because when things get tough, and when things are looking down, and when you find yourself falling into a deep and dark and despairingly black hole, you actually can’t fall too far… IF you have a solid foundation. Because on your way down, you’ll reach the concrete floor of your home’s foundational base. And it’s that foundation that will catch you, and stop you, from burrowing further into the cold and dark earth underneath, during your time of depression or sorrow - a time of sadness, and pain.
And whether, when I lived up in Illinois, and my home’s foundation was literally below ground, in a basement. Or, now that I live in Florida, and the ground here is too wet and springy and bubbly and swampy for my foundation to be below ground, and thus a basement here being very hard to come by... The foundation of my house is currently at grade. But either way, I still have a foundation. Its depth is just a bit different than I was used to all my life, previous to living in the South.
And that little engineering and structural design and home construction fact got me to thinking...
There were moments this year in which I could barely function. I could barely move forward. And I could barely even drink water.
There were times I couldn’t even swallow. Not even coffee.
There were equally bad times last year. I’m still not over it all. Nor will I ever forget all that has happened and occurred on my watch.
Life is hard.
And it always will be.
But our responses, and reactions, and perseverance, and - our foundation - of our very faith in God, is what will carry us forward.
And whether I stand up on my very own, or God has to drag me by my soft and fuzzy dog paw patterned fleece pajamas on out of bed, pull me up onto my feet, and drag me into the kitchen kicking and screaming to make the morning coffee - either way - I’m going to keep going. Heck, even if God has to lift not just me out of bed, but my whole freaking GD house off the ground, either way, and some way or another, God is going to get me going. And God is going to keep me going.
I tend to think that sometimes he does literally just that. I’m still stuck in bed. And won’t move. God gives me a boost or two. He tells me it's time to get up. It’s time to get ready for work. It’s time to go, CHRISTINE!
And when I still won’t move, and can’t even comprehend starting another day of life, that’s when God offers one more bribe. He tells me we can grab some Starbucks on the way to work. A venti hot latte, coming my way… if only, I will start another day.
And when THAT doesn’t work - you know I’m in a bad place. I’ve never met a Starbucks I can resist.
So it is then that God knows I am in the depths of despair (as Anne Shirley of Green Gables once said).
When a coffee bribe won’t work.
That’s when God really has his work cut out for him.
He knows that his Christine Pieper is doing pretty bad. Turning down a drink from her favorite barista. That’s the measurement of true despair.
He then says, the freaking heck with this.
And He, instead of dragging me out of bed by my feet, decides something stronger is necessary to get me going. He knows pulling me, myself, won’t do it just today.
So He decides to pick up my entire house - by its foundation. He rips it on out of the ground. And He carries me, and lifts me with helium and colored balloons, house included, over to my place of employment. I’m dropped off in the parking lot, with a smack on my butt for my misbehavior at that.
I walk on into work…
Dragging these ridiculous looking balloons behind me.
I punch the time clock.
Coworkers completely disturbed by all the helium floating along beside me.
And I start my workday. In utter and pure protest. Disgust at the thought of surviving yet another shift. Is this what success looks like?
I absolutely LOVE my work...
But I can hardly move a muscle or bone inside my body.
I always thought that having a solid foundation was imperative to success and achievement. Whether that achievement being going for the Olympic Gold, or dragging your sad and sorry behind out of bed in the morning and brushing your teeth. I’ve discussed with you many times before about that solid foundation and how imperative it truly is.
And that foundation is a rock. It’s solid. It has to be. And the other requirement, or so I thought, was that it has to be deep. And it has to be so strong as to compete with and support the weight of the world and Earth’s rotational axis and gravity itself to keep it from drifting away into the abyss.
But - maybe, just maybe - I have been thinking all wrong, this entire time. About that said foundation.
I’ve done a lot this year. And last. All throughout COVID. I’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed or could possibly imagine doing. All through challenge and hardship. And all because of my light and airy and flowing Foundation of Faith.
I let God do the work for me. I watched as my foundation of faith was set free from the ground. No longer locked deep into the basement up in Illinois; unglued from its at-grade base here in Florida.
As I floated around in the sky. All these past two years of Covid. Here and there. Near and Far. Blowing around in the wind. Spinning and dizzy. With delight. Or delirium? Swirling around in the sky.
Up and down.
And upside down.
My foundation was NOT solid and rock heavy as I thought it needed to be. My foundation was light… and airy. It has become so very light that one could stick a helium balloon or two on top of that silly little house… and the whole gosh darn home would lift entirely off the ground. Setting sail on a wild and ridiculous ride. God blowing it in the wind. Only He - controlling the direction of flight.
And that’s exactly what the heck happened to me. And I’ve been sitting in a helium balloon filled house, flowing around in the wind, these entire past two years.
I’ve done NOTHING - on my own.
And I’ve done EVERYTHING - through God.
Nearly two years ago now I went back to work. But being without work for roughly a decade, it was a huge decision and obviously a life altering moment in time for me.
As they say... I did not come to the decision lightly. In fact, it was such a big decision, I relied solely on God to help me with the choice I ultimately made.
God guided me in that decision to leave the home. And I have come to know, only through my now vast experience in conversations and coffee dates with God, that my best decisions in life are the ones I make with Him… The ones where we sit and chat over a latte while listening to cafe music in the background. We hear the steam of the espresso machine as it drowns out the voices of others - all in equally important conversation amongst themselves.
And those decisions are potentially made in the blink of an eye. The snap of my finger. With the force of wind going through me so very strong that I nearly vomit.
One minute - I’m chilling with God at Starbucks.
The very next - I’m at home, curled up into a ball, on the floor of my home. The thought of throwing up too very much to control. Agonizing. Nauseous.
Next minute - I’m in the bathroom - head in front of the toilet. Awaiting the uncontrollable reaction that I know is coming next.
Would it make any sense to you at all if I told you the very best decisions I have ever made in my life are the ones where I want to vomit at the thought of the choice I need to make? And just after conversing with God on the subject matter?
I did a lot of research, and I prepared myself as best as possible.
How to go back to work after ten years?
How did I do it?
Or, after that initial choice, how do I change jobs, or career paths, once again? How to keep going? After starting work, all over, once again? Being in a land, now so foreign to me, I might have well been standing at the South Pole on day one of orientation.
How to rejoin the workforce after so much had been changed in my absence? After all, just think of the technological improvements in the last ten to fifteen years, let alone the societal changes as well.
Where the term “onboarding” is now known to all who work and get hired? What in the heck is an onboard, anyway? And most importantly, is it something I can use for surfing?
I am asked of my pronouns.
And they are proudly displayed upon a bulletin board, or in the employee break room.
I’ve never been asked that in my life. And it’s always at work now where I’m asked. I’ve even been offered buttons to wear. I can proudly display my She, if I choose to.
Do workers today have more protections afforded them? And perks, and shiny, little specks of bling thrown at them to get them in the door, and seem to actually be treated as human beings by their employers?
When I stopped working, I was not even wanted by my employer at the time. And I do think that was me personally. I’m not saying all employers are not actually wanting of their employees, but I do know I personally, felt extremely unappreciated.
I was way overworked, way stressed out, had a mere one second of vacation time per year, and was just expected to suck it all up, and work harder and harder. And my salary could not afford me even a studio apartment near my employer. All for what?
There was no enticement. There was no bonus. A raise at the exact rate of the cost of living adjustment - each year - and that basically meant my pay would stay the same every year of my employment. No real increase in relation to my job and skills and profession. No real raise based upon my performance. My individual circumstances were not ever taken into consideration.
And I worked hard and harder.
And ultimately, I ended up getting sick… and sicker...
Until the day I was too sick to work at all.
I lost my job.
Years later -
I was officially defined as disabled by the federal government.
Disease without cure, that which would ultimately end in death and inability to work for the future of my life on this Earth.
There was no cure to what ailed me. So says my doctors, and the United States of America.
And I had to accept that fact to move on with my life.
We’ve talked about my journey through chronic pain before, and the purpose of this post is not to re-discuss it here and now. But what is important today is - WHY. And HOW.
Why did I have the opportunity to go back to work?
Because faith can move mountains?
How - Because… faith lifted my very house up off the ground… and took me with it, and threw me into working once again.
I’ve accomplished more in these past five years since God saved my life, and the past two years of work, than probably all my other years of breathing, combined.
And it’s all attributable to my Foundation of Faith.
I was sick. And I was sicker. I was so very sick I did not know how to go on. With life. At all.
I felt 95 years old.
And I was in my 30’s.
I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t brush my teeth. I couldn’t put on some simple clothes and walk out the front door. And I couldn’t interact within society. Because I couldn’t even move.
My foundation was solid. And heavy. And that’s what I thought was the right kind of foundation to have.
But, I couldn’t move even if I tried... I was bolted to the floor.
However, little did I know at the time, a miracle was brewing.
Deep down in the underneathness of the earth, the swampy ground, far under where all of the alligators and snakes and cockroaches live, cause - Florida - that foundation began to move.
First it bubbled - like a spring. Disney Springs to be exact.
It bubbled until it shook itself clean off the ground.
And God decided to lift my entire freaking house, foundation included, off that wet ground. And pulled it on up into the sky. Taking me with it. Whether I wanted to go for a ride, or not.
I had no idea what was happening to me…
I had no choice in the matter.
Because God did all the work for me.
And at the worst part of it all is that, I didn’t even know that God was doing all the work. He was hidden, you see, above all the balloons I was looking up at.
So, as I pondered before:
Does any of this make any sense to you?
I have come to believe that if this does not make sense to you… simply close your eyes. And then, let God make the next decision for you and your life. And afterwards, open your eyes back up, and you’ll probably understand what I’m trying to say to you here.
And if this DOES make sense to you right now… Keep on keepin’ on.
Because that rock solid foundation I told you about all along. The one so solid and hard and deeply buried in the wet or cold ground, the one you need for the worst of days, amidst the worst of tropical storms and hurricanes, to keep you afloat… it really doesn’t need to be hard at all. It doesn’t even need to be concrete. Or cinder block. Or brick. It doesn’t need to be huge and firm, like my home's foundation back in Illinois. In fact, it can be at grade. And it can be very thin. It can allow all the snakes and lizards and maybe even gators, to get inside your house. Because it doesn’t matter at all how strong the foundation really is. It only matters that God goes ahead and picks it up, and transports the entire kit and caboodle, you included, where you need to be. And where you are meant to be.
And if you do happen to see any snakes and gators along the route, with the flick of the wrist, God will send them packing.
When I went back to work almost two years ago, little did I know that at that very moment I was sitting in my first job interview, there was a virus circulating in China. One that would spread and engulf the entire globe by its presence. I never believed that by filling out a job application, I would end up having to maneuver around the suffocating evil that was airborne all around me. I just thought I was going back to work. As a person with a disability. As a person that constantly needed to watch out for my own protections in the workplace. Because no one can protect me at work but me.
Within these past two years, I’ve had many hard, and harsh, and cruel, and disappointing, and exciting, and thrilling decisions to make, or be made, for me since I began working once again.
I don’t talk about my disability or chronic pain in specifics. And I would never even dream about telling all the people I meet that I’ve met God before. And that He is by my side at this very moment. And He is the reason, and the only reason, that I punched in today, and that I punched out today… with every intention of coming right back tomorrow and doing the same thing all over again.
And I would never expect anyone else, including an employer, to understand any of this even if I did tell them. But I do have a very harsh resume gap. Being nearly 41 years old, and not working for a chunk of my adult life, there are bound to be questions. What in the heck have I been up to? Why do I want to work right now? Why should they hire me, without prior experience/s they may be needing from their employees?
I can’t answer any of that. And nor do I intend to.
I can Attend though.
And I can perform. And from here on out, my job, and my work, is my choice. I choose what I can and cannot do. I know my limits. And I know the line I will never cross, just to earn money.
And I’d like to think that today, unlike when I left the workplace many years ago now, it seems employers actually want their employees to grow, and succeed, with them. Maybe it’s now not - What can the employer get out of me? Before dumping me to the side of the road, to fend for myself?
I do believe that employers today understand that workers need to feel like human beings. With differences, and needs, and desires, and personal goals they want out of work. And we all may have different paths to take. And not meant to stay at the same place for 44 years of work life. That inevitably, we will move on. And our journey will change, and we may not be with them as long as they may want from us.
And that all of this is our choice, not theirs. We, the worker, guide the economy. And it’s not the other way around.
But unfortunately, as I said before, a virus started circulating the globe, as I filled out job applications.
It spread, like wildfire, all unknown to the world, as I sat in job interviews.
There was talk about some silly little respiratory illness, but thousands of miles away, of course, as I began work and my orientation.
I was then being trained by day, and by night, listening to the news of a lockdown in Wuhan. Still so far away and foreign to me. What was there to worry about here? Everything, in fact.
And as I began really working day by day, all of a sudden a toilet paper explosion happened. And by explosion I do mean explosion.
First, there was a mass run on toilet paper throughout the world.
And the world got weirder… and weirder.
But then the world of humans got even stranger… On the fifteenth day after the initial fifteen days to slow the spread, or, basically on the fifteenth day of the next thirty days to slow the spread, or otherwise known as April 15, 2020… a paper factory in Maine literally blew up.
The stuff of dystopian movies are made of is exactly what these past two years of work throughout covid has been for me.
I’ve had the best job of my entire life - during the pandemic. I’ve had the worst. In these two years I’ve worked more new roles than in all the past twenty combined.
I’ve trained, practiced, and studied. I’ve taken tests, and been certified, in this, and in that.
And as the seasonality of the coronavirus and its strange and new variants have come and gone in haste, so too have other duties as assigned and staff and employers and their needs. I’ve gone up and down an endless roller coaster of surge... and wane. Flowing to the East, and back to the West. Up and down. Thrown on up into the sky. And then all the air comes out, deflated, and back into the swampy, snake infested mud I go once again. It’s been the ride of a lifetime. And to add to the strangeness of working throughout covid… all the while when so many countless others have had the opportunity to stay home the entire time… literally makes all of it all the more surreal.
I get foggy eyed, real fast.
Rubbing my eyes to make sure I’m seeing straight. This whole experience being indeed confusing, and quite messy.
I constantly find myself brushing the dirt off my feet, and sanitizing the palms of my hands.
I’ve tripped over my own two legs.
And I’ve fallen flat on my back.
And then I get right back up, for another wild ride.
My hands have been dirty. They’ve been greasy. They’ve been cut, black and blue, and swollen and blistered. They’ve handled and touched and transported substances I’ve never imagined I would be holding ever in this life I have upon Earth.
Is any of this really happening?
Or is it all just an endless dream? Or nightmare? And I just can’t wake myself up?
I don’t expect understanding or comprehension of my past, because it’s too confusing to even comprehend or understand myself. But I do expect - of myself - understanding and comprehension of one miraculous concept.
I made the choice to go back to work at the beginning of 2020. I consider myself in a very odd and strange position to be in life.
The cloud of virus storm brewing on the coastal horizon. Heading our way in secret, calm waves, across oceans to the American shores. No place on Earth left untouched. Human Resources Departments changed - forever.
I’ve been working all throughout the pandemic... With a GD mask on. With orientations cut short. Gloves and PPE. Shortages of everything and anything you can think of. Last year - Not allowed to sit next to my coworkers during lunch. My job has changed. Roles. Duties. People. Policies.
Hugging someone crying - not allowed. And then, all of us deciding together to hug and embrace anyways, cause covid policy be damned, if someone just lost a loved one, they are going to receive a hug. And I don’t care what CDC ‘guidelines’ have to say about it.
I’ve worked part time, full time, and overtime. I’ve worked strange hours. And I really and especially worked on those infamous other duties as assigned. Because what the heck is covid, if not falling directly under that final bullet point on almost any job description?
As corona surges, my job changed.
As corona wanes, my job changes once again.
Up and down.
Blowing in the wind. I’m thrown all over the place.
Trying desperately to watch my six.
Working for small wages, then more wages, then the best wages I’ve ever earned in my life, then even less wages once again. Phenomenal perks. No perks. Good hours. Bad hours. And some God awful really, really sucky hours.
And forever reminding myself that my work is not my life.
My life is also not my work.
My life is only, and forever will be, my faith.
And it is that delicate line, between my very faith and the exchange of money for labor, which I must always stay true to.
I’ve worked many a strange role, to help myself find where I am suited best, in my new work life. And, even more important to working with disability - My line in the sand has been drawn. I know, firmly, what I can do and will do, and will NOT do, for my employers. And I never once guessed that when I made the decision to work again two years ago, that I would ever even come up against that line itself. I always thought that borderline was so far away, that I never would have to truly worry about brushing up against it. But the awful truth is that - The place I never thought I would have to go - the line I know I will never cross, staying true to my own new life, my convictions, and my very Faith. I'm actually hitting up against that line, Every. Single. Day.
I am tested. And I am trialed. I am pushed to the very limits of my human heart.
The roller coaster of emotion. And stress. And policy. And drama. Bureaucracy. And life changing experiences. Has anything really changed since I left the workplace years ago? It may very well be worse than it was well over a decade ago… I really don’t know.
And I have no idea where I’ll be thrown to next.
I’m literally just going with the flow at this point.
I never could have done all that I’ve done…
Without faith in God.
But most importantly, I never could have done it if God didn’t pick me up, my entire house, foundation included, and thrown me on up into the sky, allowing me to flow in the wind, whichever way He deemed we sail. All the while, bracing myself, upon my Foundation of Faith.~
~ Let Me Be Blunt ~
Sincerely ~ your fellow American,
~ On This Sad And Somber Evening Of Our Defeat ~
THIS is not a news cycle. This, is not going to be swept under the rug. And this, is not something that will be forgotten.
And while every day is the best day of my life - TODAY - I have permission to be sad. Very sad.
No man left behind. That’s the United States. But that imperative virtue has been forgotten.
We have fallen. We have fallen in virtue, and in valor. In our values and our beliefs. In our ideals and in our ideas. And we have fallen out with each other - over definitions.
As, laughably, we cannot even agree on the definition of war.
What defines a war?
A rose by any other name is still a rose, right? And a war by any other name is still a war, right?
Well, maybe not so.
And that’s because of politics. The politics of modern American life in 2021.
We just lost the war in Afghanistan. Whether you like it or not - whether you want to hear it or not - whether you want to believe it or not - We just LOST. And sadly, I don't think many people even realize that fact.
In complete and utter and total defeat.
We were chased out of the country.
And we left, running away, with our tails between our legs.
But in this era of our truth, and your truth - THE truth - has been tossed out the window, and clear over the borders of our manifest destiny.
So, right now, there are actual people who don’t even believe we were still at war, for twenty long years, and there are people who think this was a policy win - simply because Twitter told them so.
There will now be people who don’t even know, understand, or believe that there ever was a war. It will be washed away in their newsfeed - never to be seen, or heard from, or scrolled past, again.
But, whether Twitter informs the body politic, or not, I have just witnessed the single biggest foreign policy catastrophe in my entire life, and one of the worst in the entire history of America as a reigning superpower on the face of the planet. The stuff nightmares are made of. A decision and a loss so horrific, and a choice that will have severe and horrific immediate term consequences, as well as dangerous and grotesque repercussions for generations to come. THIS was nothing short of a complete and total dereliction of duty.
High crimes and - much, much more than - misdemeanors.
Impeachable offenses left and right.
Incompetence on every level - well not on every level. Our actual troops are competent in their service and not my target of analysis here in this column. It’s our so-called ‘leaders’ whose incompetence is reprehensible.
Who will resign?
Who will be fired?
Who will be court martialed?
Who will be tried for treason?
I didn’t think so.
So - Who are we? Who were we? Who are we going to be?
Are we an Empire? Or, are we a Republic?
Do our leaders rule over us without any assurances of accountability, checks, and balances? Rulers that do not even answer questions on the disaster of their own making? Or, are we still a Republic? Where our leaders are not leaders - but are our entrusted representatives - representative of us - and are held to account for each decision they make on our behalf? Because we can’t have it both ways. And we can’t not know the answer to that question either. And I believe the lack of a solid answer - to who we are - as a national identity, is a main part of the endless wars we find ourselves in.
Because the politics of war can so very easily lead to endless war.
It’s all so frightening and surreal, it might as well be a piece of fiction. We’re fully engrossed in the part of the story where the evil villian holds all the cards. All hope is lost. And despair is setting in, rapidly.
Flip the pages through a little golden book. Turn straight to the page where the evil villain is at their most powerful.
Remember when Sleeping Beauty was forced toward the spindle prick? All Aurora had to do was to touch the prick of a needle on the spinning wheel - and all her dreams would come true, right?
Maleficent's power over her forced her there, toward that needle. She was in a way - sleepwalking, really. She didn’t even know what she was doing when she touched the needle prick. She was brainwashed at the time? She was put under a spell. She was ‘tempted’ and could not resist the touch. All decisions actually being made by the evil villian.
The great and beautiful and Magnificent - Aurora. With lips as red as the red, red rose.
Controlled by the evil and disgusting and villainous - Maleficent.
But true love conquers all. And eventually, after great battles, and an evil and horrific war against our fire breathing dragon, good does reign once again, and evil is destroyed. Death by sword, and fallen over a cliff to her demise. All the forces of good, against all the forces of evil. What a film, right? What a story. What a book, bound in gold.
What we are being subjected to right now is the part of the story when evil takes over. All hope is near lost.
Despair is setting in.
Faith - lingering quietly - in the background. Hidden to us amongst the smoke and embers and wilting and dripping flowers.
Oh yeah, and by the way. Let’s not forget that we aren’t the only ones bearing witness to all this drama unfold on the big screen. We’ve got China, sitting out there in the cheap seats, eating buttery popcorn and drinking sugary soda, laughing all the way to the bank during this entire, long, action scene. Laughing. Because they already know the sequel.
Wake up - sleeping giant!!!
None of this is fiction, a book, or a film - it’s actually happening before our very eyes.
And, you see, none of this happened overnight. In fact, sixteen long years went by in Aurora's case. Twenty - in ours. Wth evil plotting and patiently waiting behind the scenes. Under cover. Manipulation. Patience.
But after all that time, and all that waiting, and hard work, and prevention, Sleeping Beauty still touched the needle prick. Within the time it takes to snap a finger. When the time came, it was as if the past many years of work and prevention were thrown out the window. It didn’t matter. None of it did. It was going to happen all along. And Maleficent knew it. She held the power. She held the keys. And she got exactly what she wanted. Because she simply had the patience - to wait.
To bide her time.
And to continue spinning her web while doing so.
She held on through the politics of the time. In fact, she manipulated the politics for sixteen years. And she rode it straight on into battle.
And all in an instant. In the closure, and departure, and desertion of Bagram. In the announcement of our departure. In just the slightest touch of a finger to a spinning wheel. Good was trapped by evil. And once that happens, there is no going back. There is only war to break free from such power. Evil must be destroyed to win. Evil must be killed.
And it is that delicate and sensitive spot we find ourselves in right now. The politics of war. The patience the Taliban had to wait us out. We are, quite sadly, on the opposite side we should be right now. Evil is triumphing over good.
So, sadly, we now find ourselves at a desperate crossroads.
It is time, my dear friends, to pray for our great and sacred nation.
Our president said we will not forgive.
Without forgiveness we are finished. We are not America anymore. I knew it was coming. As I’ve spoken about forgiveness many times before. But when our nation’s leaders speak directly to our evil enemy, and tells the world we will not forgive. We are not America anymore.
As America falls, the Devil rises. Yes, the devil himself has now entered the scene of our great and momentous battle. Hell hath no fury, like that of a 140 character tweet. Or press conference.
And so we find ourselves discombobulated. Confused. Demoralized. Defeated. And begging our enemy for safe passage. WHAT?! Beg?! America does not BEG!
And clearly the begging did not work. And it will not work. As surely as our flag stands at half-staff today, our loss here is so very, very real.
And as sure as day turns to night - we really did leave our fellow man behind. We said we will hunt them down. At the same time we asked for their help in our exit. At the exact same time telling that very same enemy we will not ever forgive them. So many sacred vows. So much allegiance. All shattered.
Virtually, and literally, overnight.
The prick of a needle.
The last troop boarding a C 17 transport plane.
We are defeated.
Celebratory gunshots reign towards the Heavens... by the Taliban.
But we are still in an endless war. Because nothing is really over here. It’s only just beginning - once yet again.
Our endless war is directly tied to the politics of war. It’s all cyclical. And it’s all repeatable. Like a hamster spinning on a wheel producing great force of spin - but getting nowhere at the same time. Over and over and over again. Because the hamster's wheel doesn’t have an end point. He may think he’s running for the exit. Some sharp point or clear destination. Or that he will eventually get somewhere - anywhere - at some point, in an unknown future. But he never does. It’s maddening to watch the hamster be so utterly humiliated. But at the same time, the hamster has absolutely zero idea he is being humiliated in his repetitious actions.
After twenty years of spin, it’s simply and utterly maddening!
Throughout nearly my entire life - We have been in some sort of war. The Cold War. The Gulf War. All the ‘smaller’ wars and battles, that have all since been forgotten. And now, the long and endless War on Terror.
Ohhh, this war is so very long and drawn out that it has had to go through name changes quite a few times over the years. Maybe it was simply a marketing major, who, in the gig of a lifetime, was able to market and sell the idea and ideals of this endless war to a nearly handful of U.S. presidents. With great success might I add. As, in fact, the marketing changed as fast as the political winds changed.
So as the war itself changed... As the times changed... So did the war - and the very definition of war. But it’s still the same war. It’s still of course the initial War on Terror.
We went to war twenty years ago to stop terrorism from landing on our shores again. We went into Afghanistan, attempting to defeat our enemy, who harbored our evil villain inside Maleficent's castle - and then we stayed, and stayed, and stayed. And then we went into Iraq, to defeat another enemy, and there we stayed, and stayed. We stayed - until people forgot we were even still there. And most importantly, we stayed well beyond the time most people forgot WHY we were there to begin with. And thus, bringing us back to the definition of things once again. And marketing. And the politics of war. When we cannot even define our reasoning behind certain actions - we are doomed. And that’s exactly what happened here. And exactly why we just lost it all.
Twenty years ago, as planes flying in the sky helped change the world. Twenty years later, planes helped change the world once again.
Because naturally, history is doomed to be repeated?
Yes, we have been at war in Afghanistan nearly my entire adult life. I am blown away by this fact, even though I’ve known it all along. In that time we have seen bombings, raids, deaths, alliances, enemies. Beatings, kidnappings, ransoms, and beheadings. Leaders come, and leaders go. Resignations, and new leadership. Elections, and new leadership. Schools built. Hospitals established. Bagram Air Base.
Declines in violence. And with that decline - a decrease in troop levels.
Bloodshed. And with that - troop surges.
And politics. Lots and lots of politics.
The politics of war.
And sadness. Utter and complete sadness.
The heartbreaking imagery regarding the current catastrophe playing out in Afghanistan is nearly too much to handle. It is a gut punch. It is a tragedy on every level. It is shocking. But also, not shocking at all.
Almost anyone with a brain inside their head who knew, or even had an inkling, and understood how ISIS and the Taliban and terrorists and religious extremists operate, could predict such a scenario would happen upon our exit from the region.
And actually, I am reminded, by myself, that when the second plane hit the second tower - signifying that fateful day what this all actually was, in real time, defining the act of terror we were witnessing unfold, the very next thought that floated inside of my brain were the words: Osama Bin Laden.
And now - an anniversary twenty years in the making.
A political deadline, of getting out by the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, dreamed up by Al Qaeda, means we already lost. The moment we created that fictitious deadline. As fictional as our fantasy land and storybooks bound with gold. We have given our enemies all that they needed to win the war. They patiently waited twenty years for us to leave, and we did just that. Because wars aren’t won on deadline. Wars are lost on deadline. Wars are not won with end dates. Wars are lost with end dates. Wars are not won by simply making the enemy wait until we leave. Wars are lost while our enemy sits there - patiently - twiddling their thumbs, as we argue and yell and scream and protest and riot and vandalize, all amongst ourselves mind you, over choice in wording and definitions, as we make our slow exit out. Hoping they just won’t even notice that we’ve just cut and run.
Wars are only ended by the destruction of our enemy.
And wars are certainly not won by giving our enemy the keys to the kingdom.
And that’s just what we just did.
We exited the scene of the crime.
We flew away.
And left the keys to Bagram right under the doormat.
We Lost. Period.
We also left behind, completely irresponsibly and incompetently, billions of dollars worth of military technology and weaponry. And thousands of innocent lives. All of which - will certainly be used against us in the future.
And in a great and deep mystery of life, that may forever haunt brains and cause some to question their fellow man - For a people so disgusted with guns and what they stand for, the hypocrisy here, is laughable. Our enemy now has more guns and ammunition - of ours - that we built and paid for, in their very bloody hands, right freaking now. More guns and ammo than this group of people can even comprehend. Is there any wonder why another group of people is fighting for their rights as Americans to keep and bear arms against all enemies - foreign and domestic.
None of this disgust here is to discount the heroism of the thousands of U.S. military forces who fought and sacrificed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Troops and veterans who risked their lives and the many who lost their lives this entire war, and the thirteen who perished just now in ISIS’s latest attack at the Kabul Airport. The focus of my disgust here is about the politics of this war - the politics playing out behind the scenes. The politics we will never, ever hear about. The politics, so secret, so truly evil, and treasonous, it will most certainly never see the light of day. We may never know the full story, during our lifetimes, as to how this decision to close, excuse me - abandon - Bagram, and, in turn, to allow the worst prisoners on planet Earth to walk free, and cut and run from the global War on Terror, came about.
And if I’m being just a tad pessimistic here, please know that it is indeed intentional.
After twenty years of war, it’s only natural to become pessimistic about our chances, about our standing in the world, and our lasting legacy as well. It’s only natural to think negatively. It’s only natural to feel we have no chance to recover from this. To see this defeat for exactly what it really is. The utter disgust over the fact that we lost the peace - is heartbreaking. WE. We did this. WE let this happen.
And I argue, that is for one reason, and one reason only.
Because, you see, I believe America - is no longer - America. I believe American freedom and ideals of our Republic have been destroyed within these actions. The ones taking place outside of public view, and the actions behind the scenes in the imaginary boardroom I will never lie eyes upon. America is gone. And Big Brother is in control. Politics won. The bureaucracy won. And what makes this all even sadder is the fact that it did not have to be this way.
The thing is, you see, we did have a chance. We did stand a chance. We did have a path forward. And we did have a possibility of winning… because we WERE winning. We were winning all the way up until we announced our departure. The announcement of our departure is the trigger. The abandonment of Bagram is the needle prick. So simple. And oh so very innocent, right? The thirteen dead Marines are the drop of blood spilled. And just like that - we have submitted to the enemy - and we are under their control. They hold thy very keys to the kingdom now.
It really was all that quick, and all that simple. And that’s simply because after twenty long years of war, our enemy never lost hope. Our enemy never became pessimistic about their chances. Our enemy simply waited patiently, on baited breath. To hear of our departure. And waved and laughed their wicked goodbyes at us as we left in defeat.
As we became more and more enraged with one another, our enemy grew closer and stronger… feeding off our rage.
Our enemy remained steadfast and true to the core of their beliefs. All our enemy had to do was merely wait us out. Knowing we would leave. Knowing we would eventually cut and run. Because our enemy knows our politics better than we know ourselves.
I, of course, don’t have any answers here. Only my thoughts, and ponderings, and more questions than ever answers. I have no idea if it simply was not time to leave just yet, or if we more than overstayed our welcome? Were we keeping the peace there? We were holding down the fort, yes? We were the guardians of the kingdom? I do know we had so very many relying upon us. And we ultimately betrayed thousands who were left defenseless as we broke tear-inducing promises and made one nonsensical decision after the next. Falling like a house of cards, in one breath.
Twenty years of sacrifice down the drain. Twenty years of hard work, sweat, blood, tears, loss, sacrifice. Trauma. Suffering. Depression. Grief. Prayers. Mourning. And twenty years of helping build a democracy. A new republic. All vanished. Into a silent and isolated new world.
An isolated new world, with a radically extreme leadership, proudly bearing ownership of their own Twitter account. They? Are allowed a Twitter account? A terrorist organization. But some American citizens are not? Is there any real wonder why we lost - still? Ahhhhh…. the irony here on full display for the world to see. But the world does not see and the world cannot see. Because what they need to see is censored on that same pathetic platform.
Oh, how poetically ironic it all is...
So now come the bombings, the beatings, and the beheadings once again. Only now, unlike twenty years ago, they can be quite easily censored. With the key stroke of an algorithm - We won’t see it all. And especially not on the front page of the newspapers printed on paper. Oh - So unlike twenty years ago. May God help us all.
The terrorists have won.
There’s a reason we don’t negotiate with terrorists. Because as soon as you negotiate with a terrorist, the terrorist immediately wins. A conversation with a terrorist is a victory for a terrorist. Period.
I think an optimist could envision us leaving Afghanistan in peace. But, that’s literally just a thought. I think what really happened here is that a political operative sold a story to a leader... of backdrops with victory emblazoned in the background. And a political fool took the bait. And we switched from our winning stance over there these past years, to being the bait and hooked onto the line. We’re either a fish too stupid to know there’s a sharp hook hidden within the bait, or a beautiful and great Princess with red rosey lips, simply under the spell of evil temptation - Politics.
Way back in the day, when I was a political science major in college, I remember all too well being taught the phrase - All Politics Is Local. Well, maybe the sad and real truth is that: All War is Deception (?)
Maybe nothing good actually comes of politics? Because politics breeds bureaucracy, and bureaucracy breeds endless war. ‘1984’ - in real life.
As the date of September 11th in the year 2021 grows closer - the politics of war lined up each day in the queue. As twenty long years went by. Imagery and statistics and dates and anniversaries were all aligned to be celebrated. And just as the fish cannot resist the temptation of the worm and takes a bite, the politics of war was too tempting for the leaders of our free world to resist.
So now we bear a huge responsibility. In our defeat. To all the lives upended in our departure. To all the Afghans we left behind. All the American’s left to be killed. All of our allies that we quite beautifully betrayed.
Because just as terrorists changed our lives twenty years ago. We have now, in our ultimate betrayal, to ourselves, changed the course of our own lives. And of countless Afghans and the American’s and allies left in the dust of our tires skidding as we sped on out of town.
No one knows what the future will bring. No one could possibly know.
But I know one thing. There is some political operative, trying, right now, sitting in a back room, somewhere hidden from view of the world, seated around a conference table, selling their idea of the next great war… to yet another great political ‘leader’ - Selling the idea of the poetically beautiful politics of said war.
And as history does repeat itself, the political leader will take the bait.
And bombs will burst.
And troops will be deployed.
And each day as we arise, we will witness headlines about surges, and about casualties. As more heroic Americans perish in our name.
And yellow ribbons will be tied ‘round the old oak tree.
And war bonds will be sold - merely under a different, and more modern name - infrastructure. And the money will be printed. And political deals will be penned. And people will get very, very rich. And drunk on their new found power.
And China will make its next move. This time - a big one.
And it will all be too late to turn back. Because once the fish is on the line - he is indeed trapped. Until he is eaten, that is.
What beliefs will be passionately put on display to sell such an idea?
Maybe it will be the planes.
The air planes that changed the world.
Maybe these planes will be the marketing strategy. The strategy we will never set eyes upon ourselves. The political operative will of course burn and censor the strategery behind it all after they make their case to our dear leaders.
But maybe it will all be sold on the planes.
Because twenty years ago, planes flying through the sky changed the world in a flash.
And twenty years later, planes did the exact same thing.
Twenty years ago, our very own planes were the literal weapon. Twenty years later, our literal planes were literally the only way out.
Twenty years ago, people fell from the sky to their death. Some, falling and perishing to their death, not by their choice. And sadly, some, choosing that death of the fall, over burning up in the fire of hell breathing flames throughout the towers.
Twenty years later, still, the sight of more falling to their deaths. As some clung to the side of a C 17 transport plane out of mere desperation to escape the fiery hell that awaited them under Taliban rule.
They chose death by falling to Earth… due to an American plane… once again. In a different way, a rhyme of history, not a repeat. That they'd choose this death over the death of the fiery hell awaiting them by the hands of this newly empowered radical regime.
Yes - Maybe history doesn’t really repeat itself. Maybe Mark Twain got it right after all. That while history doesn’t repeat itself - it so very often rhymes? The poetic irony of our ultimate defeat.
Planes used to start a war.
Planes used to end a war.
Afghans clinging to planes, begging for help that was not coming.
Planes used for a terrorist victory. Planes used for an American loss.
The Taliban all the while shooting victory bullets into the sky, as we flew the last of our birds away. And lifted off from their newly decreed soil. Their very own manifest destiny. Realized before our very eyes.
But destinies realized or not, my dear friends, global war is coming. As sure as day does turn to night. As certain as the very naked and disgusting truth that we left our fellow Americans behind. As certain as that - war is brewing.
How will our planes once again factor into the next war? None of us know that right now. But that one person does.
The one political operative selling the politics of that next disingenuous, and very tempting, war.
The one who just graduated, with that fancy marketing degree - and a minor in speech comm, just for cookies and giggles.
That person knows. They know it all.
They may even be meeting in Room 101, right about now, face to face with the first person who went against them and their almighty vision of our great and noble future.
And whoever they are selling their story to, I know only one thing. The clouds of war are forming. Just as swiftly as the politics of war set the forecast.
So while today still really is the best day of my life - today I also mourn. Today I pray to our Almighty God. Today I weep. For America. And her defeat.
And as evening comes, I pray for our future as a nation. As we crumble and fall apart at our very own feet. As we have, in real life, succumbed to self-destruction. As we are no longer that last great hope on Earth. And as we bow directly to the face of evil. In our very submission - to their destiny realized. And as we touch the needle, and prick a single drop of blood from our finger. And as we fall under a great and powerful, destructive and evil spell. I do pray this very night.~
~~ God Bless America, and God Bless Our Troops. - I never forgot, even though most of the world did. ~~
~ Celebrating Four Whopping Years Out Of Rehab ~
Today I’m celebrating four years of life.
I may be 40 years old, but these last four years are what today is all about.
May 11th is the anniversary of my discharge from Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Center - located in Jacksonville, Florida. Today... marking four years out. Four times three hundred and sixty five whopping days. Each and every single day being counted and tallied. All adding up to - four years strong - and four years of absolutely killing it at life.
You don’t get to that numerical tally by simply blinking and repeating. Or taking a breath in, and a breath out, over and over again. But then again… you actually, and really, do.
I would not be the happy, content, at-peace-with-the-world, and God loving person that I am right now and today, if it wasn’t for Mayo, and my time spent there. Because while God saved my life, Mayo Clinic helped give me the momentum to keep going after that.
And I’ve rambled on about Mayo in the past quite a few times, so you can go ahead and check all of that out below, if you’re interested in learning more about my experiences at the Clinic:
Christine’s Floridian Dreams: ABOUT
#34) Merry Christmas ~ And How To Buy For That Person On Your List Who Saved Your Life ~
#65) The Sea Life ~ Happy Easter
The above articles delve a little bit deeper on how I came to be a patient at Mayo Clinic, my experiences traveling from Chicago, Illinois up to Rochester, Minnesota for treatment, and all the way to my new and fabulous life in Jacksonville, Florida. Plus, why my long and challenging month at Pain Rehab changed my life, and continues to change me - to this day.
So today, I wanted to pull your attention to what I view and believe, very strongly, are the tools and virtues necessary for living a fruitful and rewarding life with chronic pain. Because, four years later, it’s not just a snap of the fingers and life is amazing - it requires work - constant work - every single day. And one needs tools in order to do this work. So - here are the most vital tools I deem imperative toward continued success and maintenance after leaving rehab:
[ Plan ]
I plan. And I plan for everything. I plan my day. I plan my week. I plan my next two weeks out, and I strategically and creatively title that plan - “My Two Week Plan.” I plan the month. I plan the year. And, most importantly, I also plan for all these things to NOT go according to this plan.
But, at the same time I do all of this plotting and planning and scheming and theorizing... I simply live for today. (And, if that sentence makes any sense to you, please let me know.)
[ Purpose ]
I live. And I live now. I don’t wait to live. And I don’t count on tomorrow (even though I plan for it).
I wear my favorite clothes today (and I don’t save them for a better outing). I burn my favorite candles (and I don’t save them for only when guests come over). I sign up for the class I’ve been aching to take. I paint on all my canvases. I purchase tickets to my favorite play. I buy my coffee on the outside (as Jerry Seinfeld once said). I go to museums. I try all the newest restaurants. I create every single day - and not merely when I have time. I read all the books - of all kinds. I travel. I explore. I look up at the sky - and not down at my phone. I drive with the windows down. And I say hello to strangers, all the time. I know exactly why I am here and exactly what I am supposed to do. And I do it. Now. And I don’t save any of it for the unknown future.
Ahhhh, the unknown future. The future on a distant horizon we cannot possibly yet imagine. That brings me straight on up to my next tool.
[ Perseverance ]
There’s a reason the Mars Rover of 2020 was named Perseverance. My goodness! Can you even imagine the amazing journey that darn little robotic thing went on to get where it is right now?
Mars!... Freaking Mars! Do you really even realize how far away Mars really is from us here on Earth? Enough ‘really’s’ already. Without perseverance, there would literally, and really, be zero evidence of humanity on Mars. Or should I say - evidence of Earthlings on Mars. And that’s because the road to Mars is not paved and narrow. There is no defined route to arriving on the Red Planet. We’re making this all up as we go. It’s all foreign territory. And it’s scary. But thrilling. This - this feat - never accomplished before - landing humans on Mars. Who on God's green Earth knows when this will happen? It could take a number of years - a tally of days - a number and amount of time beyond our comprehension right now. And - It will take determination. It will take struggle, and challenges we possibly cannot yet even imagine.. It will take sacrifice. It will take discipline. And it most certainly will take - perseverance.
To persevere, means to struggle. To persevere, means to keep going. To persevere, means to face adversity, challenge, pain, hardship, and loss... and to keep going away. To persevere means you know how far away the future is, and to continue onward anway. To persevere, means it’s ok to fail. To persevere, simply means to get back up and try again.
So, while I plan for the future... And I live life for today… And if at first I don’t succeed, I try, try, again. This fact brings me to my final bullet point of today’s discussion - Patience.
Yes, I live in the moment, while at the same time... I have to have the patience of a freaking saint.
[ Patience ]
The single most important factor to making it through one thousand four hundred and sixty days of life outside of rehab. Without patience, I wouldn’t be writing this today. Without patience, I would not be celebrating four years strong. Without patience, I would have zero creativity. Without patience, I would be suffering. I’d be pacing, and agonizing, and wondering when in the freaking heck is all of this pain ever really going to go away?... Really.
Without patience, I would not be alive.
There’s a real and solid reason why there is a saying on this Earth that goes a little something like this:
Patience Is A Virtue.
That’s because it really and truly is.
Patience is NOT the most popular kid in school. People tend to not like Patience. And actually, people tend to despise Patience. Patience is continuously, and unrelentlessly, teased and taunted and bullied. And sadly, Patience gets tortured every single gosh darn day, somewhere on this planet.
Yes, Patience is really hard to live with.
But Patience is Required for Success.
So if you really want to succeed at whatever your goal is, I’d say to simply suck it up, buttercup... And to welcome some good, old-fashioned Patience into your new and modern life. Become friends with Patience. Actually, I'd even go so far as to say to make Patience your very best friend in life... Yeah, Patience is really that important.
So while everyone else is beating up Patience in the back alley around the corner from the school yard… YOU - you there, you go ahead and save Patience from that beating. Drag Patience out of the alleyway. And usher Patience straight on into the nurse's office for a solid checkup and mending and a bag of ice to go home with.
Then, take Patience home with you. Serve Patience a plate of cookies and milk - almond milk - not cows milk. And ask your mother if Patience can sleep over. Watch your favorite movie with Patience. And then, go ahead and watch a film that Patience likes, that you happen to utterly and totally despise. But suck it up and have some darn patience already. Humor Patience, and watch the movie anyway. You’ll be best friends in no time. Gosh, and at that exact point - Patience will really and truly love you back, too.
If you can learn the value of patience, you can learn the secret to life. If you can learn the virtue of patience, you will be exactly where you are meant to be. If you can simply have patience, there is nothing that you cannot do in this world.
But gosh, golly, oh jeaz - there is most definitely a secret to being patient - and that is this. if you can accept patience, you can accept your pain. Your struggles, your misfortunes. Your annoyances. Your anger, temper, and all your irritations. Your mind - arguing with itself. Your heading - spinning. Your every breath you take. You can then handle the deck of cards you’ve been dealt. You will learn from this adversity. And that experience will build momentum, and carry you forward, through time. Yes, if you can accept and welcome patience into your life, you’ll be killing it at life too. Because, without patience, you’ll really never know or even possibly imagine where you will be... four years from now.~
*Editorial Note & Disclaimer:
All views, opinions, and statements herein are my own. I am not a doctor. I am not trying to save you, and I cannot make your pain go away. I am merely detailing to you my own personal opinions and experiences with the Mayo Clinic as a patient. Each person is unique, and what works for one, will not work for all. I share my story in hopes it will reach someone who may need to hear or see just these exact words at this exact time to push them to get the help they need… right freaking now. Because - sometimes saving yourself, is allowing others to help you save you. If you are in chronic pain, struggling, or severely depressed, I would highly recommend calling the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida to explore treatment options. Their phone number is 904.953.2000.
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