The Red Line


Six plus months is a long time.  When your at home, 6 months goes by day by day in a way that is measured and marked by daily life routines and experiences….commutes that take 2 hours, weekly/monthly/quarterly meetings at work, the building and ebbing piles of mail at home, planning a comfort food dinner, going to church and all the volunteer work….it’s ticks by with little notice.  Your iCalendar reminds you it’s time to give Jack his heart worm med, or your dental cleaning appointment is coming up, and you say to yourself “really, has it been that long?”  There are anticipatory events like holidays, a concert, Liam coming home from school and then going back again, a snow storm, a birthday….these all fill your days and weeks in a manner where the passage of time is measured and somewhat predictable and, in a way, comforting.

And change happens through that measured “time lapse”. People get married, friends move away, babies are born, folks change jobs and new people are in your office, someone you know and care about loses a loved one, the Patriots lose the play-offs…and you share these changes in that measured pace.  You feel, you notice, you celebrate and you grieve the changes.  You experience them within your world and your support network and, although sometimes they may have occurred suddenly, you navigate that change in measured time and with support.

Out here, its another universe.  This is Interstellar.  (For those who have not seen the movie, it’s about group of explorers that must travel beyond our solar system in search of a planet.  Their travel has them going through “worm holes” and landing on planets and all the while, time for them is completely warped from home on earth.) …… Here I am, away in this world where, as I’ve tried to explain before, has it’s own time altering experience.  I’ve been so focused on “the here and now”, really a very important coping skill for a deployer, that taking in the changes at home have been like looking out the window in a fast moving subway…flashing glimpses of things that are happening.  It reminds me of an advertisement on the Red Line leading into Boston.  The advertiser put up posters and the flashing imagines became a moving message over a stretch in the tunnel.

This week, I just realized I’ve been riding the Red Line and, snap, I see the advertisement…that story line behind those flashing images…realizing that the message, the story line, is my life…it’s my world at home in those flashing images. They are my family, my friends, my experiences I would have shared if I were there.  And those images and those changes…they are real.

So back to Interstellar, that’s where I am…in that alternate dimension of time, looking back on my life, my world (that world that grounds me), and I’m watching it change with a feeling of being unable to have influence, or impact.  Why now?  Why is it that my train ride through this tunnel is showing an advertisement of my life…now?

It is likely because on Friday Liam started off on an awesome adventure to New Zealand for a semester abroad. He has been wonderful, sending text messages and providing updates along his many flights to Christchurch.  And I wasn’t there.  Instead, I’m looking in from my deployment-world and hearing about how Mac helped him get prepared and packed, likely shared last meals.  He took Liam shopping for a good duffle a week or so back and they likely shared more “last time for this/last time to do that;” it makes the starting point of his adventure.  So Friday, Mac got him off at the airport…in a rush to get him there…and our “baby bird” really left the nest.  Mac goes home by himself, without me.  I missed and imagine the experience we would have had together…that feeling you have as a parent when your kid makes a wonderful leap into life.  I’m just looking and seeing the jerky images flashing by in my life…out here.

I’m looking in….and feeling the loss of a very dear friend moving on, not being able to say good-bye in person or give him a hug and tell him face-to-face that I so cherish that our paths have crossed and will stay “soul-friends.”  He won’t be there when I get home.

I’m looking in….at my Church community, that I care for and that cares for me, go through changes and struggles and victories and good work and the departure of members…a changing fabric to a community that, if I were there, I would experience in the fullness of that journey.

From here, it’s the flashing images of my life’s changes without the experience of living it.  From here, I’m watching the Red Line advertisement from another place, and suddenly, it just really hit me that that is my life going by in the flashing imagines…and it will be until I come home.

In Interstellar, the main character, Cooper, looks in and watches from another time dimension.  You cry with him and feel the emotional wave of having no influence to change the events he is seeing.  No worries all, that’s what I say in my head as well.  What I’m experiencing now are emotions that I need to.  It’s easy to “check out” and push it all off….we have a mission to do and I have many people counting on me in the “big picture” as well as the person-to-person level as a leader…as a mentor.  The parallel to Cooper though holds….I know I will have much to adjust to when I get home. And it’s OK to feel the way I feel…and sharing it connects me to my life.



My Walk through Lives and Worlds

IMG_2149Every morning on my way the the Dining Hall, and many other times during the day, I walk through The Camel Campus.   The Camel is our open air common area that has a large open air pavilion and several smaller sunshade canopies. The campus is filled with tables and chairs, the large pavilion has a stage where we host concerts and all sorts of programs and events. This time of year it is lovely outside. The mornings are cool and a bit damp, days warm with a breeze…not hot at all, and evenings are pleasantly cool.  Even in the hotter earlier months of my deployment, people are out at The Camel.  (It’s actually cool enough under the pavilion and sunshade because there are these  “Big Ass Fans”….that is exactly what they are called….40 ft diameter ceiling fans that really do cool things down.)

The Camel is the place where folks cluster in groups chatting…night shift workers having a beer at 7am before heading off to bed.  Lunch time groups of people are sharing a meal and evenings are filled with board and card games and many out socializing over a few beverages (a maximum of 3 only though!).  It’s where you go…to be together or to be alone….or to be somewhere else.

Walking through the Camel Campus is like walking through many lives and worlds.  People are on the phone doing FaceTime Audio or video or Skype talking to loved ones and friends.  In a two minute stroller, I hear parents talking with kids about homework or how “mommy ran the 5K today”…spouses talking about bank accounts and explaining a charge on their credit card…someone negotiating their new lawn contract and another saying the cost to repair the car is too much.  And you always catch someone sharing how many days they have left here and what they want to do when they get home.  All of these lives…independently connecting back to the world outside of where we are deployed.  Friendships maintained, relationships strained and strengthen…all connected by Wi-Fi but none connected with each other, at least not in that moment, or minute, or 1/2 hour.

And then they hang up, or close their iPad or laptop.  You always see that “pause.”  That delay that helps you reflect on the moment and person you just left.  That pregnant moment when you realize that you’re still here, that you can share and exchange information and words and love, but not the experience of being here.

I cherish my walk through The Camel and I always feel that wonder and amazement of how a short stroll takes me through so many lives and worlds of so many people.