~ “ You Are Here.” The Wailin’ Jennys
It has threatened to “be one of those weeks.” Between the continual news cycle about heightened violence throughout the country, particularly between US personnel and our Afghan partners, and the general feeling that most of us have been here long enough, it would be very easy to surrender to irascibility, one of my new words of late. Some of our fellow units are preparing to go home in the coming weeks and a handful have already boarded buses for the short trip to the Bagram airfield terminal, catching their C-17 flights back to the “real world.” Those left behind for a few more months find it hard not to be in foul moods.
We are all ready to be somewhere else, anywhere but here. We have had enough of the barely edible food, sketchy air quality reports, sirens, threat streams, and all the other aspects of deployment. Yet, I can’t help but feel that because we are here now, and this is where our life is taking place, wishing that we were elsewhere is a significant waste—of opportunity, of time, and of a piece of life which is taking place whether we like it or not. Even if our days are numbered, part of what we are called to is living well in these final moments, being fully present so that not even a breath of life passes us by without some sense of gratitude, some deeper acknowledgement of the manna we have discovered in this wilderness season.
Throughout the week, I have been my own worst enemy. I vacillate between counting squares on the calendar and subtracting numbers from all the various deployment countdowns that are simultaneously diminishing but then also wanting to stop the clock for just a moment and take stock of what this place has meant to me and those others who I have come to know and love over these months. In my moments of angst, I have been quick to snap out of annoyance or allow the drudgery to eat away at my joy. But, thankfully, there have been other moments which have reminded me of just what I have left to celebrate, even as the scenery rapidly changes around me.
As I fend off a growing sense of despair over friends’ departure and one kind of closeness lost, I have remembered in glimpses that much remains here to be learned and embraced. Just yesterday, I helped teach a young Afghan girl who is in Bagram’s literacy program, Cat in the Hat, how to add and subtract. She actually had the adding down pretty well, but needed my fingers for successful subtraction. As I knelt and held my fingers up, again and again, even employing another soldier to help by donating her fingers, too, I had an overwhelming sense of just how fortunate I am to be here, right here, knowing that the good life is only as far away as we make it out to be.
In this place where many days are trying and some people, mostly out of neglect or laziness, contribute to our collective frustration, there is still so much more to celebrate. Sometimes I feel like my main purpose is trying to remind those who cross my path that this always true, even when things get tough. Often, as I set out to remind others, I realize that more than anyone else, I am in need of remembering this myself.