A year as a civi

Its not my ETS (end of time in service) anniversary. Its just a year since I really committed to figuring this life out and letting all the war stuff find a back burner. I have been walking down this path, some times stumbling, sometimes sprinting, sometimes low crawling through the mud, but now I keep walking. Its gotten easier, things have smoothed over or scabbed. I have found limitations in some areas and blown through other issues. The thing I find the most poignant and important through this journey is that everything changed when I changed my internal environment.

I am a hostile kind of guy. It was aimed at anyone and anything that got in my way, ground my gears, any process that ticked me off, I used the words hate, furious, and kill A LOT. Going from hostile to peaceful, I don’t think was really an option for me. So my only choice was to change the targets and to change how my internal environment worked.

When I was doing the whole competitive martial arts thing we did a lot of visualization. Visualize the knock out, visualize the soft target openings in the opponent, visualize the win. One of the other things we did was when we got nervous before a match we would visualize the calm spot. Green soft grass, blue sky, blowing wind rustling it, and lots of big trees, this is where my mind ran to.

Then in Iraq it changed, I didn’t visualize knock outs, I visualized a kill, visualized actions on contact, the place I went to, to get myself focused was visualizing my squad dead because of my actions. I developed this burning hell kind of place in my brain and I honed it to a perfect hell over 15 months as a way of ensuring my maximum performance. I took this same smoldering hades visualization home with me, to 610 rush hour traffic (its own version of hell) and then a beast was born. My blood boiled, I raged, I cussed every person out from behind the wheel. In school I thought about breaking the kids neck in the front row that wouldn’t stop answering questions. I thought about active shooters on campus and how I would take them out with my pocket knife! I was a freaking ticking time bomb of rage. The kid with the guitar on the quad, my buddy and I once joked about killing him with the e-string the same way you would tell a toddler a knock-knock joke. The stress chemicals running through my body were bad enough for me, I was half-marathoner and tri-athlete and still had high blood pressure not because I was out of shape but because I was so pissed off all the time. Then I remembered my green grass and swaying breeze.

I start to extinguish my mental hell about this time, last year. I realized I was fighting myself, keeping myself from being happy. I hated being out of the army, I had lost my purpose and my brothers. I was carrying around all those inglorious invisible scars and drowning it all with some beer and Jack. So I stopped fighting the tide I just took a deep breathe and went with it (not to mention Allison’s hand on the back of my head pushing it under water, lol). I limited being angry at people and instead focused all the rage on books and school work. I used the calming visualizations to keep me centered. I thought of graduating, being successful, working in an ER. I thought about helping others, I visualized what would be the best I could do as a civilian. So it emerged, be a good husband, good friend, solid student and eventually use what I learned to serve others. I want to be in an ER and I want to do Urban Search and Rescue. I wanted to pull the other vets, through the gap, that miserable burning hell I had just washed up in and had to make a dead sprint past the devil to make it home. I wanted to do all these things and to do that, hell had to freeze over.

I am plugging along on my little journey here. I am in nursing school, gonna be in an ER inside a year. I will be done with my reserve time shortly after I graduate and then I will apply for the SAR stuff. I work with veterans and they help me too with the Lone Star Veterans and when I was working with the guys at UH, I am now trying to set something up for veterans at UT Health in Houston.

So moral is: I don’t care if you have been out for 40 years or if you got out yesterday or if you never served at all. Change your outlook, changedanbaumbach.wordpress.com the internal environment and monologue. Get rid of the “have tos”, and “shoulds” and go with the “I want tos” and  “I ams”. Find your centering visualization and draw the resolve from there. Kill the mountain one rock at a time. I took the hell fire that was consuming me and used it to power my heart and will. Please, learn how to do the same. Not to shabby for only a year removed but then again, I have always been an overachiever lol


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