I had a wonderfully weird dream last night a la Stephenie Meyer--this dream could be one of my next book projects--I'll keep you posted!
Speaking of dreams, what's yours? I'd love to hear about your hopes, future goals--even those things you might think others will perceive as "silly" or "frivolous"--let me know!
I was at the gym today (ugh) and one reader told me he felt the general theme to many of my blog entries is about perseverence--messages of hope and inspiration. It was a lovely compliment. This gentleman has a grandson heading to Afghanistan, a Marine; he's already served one tour in Iraq. I knew this young man--he's maybe a year older than my son--both played on the same baseball team. We used to call him "Pitbull" because this kid was as tough as nails. He was the catcher--asked to be in that position every game. In case you've never played the game, the catcher crouches behind the hitters each inning. It's uncomfortable, and even more so with all the padding required--especially on a hot summery day. Being catcher is also very dangerous. Many of the pitches to the hitter end up popping up and back or are missed completely. The catcher is there to "catch" the ball in those instances, but we're not talking about Major League Baseball here--these were just a group of talented kids hoping to become the next Cal Ripken, Jr. (the most popular player of the day at that time...). So "Pitbull" took his share of hits, and then some. We were ALWAYS amazed at how this young man would barely seem fazed by taking a ball to the head or face or chest--sure, he had on a helmet and padding--but it still had to hurt like hell! Pitbull would just get up, dust himself off, and get back into his crouch like nothing happened.
When I learned that Pitbull had joined the Marines after high school, and right in the midst of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, I was worried. I was more than worried, I was down-right scared. The best we can hope for with all of those who sacrifice to be of service to the country is that they come back alive, hopefully without any physical injury. But what about the mental anguish of having to live in a war zone for twelve to fifteen months? I think the majority of us don't think about it at all. We're safe and happy--able to eat in a restaurant without fear, able to take public transportation without worrying the next passenger could have a bomb strapped to their chest--there are no road-side bombings here either. In fact, terrorist attacks on US soil are SO few and far between, that when we DID suffer an attack in September 2001, we went to war.
Men and women like Pitbull, and like so many of my beloved student family who are now serving in areas like Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, and all over the world, are truly heroes. Much of my work focuses on superheroes (both living and undead) in popular culture. And everyone, across the globe, LOVES to read about the hero. The hero is even an archetype in our collective unconscious (see Carl Jung's work--more in a future entry). We crave the hero narrative, whether in a comic book, novel, or on screen. Isn't it interesting, then, that when faced with REAL heroes like Pitbull and other soldiers serving in the military, we generally DO NOT give them the full consideration they deserve??? Well, I'm not sure "interesting" is the right word exactly--more like sad and pathetic.
Too harsh? Really? Because my definition of harsh is a returning hero who has spent a year or more overseas away from family, who has had to be on survival alert every single day--heck, every single minute of every single hour--for over a year--coming back to a society who chooses apathy over empathy. A society who chooses not to THINK about what that soldier's life might be like outside of what Hollywood shows the audience. A society who doesn't want to FEEL what these real heroes have had to endure in isolation and fear for an extended period of time. And there is that same problem, again: THINKING and FEELING is not popular in society.
Soldiers don't have that option, though. Soldiers are forced to think about their situation, to feel fear, to feel anxiety, to contemplate the reality of their mortality every single day. And mind you, a soldier doesn't have superpowers like comic book heroes--a soldier doesn't have super-strength or speed like our vampire heroes in pop culture. A soldier is just a human being, no more and no less--they are afraid but STILL do what they have to...and why? So that I can write what I want in this blog, and so that you can read it. So that, you, your friends, your family--can ALL be safe. I've never made a sacrifice like that--a sacrifice for millions of people I don't know and who don't know me. Now that's courage, my friends--THAT is truly heroic.
I hope that whatever dreams may come for you, you leave some room to help those who have put their own dreams on hold. How? There are a myriad of ways--it can even be as simple as saluting soldiers en route in the airport, donating socks, toothpaste, and reading materials to an anonymous soldier serving overseas--just keeping those men and women, whether you know them or not--in your thoughts and prayers each day. You can dream because of them--just as each of you helps me to fulfill mine. And as your dreams evolve, come true, change, and manifest in successful ways--be grateful to those anonymous individuals who essentially kept you so safe, you were able to focus on more than just your survival--you were able to acheive your goals.
March madness is upon us! One day it rains, the next--it's sunny and 70 degrees (farenheit for all of you outside of the US...). Just keep in perspective that real madness is when hero-soldiers go unrecognized. It doesn't matter if you're a Liberal Democrat or Libertarian Republican, Independent, Anarchist, Green Party member, or part of the Tea Party Movement: EVERYONE can get behind those who put their lives on the line each day for a bunch of strangers. We can't meet every individual who serves on our behalf to thank them--what we can accomplish is showing understanding, compassion, patience, and generosity when we do.
Until next time, dear readers--know how much I appreciate each of you who help me to accomplish my goals, my dreams...in every language! And a special thank you to Pitbull, Ryan, Jim, Nate, Bennett, Deborah, Megan, Matthew, Nathan, Teddy, Kyle, and the many, many soldiers I don't know: Sending positive thoughts and prayers every day to ALL of you!