I didn’t bring much back from Afghanistan that I didn’t take there—a backpack, some pictures and a lot of stories. But sometimes when we go on a long voyage, we tend to bring back things we didn’t mean—too much sand, a hotel towel (oops!) and even the flu.
I’d like to say that I didn’t bring back anything from Afghanistan that I didn’t mean to, but I’m finding that to not be true. Recently, as I’ve gotten into a groove of my life: work, apartment, etc, I’ve found that a bit of Afghanistan has latched on to me. My anxiety has this lovely little knack to spike under the smallest inconveniences and then my memory goes—click. Like a radio station that becomes static as you cross state lines, my ability to hold on to what is present slips away. I lose track of simple things. I tend to become—detached.
Like a warning light on the engine that turns into a major problem, my anxiety and memory hit a critical juncture, leaving me a bit stranded on the road. Now you can call it PTSD or not—but if the PTSD boot fits because it’s a size 10, well, there you go.
I’ve taken two trips recently, the last on my circuit of travels.
The first was to the World Domination Summit. This is a conference held every year in Portland, Oregon. I wrote about it last year. I attended with some buddies and had a great time. We hear speakers from all over the world talk about adventure, community and service. One of the these was to simply start. You have a project that you want to get going on? Just start—even if its a sloppy, hot mess.
An imperfect start is better than a perfect hesitation.
And over and over I heard the same message woven into the speakers’ messages. What’s the brave thing you can do today? What’s the 30 seconds of insane bravery that you can muster?
As these speakers talked, I felt my own perfectionism start to crumble; this sweet permission to make a mess of things started to wash over me. And hearing people also dealt with a making the right move the right way at the right time every time relieved me.
A week later, I headed back on the road to the Escape Adulthood Summit. This was held in Madison, Wisconsin, by my good friends Kim and Jason Kotecki. This is a conference dedicated to not living a stuffy, Adultitis-filled life. A conference of liked minded folk who wanted to make a change, live a better life.
And I have to admit, it was hard for me. Being silly and instantly friendly with new people was an uphill battle—in Afghanistan the default is standoffish, aloof and distant. Now in the workplace—no problem. That mask fits on well, but outside, well, that’s an entirely different story.
But slowly over time, I could feel that ease come back, that tank getting filled. But it’s a process, a long obedience in the same direction. And this fist fight with my Dark Passenger, with the voices that scream for failure and long pauses when it comes to my dreams, well, it’s going better.
Because right now, I can clearly hear my friends cheer. I can recover from the cross to the jaw instead of hitting the mat.
So let me ask you, loyal readers, what fills your tank? What gives you the reserve to keep going? I’d love to know.