Today was my first day back after a very welcomed 5-day weekend. I didn't dread coming back like I usually would, mostly because I'm in a rhythm at work. Not a lot of weird surprises, and just enough people are resisting the necessary changes I'm bringing on them, that this project is dragging out several months past the original deadline.
No fault of mine, well documented via email and weekly status updates, so I'm feeling pretty good about all this. And honestly, I tend to wonder if any projects for the foreseeable future will be as stressful as the one that took me out of commission for several months.
As this was Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., I always take some time on the holiday itself to reflect on those who lost their lives in the service of my country. It's the least I can do on a holiday such as this, as it's meant to honor and appreciate the many service men and women that gave the ultimate sacrifice.
It would be hard to reflect on something like that without wondering, how did I come out of the same conflicts so many others didn't. It wasn't like I was better at any particular skill, or tougher, or even more brave than any of those that didn't come home alive.
And with that, there's always a fair amount of guilt in that I seem to have won some sort of lottery that so many others didn't. In the past, that guilt would have consumed me to the point of depression and anxiety.
I do believe that so many other combat veterans, and survivors of disasters that took lives, struggle with this same type of guilt as well. In fact, U.S. military veterans are taking their own lives at a rate of 22 per day. I'd find it hard to believe that overwhelming guilt wouldn't be at least a contributing factor.
With the demonstrable growth I've been experiencing in the past year, this year I've been able to cope with the guilt by doing one new thing. This year, I gave thanks for being given the life I've been given.
Combat experiences aside, I've endured some very trying and sometimes traumatic experiences outside of the military. And yet, when I look back on all these experiences, from my times overseas as well as other times in my life, sometimes during childhood, I can now allow myself to be grateful.
Grateful for so many things. Where I live, how I live, who I'm married to, who I'm a father to, who I'm a friend to, and so much more. I'm grateful for all of this. I still grieve for those that didn't make it home, but I'd like to think that they would want these things for me and for everyone else that was able to come home and especially for those that didn't serve.
That's pretty much the definition of "sacrifice", isn't it? They sacrificed their lives so that our freedoms and way of life can be preserved. As someone who was also willing give his life for the same reasons, perhaps I do deserve to be a beneficiary of their selfless sacrifices after all.
The other good things in my life are nothing short of some kind of good Karma or Blessings that go beyond the typical preservation of freedoms that I may never feel that I truly deserve. And I realize that.
So when it comes to guilt and gratitude, they now can co-exist in my world. And while I wish I could have done more, I did do everything that was asked of me. Not just at the minimum level, I gave it my maximum effort in all things. But, I still wish I could have done more anyway.
I hope more of us that came home will be able to experience the same gratitude I've allowed myself to experience. If only that would happen, so that 22 vets taking their lives a day would be no more.