Sunday, December 18, 2011

Just Trauma, No Drama

People told me about the "wall." It's that time 3-4 months into deployment where you are off the high of things being new and exciting and you just hate life and each day drags on. I have been steadfastly denying the existence of such a thing, because it reminded me of people saying things like "once you go through med school you'll stop caring about people's suffering," and "after a few years of marriage you'll get tired of each other, just wait..." (Thanks, Debbie Downer, for the insights but guess what? Dr. Wilde still suffers from a serious case of the hots for Jen. The whole "first year's jellybean jar" thing? Fuhgettaboudid)

I am still practicing denial about the wall, but I think I did put my foot through the screen door this weekend. I have been working all week to finish the shelving in the Lyons Den so when one person wants to make a snack, they don't have to feel sheepish about interrupting the movie that's going on in the same 10ft by 10ft room.

I had this crazy idea that when I finished the shelving and countertops, I would get to put things where I think they should go. I built the spicerack only four inches deep, so it wouldn't jut into your face like in the old room. It had this fanstasy of putting spices at eye level (instead of the 7-foot shelf like before), and using the Szegedi paprika Jen sent me to make my favorite dish in the whole world, chicken paprikash.

I measured the space for the microwave, the toaster oven, cut holes for the cords, meticulously cut vinyl flooring to use as a cleanable countertop and shelving surface. I constructed a slide-down curtain from a tarp, to cover everything up in case we need to use the room for a mass casualty. Saturday at 1130pm, I called it a day.

By 10am Sunday, I had already missed my chance at claiming my turf. What adorned the the spice rack? Five kinds of creamers and twenty flavors of coffee. The space for the toaster oven? A kettle full of coffee already brewed. My pitiful attempt at indignant defiance was to place my one little can of paprika by the sugar before heading to church.

Church #1: Protestant services. Four of us from the FST (two Mormons, one Baptist from Compton, one Methodist from Tennessee) make up the choir. We use a projector to let everyone know the words to sing during the eclectic mix of hymns and contemporary worship songs. Today, we couldn't find the projector, the nurse who usually sets it up gets called in to take care of a patient, and when we do find it there is no extension cord. I run from the chapel to the FST to get one while the preacher stalls by asking, "all right, I know there are some MORE prayer requests...let's hear them..." The songs some twenty minutes late.

I have time after practicing for our New Year's program to grab a quick lunch of disappointing honey-sausage taquitos (yes, they are as unappetizing as they sound) before Church #2: LDS services. Jared and I give the sacrament to each other and watch the Christmas Devotional. We don't get to hang out aftewards and sing Christmas hymns like last week because we get called back to the FST to meet some Lieutenant Colonel Whatshisface who is our new commander in Bagram that we will never see again. Salutes, speeches, gladhanding, blahblahblah. I am glad to be a lowly Captain that has no leadership responsibilities whatsoever, so I slip out.

1600: maybe the day will turn around. It's time to practice my favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night. We missed practicing the last two Saturdays because of traumas coming in, so I really want to get our little quartet together to work on the harmonies (or harnomies, as Jen's family likes to quote from a movie I don't know). But this is a no-go because the Polish are setting up for evening mass. Their musician pulls out a flesh-colored sphere that is uncomfortably reminiscent of female anatomy and jokes "five dollars to touch." Not the uplifting experience I was hoping for.

So I decide that darn it, I'm going to practice O Holy Night by myself in the iso-shelter (a medical container pod no one is in 23.5 hours of the day) because I love the song so much. I get through two verses when Ryan, who is my best friend here, comes in to restock the books for United Through Reading, where you videotape yourself reading children's books and send the disc to your kids. I step out to use the restroom, only to remember that all port-o-potties within half a mile have been removed because they are changing companies this weekend. By the time I walk through the 30 degree air my fingers and spirit have lost all enthusiasm at practicing the song on guitar.

I make the mistake of noticing Paprika's Last Stand was a losing battle; it is back in the old room.

So I eat dinner and do the only thing I know how to do when I am bitter and irritable and feeling anti-social. I take a nap.

I feel much better now, and talk myself through my emotions. I do not hate the world, I do not hate people in general. I don't hate coffee drinkers. I built the shelves for everyone to enjoy, and 20 of the 22 of us drink coffee, so it makes sense to put it on the low shelves and countertops. I do not hate the Sabbath Day or the people worked on moving the food over while I was at church. I should be happy that they took the initiative and helped out instead of waiting for me to do it.

I don't hate patients, projectors, extension cords, Polish musicians with portable silicone mammary glands, my best buddy Ryan, children's books, or people who don't appreciate the difference between sweet Szegedi paprika and cheap McCormick peppery paprika, and the reasoning behind four inch shelves.

I am simply having a bad day because I (can't) sleep fifty feet away from the helicopter pad, live my life within 1 square dust-covered mile, have not seen a healthy plant in three months, can't help my wife change diapers, and feel bad that my daughter asked Santa for a "transporter to Afghanistan" so she can visit me for Christmas and not have to cry when she misses me.

So, after my nap, I am awake at 2:47 am recounting the good things of the day: We haven't been rocketed recently, I am safe, family at home still loves me, God is there, the internet works today and I can read emails from my family, Jen sent me the volleyball I wanted for Christmas, they had provologne cheese at the cafeteria today (so I can make pizza this week), one of the Polish medics brought me two pieces of frozen chicken to make Paprikash with, and one of the techs shared his wife's cookies with me. And our trauma bay sat empty the entire day. So it was a good day after all.

Still trucking,
Matt

2 comments:

Becky said...

If you were hoping I'd post a Prez. Hinckley "Forget yourself and get to work" kind of comment, you'd be wrong. I have nothing but sympathy for you. I literally think about you, Jen and the kids everyday and am happy everyday your homecoming gets closer. Take as many naps as you want and can out there.

Abrupt segue...

As far as your jellybean comment goes... I am excited because I have already decided what I am sending you (and Jen) as my final "Welcome Home" package. And all I'll say is you're not going to want to open it in front of the kids. ;)

Marlina said...

Hang in there!!! I liked that you closed with the positive things!!!

The Kids