My views on love (this one's for you Mark).
Being a deployed journalist means that I'm busy most of the time, too busy in fact to read girlie magazines (e.g. Cosmo, RedBook, Glamor...). In fact, most of my life I've usually had something far more fascinating to do (like picking belly button fuzz or making ear wax statues) than to read such superfluous "trash".
Recently though, I found myself suffering from a pretty bad case of food poisoning (yet again I am amazed at how these people survive here), so bad in fact that I was hospitalized overnight and swore that I left my jejunum in the barf pan they gave me. The effects of this illness are still with me (even though it's been a week since my first attack), so my energy level is not what it could be. I spend most of my spare time "resting quietly" in my room... or at least the room that I am occupying while I am away from my home base in Khowst (I'm in Sharan, Afghanistan right now). I happen to be sharing a room with several other females right now and they have a rather extensive collection of the afore mentioned magazines.
During one of my resting spells I looked up at the stack of magazines and noticed that one said "The Married Girl's Survival Guide" on the binding. With my interest slightly piqued (anything at that point was more interesting than the gnawing and churning in my stomach) I got up and pulled it out.
I think I've made it fairly clear up to now that I have never been one to be interested in this sort of dribble. But I managed to read the whole magazine. Every single word of it. And I actually liked what this magazine had to say. The part that I was most touched by was the discussions on relationships between married couples. It made me more homesick for the arms of my husband, David, than anything else I've gone through here.
Don't get me wrong, I miss my husband immensely, but through the internet, we remain pretty close. The articles in this magazine made me really stop and think about what my husband means to me. I have a tendency to feel like I'm never holding up my end of the relationship because at home I'm a full-time student and stay wrapped up tightly in my studies instead of his arms most nights. I neglect more than just him when I'm studying too. The laundry, vacuuming, cooking... all of it falls by the wayside, or rather, he picks up the slack time and time again. Yet he still has the energy enough to encourage me to study hard and make good grades.
Now that I'm here and not there, he sends me emails every day. They usually aren't that long, but they have little news snippets or jokes (usually the inside kind) or simply messages of love and encouragement. If it weren't for his emails, I would go insane here. It is his constant support that keeps me going.
Reading those articles in the magazine made me realize just how special David is and how lucky I am. I could never have imagined in the 27 years prior to our meeting that I would ever had ended up marrying someone so generous with his love.
I cannot help but think of the old saying, "Opposites attract" when I think of our marriage. Where I am scatter brained and irresponsible, he is consistent and sensible. Growing up, I was a partier, he was a scholar. I'm outgoing and loud, he's reserved and pensive. Yet somehow, we found each other. Somehow we found love. Somehow we made it through the many trials of our early relationship (my deployment and back injury and his experience in SF training) to come out on the other side in love.
Anyone who's ever been deployed can tell you about the loneliness that comes from being separated from the ones that you love, or even the lifestyle you used to lead. The freedom which once enjoyed and are now fighting for others to have is completely stripped away from you. There's a constant, yet dull ache to be back home. Most people try to do their best here, to do their jobs right and to make the most of their time away from home, but the ache is always there. People who have never been deployed will never know this ache.
Just before writing this post, I read David's brother's blog: Quake 'zine (http://quakezine.blogdrive.com/). His Sept. entry just happens to be about love, or rather his lack of faith in it (an excellent read by the way) and his pleas for the world to redefine their understanding of the word these days. It reminded me of my feelings as I watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center that fateful day in September, just over four years ago now.
Like everyone else around the world, I went through the whole gamut of emotions and reactions... except for one. Revenge was something that never crossed my mind. Instead, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of compassion for the people whose lives had led them to the point of attacking us. Like many people around the world I turned to the internet to try to find some answers for what had happened. I came across one discussion board, based somewhere in the middle east, where Americans were already posting their threats and messages of hate and impending destruction of that part of the world. One such message was from a student in Greenville, NC, my own home state. I had been to Greenville many times and knew it to be a somewhat progressive college town. I was so disturbed by his posting that I actually emailed him and asked him to try to find some peace in his heart and look for some other solution to this problem. His response was quick and angry and completely missed the point. He told me that he was a doctorate student at ECU studying history and that if I ever wished to challenge him to a match of wits that he would surely stomp me in the ground... gotcha... point completely lost on this guy. Actually I came to find out that my point was completely lost on the greater portion of Americans. Anger and hatred reign(ed) supreme in America, despite its claim to be a Christian nation. I've never heard so many people who wear shirts that read WWJD? and yet spit on the whole idea of forgiveness, reconciliation and finding non-violent solutions to our problems in the world.
Dubya, the country-invading born again Christian, was reelected because he waived his Christianity card the hardest.
So what does this all have to do with love? It is love that gives people the courage to find forgiveness and understanding in their hearts. Love gives people the courage to open up to complete strangers and say, not necessarily in so many words, "We may not be exactly alike, but that is alright. You are a human being, just as I am a human being. You breathe the same air that I do. I may not know what you know, but that does not make either one of us worth more than the other. It is because of our differences, not in spite of them that I love and respect you as a human being and fellow resident of this planet that we call earth."
Does this sound a little hypocritical coming from a soldier deployed to the country that harbored the initiators of the 9/11 attacks? I can honestly say that my life is much richer for having met and made friends with Afghans. This country may be dirty and smelly, but when I consider their history of war and what that has done to the education system here, it absolutely amazes me at the level of hospitality these people are willing to show and their bravery at facing the upcoming elections under the threat of death from insurgents. I have more respect for many of these people than I do for some of the loafing scum bags I've met in America (that sentence did not contain much love, now did it!). Where Americans have been spoiled for many years, these people are tasting freedom for the first time in generations, but even the refugees that I met outside of Khowst during the MedCAP (see the blog entry below), the people who had nothing, absolutely nothing, the people who die during hail storms because they have no shelter under which to hide, they all asked us to sit and drink tea with them.
The irony that I had to come to Afghanistan to learn the true meaning of hospitality is not lost on me. These refugees knew about love in a way that I thought I had never experienced before... until I considered my husband. The love that he shows for me comes from the same place. This love comes from a pure well inside that everyone has, just some people have neglected the path to the well. Like any other neglected path, it has become overgrown with weeds and lost, but it's never to late to break out a sickle and start making a new path back to the well.