Take Care of Number One

Before I left the mainland, I had a conversation with my academic advisor. He has been all over the world, and he has done a lot of work away from home and family. I told him how apprehensive I was about my extended time away from home, and how I was going to be very home sick. Once I got here, I reiterated that feeling to him.

“You’re going to have to work on your resilience,” he said.

Resilience is defined as “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.” There’s a whole body of work dedicated to how people can become resilient, and how resilient children is something parents should aim to have. In the opinion of many — including my advisor, it seems — it is necessary to have resilience when confronted with situations where you are shipped off far from home to do a serious job.

You certainly need your soldiers to be resilient.

I’ve been reading about resilience, and I’ve come to understand that self-care is a big factor in building resilience. In other words, it is crucial that I take care of “number one” when it comes to this and other deployments. Last year, when I was in Colombia, I made the mistake of not building a network of friends that extended outside of the university where I was working. The only people I really befriended were the teachers/professors at the university. Outside of there, I’d jump into a cab and go straight to the apartment I was renting. Only twice did the professor supervising my work take me out for dinner, once with his family.

So I spent a lot of time outside the apartment in the evenings and weekends by myself. While the distraction was good, I didn’t have a lot of people to talk to. Now, you’d think that with all my social network activity I wouldn’t have a hard time finding someone to talk to. But talking online, by text, or even by phone is different than talking to someone in person for me. I need the social cues, the inflections and the tone in order to read the other person and carry on a good conversation. Absent that, I get all sorts of jumbled up in the conversations.

I know, right?

It was great to get a group of folks together last weekend and head out and go to the beach. The amount of relief that it brought to my mind was incredible. Come Monday, I felt much more ready to face the tasks. I felt reenergized.

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And who wouldn’t be energized after conquering a palm tree?

And it was very interesting to me the level of decompression that I felt after the roadtrip to the beach, and the snorkeling, and the goofing around on the beach. It was something I had not noticed because I have my support network readily available to me back home. I get the “debrief” and rant sessions with my wife each evening. There are friends who will join me for tacos at the drop of a hat. For the first ten days or so that I was here, I didn’t have that.

Now I’ve got that, and I’m working on other aspects of becoming resilient and learning the techniques necessary to bounce back from long deployments and tense situations. I’m learning what it takes to stay cool under all the stress, and under the added stress of seeing so many of my friends be so scared of what the Orange Administration will bring with it.

I’m learning to take care of number one so number one can take care of the world.

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Because a world with these beautiful creatures (and sea turtles) is worth saving.

  1. Having support locally is critical when one is away from home for protracted periods. It’s especially true when the environment is even more different from that of home and things are going lousy (think of responders to the Ebola outbreak as an example).
    Otherwise, you’ll think that you’re handling the stress well, right until you melt down over something trivial and the team that was supposed to be helping you care for those in trouble are now caring for you.

    Our domestic side support discouraged spouses from moving around furniture or making other changes to the home, to avoid a shock when we finally did get to come home.
    That said, my wife liked to move around the furniture and once, I got a chance to come home a day early, it was after dark and rather than turn on a light in the home I knew intimately, I walked straight in and fell over the sofa.
    It’s pretty hard to untangle onself from a duffel bag and large back pack when one is laughing so hard, once my wife turned on the lights.
    But, I learned early on, trust home to be home and that family can take care of things at home while I was away. That left me away things to concern myself with and my local social network to decompress.

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    1. Yeah, I trust Mrs. N to hold down the fort. I like my women like I like my coffee… Strong, energizing, and good at holding their own against the elements.

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      1. Heh, my wife and I were in a diner some years back, when the waitress came and asked if I wanted coffee.
        I replied yes, so she asked how I wanted it.
        I told her, “I like my coffee like I like my women, blonde and sweet”.
        My wife immediately chimed in, “Hey, I’m not blonde”.
        I deadpanned, “Oops, wrong on both counts”.
        I honestly thought the waitress was going to fall over laughing, while my wife was already seated and laughing hard. 🙂

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