Saturday, August 14, 2004

No Tears

August 14, 2004

We spend a lot of energy wishing time away out here – longing to be back among the comforts of home, among the familiar hugs of family, and among the camaraderie of close friends. There is no denying, however, that time is flying. The days are long but the weeks go by quickly – lucky us.

When I arrived in country last November, I couldn’t imagine I would ever see August. Yet, here I am nine months later. I’ve experienced every emotion possible. I’m still smiling. I’m still excited about the experience. I still look forward to my work. I still love wrapping my emotions around the Iraqi people. I still get mad and frustrated. I still feel confused and conflicted. I still feel proud.

When I laugh, it’s thunderous and contagious. When I am mad, it’s real and passionate. When I am scared, it’s overwhelming and unsure. When I’m sad, it’s palpable but it’s not tangible. I have yet to cry. Without doubt, I feel pain that would, under normal circumstances, welcome tears. I wear my heart on my sleeve, but in this environment, the tears simply teeter on the rim of my eye. They never fall to my cheek. I have no trouble showing sadness when I am home. So why is it so hard out here?

If I allow myself to cry, I will open myself up to weakness. I cannot risk being weak. I cannot dwell on the sadness that accompanies this deployment. If I do that, I am afraid the time would slowly tick away….and time would stop flying.

This week was very strange. I spent more time in attack shelters than any other time, even more than April, when the liberation/occupation (you decide) was becoming increasingly volatile. We were mortared so much it felt like a Fourth of July celebration. I wrote about it in my journal. Here is what I wrote:

(August 8)

It’s Sunday night, 11:18 local time and I am listening to the sound of the alarm that overwhelms the Embassy Compound. This is becoming an all too familiar sound lately. Last night we had to gather in the attack shelter in the Palace because the mortars were coming at us like candy on a parade route.

The last two nights my workouts have been interrupted by mortars and the piercing sound of the alarm. I’m in my trailer now, but there isn’t much I can do. I am like a sitting duck. I simply take off my headphones, and turn off the air conditioner so that I can hear when the mortars are incoming.

(August 10)

It’s now 1:19am Tuesday morning and we are just returning from yet another round of mortar attacks, this time about 5 mortars - another one, just now, at this very second, hit us. I have to go to the shelter again.

It’s now 1:39am and I am back from the shelter. It seems pointless for us to gather our gear and duck for cover. What are we supposed to do? One of these days, a mortar they lob at us will hit – the odds are stacked against us. It’s so eerie to hear the mortar whistling in the air then just waiting the few seconds in anticipation of where it will land. It’s even harder to go back to sleep after the ‘all clear’ is signaled because I want to stay awake to hear the next attack…I don’t want to be jolted awake by the explosion and consequent shake of the ground.

I now hear the familiar sound of the helicopters and jets overhead. I’m sure the ‘crazies’ (militants) are now giggling in their homes, laughing at the alarm they hear in the distance, and knowing they have, at most, killed someone, and at the very least, disrupted our sleep so our tomorrow is less productive as we work to rebuild their country.

I have many journal entries very similar to this, but this week was, by far, the most I have been affected by attacks. It’s nothing compared to the chaos and fighting happening in Najaf right now, but for the ‘support staff’ it was a bit much. Very scary stuff - yet somehow we end up laughing about the absurdity of it all. I mean, we are stuffed in the attack shelters like sardines, in full battle rattle, wearing pajamas! It’s just funny sometimes. I guess there’s no room for tears when laughter fills the air.

This coming week will be a tough one for me. August 17 (Tuesday) will be 17 years since my father passed away. 17 years is a long time so I’ve obviously had sufficient time to deal, but it’s always a sad day for me – 28 or 10, you never get over not having a father. I think this year, however, I am not going to dwell on not having my dad around. I am instead going to focus on what I do have. I have a mother who made all of this possible for me. I have a mother who was also a father. I have both – a mother who is here with me; and a father, who is my guardian angel. It’s no surprise I’ve escaped the mortar attacks unharmed.

I am complete, no doubt. Thank you, Mom. No tears.

With Love,
Addie

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6:34 AM  

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