How is it that we as Veterans above all who knew how to find joy in the suck seemed to have forgotten this skill when life gets hard here in America? No matter where you stand on the “22 a day” narrative it is clear that Veterans are struggling in unacceptable numbers and from homelessness to substance abuse, it doesn’t always manifest itself in suicide. A good bit of that is certainly due to clinical issues such as PTSD, TBI, and others, but not all of it or perhaps even most. Those brothers and sisters need to feel no shame in seeking the medical care they deserve and this article is not meant to make clinical recommendations. But I have to tell you, I’m in lots of online Veteran groups and regularly I see a post that goes something like this: “Lost my job, my girl left me, I still can’t find Waldo and I don’t know if I can take it anymore.” Now, as sad and real as that story might be I think we as a community have to admit that it is entirely possible to struggle in life for reasons that have nothing to do with being a Veteran. After all, that Waldo is just a stealthy S.O.B. and it’s not your fault. But it’s ok for I come bearing some unprecedentedly mediocre solutions that won’t solve life’s problems, but will fill your belly with joy today.
Our Daily Bread
Come with me on a journey and take your mind back to the season of life where death was at every turn and yet daily joys were enough to satisfy one’s soul and all to which we looked forward. The Bible recounts the events of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt that many of you know well from popular culture if nothing else. While in the desert, the Hebrew people began to complain that life was better in Egypt and they just should have remain slaves because they were hungry. God then promises that each morning with the dew a fine flake-like substance, manna, would blanket the ground. I’m not exactly sure how that happened but I assume he sent the heavenly equivalent of Gunny to drop off the chow.
They could collect only what they needed for the day as any stored manna would rot with worms. Each day they would collect the manna and bake it into a bread of sorts and although starvation was always a possibility in the desert, it would not be this day for today they received their manna. If you are a Veteran struggling with this current season of life, let me invite you back to combat so that you might remember the joys of daily manna. Worrying about the sum of your entire life is a difficult burden to bear, but finding a little joy in each day is remarkably easy if you will but remember how. You more than most men have found daily joy in dire moments so don’t forget it.
Manna is Everywhere
I have never seen grown men more excited over a porcelain toilet than Marines who have been using GWOT war crappers for months. Not every day in Iraq was a good day back in 2003, but the day you got to sit your butt down on an actual toilet seat was in of itself, that day’s manna. I’ll never forget the look on Marine’s faces when their wife sent them a package full of American cigarettes so they could quit smoking the hadji junk. They were typically Marlborough, but you could just as easily call them manna. Scored some jalapeno cheese in your MRE today, hello manna.
But it’s not even as superficial as that for how many of us have returned from patrol having just unleashed the pew only to look around see that everyone made it back alive. Any of us might die in Iraq on any given day, but that day was not today for our joy and manna for the day was to make it back inside the wire with our friends. I’ve watched Marines talk about how cool it was outside today because it was only 100 degrees instead of 120. We who have embraced the suck know how to find joy in hardship and why have forgotten it?
Listen, you might lose your job and you might go bankrupt, but is that day today? If not, then enjoy your manna because while that might have nothing to do with being a Veteran, your Veteran experience should remind you of how to handle it. I’ve fired a fellow Veteran before, dude sucked at his job really bad because he lacked character and that had nothing to do with his prior service. Jodie might run off with your wife or gal one day, but if you roll over in bed right now and the old gal is still there it’s not today. Enjoy your manna, and in fact, go ahead right now and slap your lady friend on the rear while saying, “Not Today Jodie, not today.” Then ,of course, tell me what she said if you did it. Practicing the art of finding joy in your daily manna now will prepare you for the day when the manna is hard to spot, although I assure it’s there. Never underestimate what the fallen in combat would do for a taste of the manna you begrudgingly step over today.
It All Starts with Small Decisions and Daily Manna
Brothers and Sisters, your might feel your life sucks right now but the path forward is not as hard as it seems. I’ve gone through my own funk and I’ll testify to it. It’s not winning the lottery or landing that dream job, rather, it is just the stringing together of small positive decisions one at a time. It is finding the joy in that particular day’s manna without trying to store it up for tomorrow. You know all those fitness guru Vets running around out there? Well, it started with a first workout strung together with a 2nd. Those famous Veteran brands who seem to be crushing life right now while you are struggling to find a job? It started with one idea, one day, and remembering how to embrace the suck so they could bear the burden of entrepreneurship. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were these brands. Small decisions, one day at a time and a healthy appetite for that day’s manna/joy in the midst of the suck.
If you are struggling that bad right now, stop trying to solve your entire life in one day. Eat your manna today, find the joy that’s around the corner, and if it’s really that hard to find the manna, I’ll buy you a Where’s Waldo book and we’ll sit down and nail that stealthy ninja together. You do not have your fellow Veteran’s permission to kill yourself simply because life is hard and it seems to satisfy the “22 a day” narrative. Lots of people have lost jobs, women, and health. Talk to a parent with a sick child and see if they don’t know how to eat the manna of every day they get to spend with their kid. Go back to combat my friends and remember the season of life where surviving the day was enough. Eat your manna my friends and join not the 22 today. Then tomorrow, repeat. You’ll be surprised how small decisions and small joys strung together one after the other can truly bring you out of a dark place and create for you a future without precedent. Like the Unprecedented Mediocrity Facebook page below and then tell me when you find Waldo below it.
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