Another entry in the Insomnia Files.
My wife's brother-in-law, Abe, passed away very recently after a fairly long and unpleasant struggle with cancer. He was a therapist, as is my wife's sister. Mitzi used to joke that she enjoyed visiting them because it was often like a free therapy session. Having had the pleasure of visiting them a few times as well, I know that was true.
I was dreaming about Abe last night (tonight?), that he was in some afterlife, still helping people in this life get their shit sorted. Might have been me, I guess.
It's Memorial Day weekend, so the local PBS station was airing some program about veterans. I'd ask Mitzi what it was, but she's asleep. I happened to come in from being out back "playing with radios," and noticed what she was watching because it was hard to miss. There were four people seated in a room with two cameras, talking to each other. One of the veterans was very visibly disfigured, and missing a hand, another was missing an arm and his legs. I was immediately drawn in.
I'll figure out what the program was and post it later. Trying to get this all down now.
A number of things stand out. One was how at least three of the four talked about how, after they'd gotten home from war, all they thought about for a long time was how to get back into it. Another, related to the first I think, is how the body remembers trauma.
We're embodied beings, while we often focus on the stuff going on in our heads, it's also how we feel, physically, that shapes the experience of our lives. Trauma imposes a huge. embodied, filter on that experience. What feels "normal" after that? For some veterans, returning to combat feels normal.
But for each of those individuals, that wasn't an option for them.
One of the things they mentioned that I thought was important was how we name things matters. They mentioned that PTSD is recognized now, and that's a good thing, but why is it called a "disorder?" Why couldn't it be called "Post-traumatic stress injury." They kind of objected to being thought of as people who have a "disorder." I think one even said it was a very ordered response to the situation they were in.
I also was surprised when one of them said people with post-traumatic stress injuries shouldn't discount the nature of their experience by comparing it with others. Whatever that trauma was, it was "the worst thing that ever happened to you." That makes it more the same than the differences in the stories and the scars. I thought that was very smart and kind.
The show talked about how they coped and moved on. For each of them, it seemed that what worked for them was some form of service.
It was very moving, to watch this. Not just in some sort of sad or sympathetic or compassionate response; but in a difficult sort of resonance, which I suppose relates to my own experience in uniform.
I was walking through Publix yesterday, a local grocery store that makes pretty good subs. I'd ordered one for lunch and gone to pick it up. I was getting a few other things while I was there. For some reason, as I was walking in, I thought of Kelly Quick. I don't know why, all of a sudden he was just there in my thoughts.
I've written about ET3 Quick before, many times in Groundhog Day and I suppose in the marmot too. He was a young electronics technician that worked for me in STEPHEN W. GROVES when we were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1987. He wasn't permanent ship's company, he was a cross-deck from STARK because we didn't have a tech with his skills to maintain crypto equipment, so he was "loaned" to us until the navy could get us one of our own.
We got ours, a guy whose name I no longer recall, and sent ET3 Quick back to STARK with our thanks and appreciation, not long before he died on May 17th, 1987 along with 36 of his shipmates.
Mitzi and I had dinner recently with Rick and Faith. Rick was my XO in STEPHEN W GROVES, I was the Combat Systems Officer. As I was walking through Publix, I made a mental note to ask Rick if he ever thought of Kelly Quick.
Normally, he comes to mind every year because my son was born the day after. Naturally, I recalled my son's birthday this year; but I don't think Kelly came to mind. I suspect it was because I was so invested in the Jacksonville mayor's race, which was on the 16th. The 17th was the day I left Twitter.
But Kelly entered my thoughts, uninvited but not unwelcome, yesterday.
So what the hell is this all about? I suppose it's about Something Useful. It's about making meaning.
We don't pay enough attention to making meaning in this life. It's not our fault, we're intentionally distracted by an economic system that consumes our attention to "create shareholder value," in places like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, or whatever other shiny new gimmick they come up with to monetize our desire to have social interactions with one another.
I suppose if we want meaning, someone will sell it to us. And they do. Except it's just a cheap knock-off that ultimately winds up in a landfill of broken dreams.
"Do something useful."
Maybe that's what all this was about. Maybe Abe was moving in the world beyond, stopping by to offer a little counsel.
Sounds like good advice. I'll try to take it.
Originally posted at Notes From the Underground 03:58 Saturday, 27 May 2023