When I think of this grand reboot, how I am on the last leg (I’m a short-timer since I’m less than 60 days out), I think I’ve made some fine progress on this heart. It’s been like a horrible episode of Hoarders where instead of my brother Matt Paxton carrying out piles of dead (and sometimes flat) cats, it’s Jesus carrying out all this hurt and regret, this pain and loneliness. I wish I could have gone to Kansas City, KS with better internet and barbecue than here and worked on it there, fingers stained with BBQ sauce, the trash filled with brisket containers.
But I came to Afghanistan.
One of the things that hasn’t changed is my singleness. Nope, didn’t get married—and recently, a buddy of mine asked me:
“What’s the hardest, the most soul ripping part about being single?”
It is not being loved—enough.
See, here in Afghanistan, we are all single. We aren’t with our spouses. We are just muddling, trying to get to the next meal, the next sunset, the next bugle call.
So I kind of belong here. I kind fit in more in a way in Afghanistan than I do back in the States.
But I digress.
Not being loved enough.
I’m going to be touring the US when I’m back (and it’s a bit risky, not having a job, living off my reserve) I’m seeing old and new friends. Friends I’ve never technically met in a physical sort of way. I’m bouncing around until August and then I have to look for a real job. But at the end of it, I’m not sure how I’m going to feel. I’m going to be Ryan the single guy again. Afghanistan will be long behind me and I won’t be that guy in Afghanistan.
I fear living this life continuing to be lonely and single.
But if I look back at these almost 40 years, I see a God who is faithful and I get to be single. I get to have a lot of great relationships. I can hop on a plane whenever I want. I can change directions.
A contractor asked why I’m not staying longer and I said, “I only have to feed THIS mouth.” He laughed.
So careful reader, I know this sounds strange. My deepest fear is that I am not loved enough or even understood, but I think that’s everyone’s problem. I think we turn to things and material possessions, obsessions and twelve too many beers to fill that void (I’m filling mine with Kickstarters. Damn it.)
And yes, I know Jesus loves me. This I know. But the tangibility of that I find is only in people as strange as that sounds.
And it is not good for man to be alone. And when he is, he buys a lot of tickets on Southwest. No joke.
THE BEST KIND OF FREEDOM
There is no other movie that touched and fundamentally changed me as a person than The Shawshank Redemption. Yes, you’ve seen it on TBS a zillion times. Yes, we all know it by heart (if you haven’t seen it, well, what is between us is on hold for a second). The movie is about two things: freedom and friendship.
Andy is trying to find freedom within the bars of the prison, his projects while he slowly, ever so slowly frees himself (SPOILER!)
Red is in the balance. He can’t play the harmonica, but he can help. He can be Andy’s tax helper, his book shelver.
And through their search, they become friends, the best of friends.
I remember watching that movie on the big screen and it just gripped me. The pursuit of friendship and freedom and how they are entwined, how without freedom we can’t have friends and without friendship, we are not free.
I could go on and on.
I just told my supervisor that I’m peacing out on April 17th. I’m done next month. That’s right, nerds. Next month. I’m out of here. No more flying space available. No more MREs. No more DFACs and talking in acronyms.
And when I told him, something unlocked in me and I was Andy who crawled through that sewer pipe. I’m not there yet. I can see the end of the pipe. I know I can get there. Just a little farther.
And when I land in Melbourne, I hope it’s raining cause I’m ripping off my shirt just like he did.
So I have to ask: What is weighing YOU down? Check some of your relationships. Are some of them just a drain? Have they been a drain? Can you cut the cord or minimize the damage? Is there something you can quit right now that would make you free?