It’s the Simple Things
By Jim Kuiken
Last year I wrote about finding Peace by culling through all the rough patches and even tragedies in your life, and settling on those simple things or moments that bring you peace. One of those moments was “When I look into the deep brown eyes of my (service) dog Freedom, who expects nothing, who only radiates unconditional love, and wants absolutely nothing from me but my love in return.”
That’s a great example (along with some of the others in that article) of something that brings you peace, and they are almost always the simple things.
But in the “real world” of today, with all the pressures, schedules and deadlines, responsibilities, polarizing anger, and even life or death circumstances, how in the heck are you supposed to find those simple things? What the h#!! are you talking about now, Kuiken? Life is not simple!
I never said it was. My life is a pressure cooker of stress and almost unachievable tasks and issues – it is anything but simple.
What I’m saying is that in the daily press of business, action, deadlines, responsibilities and other things, if you are open to recognizing them, there are many simple things that you can spot, which can give you peace, a sense of satisfaction, joy, renewed sense of purpose, and can be a lasting memory to hold on to in those troubling times of your life. Here are a couple of mine.
Many long years ago – before some of you were even born (1973 or so, I don’t remember exactly) – I was stationed overseas in the Marines, and had just come off of a long 4-hour post…with no relief during those 4 hours. A good friend of mine, Wiley, had just come off post as well. We’d been out in the hot sun in a very muggy, tropical climate, and had been drinking water from our canteens so we didn’t dehydrate. Unfortunately, we were very hydrated, and the first stop we both made was the head (latrine for Army, head for Navy/Marines, bathroom for Air Force…). Sorry, but I’m going to get a little explicit here.
We both ran to the head and were relieving ourselves of all the excess water at adjacent stations, and we simultaneously let out a groan of relief… He said “man, I needed that…”, and I replied “yeah, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it”, and we both laughed. After a moment I said “ya know, it’s always the simple things.”
Wiley smiled and said, “Yeah, like when you’re really hungry and missed a meal, and the chow hall is closed, but you find some crackers.” I smiled and nodded, and said “No $#!+, those crackers are the best d@mned thing in the world. Deee licious. Like a gourmet meal!” We laughed and enjoyed that moment of comradery, and thoroughly enjoyed those simple things – the relief we felt while emptying swollen bladders, and the memories of savoring a simple saltine cracker to assuage our hunger when that was all we had.
I have always hung on to that memory of Wiley. We lost him in 1974, but I will never forget the smile on his face, and the sharing of simple moments with my good friend, my brother.
Many years later, I was a supervisory special agent in Los Angeles, and ran the Special Investigations Unit, which was comprised of the Violent Gang Task Force (VGTF), Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), High Intensity Drug Area (HIDA) team, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), High Risk Warrant Entry / SRT team, Technical Investigations, and Special (non-standard or classified) Investigations…as well as the Dignitary Protection Team.
We’d been on the road all day protecting a national (federal) dignitary as she went from a radio show broadcast, several meetings with various agency heads, and were finally at a big high-level dinner with a lot of dignitaries present, ours being the senior one and the main dinner speaker. On a detail like that, opportunities to eat are few and far between, and you generally try to choke down something in any spare moment you can find. Unfortunately, this had been a very trying day, with lots of traffic, and we had never found one of those moments…and now we’re stationed in and around a large dining area with hundreds of people eating, and we aren’t…
I went to one of the waiters and asked him if there was anything for my team to eat, and he said there wasn’t, so I went into the kitchen and started rooting around, looking for something to feed my team. I did finally find a bag of day-old crusty (in a good way) dinner rolls behind one of the doors, and snatched that up. I ran around behind the scenes, relieving my folks one at a time by taking their spot while they choked down a roll or two, with some slurps of water from drinking fountains, and then moved to the next, until each of them had eaten something…and then I finally got a moment to eat a few of the rolls myself, after all my folks were fed.
Those dry, crusty rolls, washed down with some water from the faucet of a deep sink, were almost on par with the saltine crackers from my youth…
Sitting outside in the morning as the sun comes up, before I get started on my day, with that first sip of hot coffee. A warm hug. Watching one of your kids catch their first fish. The feeling of achievement when something you or your team have worked on for a long time, as it comes to fruition. For me, in the evening when everything has finished, and it’s my time to wind down…with that first sip of scotch in my mouth. Memories of simple moments with friends.
In every life there are those simple things, a simple moment, a feeling of peace or joy, something simple that you can recognize and take pleasure from. Those are the things that you can hold on to, or maybe even one of the things that brings you peace.
Releasing the Hang-Up
By Jim Kuiken
Back “in the day”, when we used to jump (military parachuting) with static lines, there was always a remote possibility of a “Hang-Up”.
By the way – I hate professional jargon that people not in the business don’t understand, so let’s start with a couple of definitions:
Now that we’re all on the same page, what does that have to do with anything? Well, much like my two-part article on “Taking Aim on Success with a Sniper’s Techniques”, this is a military technique that has a deeper meaning when used to take a look at life.
Ok, let’s get back to you being towed beside a C-130 aircraft after having jumped out of the side door, and flapping around, twisting, and banging on the side of the aircraft in that approximately 150 mile-per-hour slipstream (the wind along the side and behind the aircraft).
If the ‘chute doesn’t deploy and you become a towed jumper, there are basically two options to get you clear of the aircraft. If you are close to the door, it is sometimes possible to shake you loose, or pull you back in by the static line. Or, if you’re not close or they are unable to pull you back in – and you are able to signal them that you are still conscious by placing your right hand on your spare parachute pull handle and your left hand on top of your helmet (and then assume a good, tight body position in preparation, so you don’t flop around in the air when you are released) – they can cut the strap and release you (or some jumpers have been able to cut their own strap), which is called a Cut-Away. Hopefully, once you’re clear, you will be able to pull the handle on your spare ‘chute, and still reach the ground safely. Sadly, that sometimes doesn’t work, but the Cut-Away is still the best option for survival if you are conscious.
If you are unconscious, the options are not so good. They can try to foam the runway so you can hopefully slide along beside the aircraft as they land, but that option is obviously not a great one for survival.
So the life-lesson here should be becoming obvious. If your life, relationships, job, school, or any other circumstances in your life have become so overwhelming that you are hung-up, and they are just towing you along while you flap around in the wind and are being beaten and buffeted by them – but you are still conscious, you have some choices to make.
If there is someone that can help, a mentor, someone to talk with, etc., then maybe they can help you shake loose from the thing(s) that are just towing you along and beating you unmercifully, or help pull you back in, and help you adjust and survive – or thrive, with a new outlook and goals.
If it is too overwhelming, then you can do like what I’m doing this year. As with many of you, sometimes things just pile up too high, and it’s time to cut-away, fall free and open your spare. Jettison those things that are not helping or that are actually damaging you, and start anew, fresh, and with a focused purpose.
Sadly, some folks will not be able to, and whatever it is that is towing them along and banging them around will take them down to the ground with them, hoping to slide along and survive…not always the best option.