I am in the final fifty minutes of my time away and wishing I could have the rest of the day in this adorable cottage to sit and write, but alas check out times are a thing. Sigh. After I leave here, I am meeting a friend on Pearl Street for some coffee at my favorite local spot. Then I might spend some time wandering up and down the mall to see what has changed. I haven’t been on Pearl Street for dining, shopping, or people watching for ages. I am long overdue.
I have spent some time this morning reflecting on the mental work I’ve done while I’ve been here. When I am somewhere safe, quiet, and private, that is when I do my most meaningful processing. It seems to be the only way I can reach a calm mental plane. So the first thing I have to do when I get home is establish a place like this for myself, somewhere I can hide for a few minutes when I need to regroup, take a deep breath, and get to a better head space before responding or reacting. The second thing I need to do is a deep dive into my plans for my writing. Do I continue blogging with a focused goal to grow readership or do I work on a larger project, whatever that is? I also plan to set up some routines around exercise and rest. I’ve let things get out of control and I’ve spent too long doing for others before taking care of myself. That has to end. The way I’ve been surviving? Not sustainable in the long term. I realize that now. To get to the point where I can do that, though, I need to do some housecleaning, both mental and physical. I need to eliminate from my circle of influence people who are not good for me and I need to eliminate from my life many of the things. Yes, things. I need to pare down. I have a lot to take care of, to fuss about, to attend to. I need to dispense with things that are weighing me down. This means my husband will be taking some trips to the thrift store. (I’d say I would do it, but the back of my car is still full of things to take there and they have been there for four month already. True story.)
I have my plan of attack. I have peace in my heart after some long overdue time to focus and center. And now I can hit the ground running. I’m not feeling lost anymore. I’m feeling empowered. And that is what time alone does for an introvert. I am ready to take a long hard look at my goings on each day and figure out where I can cut back. I’m ready to tell other people that I will get to what they want when I get to it, and that may be after my work out or meditation, and not a minute sooner. I am ready to help my youngest finish off his senior year and launch so I can start the next phase of my life. The first four decades of my life were devoted to achieving things I thought I was supposed to achieve (college degrees, husband, children, a home, etc.). The next decade was about managing all the things I thought I was supposed to achieve. Now I am at the place where I am free to decide what I still want, what I don’t need, and where I would like to go. It’s exciting. Not going to lie.
I don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. I am retiring from full-time parenting, not life. I simply plan on putting my hand up to stop the insanity as it approaches. I don’t have room for that in my life anymore.
A couple weeks ago, I was watching MSNBC and saw an interview with Marine Corps Major Thomas Schueman and the young Afghan interpreter who had worked with him when he was commanding troops in Afghanistan. Major Schueman has spent years keeping in touch with Zak (code name), trying to make sure he would get the US visa he was promised in exchange for his putting his life on the line to aid and protect American troops. Major Schueman said Zak had saved his life several times. Zak spoke on camera from behind a mask. He was in hiding after he had recently received a letter from the Taliban reminding him that they knew his whereabouts and would be coming for him shortly. Zak sounded terrified, and for good reason. He and his wife have four children under the age of 5. Zak knew they would not survive if Afghanistan fell and the Taliban took power. And then this week they did.
As good journalism will do to a person, I became invested in Zak’s story and the thought that there are thousands upon thousands of Zaks in Afghanistan who helped us and deserve their shot at freedom. When Kabul fell, the impending doom for these interpreters became palpable. Tonight Rachel had Major Schueman on again. He has spent the past couple days trying desperately trying to get Zak and his family out of the country. Texting Zak and his contacts in Afghanistan, Schueman tried to coordinate an escape for the young family. Twice he got close, but no go. Then finally today Zak and his family were able to board a plane out of Afghanistan. Major Schueman isn’t sure where they are headed, but they are safe. Zak might at last get the freedom for which he risked his life.
I write about this tonight for two reasons. One: It’s crucial that we as a country remember those who help us and that we honor our word to them. It’s the right thing to do. The interpreters left behind will be killed by the Taliban if they are unable to escape. That is unacceptable. And that is on us as a nation. Period. Two: This story has a happy ending for Zak and his family, and there isn’t enough good news in the news lately.
Beyond this, though, I’ve been thinking about what an absolute mess our withdrawal from Afghanistan has been. And this is what I have decided. There are not enough women involved in these types of decisions and operations. Fine. We needed to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years. It is unlikely that staying there longer or investing more money would have changed anything. But, the timing and planning for our withdrawal seem haphazard at best. I mean, even if Afghanistan fell to the Taliban at a rate far quicker than most experts imagined it would, why hadn’t we planned better how to remove the over 15k American citizens still there and why hadn’t we done more to secure the safety of our friends, the interpreters who risked their lives to save American ones? We’re the United States, goddammit. We have resources and money and trained professionals. There’s no excuse for this crap.
So, I started thinking that maybe we need more moms involved in planning the actions of our government. Moms plan for contingencies. Moms think of everything. I guarantee that you have seen this in action. You have been on a picnic where utensils were forgotten and your mom conjured up six sets of plasticware with napkins from the depths of her car. Or you’ve been to the pool and your kid got a scrape and a mom who was sitting nearby pulled a bandaid and Bactine from her purse. Or you’ve been in a parking lot before a concert and you realize your beer is not a twist-top bottle and you have no bottle opener, and your wife grabs the bottle from you and removes the cap using the door catch on her car. Women are amazing that way. We’re undaunted and resourceful. It’s the reason we’re often the last one out of the house before a family trip. We’re thinking about disasters and contingency plans. We consider potential rainfall or diaper blowouts or sunburns and we turn around to grab the plastic ponchos, clean onesies, and sunscreen. With women, it’s not just leave no one behind but also leave nothing to chance by making assumptions. So, should we have had a momma bear or six involved in preparations for our withdrawal from Afghanistan? Definitely. We’d have had Plans A through Z lined up and ready to knock down. And we probably would have had snacks and matching luggage too.