no right answers

I am agonizing over what it is I want to do. Over yet another career decision that will set me on a path completely different than the one I’m on now. Another long bloc of training in a new place, far away from people I’ve grown accustomed to seeing regularly. Another set of classes and new things to learn. Giving up on the things I’ve spent the last three years working towards.

I guess this place of decision-making and fearful consideration of strange new things is comfortable because it’s all too familiar. But now I have someone else to consider in making my decisions.

My life isn’t just about me anymore.

And so when I tell him about this opportunity, he is easily supportive. Tells me to do whatever I want, he’ll stand by me.

When I agonize over the details, questioning whether or not it’s worth giving up where I am now, he says, “Sometimes, there are no right answers.”

At first, I’m frustrated by this. Because I want a right answer. Written out in the stars addressed specifically to me, if possible.

But then the words become freeing.

Because they give me the freedom to make a decision and not stress about what happens after that. Whether or not it was the right decision.

Whatever I do from here on out is simply a decision. A different path. Not a wrong one, not a bad one. Just a path.

And because he is willing to walk it with me, the journey will be beautiful.

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love is not enough

Love is not enough.

It’s not what anyone wants to hear. Not ever, but especially not now. All we want to hear is that love will win, no matter what. Love is greater than violence, hatred, fear, bigotry.

But love is not enough.

Or maybe it is.

But not holding candles and waving unity signs and placing memorial flowers and giving passionate speeches about overcoming.

Love is not simply denouncing acts of violence “in the strongest possible terms.”

Love is not more empty thoughts and prayers.

Love is not refusing to face an enemy that will do anything to destroy us.

Love is a fight.

After violent acts that we witness it seems like over and over, that is the last thing we want to hear. We do not want to face a fight with a fight. Trade blood for more blood.

We do not want to face the reality that love for all its beauty cannot overcome senseless brutality, wasted beautiful lives, hatred made manifest in ways we cannot seem to understand.

Love is more than that. Love requires more than that.

Love is a fight.

Love is being willing to defend who and what you love. And not just in comments online or at candlelight vigils. Love is being willing to face the evil that brought down who and what you love.

Sometimes, love is war. It is not pretty, it is not unified, it is not what people want to hear. It’s more than thoughts and prayers. It is action. It is a fight, as counter-intuitive as it may seem. That’s what makes love so difficult.

But in times like these, when our very own people are slaughtered on our very own soil, it is exactly what we need.

 

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i got a dog

I hear him tell me that he’s happy for me. That I’m doing the right thing, going where I belong.

I hear her order me a celebratory drink, toasting my new adventure. One far different from the one I have been on.

I hear him say I would have been great here but he understands why I’m moving on. Tells me that I stood in the thin blue line, for however long, and I will always have brothers and sisters there.

I hear him tell me that he wants my future to be part of his, too, and I hear us make plans to make that happen. Shop for homes in a new place, talk about money plans, and what we want a year, two years, or more down the road. I’m struck by how adult this all seems and how incredibly ill-equipped I feel for this responsibility.

I hear them sing happy birthday as I celebrate another birthday.

I hear my car radio warning me about D.C. traffic up ahead as I scope out my new workplace, bracing myself for the unpleasant reality that I will be fighting this traffic for the foreseeable future. Hear the wiper blades whisk away rain drops that never seem to let up and my phone beep with incoming emails reminding me that everything is about to change. Again.

All of this swirls in my mind like a dream and the momentum is overwhelming. My life is, once again, thrown into a chaotic rhythm of changes – job, relocation, training, love. I can’t even imagine where it all will take me.

So, in the midst of all this chaos, I got a dog.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have. It was impulsive. I have been checking out shelters and combing adoption sites for months. But I promised him I wouldn’t get a dog until we settle into our new place and really knew what our lives and schedules would be like. I promised.

But I break my promise.

When the slight little black mutt greets me with delicate doggy kisses, I break my promise. And as I pack up her newly-bought gear and load her into my car, I wonder what the hell I was thinking. As if I need one more complication to throw into the mix. But when she greets me at the door with wild excitement at the end of my first day at the new job, when I hear her jump lightly onto my bed in the middle of the night to sleep right next to me, I can’t help but fall in love. And he can’t, either. And he sweetly accepts her, pushing aside his surprise and perhaps frustration at my broken promise. I hear him tell me that he loves her, and I think it was a good idea.

When she lies on the coach with me as I write this, I hear her snoring softly, and I know it was a good idea.

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at the end of the night

A flurry of phone calls, a dozen emails back and forth, a few trips up the road, and one surprisingly smooth meeting and I am on the road again.

The memory of what feels like a thousand conversations presses against my temple as I pull out of the parking lot, not for the last time. But it feels like it.

I don’t know how many times I thought tonight that maybe I was making the wrong choice. Taking too much of a risk. Leaving too much behind. Maybe I should stay.

But I knew this decision was never going to be easy. The right answer was never going to just fall in my lap. There might not even be a right answer.

As I get in my car, I can’t help but question if I’m going the direction I need to be. But I also know that if I don’t take this chance, I will always wonder what if I had.

I fold my uniform, stash my pistol, and tug my hair out of its ever-present bun. As I slide into the car with my chaos of thoughts, my phone beeps with a text message.

Can’t wait to see you.

I smile as I tuck the phone in my console and drive out of the station. It’s almost 3 a.m. and the roads are empty. My bones ache and my eyes burn from a long shift but I know I will drive straight through to get to you tonight.

And I’m realizing that no matter what happens, what changes, what risks I take, you are always the one thing I want to drive to at the end of it all.

Amidst the chaos of these new changes, there is immeasurable comfort in that.

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blood-red moon

Please tell me you’re not working tonight

The car hums, the radio is low. Most everyone in the car is asleep. I’m glad for it. As I thumb through messages, hers hits the hardest.

Maybe because it comes closest to home. I didn’t think anything of it at first but when others didn’t know where I was, it suddenly rings a lot more violently in my conscience. And I feel guilty because though I didn’t really know her, the one who so brutally lost her life, I feel the loss ring hollowly through me. And I guiltily wonder if it matters because it could have been me.

I found out about the death during the party when my phone lit up with a flurry of messages as things unfolded. But I said nothing then, only tucked my phone away to look through it and process it all later.

Here in the car on the way back from the party, I read them all again and again. Luckily, it is a long ride home.

The messages keep coming, some checking on me, some extending condolences. And I thumb through them mindlessly. I won’t comprehend them until later, if ever I truly will.

Later tonight, I will lay my head on the pillow and quietly tell him what happened. He won’t know what to say, as if anyone could, and so he’ll just play a song for me. He says it will cheer me up but it’s such a slow, sad song, I will not feel better. I don’t tell him this, I just let him wrap my arms around me and let that be enough. He won’t understand, no one will. I don’t ever fully understand it myself.

But now in the quiet darkness of the car, as the messages slow down and the low murmur of the radio rises, I just lean my head back against the seat and take a deep breath. I know the next few days will be very long for all of us, especially the ones close to her. There will be dark drapes and makeshift memorials and candlelight vigils and an outpouring of support from communities across the country.

That will wait. For now, that all will wait.

I look ahead down the road. A red pallor is cast over the landscape ahead and I look up. Even the moon, almost full, hangs low in the night sky tonight, crystal clear and blood-red.

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i hold it together

I hold it together. Or I try.

In the months since I last wrote, I hold it together among the changes. The chaos of choices and regrets and joys and challenges ahead. 

I hold it together when I take the job standing in the thin blue line. Fight my way, literally and figuratively, through a half-year long training that forces me to decide whether or not I really want to do this.

I hold it together when I move, finally and for real, away from home. Packing all my belongings in my little red car and heading towards DC. Cramming everything into a little one bedroom apartment and cringing every month when one paycheck keeps me there.

I hold it together when I realize that I love a boy more than I’ve loved any other one and he loves me, too. Feelings I’m not used to rock my carefully controlled plans and suddenly change the way I see the future.

I hold it together when I drag myself through one of the worst days I’ve had in a very long time. Where I fail two tests in a row that threaten to damage my future in more ways than one. One test whose outcome still has undetermined consequences for my plans. This day wears me down so far, I swear I am dust and nothing more. But I hold it together. Or I try my damndest to. Don’t let anyone see how far and deep I’ve fallen.

 

And then I somehow graduate the academy and hit the streets and have to keep holding it together. For my squad, my training officer, the people I encounter, myself. Especially myself. Pretend that I have all the answers and have no fear. Just keeping myself together.

 

Until I talk to her.

 

I don’t know what it is but I can hold it all together as long as I need to until I talk to her. Something about her tone, how much she cares and how well she knows me, breaks me to pieces. With her I can let all the fragile things I barely keep together fall apart. The frustrations, fears, regrets, doubts. All the things I hide from the world and from myself come to the light when she gently asks.

 

And as I dump the pieces, ease the burdens, I think to myself: I don’t know how I could do it without her. Without her, I would surely fall apart.

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a day was just a day

We’re lying on a bench outside, soaking up some late morning Texas sun. Staring through the branches overhead, hand thrown over face, I tilt my head towards her after several long minutes and ask, “Can we go back to the part where a day was just a day?”

She smiles and I know she knows what I mean.

Back to the part where a day was just a day and everything in it only lasted for one day. Where everything in it wasn’t pushing you towards some bigger goal, some urgent deadline, something, always something nagging at you, reminding you, that you had more to do tomorrow. And the next day.

Sometimes, you forgot to remember that the moments of a day were important because they all only felt like stepping stones or the space between mile markers. A way to get you to wherever it is you ultimately needed to go.

After spending the last few years of my life in training of one sort or another, I’ve forgotten what it’s like when a day was just a day. Not a push towards the next thing. Not a step in the process. Not a means to an end.

Just a day.

Filled with moments, small and insignificant, that matter. When Sunday wasn’t that last day before Monday and the long week ahead. It was just Sunday.

I sit up and say, “I remember when I was younger, not even a kid, just younger than I am now, I used to want to chase the sunsets every night.”

She leans back, one hand on the bench and gives me a quizzical look. “What do you mean?”

“You know that place where it looks like the sun touches the earth and dips behind it? I used to picture being able to find that space and seeing this absolute explosion of light and color and if I got to that plaimage (8)ce quick enough, I’d be able to see it.”

Her face softens and she nods. “Yeah, I think I thought that, too, for a while.”

I curl my arms around my knees and think back to that. “Can we go back to that, too?”

And she smiles at me, a knowing, kind of sad smile. Because we both know we can’t go back to that.

To when days are just days, not space between mile markers. To when you chase sunsets to find the color explosion and not just mark the end of another day to lead to the beginning of another. We can’t go back.

But she tips her head towards the sun where the branches dapple the light across her face and says, “At least right now, we have this.”

This bench where we can sit and soak up the sunshine. For a few fleeting moments, the press of duty and tomorrow a vague thought. This right now is just a moment. Not a mile marker. Not a check mark. Not something to get through to get to something else. It’s a moment. Nothing more, nothing less.

And all we can do is take enough time to enjoy it. So we do.

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