I wondered if I should start this endeavor with such a heavy piece but if I’m going to tell the story of who I am now, I have to tell you who I was, so here we go.
In what feels like another lifetime, I was a member of the United States Air Force and I worked as an Intelligence Analyst. I did this job on active duty for seven years and for another six years as a private contractor. For a chunk of that time I actually had a lot of fun, I made lifelong friends, I was very patriotic, very curious and initially quite stoked to be working daily with Air Force fighter pilots. It was an exciting job, plus I lived overseas and got to explore Europe when the dollar was super strong, life was an adventure! This was also during a time when there were no wars being waged by the US. Eventually I had to go back to the US and was assigned to work in a much different environment, and thus began my career at the much less exciting and much more soul sucking headquarters (HQ) level.
Intel work at the HQ level often felt more important, the needed security clearances were higher, there were more special programs to potentially be accessed and when you work at the HQ that was militarily responsible for all wars in the middle east, also known as U.S. Central Command, there is a lot going on every day and the timing of much of it is demanding. Insights into the war machine were eye opening. Myself in particular, I worked in what’s known as the ‘Targeting Branch’, and it is exactly what it sounds like. More specifically, for a few years I was one of a few people responsible for maintaining what was known as the ‘HVI (High Value Individual) Targeting List’, essentially a list of people whom other intelligence analysts deemed worthy of allocating significant military resources to find and capture or kill. How this list was created and maintained was a lengthy and legal process. When I was sent to a special course to learn advanced ‘targeting’ skills, it often dawned on me how dehumanizing this work was. We were literally learning the technical lethal capabilities and parameters of various weapons and generally never questioning their intended destinations. Technology made it possible to watch these weapons hit their intended targets in real time as well as a near constant stream of drone footage to observe any impromptu firefights and in some cases actually approve or deny subsequent air support, from an ocean’s distance away. White hot infrared cameras on these drones mentally reduced serious and deadly firefights into some strange looking video game where tiny white shaped people ran around shooting at each other against dark grey or black backgrounds. Relatively speaking there are no gory details to be seen and very little sound to be heard. It succeeds in almost completely removing the horror and the humanity from the situation.
I am not exaggerating when I say that when air support was called in to support ground troops and the bombs and rockets came flying in from off camera, you could literally see blobs of white (body parts) fly off in multiple directions as they impacted on or near their intended targets. For years, this happened almost daily and sadly this is not even the worst of it. To say that one gets desensitized to it is a gross understatement.
Time went by and I was having serious reservations about my thirteen year role in this giant machine and I was questioning many things that I won’t go into much right now suffice to say that war is a business. It’s about money, power and various forms of control. War helps no one.
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. April 4, 1967
Also during this time, I started studying for a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. You can see how these could conflict with each other, right? Suddenly I was learning about early childhood development, the effects of trauma, and behavioral psychology, etc. We were contributing to more hate, fear, violence, and suffering. We were scarring families, creating massive generational trauma, and scores of people who hate Americans and the west in general. The impact of these and all wars echoing through the people involved in them in numerous ways. Lots of lightbulbs were going off for me and many connections were being made, I was getting more and more resistant to the work, and less and less tolerant of a couple of people that I worked with. I daydreamed regularly about having the courage to leave and if I could really make it ‘on my own’ and start over. Easier said than done though, right? This job made for a pretty comfortable living with a steady and predictable career advancement; I had a mortgage, an expensive car payment, a retirement fund, and all the standard trappings of society.
Luckily, the universe had my back and although it seemed like a very stressful disaster at the time, looking back I knew in my gut that I had found my way out. I could not continue to spend a third of my life contributing to a cause I disagreed with. I wound up in a bit of a take it or leave it situation after a conflict with my boss and ultimately I decided to leave it. It was absolutely one of those blessings in disguise moments, perfectly orchestrated and out of my control. Coincidentally, or not at all if you believe in your subconscious creating your reality, I had sold my house and changed cars before leaving this job so even that had found a way to resolve itself and made the transition easier. Of course I had many moments initially when I wondered if what I was doing was sane, was I making a huge mistake? Was I stupid to give up such a stable career and financial security? It was scary for sure but honestly, I was just trying to listen to my gut feeling and wing it as best I could. I have to admit that I was extremely blessed to have had a soft place to land at that time and freedom to consider my options. I moved in with a then boyfriend and that helped me to figure out my next move for a bit but it also catapulted me into a coast to coast move when that relationship ended about a year later so, it wasn’t roses forever, more big changes were to come!
When I look back at my life, especially during these tower moments, I can actually see that it has always worked out one way or the other. It might not have been fun or easy and it might not have been the way I expected or wanted but it all worked out and these days I’ve come to understand that everything we perceive as bad is actually teaching us a lesson, there is a gift in there somewhere if we can find it and it will ultimately make us stronger. Even when we experience trauma, if we can learn from it we can help others too. None of us are alone in this divine play we call life, there is always someone to be helped if we so choose, or to offer help to us if they choose.
What is the point of this whole share? To encourage you to trust your intuition and know that living a life of internal conflict isn’t serving your highest good, in fact it can make you downright miserable and possibly ill. Dare to listen to your heart and know that you cannot go wrong when you follow your inner compass, it really is your true north and when you follow that life will conspire to support you. Trust it. If this sounds too hokey pokey for you I’d encourage you to check out the research of the Heartmath Institute regarding heart-mind coherence which suggests that, “the heart also is an access point to a source of wisdom and intelligence that we can call upon to live our lives with more balance, greater creativity and enhanced intuitive capacities”.
The research coming out of organizations like the Heartmath Institute and the Resonance Science Foundation is fascinating and forgive the pun, heartwarming. Combined, we are starting to understand more about the purpose of our hearts, and how our beliefs, thoughts and feelings have a tremendous impact on our health and how we perceive reality. I’m excited to see how these newly validated concepts will play into all aspects of lives in the near future, be it in our careers, romantic relationships or families. Our world is in desperate need of evidence that shows us how we are connected more than how we are different and I’m here for it.