Sgt. Major Artie Martinez with Sutty Suddeth and his daughter, E.B.

“You stand relieved… We have the watch…”

Recently, my family and I had the privilege of attending our friend’s retirement ceremony from the Marine Corps. The above phrase really struck me as a good opening, even though it’s an ending, isn’t it?

In twenty-four years, what our buddy, Sgt. Major Artie Martinez, must have seen. From the chaos of his boot camp days as a young man out of high school. To the chaos he had to cause as a drill instructor, not to mention the chaos of things that can’t be unseen in a military career. Then to the honor of being the first male drill instructor to work with female recruits. Finally, to the order that he must have instilled as a Sergeant Major of an air wing at the MCAS here in Beaufort.

As I write this column, it’s raining outside. Why is this significant? I haven’t heard rain like this in months. Things bubble to the surface, seeds that have been waiting on rain’s permission to sprout sprout. Parched palates are quenched. Follow mother nature’s discipline for its cleansing effects.

Even before deciding on the subject matter for this column, a word kept banging around in my head upon hearing it. That word was ephemeral. I mean, I could just say, “lasting for a very short time,” but sometimes you have to get specific with your word choices, even if it’s only the sound of the word that pings you a certain way. (My mind’s ear makes me think of arteries carrying precious life blood. Every fleeting moment counts.) For example, fashion is ephemeral, unless we’re talking about Crocs. Childhood is ephemeral. I feel that kindness is not ephemeral. These examples have effects that can last for decades or lifetimes, but one of them never goes out of style.

Have we collectively been in a fugue state? Oh yes, in so many ways and there’s only one way out of this fog-filled trek and that’s through. It’s good certain things are ephemeral. Bulls*** comes to mind. The end of innocence need not be a bad thing. High school was not your best days.

As the Marine Corps saying goes, “No greater friend, no greater enemy.” I gotta reflect what my editor was saying the other day on her Facebook page. I’m paraphrasing, but she was conveying how entrenched many of us have become with our positions, so much so that the opposing perspective becomes our hated, evil enemy. Evil begetting more evil spawn—subhuman, the lot of them. It’s the Cobra Kai dojo in real time—no mercy. Be careful not to create enemies when common ground is available. Especially be careful to avoid weaponizing yourself against yourself, for there can be no greater enemy at the gates. An s-landmine comes to mind as I think of this avenue we all walk in one way or the next.

An Abraham Hicks quote comes to mind, “In order for things to change, you have to see them as you want them to be, rather than continuing to observe them as they are.”

We live in a time where the actions of generations before us are sprouting to the surface.  It’s distressing, to say the least, but pain is instructive, is it not? Where haven’t we accepted part or the whole of ourselves? Notice what we observe is coming home to roost as a collective and as individuals. It all starts at home. Practice making your home a retreat. I know this probably wasn’t what Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller was getting at, but his quote, “Retreat! We’re just attacking in a different direction,” strikes me as apt here.

“But what if we could change the ending?” asked the child. I feel a vital question in response to a question from a place of innocence is to ask is who or what sentinel do we place on watch in our own lives? Is it a sentinel of neglect followed by unpredictable aggression or is a hawk-eyed sentinel of forgiving love and protection?

Pay attention. Don’t you think attention matters? The phrase itself, “pay attention,” suggests it’s vital. Attention is as vital to survival as standing at attention during boot camp when your drill sergeant tells you to. It’s definitely vital behind enemy lines. In our daily lives, it’s sometimes vital to our physical survival, but more often than not, it’s vital to our mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. There’s always a reason for every season, it’s usually hidden in plain sight with a lot of NOISE surrounding an issue.

When you start paying attention to life’s issues, rather than burying them and hoping they’re dead (issues rarely, if ever go away, they just fester), you are acknowledging or including parts of yourself you’ve otherwise shamed away. Remember that love is inclusive. You want to be whole, don’t you? This is part of it. It’s not as painful as the propaganda of instant gratification and finger pointing would have one believe. It is a gift of kindness that keeps on giving when one surrenders to what is. It is only through the counter-intuitive act of surrender that we can move beyond survival mode. Survival mode is not conducive to experiencing and spreading the light. Sentinels must have a light source in order to sentinel properly.

There’s another world out there. A world without the gridlocked emotions propagating more pain. The fish doesn’t know there’s life outside of water until it jumps.

Begin a practice of being decisive about letting go. Start simple. Perhaps the drive-thru of a McDonalds. Perhaps it’s just saying, “Ouch, that hurts,” and allowing it to hurt. It’s strangely liberating like having a good crying fit. “The hardest thing for a person to do is change longstanding prejudices of belief, but to succeed in doing so is a test of one’s humanity.” –Oscar the Grouch. (Now, I am thinking that Oscar did not actually say this on Sesame Street, but in my rough draft, I wrote his name under the quote. Either way, Oscar makes a worthwhile green point.)

When one stands relieved is up to the individual. Always has been. Allow for shades of relief as the onion peels to your core. For pain is indeed ephemeral if one allows it to be.

Happy 4th and thanks to Artie and the Martinez family for your service. Semper Fi.