This inquiry is part of my life's purpose. It continues to tug at me.
Speaking of contrasts, the stories of returning soldiers and their difficulties in readjusting to civilian life have had a strong effect on me. Not to mention the startling statistic that more soldiers committed suicide last year -- after they were deployed back home -- than were killed in battle in Afghanistan!
During my clinical internship in graduate school, I participated in some sessions with veterans who were dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. To boil it down, the re-entry issues tended to center on a lost sense of purpose and mission.
That's a major reason so many soldiers decide to re-enlist. They're part of a unit in which everyone has one another's back, and they're committed to fulfilling their missions. As one former soldier said in one of those sessions, "I couldn't wait to get back home. And then I found people getting so stressed out over finding a parking space. And numbing out to 'Wheel of Fortune.'"
No wonder these guys can't relate. Coupled with the horror of war scenes being replayed over and over again in their minds -- and substance issues with alcohol and prescription drugs to deal with their pain -- it's a tragic combination.
Which brings me back to perspective. Our lives are all relative, and everyone experiences his or her own set of challenges. It's not up to any of us to judge another person's situation.
As for me, I'm just looking to keep things in perspective. I get caught up in everyday stressors too. And I need to remind myself of the power of gratitude.
As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anna Quindlen said, while referring to her transformation following her mother's death, "The lights came on for the darkest possible reason. 'Before' and 'after' was not just before my mother's illness and after her death. It was the dividing line between seeing the world in black and white, and in Technicolor. I knew I had undergone a sea change. Because I was never again going to be able to see life as anything except a great gift."
Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or emailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.