Friday, July 11, 2008

Milestones and Bright Spots

Where did this week go? At least my good intentions to post make for a quick read after that last tome. :-)

Here's the thing: I told my father at the beginning of 2007 that I thought it was going to be a year of phenomenal change for our world, that we would see a shift of the sort that serves as a major milestone from which people then measure the rest of their lives. Not a personal shift, we all have those. But a societal one, the sort that make it into the history books: the Great Depression, either World War, the American Revolution. I think I was about a year early.

It's possible, of course, that I'm mistaking the turmoil of my own life at the moment for a shift that all can feel. I scored, after all, about 487 points on the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory. Wahoo. That just makes me chuckle. I read their note:

Now, add up all the points you have to find your score.
  • 150pts or less means a relatively low amount of life change and a low susceptibility to stress-induced health breakdown.
  • 150 to 300 pts implies about a 50% chance of a major health breakdown in the next 2 years.
  • 300pts or more raises the odds to about 80%, according to the Holmes-Rahe statistical prediction model.
and I think, "Wow, guess it's amazing I'm still standing." And then I remember that my life is so much better than so many people's. I think the difference is friends. In truth, I think there are some problems with that whole inventory thing. Some of the items that I test positive for are just that, positives. They create some stress, true, but they come with their own counteracting positive excitement. Retirement is a stressor, as is moving to a new job, but both are positive things in my case. Bottom line, there's a lot on my plate, but I don't plan to crumble any time soon. Nobody's shooting at me at the moment. I can walk the dog without worrying about land mines or snipers. I jump out of airplanes for fun; I've been in uniform for 31 years; I eat stress for breakfast. Perspective.

Back to the rest of the world though. We are in a recession. Homes are not selling and those that are, are losing value. Jobs are harder to find. We continue, as a nation, to fight a war on two fronts while the threat of a third looms ever present. And this last reality is something that mainstream America has only been marginally conscious of. As I heard one officer put it: "America isn't at war; America's military is at war." A subtle but meaningful distinction. Gas prices have finally reached that magic mark of $4/gal where people actually begin to change their driving habits. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I don't know what it will be called, how we will refer to it, what capstone event or shift will lend its name to this year, but I think we are approaching that milestone in the road of all our lives that will serve as a crest, a bend, an embarkation to which people refer when they say, "Yeah, that was back before . . . "

Take inventory. Begin to decide now what really matters. Count yourself lucky if you are among those who already know. Friends, family, health--those seem good starts.

Yesterday, I gave what will certainly be one of my final tours of the institution I've called home for 14 years of 31 in uniform. It was an honor to do that for a family that so obviously has a good grip on those things that really matter.

I don't mean to be all doom and gloom here. I'm not. I just have a pretty good sense that a number of things--the economy, the climate, the stretching of our military--are going to get worse before they get better. But they will get better. At any rate, I think things are going to be different in the coming years. One thing won't change. It will be important to have people that you love with whom to share those years.

My best to you all. Doc.

UPDATE: Phil, from the Archer Pelican, provided the following link to an online version of the stress inventory that allows you to check the events then click a button for the results. I scored 523 this time around. After I hit "Calculate Results" a window popped up that said, more or less, "This individual will self-destruct in five seconds." Don't count on it.