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Within An Instant

Within An InstantbyPaul Bunting

Maybe you’ve heard the philosophy about a frog and water. Theory is, a frog will sit in water that’s being slowly heated until it cooks (to death). Supposedly, the changes in water temperature, despite being constant, remain subtle enough for the unlucky frog to voluntarily simmer beyond its threshold. The idea of an able bodied frog sitting and simmering takes my mind in a different direction altogether. I think about the water representing comfort, resistance and change.

A recent popular video circulating on Facebook has given me inspiration to write and share a short story about comfort, resistance and change. It’s about how Isaac, a wounded war veteran, adapts to life after service. This brief read has little to do with the service, however a lot to do with pushing the envelope and transformation. Enjoy! (Feedback is welcome)

“Isaac was never one to think or analyze too much. If the glove fits, wear it - and own it was his preferred style of thinking. As a young man barely out of high school, the military seemed to be a glove that fit perfectly. Perseverance, Pride and Honor suited Isaac well. It was those virtues that allowed him to adapt seamlessly to military life. Naturally, this way of being opened the selective doors of career advancement to the few, the proud and definitely - the chosen.

After 10 years in the service, Isaac was called to serve his country. After quelling his fears with a night of drinking at the local pub reality set in. Isaac was a proud man stepping into the call of duty, maybe even die for his country. It wasn’t as though there was choice in the matter. Not for any self respecting officer that is. Even holding those thoughts didn’t silence the internal and inconvenient voices of reason emanating from deep within.

That last night in the comfort of his own bed he was filled with apprehension. The brevity of what he was being ask to do...It didn’t seem to fit, yet, it was as if destiny had it’s own plans and all Isaac could do was go along. This was an entirely new feeling. The normal sense of control, power and entitlement that went along with being an officer somehow didn’t seem to fit anymore. With a frenzied mind full of chaotic thoughts, sleep eventually overtook his tired body and unsettled mind. With sleep came dreaming...Despite being so vivid and real dreamland aroused many questions while reinforced fear that had jumped into his mind upon receiving notice of service.

In his dreams, Isaac was being chased by a pack of wolves. At some point, (as sometimes happens in dreams) the wolves turned into a single alligator that seemed to be much more agile than the dreambody Isaac had. The alligator could jump over fences, swim perfectly and run as if it were floating on air. In the midst of a suddenly open clearing, a single tower called out to him. The tower was constructed of beige bricks and appeared to be a giant cylinder with a room on the top. Once inside, he somehow seemed to be instantly in the small room on top.
Danger suddenly reappeared in the form of a snake. There was no escape as every bit of the tower became the snake. Frightened and confused, once again, running became the first choice. As stairs he was trying to run down disappeared, he somehow found himself eye to eye with the snake. Within an instant, the fangs entered his body and he jolted awake, soaked in sweat - feeling as though he had ran a marathon.

Roughly two months had passed and Isaac found himself struggling for any semblances of home he could find. Everything had changed. War was much different than life as a savilian. Being an officer, however seemed to have some benefits. Not having to go through the troubles of enforcing martial laws was one of them. A majority of his time was spent in the barracks, on base playing cards.

Within an instant life would change for Isaac yet again. A loud whining sound followed by a sudden thunderous explosion was the last thing he remembered hearing before awakening in a strange bed, pretty much bound from head to toe in bandages of various sorts. An IV containing morphine was steadily being delivered into his blood. A sense of disassociation was pretty much all he felt. Time passed, maybe a few days - or even a few weeks, yet the bandages and immobilization remained.

Three months later his vital signs were stable enough to transport him back overseas. Isaac was a wounded veteran. His career in the military was over, he would receive disability for the rest of his life - and he was free to be. His family was pleased beyond belief that their beloved lived through an explosion that 16 others perished in. Isaac was just numb. Everything hurt, he couldn’t walk, the body he once had was now broken with the rest of his life was ahead of him.

Over the course of the next 10 years a lot happened. For starters, Isaac accepted his limitations. He accepted the need for a wheelchair. He accepted that walking was next to impossible. He accepted his time at home. Over time acceptance transformed into embrace. 44 oz big gulps, daytime talk shows, cnn, tv dinners and action movies became daily life. His once athletic frame swelled to over 340 lbs. His body hurt and his mind couldn’t seem to find a reason to love. Hellish resignation set in and the bondage of a new sort of comfort zone shaped reality. Isaac was a soldier destined to go through life broken, lonely and lost.

One morning however, something happened. It was lucid, waking and frightening. Going through the daily morning routine Isaac saw his reflection in the mirror. He took the time to examine his facial features, long messy hair, slightly graying facial hair and his eyes. For the first time in 10 years, he saw something inside of himself that caused something to change. Recognizing the face of a defeated man was maddening. How could have this have happened? “Why me?” he wondered out loud. As though another person was in the room, the thought, not even in his own voice echoed in his mind -- “Because this is what you choose.”

That was the moment he knew something had to change. Isaac wanted his life back. He wanted to feel again. He wanted to be again. He wanted to move, dance, enjoy life and feel worth! About that time he did something radically different. Instead of the big gulp breakfast, he poured himself a glass of water and began researching home physical therapy. If he could stand, he could walk, he could lose the weight, he could work through the pain and even have a life back, he rationed.

Integrative Yoga spoke out loud and clear during internet searches. Three days later the home study program arrived at his house. Upon opening the package and watching the first instructional Isaac knew he was about to engage in the journey of his life. The road to recovery. It was a choice available to him - and he made it!

The first practice session was the most difficult. He had to stand, breath and move. 5 minutes later, it was done. However, instead of beating himself up for only doing 5 minutes, Isaac decided to rejoice in all that he had done and vowed this would be an everyday practice, come hell or high water. A year passed.

Isaac rarely used the wheelchair anymore. No more big gulps. The television was rarely on for more than an hour per day. Walks around the neighborhood had become routine and tv dinners were a thing of the past. The man in the mirror from a year ago was no longer there. Isaac had dropped over 100 lbs and had started to feel more like his former self physically.

Another year had passed. Another 60 lbs was gone. The progress video he made was going viral on the internet. The once disabled vet was running laps, sprinting and enjoying Yoga on a regular basis. Sleep was easy and for the first time, Isaac was in love. In love with life! In love with progress. In love with challenge and the entire progression.

Accepting an invitation to do a 5k run was something Isaac never thought he would be able to do post war. As he crossed the finish line, he became overwhelmed with the bliss of realizing his new beginning...Isaac wished more people would wake up, look around, feel life and push the barriers of their self imposed comfort zones. It was his belief that life is shaped by the small, seemingly insignificant daily decisions we make. Over time, they repeat. With enough repetition the world is formed! In many ways, that worldly view -- it’s a choice.”

Change is all around us. It can make the water hotter and hotter. So the choice: Stay another day or start to intentionally change? If you’re anything like the person Isaac grew into towards the end of the story, then you can appreciate the urgency and gift of right now!

About the author:
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