Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The five “S”es: Shower, You-know-what, Shave and Shine AND Stress!

No matter who you are, unless you have achieved a higher level of Zen, you probably endure stress every single day. Civilian or military, wealthy or poor, man or woman – the chances that your life is surrounded by stress are good. It doesn’t matter which country you live in or what your native language is, stress is common.

Live in a large city? Traffic!
Live in a tiny rural town? Distance from everything!
Live in the suburbs and have to choose which coffee shop has the fastest WiFi? Unthinkable!

Unemployed? Underemployed? Have a job? Not the job you want? How’s that boss of yours? Do you make enough money? Will you ever make enough money? Can you pay your rent or your mortgage this month without juggling your bills? Can you pay your bills? Money is a major source of every day stress.

In a relationship? Married? Divorced? Wish you could be in a different situation, different location, different relationship? Good or bad, relationships all come with drama and stress.

Do you have children? Maybe you want to but can’t. When they are small, they step on your feet. When they are older, they step on your heart and it’s all accidental. A mother is only as happy as her least happy child – talk about stress!

Even dogs have fleas from time to time. That’s stressful, too!

Every person in the world has some source of stress to deal with – and every person in the world has a different way to cope with that stress. There is something else every person in the world has. According to my grandmother, everybody has two things in common - opinions and - well, it’s the body part you use for one of those first four “S”es and it’s not a shower, a shave or a shine. According to my grandmother, those two things are good to only the possessor and, she said, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, they both stink.”

The military personnel are expected to perform their four “S”es expeditiously and their fifth “S” has to be stored away until they are off duty. Deployed men and women don’t have the privilege of downloading their stress through smelly or other opinions and venting to friends or spouses. Their stresses build up and quite often, relationships that were already straining will break once the deployed return home to a “normal” life.

While on deployment, relief often comes only in the sense of the body’s natural functions. We all do it. We all understand the pain of holding back a burp or those other things that polite people don’t discuss in public – you know those great four-letter words sailors are famous for spouting. One of the four “S”es.

Imagine you are far away from the comforts of home, dealing with a spouse who can’t seem to cope without you nearby or an aging grandparent, an ill friend, a dog you’ve had since childhood that had to be put down without you there to say goodbye. Imagine you are in an unfriendly country without the porcelain god we’ve all come to rely on for “doing our business,” and you know that back home, your world is going places in a hand basket – places only talked about in church or screamed out in fury. Imagine how you would take care of your body’s basic needs, the two things babies do in diapers and there is no where to do it.

On land, you make do. You find a bush or dig a hole, you dig a latrine if you can. On the world’s most expensive aircraft carrier, when the plumbing fails, you hold it – and hold it – and hold it. You can’t just hang over the edge, because that not only causes damage to the ship, it can cost your life. Survivors get in trouble, to say the least.

Talk about stress! The one thing you used to count on for relief and a moment to meditate is broken or behind locked doors – thankfully the locks now have a common decode sequence, but dance around while you punch 1-2-3 and hope once you get in, the person just ahead of you didn’t cause another problem.

Deployed personnel onboard a ship must deal with the stress of being away from home, away from loved ones. They also deal with the stress of performing their daily duties on the ocean. Anyone who has ever been on a luxury cruise ship for more than a few hours knows how it feels to “get your sea legs” and how much adjustment is required to walk on solid ground again. Imagine six months of that!

The deployment does not end when the ship docks at its home port. There is still a great deal of adjustment necessary and a different kind of stress. Let’s hope a plumbing problem isn’t one of those stresses.