Wednesday, January 11, 2017

On Drinking Tea and Smoking Pipes

It has been quite a while since I've updated my blog, just like always. I have a lot of ideas that I want to blog about, and series that I want to follow up, but life just seems so busy. But I remembered that the title of this blog is Life of an Orthodox Soldier, not Some Orthodox Convert Writes only about Religious and Political Things, and so I thought writing about my life more than just a quick update was called for.
My family and I have been in Alaska for going on six months now. Time has really just flown by as it seems only really about two months ago to myself. Since we have been here we have settled in quite nicely, though things have been a little tumultuous while doing so. 

Roseanna was supposed to get a bonus/moving reimbursement that we were going to use to have our stuff shipped from our storage compartment in Tennessee, however, the teacher's union renegotiated all of the contracts and she won't be getting her bonus until next year. Luckily for us, we have been made to swallow our pride and rely on the charity of others over the past few years. Also, luckily for us, the Orthodox Church seems to have charity to spare, as do our neighbors.

After some of our neighbors found out that we were to be without our stuff for some time they let us either have some of their older stuff, or let us borrow some extra stuff they didn't need for the time being. Our new parish also came through as many parishioners gave us winter clothes and toys for the children. In fact, we just received some dressers this week, and we are supposed to be getting a dinner table as well later this week. 

Many years ago I would have refused any help from other people, or at the very least I would have been very highly embarrassed. Now, because of the many hardships that life throws at us, I graciously and humbly ask for help when my family needs it.

But just because we have things seemingly working out for us does not mean that everything is OK. Quite the contrary. Since we have moved up here I have had some extreme bouts of depression and anxiety. I think part of this is due to one of my best friends passing away back in November - he killed himself after being refused help from the VA, which I can relate to and makes me wonder why the one service that was specifically made for the health of veterans is only mired in corruption and veteran suicides - but the rest is due to whatever chemical imbalance causes depression to come and go. 

On the topic of veteran suicides, and I could go all Rorshach on this topic, but I'll try to hold back. The VA has new statistics that show that veteran suicides are down from 22 a day to 20 a day. And from the articles I saw, it was like they had single handily defeated the Nazis. Nevermind that the horrible care veterans receive from the VA is the number one reason that we are killing ourselves.

And on my military service... I'm still in the National Guard. I have now been awaiting a medical separation for going on 4 years. Why? Because the military tried to say that they weren't at fault for my injuries and I was due no compensation, no matter that the law says otherwise. So I appealed to stay in, which was shot down. So I appealed to be separated with benefits, and of course, then they have to have all other kinds of supporting documentation. And in typical government fashion, they move about as quick as Vogons even with the proper paperwork in place. But hopefully this year I'll know whether or not I'll be separated with benefits or not (if not I'm going to fight it, because frankly, it would be bullshit otherwise).

Moving on to politics. Trump won, Hillary lost. Many of the Democrats are crying that Hillary won the popular vote (thanks to California and New York) and that she should be president because the Electoral College is an outdated and racist organization. Nevermind that Hillary won the popular vote during the primaries against Obama back in 2012 and not a peep was heard from them. Also, nevermind that Bernie was clearly winning the Democrat primaries and Hillary had to lie and cheat her way to winning. Also, many of the Republicans are now gloating about how Trump won and Hillary supporter are crying. Nevermind how much they have been crying since Obama was elected. Also nevermind about the birther issue (I don't think Obama has released his actual birth certificate, but it is a moot point since his mother was an American citizen - which has been my argument for the longest time). Also, nevermind that people were literally passing this Obama is the Antichrist crap as well trying to make claims that the Bible said the Antichrist would be Muslim from Africa. Nevermind that Islam wasn't even a religion when the Apostle John wrote his Revelation.

And of course, one cannot mention the election without also mentioning the Russian hacking. It didn't happen. No proof has even surfaced so far, and if our intelligence agencies are so sure that it did happen they need to provide proof. Even then I wouldn't trust them because they had proof of WMDs in Iraq and look where that got us (although I do know of at least two that were found in Iraq). And thank you to CNN that used a screenshot from a video game as a picture featured on an article about the Russian hacking - you should have at least used a screenshot from Mr. Robot, that would have been more believable. 

Why do I include all of this on an update about my life? Well because my social media (mainly Facebook) has been awash in nothing but politics, hacking, and fake news since the election. I'm worn out by social media. I'm trying to actually only log on to Facebook once or twice a day, and for only limited times (no more than 15 minutes).  I much prefer Google+ to Facebook, but Facebook is so dangerously addicting. My wife was telling me something about the psychology behind Facebook and how it is designed to be addicting. She said that psychologist would have to deal with Facebook addiction much like one deals with a drug addiction. Here in the US that means imprisoning anybody who uses and destroying their life further, in the rest of the world that means getting them to rehab and giving them psychological help.

So while I've been lessening my presence on Facebook, I've been using Google+ much more. Like I stated earlier, I prefer it to Facebook. I don't find it as addicting (or really addicting at all), and I like that I have much more control over what I see than I do with Facebook. And it is because of my going on Google+ more that I have been made the moderator of a lovely G+ community that is about tea. Yes, tea. I love tea.

I'm by no means a tea snob. I understand that people like to drink their tea their own way. Me, I prefer a nice Irish Breakfast tea with a splash of sweet cream. Go ahead and roast me.

Anyway, somebody posted a picture that had reasons to love tea, or drink tea. Something to do with tea. And I posted my reasons as to why I prefer tea. I love tea for the same reason that I love to smoke a pipe. They involve a bit of ritual. For tea one must boil some water (in a kettle or a pot), pour the water over some tea (loose leaf or bagged), wait patiently a few minutes as the tea steeps, remove the tea, add whatever is desired (cream, honey, sugar, lemon), and then pleasantly sip the tea. For a pipe one must select the appropriate tobacco, pack the bowl, tamp the bowl to perfection, false light the pipe, actually light the pipe, and then slowly smoke the lit tobacco. It takes time. It forces me to slow down and be deliberate in what I am doing. It helps to destress my already overly stressful life. 

Coffee and cigarettes are almost the opposite. By coffee I mean that which we here in the US typically do to start our daily routine, and not other things such as a French Press or cold brewing. Typically, one scoops the grounds into the coffee filter, add some water, brew the coffee, then adds maybe cream and/or sugar. This is mostly done by the coffee maker, and not the person. It is impersonal aside from adding cream and sugar. Then it's out the door into the hustle and bustle of life. Don't even get me started on Keurigs. Cigarettes are even simpler - you pull one out of the pack, light it, then you're done with it in about 5 minutes.

Drinking tea and smoking a pipe have actually been shown to help people live a longer life because it does help them destress, as well as offering other health benefits. Coffee and cigarettes have been shown to shorten life and cause all kinds of health problems.

I think this is also the reason that I love Orthodoxy. The ritual. The ritual is not only during our liturgies and other services, but also in our prayer life. There is a method of doing prayer in the home. And doing prayer in this ritualistic way forces you to slow down and think about what you are saying. This applies even to pre-written prayers that are said repeatedly. When you are forced to slow down you are then able to notice and focus on the details. And this carries over into our daily lives. At least it carries over into my daily life. 

So there it is, my update. My family and I absolutely love it here in Alaska. We have a great community, great friends, and a great parish. There is plenty for us to do that won't break the bank, and that is great for a family that just moved. We're not ahead in life, but we aren't behind. Things aren't great, but they aren't terrible. I still suffer from depression, but I have a great chain of support from my wife, and from other friends as well. Life is good, politics is bad. Social media is bad, but slowing down and enjoying life is great.


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