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The Choice is Yours

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

In our world we seldom slow down to notice life’s transitions. We rush from the past to the future rarely taking time to truly notice the present. When we experience change, such as the birth of a child, a new duty station, the cancelation of leave or of orders, or the death of a loved one we stand, often uncomfortably, in the thresholds of life. These times of transition can be compared to walking through a doorway. It is only for a split second that you are neither fully in the room you just left nor in the hall you are about to enter. Such thresholds of life are called liminal space or time. However, like passing through a doorway we may at times pause in liminal space longer than we would like. We may be unsure of where we are going and perhaps we are unready to leave where we have been.

Liminal spaces serve as thresholds or transitions between “what was” and “what is next.” These “in-between” times, for many people, cause worry and sometimes fear. Uncertainty often arises because these are moments where we recognize the truth that reality is being altered. We see ourselves in a liminal space in the current COVID-19 pandemic. We are going from “what was,” (e.g. PCSing, traveling to Bismarck or Canada, getting swole at the gym, etc.) to “what is next.” And because we are uncertain of what next even is, or when it may come, it is understandable if we feel annoyed, tense, or even terrified. In both our personal and shared liminal spaces, let us not panic, yet take situations seriously and seize opportunities to do good.

In recent months we have witnessed fear and panic rip through communities and nations. We have watched in awe, and frustration at times, as people have purchased multi-year supplies of toilet paper, leaving store shelves empty. Many of us are concerned either for ourselves or for family members who have or may yet contract COVID-19. In this environment of anxiety and distress the poet’s question rings aloud, “where can [we] turn for peace?” Some of us find temporary calmness in ice cream, in video game marathons, in drinking, or in drugs. But, we are much more likely to find lasting peace in relationships beyond ourselves. I find this type of durable peace and confidence in my relationships with my family, my friends, and with my God. As we focus on the people and things and activities that bring us lasting peace, we will have a life not of fear, but of hope.    

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 we have heard a lot about the need to “flatten the curve.” Both national and local leaders have implemented physical distancing and other preventive measures. Some may think these actions unnecessary in the far reaches of Minot’s tundra. Nevertheless, as United States Airmen and families, it is incumbent upon us to seriously heed the cautions and directions of our medical professionals and leaders. By following their guidance with integrity, we put service before self and help ensure that we remain fully capable of excellence in our strategic mission, both now and in the future.  

While engaging in physical distancing some of us might feel like we are the people in Dr. Seuss’s book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” who are “just waiting.”

"…waiting for the train come or the bus to go, or a plane to go, or the mail to come, or the rain to go, or the phone to ring or the snow to snow, or waiting around for a Yes or NO or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting."

But though we are currently in a liminal space we do not have to remain in a state of waiting. We can as Dr. Seuss says, “escape all that waiting and staying,” precisely because we remain 100% in control of how we respond and act. On 8 September 2013, Lloyd Newell, the host of Music and the Spoken Word, stated,

"It has been said that while pain and heartache are inevitable, misery is optional. In other words, even amid the difficulties and adversities of life, we can choose happiness and reject misery. Misery so often leads to a sense of defeat and despair, the feeling that life is either so painful or so hard that it’s not worth trying. Although it’s not easy at times, we have the power to choose. … You’ll find that happiness is not bound by our circumstances—rather, it is activated by our choices."

What will we choose? Yes, we could attempt to avoid our challenges by binging on Breaking Bad and we could try to elude our responsibilities while we tele-“work.” Or, we can choose to focus on what we can control. We can choose to develop and use our strengths to center our attitude and actions. We can be kind and thoughtful. We can take that online class or make that phone call to family we have been putting off. And we can finally play that game with our kids that we just never quite seem to have the time to play. As we focus on what we can control and make choices that will bring growth, we will active happiness within ourselves, our family, and our community. 

Aim High!