In Transition: Time and the Transitioning Warrior

by | 9 Aug, 2018 | 6 comments

As I approach six months of civilian puke life, I thought some self-reflection might be in order.

I’d heard of men having trouble transitioning out of the military and I couldn’t quite fathom the issue. I would now have plenty of time to square everyone else away, get the family up to standard, maybe improve the foxhole a bit. I’d have so much time, I’d likely have to go to 2-a-day PT.

I could practically hear myself getting even more jacked!

Could I still drink Rip-It as a civilian?

Approaching Retirement

Ami and I didn’t exactly waltz across the finish line.

Our reality was a bit different from what I’ve perceived to be the norm. Usually, the man desires to continue to serve and it is at the behest of the spouse that he reluctantly resigns or retires. She just cannot take it anymore—the pace, the optempo, the uncertainty.

For us, it was the opposite. Ami implored me to stay in.

“You’ll make a horrible civilian,” she advised. 

“How hard can it be?”

Up until the end, she held out hope that I’d reconsider and remain in the service not realizing that the ship had sailed over a year prior when I announced my intentions to retire to my boss. My subsequent evaluations reflected this decision. At that point, retirement became imminent.

How I See Time

I see time in rectangles on an Outlook training calendar. I do.

It’s impossible for me to see it any other way.

As I consider the coming weeks and days, I visualize a calendar with rectangles on it annotating what tasks I’d be accomplishing during any given period of time. Where the blocks overlap, that connotes a friction point of over commitment that must be reconciled. White space, space not covered by a rectangle, designates “free time” and must be fenced with a rectangle labeled, “Block”, if I desire it to remain “free”.

Gotta protect the white space.

I served nearly 23 years in the military, really 22 and a half if you consider the sham time following my final deployment including block leave—thanks Uncle Sugar! Add in 4 years of military college and I have 26 and a half years of militarization!

My Reality

Some men retire and continue to dabble.

They join the National Guard or Reserves and play Army on the weekend. In my circle, many folks retire and become a mercenary, working for one of the numerous firms that provide para-military service overseas while affording the government the ability to tout lower troop levels. The pay is great but no thank you.

When I hung up my boots, I hung them up for good.

I don’t even have a 9 to 5.

As the pastor of a small church, I have no imposed structure to my life. I am completely free to do whatever I like. I have a few external demands here and there, but by and large, I am unregulated. I went from complete structure—most days in the Army, I would be booked from start to finish—to a complete lack of structure.

So what could I do but…impose structure?

I created an Outlook calendar for myself and began getting things together.

I generated a weekly battle rhythm for the two other elders in our church, one meeting with my worship leader to synchronize the message with the worship, another with all three to conduct an AAR of last week’s service and finalize the details for this week’s service.

I put myself on a PT schedule.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the rectangles returned…and with it, stress.

I began to miss some requirements. My calendar began to look just like it did previously. I began to have to routinely reschedule events. So let me clarify.

I was getting stressed about missing self-imposed requirements that had absolutely no bearing at all on anyone or anything external to me.

Seems reasonable enough.

Time Management

I’ll proclaim it.

I’m an expert at time management.

Years ago, I discovered the value of time and I began to pour myself into the study of time management. I consumed books on efficiency—The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People remains near the top of my list. I tried different methods and techniques. I actually resisted digital calendar synchronization initially as I am, by nature, an analog type of dude. However, once I realized the power of synchronizing my calendar with other people and organizations that have bearing on how I spend my time, I was sold.

Routine became the engine of time management.

“I’ve got a 95% efficiency on my morning routine,” I once boasted to a colleague.

For years, I honed my morning routine, balancing the termination of my rest period with an orderly, productive, and synchronized transition into the day’s activities. My morning routine included daily hygiene, in a prescribed order of course, fueling the machine for PT, getting dressed, a devotion time of Bible reading and prayer, culminating with a hands-free walk to my truck where I already had my bag and uniform pre-positioned.

I discovered that preparation the night before was absolutely critical to a successful morning routine.

I tweaked it for years, always adjusting and seeking to squeeze more out of the morning. If I shave before I shower, I can save a bit of time by rinsing in the shower. If I stack my clothes in order of putting them on, underwear on top, I can expedite getting dressed. I found intense satisfaction in being able to get dressed in absolute darkness without waking my wife—my clothes in the prescribed order on my dresser.

Walking into the kitchen to the smell of the pre-programmed coffee pot already boiling brings me absolute delight.

I at the exact same breakfast for years.

Once I find something I like and that contributes to my overall efficiency and effectiveness, I stick with it.

My wife thinks I’m a bit of a psycho.

Christ and Time

Do you know that not all people see time the same as I do…unfathomable.

Whereas I see rectangles on an Outlook calendar, Ami sees time as a glob, a nebulous pool of opportunity that she manages from an inherent priority list (IPL?—whew, that’s better). I struggle to articulate her non-process process.

She is one of the busiest people I know, but operates with very little in the way of obvious structure. And she will admit that her technique is not without its flaws. She is frequently challenged by punctuality, but what she has is flexibility and priority.

If one of our girls needs to talk, she will stop and talk as long as they need to.

If someone has a need from the clothing closet, she will forgo all other demands to meet that need.

If a foster kid shows up in the middle of whatever, she will cease work and go to receive the kid.

How did Jesus see time?

Looking to Scripture I see that most ministry took place in terms of “as they went”, with no planning, gasp! The Holy Spirit placed men and opportunity in front of believers and they saw it for what it was.

Jesus stopped and chatted over a drink of water with a “random” woman at a well. Many Samaritans from the nearby town believed as a result. (John 4) “As he passed by,” Jesus stopped and healed a blind man, changing his life forever. (John 9) Peter and John were on their way to the temple (church) when they stopped and healed and ministered to a lame man. (Acts 3)

They immediately cast aside whatever they had planned for what the Lord had planned.

“But how on earth did they ever get done what they had planned?” 

True Effectiveness

Among other things, I consider myself a life-long learner. In transition, the Lord has impressed upon me some points concerning time.

Not all things that happen must be scheduled to be considered effective. And is effectiveness and efficiency the best Measure of Effectiveness (MOE) when assessing our time management?

Is there a better way to honor God in this?

The other morning, my wife got home from work—she works at night as a nurse in an assisted living facility—and needed attention. She wanted to talk and then she wanted some affection. One of her love languages is touch. She wanted to snuggle.

It wasn’t on my calendar. Instead, I had a long morning of sermon preparation scheduled. She would’ve understood but the Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks.

And I took a risk…and I lay down and snuggled with my wife.

I accomplished nothing. I achieved no clearly defined goals. I checked nothing off my to-do list…and it was absolutely fantastic, the best thing that I accomplished that day. Unplanned intimacy with my wife, how could I have ever planned for something better?

Maybe I’m getting the hang of this civilian thing after all!

6 Comments

  1. Allan Leroy Folsom

    “They join the national guard or reserves and play Army on the weekend…” Please. One weekend a month I was told…that led to three involuntary tours to Iraq and Afghanistan for 7 months each.

    Reply
  2. Jim Crisafulli

    I chuckled while reading this as all my friends kept asking “Are you going to be alright after retiring “. You won’t have anything to do. Lordy, really? My days are more filled now than before but finally, the priorities are right. Monk

    Reply
  3. Duke Samouce

    BRAD!!! I will be “dropping” my retirement 4187 in NOV for a 31 OCT 2019 retirement (29 years, three months). I return from Korea in July to grab my pre positioned CIF bag (just one as I am very efficient) and complete final clearing from the Army and go terminal leave.

    I have however put a huge goal in front of me….to get on with NASA as a senior executive. Talk about setting myself up for disappointment. So far, I can not apply for any of the SES positions because they make Federal Service as a GS15 or SES as a requirement. Guess what, 28 years in the military does not count for these positions. I have just under a year to figure that out. Don’t get in my way people……coming through, coming through

    Reply
    • Bradford Smith

      Duke! Brother, great to hear from you. Best of luck with NASA. You would think being a Colonel would count for a little something…

      Reply

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Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

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