The Healing Journey Project

Renewal and Transformation Through Kung Fu

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Neighborly Conduct and Simple Things

Posted by Robert Bibeau on September 12, 2011 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (9)

What is it about Americana that appeals to us all so much? Is it the simplicity, the friendly faces, the familiar condition, or the easily predictable American experience while growing up? One could make the argument that it is any of these, all of them or any combination thereof. Interestingly, my focus tonight is not at all about why the experience appeals to us but rather the healing nature of such an experience.

It is a question of getting back to basics. After injury or tragedy, your life is in shambles. Getting settled into a routine is done out of necessity not out of comfort or familiarity. Recognizing that wonderful things are happening all around you all of the time is virtually impossible. In essence, not only is it hard to appreciate life or even the efforts of others around you, it is hard to value the overall human experience of interaction with friends, family, neighbors and strangers.

After Tiffany and I bought our house I began to take an interest in buying as often as possible from local vendors who are not affiliated with any kind of chain… the so-called “Big Box” stores. This isn’t motivated by any political perspective or agenda, but rather began as an interest in trying out the various restaurants in the area. Tiffany makes me watch a lot of the show Man V. Food on the Travel Channel and as a result I realized the best foods in the country are served at those old “hole in the wall” type establishments that have been serving the same foods for 55 years. That ended up developing the interest in shopping at the various other local stores but for about a year that was as far as the interest went.

Over the past few months, my routine has begun to shift back to one of comfort and familiarity rather than one of necessity. The regimentation in my life that had been necessary is beginning to be replaced by recognition and initiative based judgments. Anyone who has ever struggled with a severe injury or tragedy will recognize the importance of being able to do things on your own again. Less well recognized but equally as important, is the ability to do things on your own, not because some schedule says you need to, but rather because you recognize the need. So this recent transition has been one of particular import. I feel like it has enabled me to better communicate with Tiffany but it recently gave me back a skill set that I didn’t even know I was missing.

Last Friday morning, I went over to my teachers house for our 5 AM workout. I had a fantastic workout and frankly I impressed myself with how quickly I am learning new material. What used to be a months long process to learn a new form or sequence is now a matter of weeks or days and in some cases a mere few minutes. I am enjoying this current “high point” to take in new material and I am retaining it well and in fact in my off class workouts, I am finding that my older material is enhancing as a result of the new material. Enjoying such a high point doesn’t however mean I can give up my professional requirement though and so I dismissed from our workout a bit earlier than I normally would as I needed to be to work early.

Realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to engage in my normal breakfast routine at work, I decided to stop in at a place near my house called Alan’s Alley Café and order something to-go. I’ve seen the place many times and it is always PACKED during lunch so I was relieved to see that there weren’t but a handful of people there. I introduced myself to a friendly waitress who I soon learned was the owner. We spent a few minutes chatting briefly and she gave me a cup of coffee “on the house.” I ordered and we spent just a few more minutes talking about how I liked the neighborhood and other general small talk.

The whole affair had a very warm, friendly and genuine feel to it. Quite honestly I felt like one of those old men you might see sipping coffee outside of a hardware or general store off of your typical Mainstreet, USA. I liked the feeling of community I got and it set a good tone for the rest of my day. As I drove in to work, I realized that I had truly enjoyed some very neighborly communication with a complete stranger and had made a friend. Then the realization washed over me that 5 or 6 months ago, it would have been absolutely impossible for me to enjoy time by myself like that. Being able to really live during moments that are so quintessentially part of the American experience is a really rewarding and awe inspiring feeling.

Disneyland and Birthdays

Posted by Robert Bibeau on August 23, 2011 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

What is it about a place like Disneyland that can make us feel so good?  Is it the founder memories of childhood? The architecture of Mainstreet America harkening back to a simpler time in our collective past? The fact that everyone there from the most criminal looking thug to the most mini-van driving soccer mom is free to wear the most ridiculous hats and Disney attire imaginable... completely free from the judgement of fashionistas?  My guess, its all of these things compounded by the fact that it offers an environment to grow as a family, or to watch your children grow.  Of course my view on the magic of Disneyland has changed significantly since becoming a father.  I think generally, my enjoyment of the park in the past had been for self, now it is about seeing my son's amazement and wonder.

I have never been very good at getting Tiffany good gifts for her birthday, or Christmas, or Valentines day, or our anniversary, or Mother's day or.... well the list goes on.  Every year people will ask me "what does Tiff want for (fill in the event), she is so hard to shop for..."  Admittedly she is difficult to shop for.  She isn't  a particularly materialistic person and rarely even mentions the things that she wants or desire's.  But, I am finding, when it comes to something that we can do as a family I cant seem to really go wrong.  This revelation has me churning with ideas on what to get her for Christmas and I am actually pretty excited about a couple of things already.

This year, being it is her 30th birthday, I thought I really needed to do something special.  In years past I have bought her DVD collections of Friends or the occasional piece of jewelry etc.  I knew that just wasn't going to be particularly memorable and I wanted this to be great.  So I began my planning weeks ago.  It was rather difficult to figure out a way to pay for this without her noticing since the only people who watch my income more closely is the IRS.  I made arrangements about two and half weeks ago to have her parents sneak out to see her for the experience as well.  Additionally I took a photo of Jaxon's five favorite toys, posed in a friendly manner and sent it to a friend of mine who paints what can only be described as very good, very funny satire paintings.  (He paints the sort of thing that you look at and think to yourself "so what, I could have painted that."  And that just might be his genius because, well... no you couldn't.)  That set conditions for the ultimate gift delviery timing I have ever pulled off.

Every other Friday night, my family and I get together with my brother, his wife and a bizarre family connection that is easiest to define as .... my cousin??? - So I get that might be the gramatically poorest sentence of all time, but if "LOL" caught on then cut me some slack.  My "cousin's???" family is there too and we used to do kareoke.  We must've sucked because recently the kareoke machine was removed, so now we just eat pizza there.  This past Friday was one of the days we would normally go, so I had Tiff's parents wait in the parking lot until we were inside and then come in to meet us.  I had basically thrown Tiff off the scent that her parents were surprising her by letting her believe that I had planned a basic and poorly developed and unimaginative party at our usual place.  It worked well because it was my "cousin's???" birthday was well, so the deception was simple.  After we had finished eating, we decided to do some presents.  I gave her the painting first.  Two side notes:  1. She hates a painting that I already have by the artist.  2. I had them deliver the painting to our house and had her convinced that our sister in law had it shipped to us to keep a painting as a surprise gift for my brother.  Tiff recgonized the work as one of Daniel Saenz's peice's immediately and Once she saw Buzz sitting on top of Bullseye I realized she actually liked the painting. (The painiting is of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, the three eyed alien from Toy Story, a toy horse from a Barn toy thing of Jaxon's but we call it Bullseye like the horse from Toy Story 2, and finally "Frog" the tree frog mascot from Rainforest Cafe.)  After unwrapping the painting, I gave her the Disneyland tickets.  Tiffany is a very stoic woman, and not one to betray an emotion, but I could tell she was pretty happy with the haul.

We actually managed to get a pretty early start getting up to Disneyland.  I had planned out all the details such as getting a house sitter and coordinating with Tiff's mom for hotel accomodations, so it basically enabled us to just get on the road in the morning hassle free.  The time spent at the park was indeed magical.  We grew as a family.  I saw my son for the first time, really begin to identify who his grandparents are.  It was an amazing experience getting to see him realize that these people called 'Mema and Papa" were his mommy's, mommy and daddy.  I also got to see genuine awe and star struckedness when he got to meet the "real life" Woody (by the way his absolute FAVORITE movies are the Toy Story movies... we literally watch them EVERY SINGLE DAY).  The last time we had been to Disneyland he was too scared to meet any of the characters.  This time, we saw Mickey and it seemed clear that was going to be the case again.  Then Tiff saw Woody from afar and suggested that might be better.  Sure enough, the instant Jaxon saw Woody, I knew we were going to have to meet him.  It was pretty awesome.  Jaxon was definitely scared, but he was so determined to meet his hero that he stuck it out in the line and then walked up to Woody himself, made sure to high five and fist bump him (seriously, Jaxon initiated both the high five and the fist bump) and even made sure to get his picture taken with Woody.  I honestly was able to watch my sons self confidence leap forward in a single moment as he courageously faced his fears (I mean he is 22 months old, not a big fear for most of us, but for a little guy like that...) and I watched Tiffany's wonderful motherly heart overflow with adoration of her son.  In that moment, I was the luckiest and happiest man on earth.

Just think, if I had not hit that IED, and if I had therefore not been medevac'd, I would not have a son.  Or atleast I would not have Jaxon.  Or imagine for a moment that I had not found Kung Fu, I certainly would not have been able to enjoy that moment.  People say so often that "things happen for a reason."  In fact, we hear that so often that it begins to sound trite, so much so that we rarely pause to reflect on the levity of the sentiment.  Not all that long ago, as I have stated in this blog before, I contemplated suicide.  Constant pain, paranoia, fear, nightmares and confusion had me feeling lost and unsure.  I garuantee that a year and a half ago, the same scene with Jaxon and Woody could have unfolded, and the magnamity of the situation would have been lost on me.  Now I can see.  Now I can be content.  Now I can sustain joy by seeing someone else who is joyous.

Delayed Post

Posted by Robert Bibeau on August 22, 2011 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (0)
I just got back home after a celebrating a long birthday weekend in honor of my wife. I was able to surprise her by getting her parents out here and with tickets to Disneyland. The four of us took Jaxon up to the theme park yesterday and today. We had a blast but are all marked proof that one child can easily wear out 4 adults! I'll deliver a full post tomorrow. For tonight... Time to actually get some sleep.

A Craftsman's Toil and a Father's Pride

Posted by Robert Bibeau on August 15, 2011 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Every once in awhile we are immersed in some very life affirming experiences.  The sort of thing, that when it happens to you the emotion's you feel dont simply well from deep within, they swell from the deepest of oceans and crash upon you.  I had such an experience this week, and I managed to finish a project I have been toiling over for months so obviously I am writing with particualr sense of calm tonight.  It does make more sense however to begin with discussion of this mystery project I have mentioned several times before.

I have been calling it "Chan Heung 1" or in texts with my Sifu "CH1" and it is named for Chan Heung the founder of one of the two styles of Kung Fu I study, Choy Lay Fut.  Appropriate as it is the first of many more to follow and with great effort at remaining humble, I will admit I am pretty proud of its graceful appearance in spite of its rugged utilitarian form.  In fairness, I have yet to describe what CH1 is.  CH1 is a Ching Jong.  Meaning "balance man" or "balance dummy" Ching Jongs are the quintessential identifying hallmark, at least in training aids, of the Choy Lay Fut style.  There are a lot of wooden dummies and other so called "body hardening" devices in the world of commercialized martial arts.  It seems like everyone in the business has a dusty, seldom used Wing Chun style Mook Jong in a dark cob webbed portion of their school somewhere.  But the Ching Jong, stands like a lone sentinel loyal to only one style.... actually I could care less if practioners of other styles wanted to use our Ching Jong, I'm confident it would enhance their training, and I'm not going to begrudge someone an opportunity for that.

The production of CH1 is something I have been cultivating for months... It has honestly been however a labor of love.  That being said, there were several times as I was actually producing the Jong that I thought "man this is going to be one UGLY baby!"  However I actually do feel that it came out really well and in many respects even better than I had anticipated.  My Sifu's birthday is tomorrow and we had a potluck at my school last night (Saturday).  At the potluck, all the students performed a "recital".  I ended up being an hour late.  I was furiously struggling to get CH1 done in time to present it to my Sifu as a birthday gift.  It was my gift to the school, but the students all agreed that they would in turn bequeath it to our Sifu.  Be sure to check out the picture gallery to see the Jong in variious stages of production, and check back to see pictures of it is action at our school.

So clearly you understand the aspect of tonights title, "A Craftsman's Toil."  What of fatherly pride? What of this title wave of emotion I discussed?

I have recently observed my son beginning to mimic the people around him as he learns more about the world and about himself.  I have watched as he has grown, physically and intellectually but also, I have seen his spirit take form.  I have seen his will develop I have seen him joyful and sad, and I have seen him both carefree and terrified (our dogs once got into a fight... scared the hell out of him.)  Seeing this range of emotions and these experiences in him, I would venture to say I have gotten to know him as well as any parent knows there child.  So I know when he was watching me, I know when he is ignoring me, I know when he is tired, or willful.  But I don't always know what will take hold in his mind and reveal itself through him to Tiffany and I hours or days later.

A few weeks ago, while I was in Pennsylvania and I got a text from Tiffany which was actually a movie that she had shot of him on her iPhone.  It is of Jaxon doing Kung Fu.  It is really cute, but to hear the delight in Tiffany's voice as he is doing his Kung Fu is what truly made me feel good.  Since that time, I have seen him briefly and spontaneously drop into Sei Ping Ma (a Horse Stance) and maybe even through a few punches but nothing as concrete as what Tiff captured him doing in several videos.

On Friday night, I picked Jaxon up from his day care.  Tiffany had told me earlier in the day that whe was going to have to work late (I dont know if I have ever mentioned here in the blog or not, but she builds lasers.  It turns out they arent easy to design and build afterall, hence no lightsabers as of yet, and they sometimes require staying late at work.)  Since Tiff was going to be stuck at work I called my teachers wife to ask if she could watch him during class which she said she could.... side note, Jaxon LOVES her! Seriously, he doesn't even say his own name yet and simply calls himself "Baby" but he can say her name.

I brought Jaxon with me to class and he was soon sitting with my teachers wife and was intently watching the class.  We were doing the foundational form of Choy Lay Fut called Ng Lung Ma.  During the conduct of the form, the whole school will say the names associated with each movement.  One such type of move is a kick, and instead of saying the name of the kick there is a particular sound associated... a sort of "Hi-Yah!" if you will.  The sound however is "dik" (Pronounced "DEEK!").  I knew Jaxon was watching and I thought it was really cool but I didnt think much else of it.

About two hours later, I was at home preparring dinner when I suddenly hear Tiff yell from the living room "Hey get out here you've got to see this!" When I walked into the living room, Tiff said "Jaxon show daddy what you were just doing, show daddy your Kung Fu."  Initially he was pretty shy about it but with only a modest amount of coaxing he was running around the living room kicking as high as he could and screaming "DIK! DIK!" It was extremely heart warming and felt good to know that of all the examples I could have set for my son, he is following one which I feel has been a recent (two years recent) pillar of my life.

Bonds and Stains

Posted by Robert Bibeau on August 8, 2011 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

As mentioned in a recent post, I have been doing a lot of woodworking.  My teacher and I have decided to start building various training equipment to enhance our Kung Fu and our school in general.  I have obiviously welcomed this opportunity as it combines two of my favorite activities... carpentry and Kung Fu.  A recent project, which we are calling Chan Heung 1 (named after the founder of Choy Lay Fut) is a Ching Jong.  Known is english as a "Balance Dummy."  It is ultimately the first real attempt at a Kung Fu training product that I have built and I am proud to say it is coming along smashingly.  I have very little work left to do on it at this point and I am very excited about getting it up and testing it out at the school to see what kind of abuse it can take.  Admittedly, I am able to see all of the imperfections in the product but it is really beginning to look good even so.  Tonight I put the first coat of stain on the body and after a second coat tomorrow the body ought to be complete.  I milled the blanks for the arms today and all that is left there is to carve them into a nice tapered round.  Honestly, the only thing that has got me worried about the whole product is the lamination job I did.  I found there were some unexpected complications and I have been left to wonder if the bonds formed by "face joint" required in this type of pressed laminate job will hold.  Honestly, at each step of the process since having removed the clamps, I thought the joints would just burst apart at any given moment, but they have held.

On a seperate and seemingly unrelated note, I have had a lot of family in town over this past week.  An aunt, a cousin, a sister in law, a couple of nephews and of course my brother lives in town but due to our work schedules, there are extended periods of time in which we do not see one another.

Tonight, as I was milling the blanks for the arms, which are also laminated and I was doubting the strength of their bonds, I thought a bit about my brother.  To mill these arms I was running them through a Jointer-Planner and I was trying to get them perfectly square and reduced to the precise dimensions I need to complete the Ching Jong.  Its a powerful machine and I was convinced that the lamination job wouldnt hold up to the abuse of being milled.  But I was wrong.  I was able to make many, many passes of the work piece through the jointer without it causing any damage to my work and only milling away preciesly the amount of material I desired.  As I got the material whittled down to the dimensions I wanted, I noticed that the material was looking really good.  I even marveled some at the beauty of the grain pattern.  Of course this beauty was only revealed because I had shaved away just enough to have it present just so.  Formed in nature and through some very hard work and patience, shaped by my hands into something beautiful.

As I finished up the milling process, I found I had more time to continue my work so I turned my attention to the unfinished body of the Jong.  I set it on some saw horses and set up my sander.  As I began sanding I doubted yet again the strength of the face joints even though my doubts have been proven baseless at each step thus far.  There have even been times during this build that I was so convinced that the bonds would not hold that I was practically abusive to the product or at least careless with it.  Even so, it has not failed me.  So I as I was sanding away, I noticed that the body of this Jong was beginning to look absolutely magnificent.  The lines are even and smooth, the form taking shape looking more like artwork than a tool for conditioning your body, an absolutley graceful looking object.  Of course the Ching Jong is purely utilitarian in nature but, I thought, this thing is starting to look good enough to sit in my living room.

Than I thought about the extended family that was actually sitting in my living room.  I thought again about my brother.  I thought about my sisters, my mom and dad, my wife and son.  I enjoyed my thoughts for once, instead of feeling drawn down by "family drama" I was just happy to think about them.  It was nice to have a few peaceful moments to myself, while I continued to work so intently on the Jong to reflect positively about the people I love.  As I thought about them, I laid down that first coat of stain and saw for the bright lusterous shine that had been waiting to burst through.

I thought about what a valuable lesson this project has taught me.  Our family relationships are simply bonds.  Often times we dont always trust that a bond will hold sometimes we even attempt to intentionally cause the bond to break since we already think its going to fail anyways.  Somehow though, those bonds manage to hold.  True relationships with our family often take hard work, but the beauty of the grain pattern revealed during the milling process teaches us that through hard work, even after having sustained some serious hardship, a natural beauty can be revealed.  The stain I applied doesn't teach us that you can cover things up or make them look better than they are.  No, infact every single error I made in the construction process shows up far more clearly.  However, the stain also reveals the beauty that was already there and it attracts far more attention than anything I did to mar the appearance.

Tests and Triumphs

Posted by Robert Bibeau on August 1, 2011 at 1:12 AM Comments comments (0)

In many respects this has been a banner week for me.  Throughout the week I continued to search for inspiration as to what to write about and all week long I seemed to come up empty handed.  "I need something poignant" I kept thinking to myself and I was frustrated that as each day passed I had yet to have poignant revelations.  So today, while sweating like crazy doing of all things yardwork, I was thinking hard about what I would write about and basically ended up recapping the whole week in the process.

Monday afternoon I pulled the clamps of off a wooden dummy I building for my school, wondering how the glue up process would hold:  It held.  Tuesday morning I went in for my 5:00 AM private lesson with my Sifu, later that afternoon I tested for my Black Fringe for my Orange Sash:  Not only did I nearly pass out from the intensity of the test, but I also managed to pass.  Wednesday, I managed to get several things done at work that had been looming over my head for awhile as well as complete a task that had been assigned on Monday and given only a 72 hour deadline.  Thursday I got some more work done on the wooden dummy and spent a wonderful evening with my family mostly spent cleaning the house as we had family coning in the next day, but it was good even so.  Friday I hosted family from out of town, Saturday after class, I put the finishing touches on the body of the wooden dummy and got the majority of work on the arms done, and enjoyed an amazing dinner of sushi with my family having gone for ice cream afterwards.  Today, I finished a brake job on my truck, cleaned up the colossal mess I have made of the garage, ripped weeds out from around my rose bushes, cut down 5 wheelbarrow loads of branches from some of my trees, and raked my entire property and mulched most of what I raked.  Still having fit time in for a swim in my pool with my family, a dinner of grilled chicken kabobs, watched a movie with my son and read to him from one of his favorite books before bed.  So like I said a banner week.

When viewed through that lens it is now interesting to me that I at all was searching for anything to write about.  My test was one of the more difficult that I have endured thus far in my training.  By far the most difficult and also most enjoyable was my Orange Sash test wich occured in the rain.  This test however was in the heat which made for a much less enjoyable atmosphere.  I will say however that getting an opportunity to be tested in harsh conditions like that is very fortuitous as it establishes a certain confidence that if I can do it under those extremely difficult times, I'll be able to use it when I most need it.

Now one thing I think is important to identify is that over the past several months I have been trying to balance, family, Kung Fu and work with the tasks around the house, vehicle maintainence, budgeting, and carpentry.  In this effort to balance these things, I have been trying to set conditions that will make me, my house, and my family more efficient in each of these regards so that we can spend more of our family time in a clean, relaxed and quality manner.  This effort is the triumph that I eluded to in tonights title.  I have quite literally been trying to get to that yard work for MONTHS and the development of the wooden dummy I am building and so near completion of is also I project that I have been working on for MONTHS, getting my garage into a clean enough state so as to be able to do this type of carpentry is something I have been working on for MONTHS, setting conditions so that I can get the majority of household chores done in a single evening rather than an entire weekend is something I have been working on for MONTHS.  The fact that all of these things culminated in the same week is pretty damned impressive to me.  Whats more is that while I feel tired right now and definitely ready for a good nights rest, I dont feel overwhelmed.  I don't feel stressed out and I don't feel like I have unfinished business.  I feel excited about the coming week, both for my professional work and the work I am doing for myself and my family.  I feel excited about the wooden dummy I am working on, I feel excited about my training this coming week but mostly I am excited because there is a recognition that being able to do the things you want to do is based on how hard you work at the things that hold you back from doing them.  A further and vastly more comforting revelation in this regard is that doing those "hold back" things is a sort of a dynamo, the faster you get it spinning, the less energy it takes to keep it spinning and thus the more time you can spend focusing on what you enjoy.  I had this revelation while wearing blisters into my hands raking my yard and relishing every second of it.  Mostly because associated with a feeling of accomplishment is the unadulterated feeling of personal triumph.

Futures and Foundations

Posted by Robert Bibeau on July 25, 2011 at 1:28 AM Comments comments (3)

The past seven months have been busy.  The last time I blogged, I was recovering from surgery.  Since then, I have left the Wounded Warrior Battalion, returned to full duty overseeing the training of Recruits, established plans for my future, worked hard at improving my family life, watched my son grow and developed my Kung Fu.  I have also been asked to speak at several events and detail my story of recovery.  Those opportunities were a great privilege and extremely fulfilling.  The items I listed seem easy to rattle off right now, and it may not seem like a good excuse to have forgone my blog.  Truthfully, as I got settled back into work that didnt have the "safety net" of the Wounded Warrior Battalion, I often felt overwhelmed.  That being said, I do question how much more effective I might have been these past many months had I been blogging.  The point being that I feel like the blog lays a good foundation for ensuring that the rest of the Healing Journey Project is occuring as intended.

In an effort to maintain better continuity of the Healing Journey Project, at least from a blog perspective, I am going to make every effort to post every Sunday night.  Posting every day proved to be exceedingly taxing, and every seven months ineffective.  I feel like once a week is a good tempo... I mean it works for syndicated columnists right?  So for anybody who is still taking a look at the site, check back in a week too!

Now that the business of explanations and justifications is out of the way, lets get down to some of the more interesting things...

The foundation that Kung Fu has lain down for me defies words.  Being as I havent written in a while, It may be easier to describe this than it other wise would.  Have you ever had a friend that was over weight whom you lost contact with and then, months later you see him and he has lost a tremendous amount of weight?  Had you been exposed to that friend everyday, you may not have noticed the change as day by day it is subtle, where as after months of seperation it is a significant change noticed in a moment.  I feel like this may be the same type of situation.  At least as far as the foundation for my future which Kung Fu has built and the change it has effected in me both since I began my study and since I last wrote.

In May I ran a Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test (PFT), it's an annual requirement and one that I am these days happy to fulfill.  out of a possible 300 points, I earned a score of 297.  The test is comprised of three events pull-ups, crunches, and a 3 mile run.  Each event offers a possible 100 points where 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches in 2 minutes, and 3 miles in 18:00 is a perfect score.  I maxed the pull-ups and the crunches and ran the 3 miles in 18:22.  Pretty good considering I NEVER do any type of physical training beyond Kung Fu.  NEVER.  How ever, an extreme nearly elite state of physical fitness hardly details the change and foundation which my Kung Fu training and teachings have developed for me.

To accurately describe the change I will need to take you back to the state my psyche was in shortly after I was medevac'd from Iraq.  As a Marine, and especially as a Marine Infantry Officer, I pride myself on physical fitness and an agressive almost knuckle dragging personality.  Paradoxically, having been my battalion's Intelligence Officer during "The Surge" in 2007, I also fancy myself a bit of an intellectual.  This is not intended with any sense of bravado or a boastful nature, it just simply... is.  This was all especially true on September 29, 2008.  The day before I got hit.  By October 1, 2008 things were beginning to change for me.  I knew that something was wrong though due to the nature of Traumatic Brain Injuries, I didnt know what.  I knew I was in pain, but figured it was temporary, and secretly wondered why I was suffering any pain at all.  Shortly I became filled with doubt.  Doubt about my abilities as a commander, my physical abilities, my tactical abilities, my leadership abilities.  I had doubts of whether or not a stronger man could have sustained that hit better than I did, whether a better tactician would have seen the bomb before it exploded and I even had doubts of whether or not I was actually hurt.  After I got medevac'd from Iraq this sense of self doubt maginified.  Although I had absolutely ZERO control over the medevac, there was an irrational side of my brain wondering if I were a coward because I had "let them" medevac me.  When I found out about the positive results of an MRI revealing precisely where the injury had occured in my brain I doubted that it could even be the appropriate scan or an older injury.  Basically, everything that was presented to me, I had doubts and paranoia's about.  As the medical intervention which I so desperately needed took hold, so did the side effects.  Weight gain being at the forefront but an acknowledgement that many of the things which I had so long prided myself on where now unattainable for me coincided.  In essence, the blow from that bomb to my pyshce was absolutely, unequivocally destructive.  The blast didn't hurt my perception of self, it didn't damage my perception of self.... No.  That blast completely destroyed my perception of myself.

Once you recognize, that the man in your mirror is... unrecognizable, perceptions of the world around you become distorted too.  Feelings of hope often turn to despair for no real reason.  Irrational paranoia's, fear of getting hurt again, fear of losing family members or friends, elevated states of alert and anxiety and a constant never ending state of pain rule the day and an inability to sleep or worse yet fall asleep only to wake up multiple times or suffer nightmares rules the night.  Addtionally the slef doubt continues to manifest and plague and within a few months of having returned home it was coupled by an extreme sense of betrayal.  None of these feelings were intended with any malice toward anyone, but they were there and they were intense and they were absolutely uncontrolable.  It wasn't long until these feelings, symptoms, fears, doubts, paranoia's, anxiety, elevated states of alert, constant pain, a sense of dread and hopelessness for my future and destroyed perception of self had me frequently considering suicide.  The consideration began as a lack of care if something bad were to happen to me eventually it became a calculated risk versus gain analysis.  Obviously this was not something I was willing to discuss with anyone as the recognition that there was too great a risk in the discourse.  Two things happened that pulled me from the precipice.  The first was the announcement by my wife that we were going to have a child.  The second, was that I found Kung Fu.

I can distinctly remember during my second deployment, post injury but prior to medevac, being convinced that I would die there in Iraq and never know the joys of being a father.  When Tiffany told me we were going to have a child, I am sure it saved my life.  However, when you are in the type of state I was in, a high like that will wear off.  Finding Kung Fu and having a committed desire to learn something new each day, the recognition that it was alleviating pain and the fulfilling nature of the training, kept me going until my son was born.  Later, the creation of the Healing Journey Project itself and the assistance and recognition of the good will of American's willing to actually support Wounded service members helped keep me going.  But none-the-less, had I not had those first two items occur, I would not have made it.

Now that the stage has been set detailing the severity of my condition at the time I found Kung Fu it may be more apparent the change that has occured.  That being said as recently as the last time I blogged some of those symptoms were still present although at a diminished level.  Of course by that point the desire to take my own life had long since past but the occasional self doubt and paranoia's were present.  Admittedly those still on occassion persist and to a degree, when I am suffering them now, I notice them more than I did when they were constant.  They are also easier, by and large, to deal with now.

I mentioned, that there was a sense of dread associated with my future.  It is important to both note that feeling is gone and to discuss what that dread was associated with.  I was afraid at the time, that I would be forced out of the military, at the time my sole motive for recovery was vengeance.  I was going to kill as many of the people who had hurt me as I could and it didn't matter to me if that occured in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else.  The thought of not being able to get on another combat deployment scared the hell out of me.  Worse still was the recognition that while I can DO anything, within obvious reason, there wasn't anything else that I WANTED to do.  That fear of not being able to find fulfilling employment was absolutely debilitating.  I am quite happy to say that I am no longer plagued by that sentiment.

Tonights title, Futures and Foundations eludes to the premise that Kung Fu has developed for me a new foundation upon which to build my life.  It also is providing my a future and in the meantime offering some extremely fulfilling experiences.  For example, I was recently in Pennsylvania on a work trip.  After a long workout (of Kung Fu obviously) I was getting ready for bed when I recieved a text message from Tiff.  It was a video she had shot on her iPhone of our son Jaxon mimicing my Kung Fu.  I am telling you it is EXTRAORDINARILY fulfilling to see your own son mimic something that is so important to you.  Additionally my teacher and I have started building various Kung Fu training products which is the perfect blend of my passion for woodworking and carpentry and my passion for Kung Fu.  Additionally, due to the enhanced quality of life I have been enjoying thanks to my Kung Fu, those feelings I described associated with the previously destroyed perception of self are gone.  They had been wrecking my family life in addition to my own life and having a renewed sense of self worth has had huge implications for my family life.  I am able now to enjoy being a part of a family.... thats a huge success in it's own right, but having realized this the vengeful nature I had embraced is completely removed.  In that respect Kung Fu brought me a sense of peace.  It also has assuaged the fear of what to do with my life next.  I have talked with my teacher about this many, many times.  It is my intention to start my own school.  This may occur in the next 20 months or it may not occur for another 12 years.  It all depends on when I get out of the Marine Corps.  Also there is a self imposed reuirement to begin my school with zero debt which means that if I do get out of the Marine Corps before I am eligible for retirement, I may have to go to work for someone else for awhile... the point being, I have a plan for my future.  Something I didn't have the last time I wrote.

So maybe that 297 PFT isn't that big of a deal in its own right, but it seems to assign a tangible numeric value to how I am doing in a lot more respects than a simple metric of physical fitness.

Gas Leaks and Dirty Diapers

Posted by Robert Bibeau on January 26, 2011 at 12:08 AM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday Tiff and I were able to smell gas at our new home.  I called the gas and electric company to report the problem and they said they would send someone right over.  At 11:30 last night they finally did.  Then they shut off my gas.

First thing this morning, I called a plumbing company and asked them to come out and repair the problem.  They were much more timely, arriving within about an hour.  Unfortunately there is a significant amount of work that needs done (not to mention a significant bill to pay) but they will be done with it all tomorrow probably mid day.

The plus side of this is that, the need to access the garage is paramount as that is where we will be routing the gas line.  This meant that I needed to get some serious work done un-packing from the move and organizing the garage.  I am happy to say that I made huge progress in this regard.  Additionally when Tiff got home I was able, for the first time since my surgery, change Jaxon's diaper.  Obviously one would not normally be excited about changing a diaper, but I was quite glad to be able to help with things again.  I am quite confident that the ability to perform these tasks  today was made possible by the efforts of having practiced some Xi Gong over the past week and having spent my time resting appropriately and at appropriate times.  Additionally today is the first time since the surgery when I haven't taken any pain medications.  An accomplishment in and of itself.

Convalescing and Coordinating

Posted by Robert Bibeau on January 24, 2011 at 2:11 AM Comments comments (0)

I have determined to make the absolute most of my time off as I recover from surgery.  As I said in a recent post, I feel like the Healing Journey needs some tools and methods to assist with its continued productivity.  Part of that effort, during my convalescence has been to attempt to make my house more... Zen, for lack of a better word.  I have said many times before that I often feel like my entire life is in disarray.  I am convinced that if the space around me is in disarray, my brain and life are bound to be as well.  Thus, if I can control the environment around me, I can better control my own life and mental processes.  

This may seem rather obvious to some: "keep your house clean and your life will be too." In fairness I guess it is obvoius, but it is a lot easier said than done.  Especially with the "modern professional lifestyle" that my wife and I keep.  We had a discussion just this evening about how it seems as though there is rarely "enough" time.  One of the conclusions we came too is that we are currently wasting a lot of our leisure time.  That is to say that the things that should be leisurely, become chore like.  A good example, taking the dog for a walk, whether we go as a family and enjoy some light conversation or if I take him myself and enjoy some time with my thoughts, it is a good opportunity to Be leisurely.  Instead it becomes a chore because we, and I think a lot of people do this, spend our leisure time lazily relaxing by means of opportunity and proximity.  There is nothing wrong with watching a little TV.  However, I bet I spend a lot more time "relaxing" in front of the TV while obsessing about  whatever chore I need to do than I will spend actually doing the chore.  I also think that even once I rid myself (to the extent possible) of this type of habit I will still be pressed for time.  But every minute of time I budget for and save is a minute I wasn't saving before and is time I can now spend with my family or on myself.  So basically, it feels like I never have enough time because I don't I was busy wasting it for years.

Often times in our lives we have to wait for something drastic to occur before we realize our errors and make efforts to correct them.  In my case there was something drastic.  But unlike the circumstance in which one is caught off guard, I was looking forward to this drastic event.  The surgery I underwent a little more than a week ago was the event.  It gave me time off from work that I wouldn't have else wise had.  Now, I have had to work hard to ensure I am getting appropriate amounts of rest and not "over doing it" but I have really made some big progress in creating an environment that is more conducive to order and less conducive to chaos.  My mom played a major role in this effort while I was layed up and I am really grateful to her for her recent help.  Tiff has also done a ton to help.  My Sifu has been instrumental taking time to teach me some new Xi Gong and adaptive methods for employing my Kung Fu within my current limitations.  

In the coming week, I will finalize these efforts.  Thus ensuring that as I get back into shape after my surgery the Healing Journey will be more capable than ever.

Anesthesia and Energy

Posted by Robert Bibeau on January 14, 2011 at 1:53 AM Comments comments (0)
I'll be keeping this short tonight as I'm still fairly medicated. The surgery, I am told, went well. I am in good spirits and feel generally pretty good. I remember very little about going into the OR and it feels like only seconds later I was waking up. I recall being very confused and was told by the staff that I persistently asked "why hadn't bravo section checked in?" Probably a reference to the organization of an Light Armored Reconnaissance platoon. I am feeling extremely inspired though because one thing I recall clearly is that as I began to understand where I was I felt an incredible, undeniable urge to jump from the bed and work through Ng Lung Ma one of our foundational forms.


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