Reintegration: Worth the Mess, the Hard, and the Participation

My word for the year is reintegration.

It’s a word I love to hate.

As I was brainstorming words to live by this year, this one revealed itself, and when it did, I cringed. A lot.

Reintegration is not a word I love. It’s a word that reminds me of a lot of pain and tends to send me into a mental spiral of coulda, woulda, shoulda.

In military speak, reintegration is the time period post deployment when families and service members become one whole family again. The timeline is ill defined at best, and the resources for learning to do this well, especially amidst transitions at the service member’s command are lacking. Honestly, the majority of the reintegration periods I’ve experienced have been periods emotional of freefall. There are no rules. Except there are. There are a lot of expectations. And there are A LOT of feelings, from everyone. Bringing a family back together after a long separation is hard.

So, forgive my initial balking at the word. We have a long and tumultuous history.

But I couldn’t shake it. The more brainstorming I did, the more I continued to circle back to reintegration.

I naively thought the word was solely about my personal life; that reintegration would only apply to me, my marriage, and my family relationships. I could not fathom it applying in other ways until about noon PST today.

As my social media feeds filled with photos and videos of our nation’s capital being overrun and the subsequent posts of both encouragement and backlash, I found myself full of fear and full of sadness.

But amidst all the emotional noise reintegration arose again. It’s the word that just won’t quit tapping me.

We are a nation divided.

And it’s time to reintegrate-to become whole, to restore people and things are that are so opposite to unity.

It’s not impossible, but it’s going to take more than one person to do it. It’s going to take all of us. This is the key to reintegration-everyone has a part.

Reintegration takes everyone. It takes everyone looking at the rulebook to which they subscribe and evaluating what is working and what isn’t. It takes everyone identifying their expectations. It takes everyone feeling their feelings and also not feeling them at other people. And then it takes sharing all of the things-the rules, the expectations, and the feelings- with each other in the way the other people hear it.

That last part is important. Yelling is not going reintegrate us. Shaming is not going to reintegrate us. Meme-ing is not going to reintegrate us.

I wish I could tell you that I was simply brilliant and inherently knew that yelling, shaming, and meme-ing wasn’t the answer. But I can’t. I learned those lessons through immense turmoil and pain during several hard years of reintegration post deployment.

I tried all of those tactics. They don’t work. They only incite more pain and make the chasm between us wider.

Reintegration is hard. Reintegration is messy. Reintegration requires participation.

Reintegration is worth the hard, worth the mess, and worth the participation.

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