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Identity + Daily Practice

As I come to close a rough year in my personal life, full of changes and loss, I’ve been reflecting on a big part of who I am and my identity. I’m not alone, it seems, as I have now spoken to close to 1500 current military members, veterans and spouses, and identity has constantly come up. In fact, just recently I asked, “who are you” to a career soldier and he really struggled with that answer. He was just in the process of getting out of the military and struggling with the challenge of taking off the uniform.

This change of identity is actually a common issue I hear when speaking with people from different backgrounds and a variety of careers. And professional athletes seem to have a transition most like a military transition. At an event at American Dream U, former San Francisco 49ers player Brian Jennings, shared his transition story. Specifically focusing on the moment he took off his uniform and hung it up for the very last time, and then cried his entire drive home. It was a painful departure no matter how celebrated he was in that identity – because he was moving away from it. He later found his new identity and passion in helping those with traumatic brain injuries, helping several veterans deal with TBIs at his clinic.

Identity and working through transitions in identity are human issues, not merely a professional athlete or a veteran issue. I do think it’s extremely important for those in the process of transitioning to really work on themselves; before the change, during and ever after. People need to get out and find time for themselves to play, read, and listen to podcasts that might guide them through this transition and other times of drastic change. We have many resources on the ADU site to support you and your family through military transition. A good starting place is our Transition Readiness guide and then to our Resources section.

But this past week, I had an opportunity to experience life from a child’s vantage point. While traveling in Louisiana I was waiting outside a Target store with my dog Gigi, a little girl about 11 years old and her grandma came up and asked if they could pet our service dog. I said “of course, please do” and started up a brief conversation.

She knew exactly what breed my dog was and was extremely sweet while drinking her Starbucks. I asked her if she had a dog and she said no, she couldn’t have a big dog where she lived. I asked her why not. She said, “I live in a trailer and it’s too small and wouldn’t be fair for a big dog.” I immediately felt something in my heart for this little girl. I said, “well I’m living in a trailer, it’s right over there, and our dog seems to be just fine when I take her for walks.” Her grandmother looked at her and said “honey what a special day, you got to go to Target, have a Starbucks and pet a pretty dog.” She just looked up and smiled. What a grateful little girl and a precious grandma.

I need these experiences to remind myself of what I have and what I should be grateful for. The holidays seem to be a time for all of us to see these small reminders in our daily interactions; and we need it. I can tell you one thing – I am extremely grateful for being born in this country and knowing we have our US military 24/7, 365 days a year to protect our freedoms. And that’s not a little thing – it’s huge and should be part of our daily gratitude practice.

Last week was Thanksgiving and I had an opportunity to fly back from the Airstream #endlesscaravan adventure and spend some days with my family. One thing that I sometimes take for granted is my ability to do things that require time, money and freedom. I get down on myself for not feeling grateful for what I have and what I get to experience in life.

But that’s okay because forgiveness is another important part of my daily practice. It has to be, because I was a master at beating the s*** out of myself for all the stupid things I’ve done in the past. At times, I could even feel the emotions that the thoughts of what I had done previously brought up. But I had to learn to forgive myself for things that I done, or thought about doing, and just continue that practice every day.

I’ve always heard about the benefits of forgiving others and what it can do for your health. And yes, there were a few people I had to forgive, but the main person was myself. This really hit me when I read, “what could the harm be for forgiving yourself?”. This book just took that practice and made it extremely powerful.

I have forgiven myself, but still memories of my past continue to come up emotionally and I’ve been taught to use the phrase, “not useful, Phil” anytime a stupid or fearful thought hits my mind.  It’s a strong phrase and I learned it from a Veteran author: here’s his book.

I’ve listed out a few more tools that I found helpful in many of my life changes and carry through in my daily practice. My hope is sharing with you what has helped me will make it faster and easier for you to move through your transitions and life challenges. Take care this holiday season. Be grateful for what you do have, who you do have, the life you have. And I’ll see you in the ADU weekly email soon.

~ Phil

Wim Hof on Breathing, A Joe Rogan Interview

And then Wim Hof teaching the technique

Meditation app– All about forgiveness

And to support my daily practice, a Gratitude Journal.

Phil Randazzo
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