Rachael Phillips and the Tactical Withdrawl

I’m no good at properly chilling out on days off. For me a day off is packed with all the stuff I don’t have time to do during the rest of the week. I can’t sit still. I do stuff. Lots of stuff. My inability to wholeheartedly take part in inertia drives my husband crazy, as he is a master of intentional slothfulness.

But after a particularly busy, stressful and demanding period at work, I decided to appease the growing number of friends who were suggesting I take time out, and I booked myself a 24 hour tactical withdrawal.

We don’t use the term ‘retreat’ in the Army. A retreat is something you do when you’re being driven backwards by the enemy. A tactical withdrawal is something you do on your own terms so that you’re in a better position to assess the situation. Semantics? Or a frame of mind? Actually when thinking of it like this, perhaps what I’d booked was more like a retreat, as I wouldn’t have ordinarily opted for this on my terms! And I did rather feel like I was being driven there.

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Hide me in the shadow of your wings

It is a normal day and I feel happy and relaxed. My mind is blank because I’m making a brew. I’m on autopilot. I’m not thinking about anything in particular, I’m not anxious, I’m not on edge. Just stirring. Suddenly the tranquillity of ordinary life is shattered and my shoulders arch up and back. My head seems to retreat into my neck like a turtle. My eyes are wide with fear. Pulse racing, hands sweating, breathing hard. My eyes dart about, my eyebrows furrow. My body has reacted to something and has begun this remarkable and grotesque process that fills me with both adrenaline and fear. This routine happens so quickly that my mind hasn’t caught up with it yet. I’m filled with terror and I’m searching for the source.

It was just the bathroom door slamming in the breeze. But I was ready. I was ready to hit the floor and take cover, or fight or run or…whatever. I was ready for anything. I’ve never felt more ready. And now my mind has caught up and I realise it was just the door and I feel lot of other things as the fear subsides. I feel silly. I feel ashamed. I feel sad. I feel sorry for myself. I feel angry at myself. I sometimes feel angry at the Army too.

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