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I am wholly responsible for what I experience in every moment.  

The military environment relieved me of the inherent neuroses that come from being born into an Italian-Irish family in Jersey by providing me with one very concrete decision:  either slow down, be quiet, and pay attention, or reap the consequences.  With formidable consequences, I slowed down, became quiet, and paid attention.  In the absence of self-imposed noise, I discovered control.

I was part of the pre-commissioning crew of the mighty warship USS SHOUP (DDG 86). That means that I, along with 200+ of my hardworking, unrelenting shipmates, built a Navy destroyer. When a ship is new, it must undergo perpetual scrutiny until it is deemed sea-worthy, combat-ready, and is finally christened into the fleet. As part of the team responsible for the computer network system that tied the weapon systems and tactical displays together, downtime was fairly non-existent during sea trials.

One particularly wavy night at sea, a missile test was brought to a screeching halt due to our system. The circuit card that needed to be replaced sat at the very bottom of an armored cabinet. I was pulled from a dead sleep so that my “baby-hands” could liberate the pesky bottom screw that was deadlocked centimeters from the deck, stuck static in its place. By the time I arrived, the commanding officer and his boys were in an uproar and standing right in front of the cabinet, hands on their hips, muttering under their breath about tax dollars and the future of theater ballistic missile defense as if it all rested upon that one little screw.

I snatched the screwdriver from my shipmate, dove onto the deck with a vengeance, and nearly broke a finger as I attacked the screw.  My heart was racing, and I could feel the heat on my face despite it being pressed atop the ice-cold deck. Then, countless other men were standing behind me, hands on their hips barking, and the little Jersey girl inside of me so badly wanted to bark back.  I was in an uncontrollable, shaking rush to finish the job before I remembered to slow down, be quiet, and pay attention; to control only what I could control and to dismiss the rest.  Suddenly, everything fell silent, and I finally wrangled that screw, so it was, that one tiny little screw made me accountable.

The fact is, that we are all responsible for what we experience in every moment. Constantly bombarded by infinite stimuli – by incessant barking – it is essential that we understand that we only acknowledge, or actually process, a very small fraction of what is happening around us, and that we have full control over what is included in that share. Through practice, we are capable of conditioning ourselves to slow down, be quiet, and pay special attention, to wrangle the static, and tame our own noise. The most sea-worthy and combat-ready vessels run quietly.

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