I’ll never forget the day I first stepped foot out of the plane in Saudi Arabia. We’d been traveling for about 26 hours from Texas (where we’d gone to visit family) to NY, and then NY to Saudi Arabia. I was a young military wife, with two young sons in tow, ages 8 & 9. We were there to accompany our Soldier – husband/Dad – on a two-year assignment to the Kingdom. Let me set the stage:
It was 1980 in the midst of the Iran Hostage Crisis (many of you may be too young to remember.) Iranians had stormed the American Embassy in Tehran, took 60 American hostages, and held them for 444 days. Tension dominated world news.
I had absolutely no knowledge of the Middle East – other than fear and extremely negative perceptions about the region from the news. Back home in Texas, the boys and I left my parents heartbroken and in tears. They begged me, “Please don’t go. Stay here with us. Don’t take our grandsons to Saudi Arabia.” I was tempted to stay back in the comfort of home and family…my heart was torn – do I stay or go; comfort or fear? I was keenly aware that I couldn’t reveal this inner struggle to my parents or it’d be all over.
Throughout the flight, all I could think about was their tender tears and deep concern for our safety and well-being. My mind flashed back to when I was a 5-year old kid – safe, secure, happy. It was akin to what I call growing up ‘a warm, fuzzy cocoon.’
I was jolted out of my reverie when our plane landed in Dhahran, stopped short of the terminal, and we were asked to deplane on the tarmac. I made an outward attempt to appear strong for our boys, but churning beneath the surface were my own deep-seated fears for our safety. I questioned my decision. Was doing the right thing? I had no idea what to expect.
We stepped out of the plane onto the first step of the stairs. We were immediately assaulted by a blast of searing desert heat. It felt stifling – stopped my breath – like opening the door of a hot oven and instinctively knowing not to let this air into your lungs. I’d grown up in Houston with its hot, humid summers, but it was nothing compared to what I felt entering this foreign Kingdom.
I remember looking up and out and was taken aback by how different everything appeared, particularly men milling around on the tarmac in their long flowing robes and either a red & white check or solid white head covering. It felt like I’d just stepped in from outer space – an entirely new world, completely unfamiliar. I recall a faint scent of something I’d never smelled before wafting through the air. My heart beat quickened as I took in the sights & smells of this foreign culture. My mind flashed back to the critical question, “Will we be safe here?”
Both boys had a firm grip of each hand. I remember looking down at my little 9 year old. He was looking at me, searching my face for reassurance that we were going to be o.k. I reluctantly took the initiative to lead them down the descent to the second step. I saw support vehicles nearby to service the plane, and noted Arabic writing on them. I heard Arabic spoken for the first time. I felt faint from the intense desert heat & sun; everything seemed surreal.
I thought about my parents and wished I could hear their Texas accent. Before we descended another step, I leaned down to reassure each boy that we would be o.k. – hoping I came across as believable.
I led them down another step, although at that moment, I didn’t feel like a leader at all. I wanted to run and hide. My eyes searched for something familiar – anything like I’d always known. An overwhelming wave of homesickness suddenly washed over me. My mind flashed back to my first day of school, and how – when the lunch bell rang, I thought it was time to go home. My teacher said, “Dorothy, this is only lunchtime. You cannot go home.” I cried. I desperately wanted to see my Mother.
I felt that same way on this day, standing on that second step, hesitant to take my children one step further into the unknown.
Looming in front of us was that last step! My fearful mind began to play tricks on me…a mirage appeared – a ‘wall of fire’ – between us and our last step onto the tarmac concealing this foreign soil.
The fire represented my moment of truth. In an instant, I had a momentous realization that, years before, I’d chosen to be an Army wife, knowing that one day this choice would require me to leave my family and friends behind to serve our Country alongside my husband. It suddenly struck me that this was my WHY for being there – & there was no turning back.
This was my test. I had to break through the ‘wall of fire!” Today I call it the “terror barrier” – you know – that THING you’re terrified to do, but IF you do decide to conquer it – you grow exponentially by leaps and bounds. Maybe for you…it’s to jump out of an airplane, or audition for American Idol, or maybe [pause] you haven’t done IT yet, but you’re thinking about it. If so, my story is for you…I hope through it, you will find the encouragement to go for it.
I tell people that I grew 10 years in 2 in Saudi Arabia. We also grew closer as a family. Had I not found the courage to conquer my ‘wall of fire’ & step onto that tarmac – I would have never:
· Become a coach and teacher on a global scale.
· Met a President & a Sultan
· Had lively discussions with our sons about their adventures abroad or stand amazed today at their broader understanding of world affairs and the global environment.
Go For It!!
Do you dream of being more and doing more with your life? Are YOU willing to break through your ‘terror barrier’ to do it?
My challenge for you today is: Find your WHY. And when you do – as one of my mentors, Paul Martinelli says, “Jump and grow your wings on the way down!”
That’s when you discover the leader within…you’ll uncover an untapped greatness that will serve as fuel to propel YOU to the next level.
Conquer that gremlin! Take that step…
Live your dream & take others with you!
Pick up my book today and read for yourself the 7 Steps to Loving Your Life as a Military Wife!