Sharing Me

Emotion always has its roots in the unconscious and manifests itself in the body.

~Irene Claremont de Castillejo

Homecoming is so close I can feel it breathing on my neck! It’s been so long since I have seen my husband’s face, hair, skin, hands, – everything. Although he was home for a short time before getting redeployed it felt more like an R&R than his homecoming. We didn’t even get to enjoy a ‘honeymoon’ stage with the holidays, moving, our oldest going to a new school, and then the re-deployment. Even though we did the whole homecoming thing not too long ago I still find myself feeling the same reservations – specifically on touch.

As much as I dream about running into my husband’s arms to hold on for dear life, kissing him until we can’t any more, and having our bodies feel close again, I can’t remove myself from wondering if my space will feel violated? As well as how can it be violated if that space has been untouched because of a separation I have been longing to end?

As a military wife you learn to adapt and mold into whatever you need to be for any and every situation. Living months without any sensual, loving touch was difficult to get accustomed to at first but after time goes by its like you become comfortable with solitude and being untouched is as normal as waking up every morning.

Most people don’t allow just ‘anyone’ to touch you. I for one am no big ‘hugger’ – until I create an emotion for you. When we are out in public, to most people, it would be completely uncomfortable to have a stranger go up to you and put his/her hand on your shoulder as you converse. (I would probably be a bit scared too) Now if I know you this person (as an acquaintance per say) it might still be a little uncomfortable but more in the realm of okay. And thus, if I ‘know you – know you’ (in the sense that I have factual feelings for you) I would not only be okay with your hand on my shoulder but would expect more.

Children, for example, are the most honest and truthful individuals on earth – just because it’s all they know to be (a good thing, I say).  Most toddlers do not freely go to strangers unless they sense trust and an emotional connection. If you force them, they most likely will cry, kick, and scream. Conversely, if you take your time building that emotional bond, the toddler will slowly move towards you at their own pace and in the most genuine way ever.

So, here I am, feeling like a toddler faced with a stranger – and that stranger is touch. I know I love my husband and I trust him and have an emotional connection – but his touch is a stranger to my body. His touch needs to start over. His touch needs to work on a bond. His touch needs to earn my emotional connection. I expect it to not take too long but initially sharing me is going to be easier said than done.

Since the initial deployment my emotions have gone through shock, trauma, and recovery and all along the means used as the primary expression for these feelings – touch – has been suppressed.  I too need to retrain my mind and body to allow touch to be reintegrated into my life again. Touch – be it a hug, holding hands, a kiss, or a stroke on the face – is essential in a marriage and any loving relationship for that matter. So although, I am feeling a bit anxious about touch – I do recognize that I would fail at my love if I don’t walk into confronting this, even if it is a slow process, in the end it will be success.

Now I’m not quite sure how common this feeling is amongst most military wives but I wanted to be authentic about what is in my tumultuous thoughts and possibly in the other less outspoken military wives. And no – I’m not saying I plan on avoiding my husband’s touch like the plague. We will have our picture perfect – almost poster type homecoming moment, it’s after that moment has passed that worries me.

The human body is not an instrument to be used, but a realm of one’s being
to be experienced, explored, enriched and, thereby, educated.
–   Thomas Hanna

Semper Waiting

A military wife knows more than anyone what it feels like to wait and wait and wait. We wait for deployments, we wait for homecomings, we wait on official word, we wait on getting leave, we wait for orders, we wait on emails, we wait on phone calls, well  (you get what I mean) we are simply – Semper Waiting Spouses.

Since my last blog post, I finally got an official homecoming date for the husband (woohoo!) after waiting over 2 long gruesome and lonesome months. But even with a visible date in the near future I still find myself waiting! Waiting for it to hit me that this is not just another rumor, waiting to hear more details, waiting for the ACTUAL day to come, and waiting to hear what’s next!

All in all, it makes for a good recipe for ANXIETY. Have you ever been at the commissary or Target and gone to the checkout lane and thought to yourself you chose the ‘wrong-slower’ lane or got that ‘the other line always moves faster’ feeling? As you stand there and ponder these thoughts in your mind your anxiety begins to rise and thus the ‘wait’ becomes intolerable. Well, for me – I feel like at times living to military life I’m doing nothing more than waiting on-line – the wrong , slow line.

Anxiety is simply the way we react to stress. Some handle it better than others and some can’t handle it at all. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, apprehension, worry, and nervousness. Most times anxiety is justified with a cause (such as the anticipation of our spouse going or coming home from deployment), but even with a reason it may come from creating out of proportion expectations to what normally may happen in the real situation. (Please read more at the National Institute of Mental Health)

Anxiety is part of life (even toddlers experience it) and it’s a very common denominator in military spouses. Explained waiting under any circumstance (at the airport, doctor’s office, and a restaurant) can be anxiety-inducing so you have to expect that waiting for your life to move forward is even double the anxiety!

Even though I am a Licensed Psychotherapist, I am no way immune to falling under the spell of anxiety over waiting. I have found myself blowing into brown paper bags and clenching my blouse as though pulling forward would allow my lungs to take a deep breath. I find myself exhausted but then can’t allow myself to sleep because of my mind is continuously thinking about all the possibilities. There are days my emotions (good and bad) are high – where I cry uncontrollably, laugh like I never have before, have lonesome bottomless-pit feelings, and have wonderful happy proud independent moments. Then there are days that I am completely emotion-less. I turn into a robotic zombie going through out my daily to-do with minimal conversations, facial expressions, and (clearly) emotion. Of course the latter is of more concern and when I recognize I am walking down hill a dark path I quickly attempt to do some damage control.

 Anxiety already runs in my family and having my husband in the military only intensifies my likelihood of being anxiety-laden. Having my background in clinical social work does, however, provide me with the ability to identify red flags even within myself (at least to a certain degree). What helps me the most to get through my anxiety-driven moments about waiting is mainly changing my thought process about the situation. Basically, confronting my fears – and as a military spouse that fear for me is: Phobia of the unknown.

Although I like change – its ‘good or exciting’ change I prefer! It is the fear of what may happen that leads to worrying, loneliness, and nervousness. I find myself at times laying alone in bed and thinking of all the negative possibilities but neither of them with an actual reason to put my mind into this whirlwind of thought. I will spend countless hours crying about what may happen, about the unfortunate stories I read or hear about, and weighing out how likely it can happen to us. But having anxiety about the unknown becomes simply redundant once I take a step back and reflect on the dent I am creating within my emotional stability because it is simply what it is – unknown!

Why should I allow my anxiety to take over about ‘possibilities’? There is a chance of the outcome being great and wonderful just as much as sad and frightening. Telling myself this when I feel choked by anxiety helps me get over the unnecessary fret. Now, I’m not saying it is easy – there are many days I just want to sulk in my worry and find optimism nauseating. But its good practice to take care of my emotional health – not only for me, but for my family too.

For many (including myself at times), eliminating anxiety of waiting completely can be an unattainable task (and depending on the severity – professional help may be required). And so, what I make as my weekly emotional health goal is to maintain a Manageable Waiting Level by creating an environment that promotes positive outlets and support to get through the difficult and challenging times of living the military life.

Here are some of my personal guidelines to conquer Semper Waiting:

 

1 – Eliminate all the Debbie-Downers in your life!

Or at least minimize the amount of involvement they have when it comes to you coping with your situation. Negativity is contagious – if that’s all you hear at some point it will be ALL you think and that is far from being emotionally healthy.

 

2 – Join a support group.

Even if it’s a virtual one! I have found my greatest support from a group of wives that created a group on FB, not knowing one another, to get through this deployment – I truly don’t know what I would have done without them on my most ‘down’ days.

 

3 – Keep busy by starting something new.

There are so many things I have on my bucket list and what a great time to start while the husband is away. During our first deployment I finally got going on ‘writing’ – it has truly been refreshing. I know of some other wives who started working out too – I say that’s two times more beneficial!

 

4 – Believing in something spiritually greater than you to help you.

For me, it is turning to God. This is probably the tool I use the most. In my most challenging moments I find it so soothing to know that  my Lord will always provide and will give me the strength I need to get through everything and in the end – no matter what happens – all things happen to bring me closer to Him.

 

5 –Communicate as frequently as possible with your spouse.

Although this may vary when our spouses are on deployment or out training – I find it important to still have a conversation about what I am feeling or felt even if the moment has passed. Just hearing my husband tell me everything will be okay or (specifically) reassure me that the military provides him with the knowledge and training he needs to survive in most situations is very comforting and reassuring.

 

6 – Talk, talk, and talk.

 Moving from place to place and leaving friends behind can make it very easy for military spouses to become introverts. For me, talking to family, friends, and other military spouses feels like the boulder that’s been on my chest has been lifted. The power of speak is often underestimated but when given a try to results are usually very uplifting.

 

7 – Have a routine.

Although most of my days are repetitive – that very structure allows my day to flow at a faster rate. I know what to expect, what’s coming next, and when it’s over. Also, having a schedule just for the purpose of nixing it is also very revitalizing!

 

8 – Laughter is the best medicine.

There is loads of research out there that describe how laughing does your body good. Some nights I keep myself up by watching comedians, like Mollie Gross and George Lopez (My two favorites!), on Youtube and now (thanks to my good friend and military spouse) looking at Jenny the Military Spouse comics. In the end I always find myself asking – why don’t I do this more often?

 

9 – Me time!

There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a break every now and then. Our mind, body, and emotions need breaks too. At first I felt guilty putting my toddler in hourly care just because I needed a moment (or two) for me. Most of the time I do nothing more than sit at the library, have a coffee (one I can truly enjoy), or run an errand alone. Not so grand for most people but it gives me the opportunity to take a deep breath before getting back into reality. Burning out can not only be devastating for a single person but it can also affect a family entirely and so, I don’t only do it for me but for my family too.

 

10 – Look in the mirror.

When I feel like my anxiety in waiting is getting beneath my skin I turn to the mirror to ask myself what I am worrying about —- > the unknown?!?! Doing this allows me to recognize that in my worrying and possibly giving anxiety an opportunity to take over will do nothing to change the outcome, be it good or bad. All I can do is trust God’s plan, trust my husband is equipped to be ‘safe’ and trust that no matter what happens….this too shall pass.

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight. 

~Benjamin Franklin

If you are suffering from anxiety, please see DISCLAIMER tab on the top of the page.

Wordless Wednesday…A Little Pink in a World of Camo

Today a very young Military wife along with her newborn baby girl will be putting to rest the man who was is her everything.

I have followed Mrs. P’s blog, A Little Pink in a World of Camo, for some time now. I love her honesty, humor, and cuteness –> her posts are always great to read. Last Wednesday, however, I found myself crying and my heart breaking for someone I never met but felt I knew. Mrs. P wrote about how her life turned upside down in a matter of seconds. On Sunday, March 14th, 2010, her husband, a USMC Cpl, died while on operations in Afghanistan. Her strength to come back to her blog and write about it already makes her a thousand times stronger than I.

As Military wives, this is our greatest fear: That our beloved doesn’t come home ‘safe’  – but when I come across something like this it becomes such a reality that it scares me even more. My heart and prayers go out to Mrs. P and her family. I pray that she continue to find strength and comfort in her wonderful memories that will live on with her forever.

This is just another reminder to truly embrace life and never take it for granted. Cherish every moment because we ultimately will never know God’s plan (nor understand it). I know I for sure took for granted the little bit of days I had my husband home before he re-deployed with no warning. We could have shared more emotions, exchanged more hugs and kisses, and just stared at each other –> but instead we chose to go back into our familial ‘roles’, chaotically setup house, and independently do our own thing only because I fell into thinking I was in a safety net of my husband being home. Now, although my situation is completely incomparable to what Mrs. P has experienced and is experiencing, it’s just that it has made me take a step back to reflect my life – our life.

Mrs. P, you are an amazing woman and yes! you will ALWAYS be a Marine Wife. God’s love and ((hugs)) to you.

Rest in Peace Cpl Jonathan Daniel Porto

 

An Open Letter to the Military: Regarding the Recent Deployment to Haiti, Rumors, and the Homefront

Dear Military,

As you know, it has been about 20 days since my husband deployed to Haiti. I am almost 100% certain that the inbox of our FRO (Family Readiness Officer) has been inundated with inquiries regarding our service men’s and women’s return date. I, as a spouse and a mother of two little girls, am not immune to the desire to know either but have moved away from asking since I can already predict the answer is not yet known. However, this does not eliminate the frustration and anxiety that I and other spouses are currently experiencing. 

It is obvious to those involved that our stress and overwhelming dissatisfaction about this deployment is more so in relation to the fact that our men and women just got home from their recent 7 month deployment. It is a constant fear of mine, as well as voiced in other spouses, that our ‘family time’ will be cut short or worse non-existence upon their return due to the realization that they must start ‘work-ups’ to deploy again in the near future.

With the rumors looming around us like a plague it is easier said than done to not grab a hold of one and hold on to it until it is shot down. At times, for me, it can make a huge difference in my day to follow a rumor for a couple of hours instead of looking into an endless tunnel with an indefinite end. Occasionally, I even welcome them – even more so to get me through the ‘rough days’. Currently, the rumor that has grabbed my attention is that some spouses have been given a return date. It would truly be infuriating to know that a selection of spouses is receiving more information regarding homecoming while other spouses are counting up days instead of having the opportunity to count down. Although my logic comforts my emotions in the belief that this too is nothing more than a rumor – it still is very challenging to overlook.

I am aware that representatives of the unit are not authorized to provide specific dates and/or information until they are given permission to do so. Reflecting on the circumstances and the barriers around the deployment, I began to contemplate ideas or ways we as spouses can be alleviated from the stressors of this current situation. I understand with a full heart of compassion that Haiti needs the help of the International community to assist them in returning to, at minimum, what their world was like seconds before the earthquake. I am proud to be part of a nation that can assist in this mass effort providing extraordinary and grand humanitarian relief. I am aware, via the news and updates from the CO (Commanding Officer), that our service men and women are consistently and productively providing this assistance where needed as well as supporting NGOs. What would be reassuring at this time for us spouses on the homefront, and to say the least – encouraging, maybe to tell us what the determining factors are in regards to the length of this deployment? Is there a list of areas/towns in Haiti that need to be visited first? Is there a group of NGOs that must be assisted? Is there a goal of how many people of Haiti need to receive direct assistance from us? At this point – anything is truly better than hearing nothing. Speaking for myself, I feel that if I received an update more often, even to say that ‘nothing new is known’, would be more consoling than passing another day with silence amid incessant rumors.

Nevertheless, I appreciate and applaud the rapid planning and organization of the upcoming “Family Appreciation Day”. My daughters and I are truly looking forward to having a delightful time as well as the given opportunity to meet other spouses and families in which empathy can be utilized at its best. This being the first event I am attending, since recently moving into the area, I am unaware if there will be Chaplains and/or counselors at hand to casually introduce themselves and “check-in” on us spouses and children and possibly go as far as extending their therapeutic services. With the present unexpected back-to-back deployment along with the added strain of it being ‘indefinite’ it should almost be anticipated that risks of anxiety, depression, and even alcohol and drug abuse may be high amongst family members. I say this not only as a  licensed professional in the field of mental health but also as someone who is facing these circumstances and know what a difference it  would make to hear someone come to me and say they understand how difficult this can be and simply ask me how I am doing.

I hope that my letter does not find you bothered by my spoken standpoint for my desire to know something that may very well be unattainable, but with that, I hope you can also understand the position I speak from. It would be more than a blessing to just have my husband home already, but as I mentioned – at this point knowing anything is better than knowing nothing.

Until then, my prayers are with him, the entire military, the people of Haiti, and the families of those here on the homefront. I not only pray for strength but that we may also continue and strive to be optimistic during this fractious time.

Sincerely,

A Military Spouse

PS: Missing You On My Birthday (A Poem)

A candle is lit as I’m surrounded by love

Each one singing the traditional song

To wish me happiness and wealth

in the new year to come

 

I tearfully think of the year that has passed

And remember every moment that was oh so sad

The memories escape me of happiness and cheer

As I fear the older I get the more anguish I may feel

 

My heart skips a beat as they call out my name

It startles my mind pondering about the pain

I lift up my eyes and quickly realize

I have nothing to fear

For God has made my life heavenly and divine

 

It’s time to make a wish and blow out my candles

You can see in my eyes my desires are clear

All I want for my birthday is my husband to be here

Ridiculous and unattainable I know

But there is no way to discourage what the heart implores

 

A gush of wind comes from within

Grazing my lips to extinguish the flames

To end this year’s celebration overflowing with dismay

 

I yearn for my husband and I to embrace

Allowing the passion that has been temporarily displaced

Due to the distance that lies in between

But never allowing our love to cease

Continuously feeling like a riveting machine

 

I look forward to being with family and friends

Although I desire this day coming to an end

It’s not that I mind wrinkles or aging

I just not having my husband home

Can sometimes be enraging

 

Thank you all for the birthday wishes

And making my day special

I hope you understand

My whole day is not depressing

It’s only that even more so today

It hurts me further

That my other half is not present

Forever Young

As my birthday approaches all I have been thinking about is what another year means for me. Am I any wiser? Am I more experienced? Am I more wrinkled or saggy? Do I appear older? Should I feel old? Am I more mature or should I be more mature? Is time flying past me?

As a child all the way to teenage years I looked forward to my birthday as nothing more than presents, cake, and more privileges. It was a day I had the ‘license’ to do whatever I wanted! Birthday parties and outings were planned – every year out-doing the last. I especially remember my Sweet 16. I had an extravagant (Spanish-family type) party that resembled a wedding. I wore a big poofy white dress and had my cotillion in red flamenco-style dresses and the boys in black suits. My husband, then boyfriend, was also there is in his rank-less military uniform straight from boot-camp. I remember thinking that day I had became a real woman – 16 was the age of true maturity and independence – yea right! As the years past on, 18 was the last birthday I celebrated with the same enthusiasm I had as a child. After that, it was just another reason to go out and get together. 

Then 25 came and went.

That was the year that ‘age’ had a new definition. I wondered if now is when I could no longer be considered young or at least mid-20’s? Was it time to be called a late twenties woman and to accept that I was aging and had to start taking life seriously (or more so than before)? Yet, at the same time, I fell into the trap of anti-aging and began to ponder ways and ideas to manipulate my body’s normal transitions.

Women for years have been manipulating their bodies and appearances to come across as beautiful and young within their culture. Women succumb to many cultural traditions, from Chinese foot-binding, Burmese neck rings, African Lip Rings, Victorian corsets, to today’s anti-aging creams, plastic and cosmetic surgery, extreme dieting, and constant beautification of hair, nails, and make-up. All aiming to be the youngest, most beautiful, and sought-out woman in their community. 

You see, I come from a family of straight-forward ANTI-aging women. As a child I knew very well to never ask a woman their age. I watched my Mamita (my maternal grandmother) buy expensive creams until she found the perfect one, immediately dye her hair at the site of anything gray, constantly use lotions, and would hear her pass down secrets to my mother. The women in my family are always in constant worry about finding a wrinkle or gray strand of hair. Some more than others have facials on schedule, have nightly cream regimens, get their nails done weekly, never miss a hair dye appointment, get cellulite reducer massages, and even have had plastic and cosmetic surgery.

Basically, the older my sister and I get, the younger the older women in our family get.

My Mamita today is in the late stages of Alzheimers (bless her heart) but even with the disease her mind never ceases from asking for her lipstick – how is her hair – wanting her nails painted – and quickly snapping if you mention aloud she is ‘old’. I laugh with a heart full of love in her presence and I wonder if this is the future that awaits me – wrinkly, gray, saggy, soft, and in denial.

My Mamita at 81 years old

My Mamita, today at 81 years old!

I myself am in no way resistant to this anti-aging mentality the women of my family are infected with. I do wear make-up daily (cover-up, blush, and lip gloss at minimum), I do own a ‘pick me up’ bra, I dye my hair when I get bored of the color (which, actually, within the past year I have only done once), and I don’t normally mention my age. But – I don’t get my nails done, I have never had a facial, my lotion of choice is plain ‘ole Jergens, I only get a massage if my body hurts, and I have never done any extreme forms of beautification (such as purchasing expensive mascara).

My fears of aging are more in the lines of health and time passing me by too quickly and not completing my bucket list. We all know the saying, “they grow up so fast”, when looking at children. But I remember as a child, the days felt long, a month felt like forever, and a year felt like an eternity and now, within the past two years – days fly by, a month is quickly gone, and last year felt like yesterday. The older I get – the more I appreciate a second, a minute, an hour, a day – because if you’re not paying attention – it will pass you by.

I welcome my birthday as I did any other. Looking back into the past year I can’t believe where life has taken me. Last year, celebrating my birthday in Virginia, it never even crossed my mind that I would be back home with family and my husband would be deployed. I never knew I would spend a birthday without my husband. I never knew I had the courage and strength to raise my two girls alone – all while keeping my deployed husband active in their hearts, minds, and lives. I never knew that I would finally start sharing my writing and be out of the professional workforce. I never knew what it meant to truly lose a loved one. I never knew what it meant to see others around you begin to get sick. I never knew what it meant to be alone. I never really knew how much I took for granted. I never knew I would be feeling this way on my birthday.

Our birthdays are not about aging and appearance, it is about our life, our wisdom, our experience and that is why to the people who love us we will always be beautiful – even at 81! I look forward to growing old – because it will mean another year God has blessed me, another year I have my children, another year filled with experiences, and another year with my love.

I will embrace every wrinkle and every gray hair with open arms because they are symbols (or scars) of my life. Just this past year I have learned so much more about myself, my marriage, and my family – I can’t wait to see what I will know in the years to come.

I may never really aim to be forever young, even though I am partially anti-aging. All I know is that I will always aspire to be healthy and young at heart – and will greet life and its experiences as they come.

Tomorrow I will welcome an extra candle on my cake. It will represent my new wisdom, my new knowledge, and my new life (and possibly a wrinkle or two). And of course, you all know what my wish will be.

(Miss you beh, even more so on my Birthday)

To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent –

that is to triumph over old age.


— Thomas Bailey Aldrich

The (im)Perfect Military Wife

When one thinks of a military wife, the immediate poster type super mom and trophy wife comes to mind – which is the Perfect Military Wife. She is sweet, calm, always kind and sincere, knows everything about the military from ranks to benefits and history. She carries herself proper and her children are always well-behaved and neatly groomed. Her home is spotless and beautifully decorated. She cooks everything from breakfast to dessert, and welcomes everyone over for dinner. She is as fit as her husband and is always educating others on healthy eating habits. She is the most understanding woman you know and never complains about life in the military. She is involved one way or another in every event on base and volunteers her time constantly to anything related to the military.

Other military wives look up to her in admiration and constantly seek ways to resemble her in any form. You can read about her in popular military magazines and newspapers and see her receive awards and certificates of appreciation. She never has an excuse to help others and is the first person on line to help her community. Each and every task, errand, chore, and event is done with a big bright smile. Her husband, family, and the military is her air – life to her is about keeping it altogether, happy, and (well, like her) perfect.

Every military wife knows what it takes to be the super-military wife/mom. Our capes hang in our closets and the third invisible arm is always ready for any situation. We often hear about how strong, patient, tolerant, understanding, and loving the military wife is – and even though this all true in just about all military wives – we fail to hear about the (im)perfect wife that at times lives dormant within all of us and for some, more often than not.

The (im)perfect military wife has some of the same characteristics as the perfect one. She is kind, sweet, sincere, and loving. However, she may not always be in her Sunday best when shopping in the commissary. She can be found in the aisle of diapers and chicken with no make-up, an un-ironed shirt, comfortable mothering flats or sneakers, in a ‘bad hair-day’ cap, and possibly in (gasp) sweatpants or track-suit, all with a frazzled face.

When asked her husband’s rank, her cluttered mind may result in her quickly forgetting and pausing to think about it. Same goes for the chain of command, the ranks and their corresponding insignia. She has yet to learn every single acronym that exists in the military but still smiles and nods when confronted with one in conversation. She lacks the knowledge and detail of all military history but can throw a great BBQ for fourth of July.

When it’s time to pack up and move again to the next duty location – she is almost never organized but instead jittery and stressed. She usually waits until the last few days to pack or until the morning the movers come to put the ‘untouchables and valuables’ to the side. And even though she has done it a hundred times – Google is where she gets all her information (every single time) about Tricare, DEERs, entitlements, ID processes, and such.

The (im)perfect military wife strives to be healthy and fit, but when emotionally drained she loves to indulge on cupcakes and cookies and prefers the couch and a chick-flick as opposed to a treadmill and water bottle. A meal for the family sometimes comes from a frozen box that mysteriously converts into a warm meal when placed in the square magical electronic thingy. She fancies the thought of hosting a dinner or just coffee and sometimes even plans the whole event – but when it comes down to inviting, her shyness to meet and talk to new people shoves those ideas to the side. And when invited to similar events, in addition to the shyness, the anxiety of speaking about possible military topics she is not fully informed on take over and she declines the invite.

When deployment comes along, no matter how long, she temporarily gets upset at Uncle Sam and cries while cursing the military for taking her love away. She momentarily resents her husband for leaving her behind and then cries for the mishmash of feelings she is having. She yearns for husband daily and misses him constantly. She easily becomes vulnerable to sleep-less nights, toddler-like break downs, going over her budget, and forgetting the car needs an oil change.

She allows her children to misbehave every now and then when daddy is away. She sometimes spoils them in an effort to take away the sadness of deployment in their eyes. The children scream, cry, pout, and have tantrums every so often – but mostly when in crowded places. At times they beg for candy on the grocery line and even for a balloon on a stick all while she frantically searches for her ID card in order to shop. They spill ketchup on their shirts and are incapable of keeping their hair neatly done throughout the entire day.

The home of the (im)perfect military wife is just like her – (im)perfect. Piles of laundry await folding on the coach and there is usually something in the dishwasher, be it clean or dirty. Now and again the garbage overflows – all depending if the husband is deployed or not. People with allergies to dust must always give a 48 hour notice prior to visiting. And the dogs roam free like the kings and queens of the castle (need I say more).

Every year she aims to be more involved and active in the community and base events. She aspires to volunteer and ‘make a difference’ but her mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion limit her as she realizes she may just not be as ‘strong’ and put together as those military wives who do. You definitely don’t read about her in magazines and newspapers and you may not even notice her if she was right next to you.

The (im)perfect military wife and perfect military wife may be different in their public appearance, mannerisms, and child-rearing ways but the core of what makes a military wife is unchangeable.

No matter the situation a military wife never loses her love, support, understanding, and patience for her husband and the military. The military wife at the end of the day is able to balance and multi-task the day’s priorities. She has the power of cure-all kisses for her children and enjoys any moment spent with them (good or bad) because being in a military family you quickly learn how to appreciate time spent together. Although it may be expressed differently, a military wife always misses her husband when he is away.

A military wife truly cares for others, especially other military wives. They try to be involved at any level – even if it means donating items or monetary gifts anonymously. A military wife knows what sacrifice is and takes it with a grain of salt. She smiles when it comes to moving (again) only because she is aware that her reaction will reflect in her children’s reaction. A military wife never likes pity and finds it difficult to accept assistance. Most importantly, she prides herself in her family, her husband, and her country.

So next time you are on base or in the commissary and you notice the (im)perfect wife in her untied sneakers, track suit, hair in clip, with screaming and crying children searching for her car keys – before you say “oh my, look…” remember that she too is a military wife. She too is strong. She too is brave. She too is caring. She too is missing her husband. She too some days is me and she too some day may be you.

The Epitome of Lonesome Weekends…

 It’s another day – another night – another Saturday – another Sunday – another weekend spent alone without my husband.

Since my husband left for deployment, I have found weekends to be one of the most challenging experiences. My husband and I always look forward to the weekend like a guaranteed mini-vacation. It was time for family and to create great memories for our girls. Even if we went to the commissary or ran errands – we always incorporated a nice drive and/or dinner at a restaurant. Those days have vanished in the wind and now the weekends appear like nothing but a dark blur that vaguely has the same ambiance as before.

Besides toting my daughter to and from track and checking off my To-Do list, the weekends have converted to nothing but a web of routine and I find myself stuck right in the center. I robotically get up, get the girls ready and dressed, and get us moving out the door only to return home and continue our habitual practices of the week – bathe, read, and off to bed.

At times these weekends can be a mixed blessing. There are days that I am so emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted that doing nothing is a haven for my heart, soul, and body. I submerge myself in my bed and cuddle into my pillow while the girls take a midday nap or watch a movie. It’s as good as it gets some days.  

Today it was what most would consider a lazy day – but for me it was more of a lonesome one. I woke up unmotivated to peel myself off from the bed and let alone remove my pajamas. Even with my extra-large cup of coffee, I lacked the enthusiasm to enjoy the nice day with my girls and moved more like a zombie not once letting the sun stroke my face. I relentlessly confined myself to the four corners of my bedroom all day – pressing on my pillow like a stone trapping a fly, squeezing it almost flat – dreaming and longing for it to be my husband here with me but instead I got a fluff of feathers and all I could do is bury my tears and fears beneath it.

I was tremendously (and guilt-fully) grateful my mother took my oldest daughter for the day and right when my toddler woke up from her mid-day nap my father was here to entertain her until about my mother returned. Although I know that my family and friends tell me there is nothing wrong with taking a break – being a military wife, it’s as if you are molded to just keep it going and accustom yourself to everything around you all while doing it alone. It’s very difficult to ask for day to myself – even if it’s to just be limited to my bedroom to sulk. However, I can easily grasp that what I am feeling today should only burden me and never my daughters. It’s not fair to them to have ‘mommy looking sad’ as the day passes and (even worse) restraining them to our home because I have no desire to see the light outside of a bulb on a ceiling or stand. Even on my most gloomy days, I become elated knowing that my daughters are off getting spoiled for the day – no limits, no boundaries, no impatience, no sad faces, and (most of all) no yelling or crying. 

Every day is not like this of course. I do my best to maintain busy and to go out to visit friends and family as often as possible. And I am usually invited ‘somewhere’ just about each weekend. It’s just every now and then it hits me like freight train with no brakes that my husband isn’t home. Surprisingly, I find it especially more difficult on nights I do go out to have a nice enjoying night be it solo, with friends, or with my daughters. Those are the nights I find it to be the most difficult drives home, walks to the front door, and to fall asleep. Going home after having a good night and seeing everyone enjoy each other only reminds me more of how I am the only one going home alone. Just about everyone within my circle has their person to go home to and it’s here where I get the heart-breaking reminder like bull-horn two inches away from my ear that I don’t have my person to go home too.

It is here within these moments coming home lying on my pillow I learned that the eye, even when sealed, can still trickle tiny tears in tune with every beat from my shattered heart – but although minuscule, they are hefty in sentiment. Each tear reminded me of how as much as I try to close out my emotions from feeling lonely – no matter the resistance it will always seep through. It doesn’t matter how I spend my day – blissfully with daughters, shopping listlessly, reading, writing, have dinner and wine with good friends, moping at home in my pajamas – the feelings at the end of the night will remain the same. My bed is large and I lay alone in it. 

You don’t know what empty feels like until the person you love that loves you back completely want to be together but are powerless in any efforts to make it real. An empty heart is a heart that is limited. That piece that makes it beat is dead. It is dark and rough but easily converted back to what it knows as ecstasy. I know my heart will be filled again. And I know my heart will beat again and that it will intense and soft – it just won’t be that way again until my husband is home.

I know I am lucky to have family and lifelong friends around that can assist me in days like this but my heart truly feels for the other military wives who don’t have the same fortune as I – to have a moment or break every now and then. I know it is probably a standard emotion that comes along as the wife on the home front through deployment and that this too shall pass – but for me, the lonesome weekends has been the most difficult. I am aware too that this deployment will not be the last one we experience- I just hope next time around, which I know I most likely will not be around family and friends, that it will get easier and painless (I’m skeptical – but I will hold on to hope).

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.  I miss you like hell. “

 ~Edna St Vincent Millay

Do You Really Want to Know?

A friend of mine recently found herself in a bit of a rut due to circumstances relating to her career path. Although she now feels comfortable with her decisions – she is experiencing a sense of emptiness. As though internally her hope is dwindling from being unaware of what may happen next and what the future holds – saying to herself: “I wish I knew what life had in store for me”.

I shared a little story with her about my daughter.

My daughter gets school lunch almost every day (almost – because I obviously omit the days I know she won’t eat what’s available). When I first got the weekly menu I began to read off her meals for each day of the week and she stopped me. She said to me that she doesn’t want to know until that morning on the way to school (my daughter is always very ‘clear’ in what she wants). When I asked her why – she basically said to me because it would make it ‘boring’ and she wouldn’t be ‘as excited’.

I explained to my friend that – well, to a 6 year old, the world is limited to life seen in bliss and with no responsibilities and to her excitement is vivid in little things like her lunch menu. To us, obviously our lunch menu is more of a minute issue compared to what life truly encompasses – but even so, as much as we think ‘if only we knew what life has in store for us” is beneficial, it would take away the journey, the rollercoaster, the highs, the lows, the laughter, the tears, the excitement! All this which makes us grow, learn about ourselves – and (most significant) make us who we are.

To a military wife knowing ‘what’s in store’ sounds very appealing to the listening ear. The thought of knowing every ‘next’ duty station, every ‘next’ new job, every ‘next’ new school for my daughters, every ‘next’ home, every ‘next’ deployment, and well – every ‘next’ everything – all gleams at me like sun rays on a fall-like day. What an attractive idea – to know! Or is it really?

As much as I like to plan ahead – I don’t feel ‘knowing’ would be as charming as the tempting thought. Even though my perpetual desire to be organized is alive and well within me – I also find myself unable to make decisions as small as chocolate or vanilla so thus – not knowing, more often than not, works for me.

My husband’s return home from deployment is getting nearer and nearer. I am oblivious to the precise date and I want it to stay that way until it’s so close I can touch it. For me, knowing my husband’s exact return date would, of course fill me with joy and load me with exuberance – but alongside – hand in hand would be eagerness, can’t breathe type anxiety, irrepressible tears, and an overall overwhelming feeling. I would prefer to just continue upon my journey of deployment passing each second, minute, hour, day, week, and month as it approaches.

Not knowing has so far made and persistently molds me into who I am. I never imagined publicly posted my writings in the form of a blog – let alone its birth being from being my experiencing deployment on the home front. So here I am – exposing a fragment of my existence not knowing what may or may not await me in the end, but it’s a chance I am willing to take because (not only does my faith carry me far) but no matter what I do, things will happen as it has already been written (I have never been a fan of – “things happen for a reason”).

That luring idea of ‘knowing what’s next’ echoes in our society like the plague. But the grass is not always greener on the other side. Culture pounds us with fortune tellers, horoscopes, palm readers, and other forms of divination – all in the effort to know about the future. However, even when we turn to those uncanny sources – most individuals take it upon themselves to convert the experience into a future’s buffet, picking and hearing only the pleasant and the cheerful – eliminating the frightening and the worrisome.

It’s not uncommon to ‘want to know’. It’s an old-age desire that can be tracked back millions of years ago and I am in no way immune to it. We lustfully want to know the outcomes of our future – if it will end up as we planned. Some at times may find themselves satisfied with their present that they may disregard the thoughts of the future or for moments decelerate the thinking – but then there are moments when one may obsessively search for answers about the future. But even if you accomplish your desire to know and obtain your future – then what? Do you want to just assemble yourself onto a life on a conveyor belt? Life where the pleasure of climbing, falling, and getting back up is of no meaning because the end result is already known? Don’t get me wrong – I do like seeing at least the light at the end of the tunnel – but I’m okay with waiting until I get there to see what awaits me.

Therefore I say to my friend and others who find themselves in a similar situation – don’t worry about what’s coming up or what’s in store for your future – not only would it be futile but because (more importantly), like my daughter says, – it would be boring and not as exciting 

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.  You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.  ~Albert Camus

Our Story

I was recently contacted by Dr. Vance Hardisty, an author finalizing his upcoming book “How to Keep Romance Alive While Deployed”. He came across my blog and asked me to share my story of deployment to add to his book. I figured since I took time to write it – I would go ahead and add it to my blog. (As you read it, keep in my mind that I had guidelines to follow)

 

Here is ‘Our Story’…

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I have known my husband since I was 12 years old – he is practically a brother to my very close cousin. A friendship immediately ensued when we met which soon blossomed into a crush, then a relationship, and finally we fell in love. From the beginning we grew up together learning what love is, how to love, as well as what life entails and discovering who we are. We married at what most people would consider young and within the year we had our first child. With love and God we overcame many obstacles from dating, as my husband joined the military and was based outside the country, to being a young married couple facing the realities that marriage is not always rainbows and butterflies – especially as a military family, where you quickly learn that what you ‘sacrifice’ is more than just a ‘sacrifice’ – because it’s about believing what your husband fights for is bigger than ‘us’.

On May 20th, 2009 my husband and I celebrated 7 years of marriage while he was days into his first deployment. In a way I felt I couldn’t really express any dissatisfaction or resentment towards the military because after 12 years of military life this was my husband’s first deployment. I felt ‘lucky’ – or more so, that’s what others told me.

Since we were young we became accustomed to distant love. Growing up we were from different towns and when he joined the military we only conversed via the phone and made visits at least every other weekend when he was stationed on the east coast. Once married I adapted to my husband always being away for trainings as well as with both of us in college and grad school simultaneously, time together was constantly limited. Right before my husband deployed we were living in two different states visiting each other every weekend. We did this because we were aware that he would deploy at his next duty station and so to prevent extra ‘moves’, I stayed in our previous location until we got more information about his deployment – which thus unfolded to what is now. However, even with all that long-distant love history it was of no use when my husband told me he was deploying and more so when he deployed.

The days following the news of deployment – I continued on as though my husband told me he was going to the movies. I shoved anything relating to the deployment in the back of my mind. I learned to ignore my own thoughts and refused to accept the reality that was soon coming our way.

As the days got closer, we found ourselves preoccupied with packing our lives into brown boxes as I was heading back ‘home’ to be with family and friends for the time of the deployment. This only contributed to my denial and inability to discuss the fact that my husband would be soon leaving us. But once all the packing, storing, and unpacking was complete I felt as though I was trapped under a large boulder of cement that was pressing on my every bone prohibiting me from breathing, seeing, and feeling. It was at ‘home’ a realized that these are the moments we NEED to be together – together as husband and wife, as mother and father, as best friends, and together in love.

My husband and I are always striving for better communication. We have come a long way from where we started but are nowhere close to perfect. We always eventually express our emotions in a positive and healthy manner but our old habits continue to inhibit us from effectively communicating with each other. This weakness in our marriage usually drags on by us covertly expressing what is on our hearts and thus leads to much misunderstanding. We both find it very difficult to open up and be straight forward about what we are feeling but I knew that at this moment in our marriage the time we had to do so was limited.

The day my husband was flying back to his base to officially leave on deployment our family had a get together to say ‘goodbye or good luck’ (whatever felt better I guess). I didn’t speak, I didn’t smile, I didn’t cry, I didn’t move. I was scared about the journey we were about to embark and already felt lost because I knew there would be no guide or map to reach our destination. All I could do was hold my husband tight as though me clenching to him was what prevented him from falling off the cliff – I didn’t want to let go. Looking into each other’s eyes we both knew what we were feeling and verbal expression was not necessary but required. We conveyed our love for one another through our eyes, our touch, and ultimately our words.

For our daughters, the experience of deployment has been unique and according to their personalities. Our oldest daughter is a very understanding child and sensitive to her own and others feelings. She can easily pick up on an individual’s emotions and has natural ability to be kind and comforting.

At the tender age of 6 ½ she can understand what her ‘daddy’ is doing for our country and why he is away. She explains to people that he ‘is making sure we are safe in America and that bad people don’t hurt us’ – saying that her daddy is a ‘hero’. It has been and continues to be very emotionally heavy for my daughter. She misses him daily and of course even more so on important days – like the first day of school or her first track meet. We currently have a ‘kisses jar’ in our home to help her get through the extra-tough days. Anytime she misses her daddy being home or wishes he was around to give her a kiss we place a bead in the jar. When my husband comes home he will pay his debt by giving her a kiss for every bead that has been placed in her jar. Sort of like their own version of ‘I-owe-you’, but all for kisses. I also allow her to talk about her feelings at any moment – even if she is filled with anger at our situation. Sometimes she herself will request for some alone time and there she will cry, be angry, look at photos, draw, or just be alone. In addition she also keeps a journal and writes daily how her day is so she can tell her daddy a story when he comes home. Thus far, I trust that my daughter is handling it no better or worse than any other child in her same situation. I am only thankful that up until now she remains healthy physically as well as emotionally and mentally.

As for our youngest, who is currently only 21 months, besides the fact the she is turning into a bubbly monkey – she cannot truly grasp what has happened nor what is happening. However, I know in my heart that she is able to recognize that her father is not home by shrugging her shoulders when asked ‘where is daddy?’ Moreover she can easily identify who her father is in any picture or by hearing his voice. She has her own collection of photos and introduces her daddy to everyone any chance she gets. She will hug and kiss her daddy in the photo and pretend to talk to him on her Minnie Mouse cell phone. I make it a point to play pretend with her daily involving her father. We talk to him on the play phone or to him in his picture and sometimes even pretend to feed him using his photo. I play with her in these little ways in hopes to keep the memory of her father as a known face and voice and that the love doesn’t stop the last time she saw him but that it continues to grow as though he was here physically with her. I believe with my whole heart that she still knows exactly who he is and will be filled with excitement when he returns.

Currently we are over the half way mark of our deployment. My husband is scheduled to come home with the next 2-3 months. Thankfully, because of today’s technology, we have been able to maintain contact via email. We have used Skype (a software that enables people to communicate over the internet with a webcam) twice and that was very emotionally difficult. Seeing him and being unable to touch him was much harder than just hearing his voice. I mail him letters as often as I can as well – I have always been a snail mail person because I feel that it means more than just typing and clicking the send button. We have also had the luxury of being able to speak to one another through the phone. It’s the best feeling to hear him breathe and speak especially when it’s as close as I can get.

Worry has becomes my best friend since my husband deployed. It’s a constant fear to think of my husband being away. Even if he is not in ‘combat’ zones, I always have that ‘you never know’ feeling swirling in my mind causing my stomach to coil. Along with the fears for my husband’s safety, I also feared being incapable of handling the home front. I questioned my ability to pay all the bills on time, keep the budget in order, maintain our home clean and cozy, keep up with the car being washed and getting oil changes, and mainly – raising our daughters alone, being able to balance myself as the good cop and bad cop. For me all these fears can only be trumped by my trust in God and the love and support my husband and I have for each other.

Besides God being our ultimate backbone, I feel that if it wasn’t for the unconditional love we have, which is the biggest strength in marriage, we couldn’t get through any of this. Even when our weakness, communicating our feelings straight forward, knocks on our door we may open and let it in – but we quickly escort it back out. My husband and I have had our marriage tested in many forms since our dating days but what has never failed is our undying love. We have a commitment to our love and to our souls – we may quarrel and bicker but we know that leaving is not an option – our hearts simply won’t allow it. Our commitment, our love, and our faith is what has been assisting us all the way through this deployment. We can confidently invite all the highs and lows and obstacles because not only do we trust our faith but our promise to each other – which neither can fail us.

I am fully aware that this will not be the last deployment we face as a military family. Even though I will be a veteran home front wife at that point, I’m not sure if I would do anything different the next time around. I am certain some feelings and experiences will be the same but each deployment will have its own story and my husband and I together will have two versions to tell. I am incapable of forecasting the obstacles and/or the bliss that will approach us and even more so how we will act in response.

All I know is that I look forward to my husband’s return in a way that words are truly inadequate. I long for our face to face pillow talk at night and coffee together in the morning. For me, not is it only about believing and supporting my husband and country, but it’s also about making our marriage and I as a wife stronger. Just as another military wife said to me – “sometimes you don’t know what strong is until you become a military wife”. A statement incredibly real and accurate because there is a reason why women married to men in the military are not just ‘wives’ but we merit the title of ‘Military Wife’.