An Open Letter to the Spouses of Deployed Active Duty Military:
This morning feels fresh.
I stepped outside, coffee in hand, and stretched. The thick coating of stiffness dried to a dust and then cracked, with my stretch, to crumble and fall to my rotting deck boards. It left only the dull ache of fresh, tender muscle from yesterday’s strain.
This feels good, I thought. I feel good.
And I smiled to greet the day.
But last night?
Last night I felt melancholy and oh so alone. And that’s the thing about a deployment — your feelings all packed into a lotto spinner of chance, and you never know what you’re working with until the pretty girl in the sparkling dress pulls your number for the day.
Or even the hour.
So I think I’m going to share what I wrote last night, not because I seek attention or am particularly proud of my state of mind at the time, but just in case. In case anyone reads it who needed to read it. And if you don’t, bear with me. Tomorrow we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program.
To the spouses of deployed active duty military:
I know you.
I know you, and I know your particular brand of loneliness.
Though you’re surrounded by hundreds of family, friends and acquaintances in good faith, thousands of uniforms in camaraderie, and millions of citizens in patriotism, the loneliness.
Everyone expects you to always be strong.
After all, you chose this. Not just the job or the distance or the time, but the danger. The inability to communicate. The words, chosen carefully, so he feels needed and missed but not too needed or missed, because then he feels helpless, and basically you hold the coiled nerve ball of your partner’s raw emotions in the palm of your hand and all it takes is a tight squeeze here — a wrong pinch there — and the entire thing unravels.
Your family and friends — those unaffiliated with the military or the Life, say nothing. They rarely acknowledge the fact that he’s gone. Especially if they don’t live nearby, it’s easy. It’s easy to pretend like it’s not happening at all or that he’ll be back “any day” or that this time — a quarter of a year, a third, even 12 months or more of your life will “go quick” and they think that those words — the wishing of a life passing quickly — are comfort.
It’s not because they don’t love you. It’s not because they don’t care. They do. But this unknowing — the sheer unrelatability — is vast and confusing. They’re worried if they try to relate — if they comfort too much, they take away your ability to be strong. It’s hard. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who chooses this life.
Who brings it on herself.
The others — the other spouses, both men and women who know what it’s like don’t ask because they know.
They know if they ask, it might make you crumble.
They know that if you need it, you’ll ask for help.
And let me tell you this.
No one will be quicker to give it.
If you need help, ask. If you need a hug, ask. If you need to cry or say bad things or punch the wall, those people will be there.
Just don’t punch the wall. That’s stupid.
And stupid, you’re not.
Like telling a rock that it’s soft or an ocean it’s weak.
Almost as dumb as punching a wall.
So go. Keep living. Keep the wheels greased and the cogs spinning and find joy every day because, after all, that’s kind of the point. Your freedom to go on living.
It’s okay to miss. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to sometimes feel angry and mean. But it’s okay to feel good, too. Feeling good is not forgetting. Feeling good is not less sacrifice. Feeling good is a choice, and it’s something everyone wants for you.
Eventually, this will pass. Not any more quickly or slowly than normal time, but one way or another, it will pass.
I’m thinking about you, and I know.