Me: I need some new songs for my running playlist.
Andrew: I just downloaded some Army cadence I can give you.
Me: I don’t understand what those words mean.
Andrew: *sigh* *plays Army cadence, like this*
Me: I need some new songs for my running playlist.
Andrew is back in the U.S., but he’s not yet home. He was one of the last people to leave. Quite a few of the people who left PA with him 9 months ago have been home for a week, two weeks, or more. And now he sits, doing absolutely nothing, waiting for a few more people to finish their admin, so that he can leave. Nobody knows yet when he will leave… (not that I would write it here even if I did know, but I legitimately do not know).
He’s frustrated. The guys are frustrated. Morale is below zero at this point.
I tried to watch the MTV Video Music Awards… not because I cared, but because they’re always entertaining in their ridiculousness. But I couldn’t. All I kept thinking about were the 200 men and women, sitting on bunks, with nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs, wanting nothing else but to get home. And I kept thinking about an acquaintance’s fiance, who is currently in Afghanistan, and who has now lost at least 3 of his best friends in his unit.
Newspapers, bloggers, news radio, and television news are spilling millions of words on whether or not Miley Cyrus has lost her mind. Trillions of words, probably. Dear media, I am not at all sorry to say that I don’t give a crap about Miley, her twerking ability, her lack of live singing skills, whether or not she is deranged, who thought the bear thing was a good idea, whether or not she’s still engaged, or the Beetlejuice-suit-wearing, consent-disliking singer she was twerking with.
What I would like is for one of you to spend ten minutes spilling some ink on the people who earn us the freedom to care about what shenanigans Miley Cyrus is getting into.
Also, Army, send him home.
I’ve been doing some reflection about this deployment and Andrew and I’s relationship, now that we’ve turned the corner and he will likely be home in less than 3 months.
Deployments are not for the faint of heart. They’re not for people who need constant validation. They’re not for people who can’t stand alone. Deployments are for the cheeses of the world.
I recently described it thusly to someone who asked how I handle it: deployments are for people who are so independent that it has become a negative, a detriment. It’s for people who literally push other people away. And I still stand by that. Otherwise, I feel like people would lose their minds.
Every day of the deployment has sucked. That has been my baseline: suck. I’d wake up, sun shining, birds chirping, job going well, and I’d know: today is going to be a sucky day. I know that sounds so pessimistic. It’s not like I wasn’t happy. That happy, however, was always tinged, like a match after it has been burnt. If you have a great day, you wish your significant other was there to share it. If you have a bad day, you wish you had an arm to curl into. And this is coming from one of those grossly independent people who pushes people away. The baseline is suck… 209 days of today is going to suck.
It’s been worse since we hit 6 months. We’ve rounded a corner, and instead of looking forward, I keep looking back. The bitterness of 180 days apart is all-consuming. There is no way to put it; there is no one person to assign the bitterness to; there is no suitcase in which to carry it. I carry it like the groceries I buy, hefting too many bags at once because I don’t want to make two trips to the car.
I recognize and acknowledge that I have it easy compare to many.
The silver lining, if there is one, is that Andrew and I have grown so much as a couple during this time apart. We communicate so much better than I thought was possible. There were growing pains, of course, and sometimes I wondered whether any of this was worth it. But I still — still — get a cheap thrill every time a message comes through from him. We talk about everything. No topic is taboo, no feeling is off-limits. We allow each other to feel what we are feeling, to discuss those feelings, with no judgements. It’s difficult. It’s empowering. It’s imperfect.
The only way I can describe our relationship is like that of Frodo (Andrew) and Sam (me) from Lord of the Rings.
Part of me doesn’t want to admit that, mainly because Sam and Frodo are just friends and because many would argue Sam is basically a servant of Frodo. I see their relationship slightly different. Frodo has the ring, his burden, his duty, and he needs to dispense of his duty in order to save the world. But Sam is the strength. Sam is the rock. Frodo needs Sam just as much as Sam needs Frodo, and maybe even moreso. They love each other, but more than that, they’re partners. I hope this continues. No relationship is perfect, and ours is far from it, but I think we make a good team. We just have to make it through the rest of this time, together but apart.
I applaud the people who can do a year or more of this.
Let’s say you’re 5 years old and you get the best toy ever: Teddy Ruxpin. And pretty much everyone else you know has Teddy Ruxpins, but they’re just not as good as yours because yours is cuter and nerdier. Anyway. Your Teddy Ruxpin has to go away for awhile, and it’s sad but you’ll survive. Every day you live your life surrounded by people with Teddy Ruxpins, complaining about how their Teddy Ruxpins don’t do the dishes or whatever, and all you keep thinking is… I wish my Teddy Ruxpin was around to not do the dishes. But it’s okay, because your Teddy Ruxpin is the best Teddy Ruxpin. Occasionally you get a picture of your Teddy in uniform with his guys, and you remember how yours is the best.
So one day, your teacher pulls out a Teddy Ruxpin from the cabinet and you instantly know it’s yours. And the teacher says… “you can’t touch him, but I’ll let him tell you a story. Would you like that?” And you say yes, because talking to him is better than not talking to him at all. And then as soon as she says that, she puts him away. And you’re confused, but at least you got to see him, and he’s okay.
And then the teacher takes him out again, asking the same question. You say yes, again, and this time she waits to put the cassette in and then puts him away. This happens over and over again for about 30 minutes, by which point you’re angry but trying to keep it together. FINALLY the teacher takes him out, hits play, and the story begins. Teddy tells you about the sand and the heat and his guys and then as soon as you start talking about your future, or your wedding, or the mission he’s going on soon, the teacher takes him away.
“WAIT!” you yell. “I just need 5 more minutes. That’s it.”
The teacher looks at you as she is putting Teddy back… again. You start to wonder if this is a cruel trick to break you down… when the teacher brings him out again. Teddy is halfway through talking about his next mission when the teacher turns him off again.
You look around the room. All of your friends are cuddling their Teddy Ruxpins. You start to cry, because you just want one more minute. Just enough time to tell Teddy you love him and you’ll see him soon. But no matter how many more times the teacher takes him out of the cabinet, she barely hits play when she immediately puts him back.
I fell asleep on the train this morning. I dreamed that Andrew was back.
Sometimes I wish I could sleep through the next 5 months.
I officially hate deployments.
There’s no reason that I started hating them today rather than a week ago or a week from now. Andrew and I aren’t fighting; the situation hasn’t changed in any obvious way; and I actually had a fantastic weekend.
But it’s a Monday, and I think on Mondays I’m allowed to hate this deployment, so I will.
I am sad today, for no reason other than it’s Monday and he’s not here. And he won’t be here next Monday either. Or the Monday after that. Or 10 Mondays after that. Or 10 Mondays after that. There are people going through worse, I know that, but for right now I’m going to permit myself be sad.