Less than 1/3rd remaining in this deployment! Huzzah!
Would you think that I sound like a broken record if I told you that it’s going by slowly? (I just re-read all of my previous deployment updates, and in every single one, I complain about how slow time is moving! I guess I am a broken record!) For some reason, I keep thinking of this deployment as being exactly like the El Paso Marathon. When I got to mile 17 of that race, I was hurting and I was over it. It really sucks to be “over it” when you still have 9 miles to go. Likewise, 30% is not much left, but it’s too far to go to be falling to pieces now. That race was a long hot slog of alternating between coaxing myself to run, quitting on myself, fighting for another step, wanting to sit down, and having no choice but to keep moving. Yeah, that’s me right now. I can’t quit, I can’t stop, but I’m just ready for it to be done. I need to buck up, dig deep, give it my all, yadda yadda yadd, etc. etc. etc. I want it to be easier though. I want my husband home.
The key here is “want.” Although it’s hard, I feel a marked difference from the last deployment. Toward the end of that one, I needed Stephen to be home. I managed to hold myself together for a long time until eventually I was running on emotional empty. I don’t feel that way this time. Even with the scary IED situation, I don’t feel broken. I may not be happy about the distance between us, but I am managing and making the best of things.
With the end starting to appear (albeit far in the distance), my thoughts have turned to reintegration. I’ve made no secret of the fact that we struggled following the first deployment. It’s not as if Stephen had night terrors and I turned to alcohol or anything salacious like that. It was more along the lines of, we were living in a new place, with new jobs, and a year+ of different life experiences. We were re-learning how to be us and to be us together.
This time around things will be different.
1. We are prepared. I had no clue what I was in for that first time. I figured that reintegration was like a week or two. Ummm, no. I didn’t even know how much I was floundering until I looked back months later and realized that all the stress and frustration I had been feeling was reintegration. This recent post also hit the nail on the head in terms of my expectations. My husband hadn’t been in any sort of Full Metal Jacket experience, so I figured things would be pretty easy. The truth is that going to war changes things; how could it not? If I had known that some of the little niggling things I was dealing with were reintegration-related and that they’d only grow as I ignored them, I would have handled them differently. Now I have the gift of hindsight to help me.
2. I know that I’m not really prepared. Just as every deployment is different, I think it’s safe to assume that reintegration will be different, too. It’s not necessarily going to be so much easier just because we’ve done it once before. Knock on wood – the biggest challenges we faced last time (living apart, moving, family illness) aren’t part of the equation, so that *should* help. I’m starting to realize that I know what I don’t know, and I’m bracing myself.
3. I’m setting my expectations low. The last five-ish times that Stephen and I have talked, it’s been so effing amazing. We are laughing and silly and serious and sweet. I get giddy, and sometimes it’s like high school or college and things are just easy. But when I find those talks leading me to think, “it’s going to be so great when he comes home! It’s going to be just like this!” I try to stop myself. It won’t be like that. I have no idea what it will be like. I shouldn’t put that pressure on myself for us to be a certain way. I’m going to work hard to prioritize myself (something I struggled with before) and to communicate better and to let go of some of my controlling ways. But I’m not expecting anything, from Stephen or from our relationship. I think that will set us up to be happier so much more than expecting a perfect reunion complete with rainbows, unicorns, and floating hearts.
To recap: the deployment is mostly over, I wish it was completely over, but I’m doing okay. Reintegration is scary, but I’m going in with my eyes open this time. Hmmm, I guess I could have saved myself the trouble of writing 700 words and just said that. But then I wouldn’t be me. :)