I'm sitting here staring at my computer screen – not even blinking. I'm searching for the words to explain how I feel right now and it seems to be more and more impossible every time I try to type. Deployment is a heavy word, one that I've tried and really succeeded in making lighter and more digestible for myself and the people around me. It's a word that I feel in my throat, a word that I've tossed around in conversation – trying to pass over as quickly as I possibly can, a word that I haven't really tried to understand or fully articulate. I've realized that it's also a word that can't be changed, a word that holds more emotion, more meaning, more sacrifice than I could've ever imagined. Deployment is heavy, it's a heavy feeling that sticks to your back and squeezes your stomach and I don't believe I'll ever feel as though I've earned the right to discuss it with you. My heart now lives with this word. It eats and breathes it and it won't let me rest until it's over.
It took me a while to write this or really anything for the past couple of months as I've really tried to make sense of all of the intensely fluctuating energy inside of me. Let me preface this by saying that my experience is just that – it's mine, and it's very different from Joe's or anyone else's. There are definitely some who have it harder or have it easier and those who are right in between, but we are all sharing that same missing piece – our loves, the people we don't ever want to do this life without. My perspective, my experience, my words... may only be just words, but I hope they can make you feel these past four and a half months with me.
Here are my top four and half emotions out of a million that I can try to use to explain what Joe's deployment feels like to me...
Coming from not knowing one person who has ever been involved in the military, I can say that there was a lot for me to learn about the service and the rules and expectations that come along with it. The Army is a very different place and mindset than my hometown of Long Island, New York: rules have to be followed, expectations are to be met, and speed limits on base are actually strictly enforced. With that, coming into and living through Joe's first years of active duty with him were a little bit of a shock for me and, naturally, that comes with a bit of culpability. This emotion is twenty-fold. The guilt I've held with me during this time stems from really not having any prior knowledge of what this would feel like, no grasp or bearing of the patience that must be practiced to be able to make it through. I feel guilty in being sad and expressing my emotion when I know that Joe’s situation is incredibly harder than mine. Family is the only thing that matters to him – and he is worlds apart from them when I get to be able to go home to mine. I feel guilty in missing him when I know that there are countless people who don't have a person to love. I feel guilty in being a burden on my family and the people who are closest to me – who have to deal with my sometimes irrational and unwarranted outbursts or moments of detachment. I feel guilty in not being able to hold it together for him every single day.
Joe called me for the first time in eight days on Saturday. It was from an unknown number and I was in the middle of the highway, three glasses of champagne deep in a hot pink limo with eight of my closest friends. He's on a base in the middle east, the talk of much news lately. I couldn't recognize his voice and he couldn't recognize mine. There was about a forty-five second lag with each word we said to each other. I couldn't give him what he needed and we were left with a strange and absolutely unrecognizable moment in our relationship. How would you walk away feeling?
The "I didn't sign up for this" voice inside my head is screaming. "Why did this have to be us?", "why did you do this to me?", "why can't you listen to me?", "what am I supposed to do with this?", are all actual questions that pierce through my everyday thoughts. They are selfish and real and cause a lot of pain and confusion. Not being able to look your person in the eye for one hundred and thirty-five days can really leave you guessing about every single thing you once thought you had tucked away and patted down.
Anger hurts, it festers between your ribs and it completely disrupts your ability to think clearly. It skews perceptions, realities, and entices you to say words you'd never say, to hurt someone whom you love with your entire heart. Deployment has taught me that you must acknowledge, honor, and quickly act on silencing these thoughts because we only have so much time to feel anything – force yourself to feel the good, to not dwell on the bad, to just let go.
I've unfortunately felt this one more in the last couple of weeks than I have over this entire time. I tend to not turn on the news anymore because a lot of what is said can be delivered out of context, produced to illicit fear and a need for all of the answers when there, sometimes, aren't any answers to give. As I try to stay clear of what might be happening in the media, I turn to Joe, who is not allowed to disclose much information – which leaves me in a weird vacuum of knowledge. My detachment from the news leaves me with a detachment from reality, floating in a space of my own, surrounded by my dreamed up scenarios and situations – good or bad.
This country – how lucky we are. We are able to fight, work, love and live with the hope of a better future. Our soldiers sacrifice everything to give us that. The amount of respect I have and the pride I feel to see my fiance serve his country every single day is indescribable and I am so honored to have a person like him in my life.
All of this, every single second, all two hundred and seventy days are so incredibly worth it. Now I know what it takes to fight for and to love your country and I am so proud to be even a little tiny part of that.
4 1/2. excitement
Four and a half more months of this transformative energy, these crazy thoughts, this intense, conflicting and burning emotion to go. Words cannot express the excitement I feel for Joe's homecoming. It's going to be a wonderful blur of ALL good things and I'm going to have the hardest time letting him out of my sight. I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and support we've received over this time and it makes me believe in the goodness and the love of the people I hold closest to me.
"Deployment" isn't such a scary word. It's a word that we need to say more often, a word that helps us to remember, to think about our soldiers fighting for our freedom. Deployment is real and it's long and it's powerful and it's family and it's friends and it's near and it's far. Deployment can be survived, even celebrated.
I am truly grateful for every man and every woman who serves this country – we would have nothing without you.