So, How Are You Doing?
Almost a month…. How can I answer the question on everyone’s mind which is, “How are you doing?” There are so many ways to answer that, and most of it depends on factors that change throughout the day. Most of it though depends on me. What a strange place to be. I really regret not being at least thoughtful of families like me who have done this, sometimes five times before I entered the Army.
I realize how naïve I was about the military families and the true sacrifices that were being made. I did what I did with so many other things that I was unsure about, or had not yet decided where I stood on the issue- I just did nothing. Sure I know there were people putting their lives in harm’s way “for me” but honestly, I couldn’t fathom why they would make a choice like that when I hadn’t asked for it. That’s pretty honest right? I, and maybe our generation have been too far removed from what the fight is really about and what freedom really is.
It is hard for me to even share, because I feel so unworthy of sharing my burdens compared to those who have faced this before (with more children) or who have experienced far greater pain or discomfort. Yet, for me, this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It won’t be the last, Life has a way of preparing you for difficult and pain. It’s more difficult than having a baby, but very much like it. There is indeed the anticipation of it, the day it arrives, and then nothing but adjusting afterwards. The boys already have routines. For the most part, that has stayed the same except for the cruel days of summer. I try to remember what summer meant to me as a kid, full of adventure, imagination, and building forts and introduce that to my kids. I don’t know if parenting comes easy to anyone, but I have to work especially hard to get back into that imagination of mine and truly play. I struggle everyday with not making the day “about me” and more about “us.”
What is required of me each day is the discipline to make each day count. You may have heard Matt saying that lately and I don’t think that is a coincidence. I believe God is revealing my true self more than he ever did when my other was in front of me. They always say that marriage is like holding a mirror up to who you really are and the friction and tension you face in marriage are what happens when you have to work through blending two personalities and all the baggage brought with them. Strangely enough, as Matt has gone, I have felt God move in, in the most appropriate way. It is different than when I was single. The unity of marriage introduces a new love from the character of God that can only be experienced as he moves through the other person. God allowed this deployment to happen, in fact, He prepared for it too. And now that it has started, God has taken up some of the space in my home to make it a little less “empty”. Yet, just like I mentioned before, the intimacy brings with it a mirror that reveals parts of myself that I had dismissed or had not seen.
I see my selfishness more that I have ever seen it. I got used to my husband coming home at 5pm to help with the kids, or be there to give me a “break”, or help me make decisions for myself. I had someone who made time for me to go for a run or go workout, and although he is still encouraging me from a distance… he can’t help me now. My worst moments are within myself as I learn to balance my life and needs, with the needs and lives of my boys. Learning to reset my expectations of myself and not be so hard on myself considering life is different. Learning to plan my day, and yet adjust my attitude when it didn’t go as planned. Learning to have certain “cards” up my sleeve for when things drag on or when the boys need a “pick-me up”. I am pretty hard on myself and try to remember that this is new and I’m figuring it all out. For instance, what do you do when you have 30 minutes by yourself and may not easily get that again in the next 24 hours? Sure I have when they go to bed, but yeesh- that’s when all goals seem to go out the window and that project I wanted to work on seems silly next to my bed and pillow. So in 30 minutes, do I run as hard as I can and get all of my anxiety and negative feelings out? Do I journal? Do I call a friend? Do I lift weights, or is that even enough time to even make a difference. Shoot- there goes 5 minutes of me just thinking about it, tick-tock, tick-tock. I know that may sound ridiculous to some of you, but that 30 minutes started out as an hour, but do to things outside of myself, it widdled away and that is what I had. So what did I end up doing? I returned a phone call, one where I thought I was needed for something and it turned out all they wanted was to ask me “how I’m doing” and remind me again with the question, “so how are the boys, a year is a LONG time.” Really????
I say that not to discourage anyone from reaching out- because Lord knows I need that. The problem was, I didn’t know what I needed. Extreme kudos to the single moms out there, I got nothing on you. But in a sense, maybe its harder when you know this is temporary with an end. Maybe there is acceptance and strength that comes when you are single and life is like this for an indefinite end.
The biggest lesson though, is that I am realizing just how much my life depends on me. Matt has always been an inspiration to me. He just has always lived in the moment and, “seized the day.” I didn’t know until recently just how lazy I can be. As an introvert, I can find any excuse in the book to “make time for myself” and if it were up to me it would be all day- not just for a morning while the kids are in care. Time to myself often made me grouchy as “it wasn’t long enough”. My, what a horrible face to see in the mirror. The whispers of my past and from the enemy himself have made me into someone who has found more “enjoyment” in isolation than in proximity to the very gifts given to me to share my life with. Yes, there is taking care of yourself, doing things for yourself that don’t involve “Mommy, mommy…” but I am talking beyond that. When I feel my anxiety climb and I just want to escape, and can’t in that moment, knowing in my heart that I am not meant to go grab that neighbor who has offered help when I need it- I know there is something powerfully life changing on the other side of working though it. It is up to me to seize the day now. Even though I have the choice to go about this deployment in lazy form (who will really know if I don’t clean my house or run that half marathon?), that is not an option. I have no choice but to make this happen, to be the one who makes it happen, to create within my soul the discipline it takes to finish it stronger, better, and with wisdom. Maybe that is why I am so hard on myself, because I see in the mirror past my selfishness and see the potential beauty that I am not willing to miss out on. I want Matt to come home to a wife who is noticeably more resilient, more flexible with life, and with a discernment that moves others towards God.
For now though, the answer to your question is, I hope that I will be better tomorrow. For today, I won some, and felt like I lost many. Sometimes, God reminds me that I did not start my day by asking him what he wanted me to do that day, and because of that, I felt like I fought the current (and Jack, ha!). Other times, I am rewarded with two boys who fell asleep that night knowing that mommy loves them, takes pride in being home with them, and can walk them through missing their mentor and warrior hero. Being bruised with tackle marks will just have to be part of my attire this year, because believe me, I regularly feel broken on the inside and restored by His mercy and purpose on the inside.
Some have asked how they can pray. Right now, its for sleep, and peace in my soul. Jack is my raging river. He is strong, stubborn and can be quite destructive towards himself. Pray that I would know how to handle him, and that I would do it with less anxiety and more confidence (i.e. he has no problem with practically trying to drown himself in the kiddie pool or jumping off whatever his brother does). Aidan is my strong oak, but is sensitive and does not openly process his feelings. My discernment needs to be sharpened towards him in knowing how to care for him and challenge him at the same time.
Praise worthy note: I have wonderful neighbors and friends who reach out, just when God wants them to. I have no doubt that they will carry me at times and that my friends and family from a distance carry me daily in their care, prayers, and support. Much love.