“Are we hanging out tomorrow or what?”
The text message glared at me on the notification screen.
As someone that always, ALWAYS clears notifications. I didn’t read it just yet. Because I didn’t want to answer it.
I felt paralyzed by the thought of even going out or making plans. Because what was deployment day #235 going to bring?
A check engine light?
A sick kid?
The ice maker breaking?
Lightning striking my house?
All were likely scenarios.
This had been the deployment from hell. It wasn’t our first rodeo, but this deployment, it was a beast. And despite having a great support network, I felt crippled, by a text. From a friend. A fellow milspouse who definitely would understand.
See, that’s the thing. I know that I can handle everything that’s thrown my way. In fact this deployment alone I took care of a mysterious gas tank issue, a nasty sickness that plagued me and my daughter, a dead car battery, a leaky roof, a broken air conditioner (twice), more sickness and a broken microwave. On top of work and maintaining a household.
But despite all of that, I didn’t want to answer my friend’s invitation.
The thing is that deployment is its own beast. No matter what my spouse and I have been through as a couple – multiple field trainings, TDYs, dating long distance – deployment throws punches left and right. And it stops me in my tracks.
Five years ago during deployment I exhausted myself going to grad school, working, volunteering and making friends. It was a roller coaster but looking back, I was not so great at self care.
I overbooked myself to make every day go by quickly. Every single hour was packed and I drove all over Seattle and Tacoma to meet friends, make meetings and make a pivotal career shift.
But guess what?
I still missed him.
It was still a really long 9 months.
One of those friends from last deployment is the one texting me now. We’re lucky to be stationed together again. And she’s been asking for days,
“what day should we hang out?”
I keep stalling. Because just last week my throat hurt. Just last week it was too hot to sit outside for more than a few minutes. Tomorrow I have to go to work and make it looked like I have my shit together.
But I don’t.
I’m barely holding it together.
Because literally everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.
I’m tired of explaining that I’m handling it all alone. Yes, my husband is still deployed. No, I can’t tell you when he’ll be home because of OPSEC. Yes, my daughter misses him.
I’m this close to making a voodoo doll named deployment to make it all better.
The thing that gets me as my mind spirals like this is that I’m very independent. Before I met my husband I didn’t dream of getting married a year out of college but instead would be living my best life in NYC working for a national magazine.
But love is a powerful thing and the person that pulled me away from my first dream is around the world, time zones away, and doesn’t really care which microwave I buy for the house.
BUT I WANT HIM HERE TO PICK OUT THAT MICROWAVE WITH ME.
I want him here to experience the toddler tantrums and explain to me whatever is wrong with the car so that I don’t drain our savings on pointless things. (Confession: I know very little about cars, but I am now super knowledgeable about microwaves.)
That’s the thing about deployment, is that while I’m on my own and I’m good at deployments in theory, I want to be with my spouse.
I want to go out to girls’ night and come home to him. I want to meal plan together and fold laundry. I want to be a boring couple. And as abnormal as military life is, I want our normal life back.
My phone buzzes again. “Are we hanging out?” flashes on the screen. Yes iPhone, I know I got a text.
I decide to respond yes. Because I know that I need the night out. Deep down I hope nothing goes wrong tomorrow. Because I’m in the last month. The home stretch. And I need the reprieve.
And an hour out with a friend where I can forget and laugh is just what the doctor ordered.
I clear that little red circle and say, “Yep. 5ish? Wine bar?” And breathe out.