Last week was gross. The sloggy-sluggy swill of stagnation set in. If there were such a thing as mobilization mosquitos, they would have been here in my brain, breeding in the warm motionless morass of apathy.
For one, my physical body is just tired of work and school and groceries and sports and music and art lessons. My skin is dry, chafed. Untouched. When I look in the mirror, I look older – so much older than when he left. I’m sure there are new frown lines.
But the house is not in any better shape than I am. I am not a very good record-keeper, a worse financier, and a horrific returner-of-calls. I sort through records and organize facts and solve problems and return emails and write letters and make calls ALL DAY LONG so I have no desire to repeat it all when I walk in the door to my home. The car is so dirty that the true exterior color is questionable. There’s a smell in the kitchen trash can that resembles the smell coming from the refrigerator. There is an unruly pile of bills and “to do” paperwork ranging from birthday cards to Kindergarten registration to taxes. I still haven’t mailed the Christmas dash St. Patrick’s Day cards.
But thankfully, my organization skills ROCK!
Yeah, well. What this actually means is that I’m really really good at making things look impeccably well-put together by stuffing them behind closed doors, which results in me hiding things from myself, followed immediately by swelling that can only be relieved by a massive explosion. It’s possible I’ve “organized” this mobilization.
Last week I hit The Wall.
“The Wall” is that point in every deployment or mobilization where a spouse loses all logic and succumbs to raw emotion, truly believing for just one moment that they’re not going to make it to the end of their lover’s time away without going certifiably insane. I remember hitting The Wall during previous deployments. I can distinctly recall standing on the beach in Coronado the last time it happened. I can still feel the gentle breeze blowing warm tanned sand across my toes, as I stand squinting, with the late afternoon sun in my eyes. I can remember looking toward the flightline, watching the S-3’s land at North Island, their low “whoop-whoop” telling me they’re coming long before I see them. I can remember seeing seagulls flit back and forth on a current, and how I let myself be hypnotized by their motion until I was in a trance. People walked by me, kids ran all around, and the jets kept roaring overhead, landing and landing and landing. And I just stood there, in the sand, with the whoosh of the waves rushing in and out of my ears. But all I could concentrate on was the conundrum of two intersecting thoughts: “I can’t do this” and “I have no choice.” It was like being frozen.
So I knew the wall was eventually coming, and I thought I was ready for it. This is the funny thing that I hear all the time from military spouses. Even though you know what to expect, you try not to have expectations, and then you are surprised when these things actually happen. I just knew that if I concentrated on the fact that this wall was coming, I would recognize it and be able to move on – hurdle it – scale it. Whatever. But when I reached the wall last week, not only did I fail to see it, I ran smack into it. And it hurt.
Now, I know I’m a lawyer and by definition “my people” don’t do math. And I realize that the term “half” connotes that there are two equal parts in play. But in deployments and mobilizations, it is a well-known fact that the second “half” is eternally longer than the first “half.” And this is where I met my wall. Let me assure you I didn’t hurdle it. I beat my head against the damned thing. I hit harder and harder until it dizzied me.
I remembered the look on his face when he told me he was leaving. I heard the whispers in that dark room on his last night at home, and I remembered the heaviness of the weight of the inevitable in my chest. I saw myself watching the clock, waiting for the taxi, and holding his neck in my arms like it belonged to me. I saw his two sweet eyes turn to blips on a computer screen, and remembered saying goodbye as little uniformed men scurried in the distance. I saw a little baby girl who liked to snuggle with her Daddy, and I watched her morph into a tweeny-bopper sneaking lipstick into her backpack and begging for dangly earrings. I saw the pile of The Preschooler’s pants destined for the Goodwill run shortly after Husband left, and then watched a second pile of pants get added to the stack – a pile that will come and go without ever being seen, or washed, or touched by Husband. I remembered the first time I rolled over to reach toward the breathing sound in the bed next to me, only to realize it belonged to a child who had crawled in the night before. And I remembered his wedding ring, and the day I found it. I remembered how that feeling crushed me when I realized he had left it behind – intentionally left it behind.
But then I remembered the other things. I remembered the Guinea in the Manger, and I remembered FARK. I remembered making peanut butter cookies and packing them into boxes that we kissed and hugged before shipping them off. And I remembered the American Legion, and the Veteran’s Day assembly, and the man who put up my Christmas lights. And I remembered the lady from church who doesn’t know me but tells me that she’s praying for us – and for Husband – every day. And I remembered this blog, and all the things that never would have happened if life had gone straight along without all this, whatever it is.
I admit I’m still standing here at the base of The Wall. And I can tell you that from here, it’s still very tall and very long and extraordinarily hard to scale. But I can finally imagine the other side. I can’t actually see it, and I’m not sure just how I’m going to get there, but I will get there. Because unfortunately for that wall, my head is harder.
At least, it’s harder than it was one short week ago. Ouch. Mostly.