Skype is a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand my phone bills don’t send me into a myocardial infarction anymore, like the time MCI tried charging me $500 for a single call. And it’s so handy because daily activities can be recounted as if Husband were here experiencing it all, bit by bit, with timely input that helps us all feel so connected. It’s infinitely more expressive and personal than a letter or an email. When I was a little girl we might get one or two phone calls the entire six month period Dad was deployed. I remember waiting for the beloved cassette tapes he would send, and I would lay in bed and listen over and over until the magnetic film began to warble. Letters were gold. We numbered the ones we sent so that he would be able to read them in order and not wonder why we were saying everyone was fine and home from the hospital or some other such catastrophe. The modernity of Skype helps you maintain a bond that military families just couldn’t experience during separations in the past.
On the other hand, there is a certain amount of stress involved. You feel the need to stop everything you’re doing and sit down in front of the screen and “talk to Daddy” when you hear the familiar “wee-oop-aaah-waaa-oop” Skype ring that has come to be associated with Daddy the same way a cell phone has a characteristic ring tone. And then you forget everything you wanted to say. It’s like video performance anxiety. This is not at all a natural way for adults to communicate, let alone for an adult to have a conversation with a young child. I mean, the Preschooler rarely sits still, and when he does it comes in short bursts interrupted by karate chops and/or other sibling directed argument-enders like body slams, noogies, arm burners, and wedgies. A series of funny faces and a punch in the groin just might be his idea of a really good conversation starter.
My annoyance factor really came to a head when we attempted to Skype with Husband earlier this week.
The Preschooler was more interested in watching TV and would not relinquish control of the remote without a fight. Sweet Pea was writing “UR A QT” and “Girlz Rock” on sticky-notes and would talk but would not look up from her project. I had already hit The Wall earlier in the day, and I found myself begging them to speak with their father. It’s just not endearing when you have to say, “Knock it off and talk to your father NOW.” It makes Husband feel wanted and missed, I’m sure. Then World War III erupted directly behind me and I had to get off the computer to go deal with the nightly episode of sibling rivalry.
I sent the kids to bed. I felt dejected and disappointed with the fruitless Skype session. I wanted so desperately to pour my heart out and have him make everything better, tell me whatever it was that I needed to hear, and gain the strength to keep on moving forward. But that chance was gone. He was well on his way to work for the day. I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head. Completely over my head.
That always seems so dramatic until I can’t breathe because I’m being asphyxiated by my own carbon dioxide. This usually takes approximately six seconds. I emerged, gasped for air, and gave up the drama. I went to sleep.
I woke up resolved to change my outlook, gain some momentum somehow. When you are still and settled, that takes a lot of umph. I knew inertia and friction was working against me, and I would need to change something to get the gears moving. I decided to think of things that I was thankful for. Things that made me happy. So I started texting my friend who is going through this same exercise right now, and we came up with a pretty great list. I thought of words and madly typed them into my phone at every stop light, and she would type back …
Growing up safe and happy. Questions that make me think. Memories that nobody can take away. High heels. Hair color. Dangly earrings. Waterproof mascara. Girlfriends. California. Chocolate. Control top panty-hose. Texting! Bubble baths. Public fountains in the summer. Love letters. Popcorn. New fleece. Freshly cut grass. Peanut butter. Harmony. The ocean. Not having to cook dinner.
By now the kids had been dropped off at school and I was nearing work and already starting to feel better. I was at the stoplight just blocks from my office and I looked around for inspiration. “What makes me happy?”
But it’s hard sometimes to remember what makes you happy when you’re feeling lonely. Everything seems … bittersweet. You want to say family but then you realize yours is fractured. You want to say vacation and then you remember the one you took last January, and holding hands on the deck of a ship that was carrying you home, together. You want to say kisses and you remember, you try to remember, how soft lips can feel when they are warm, first thing in the morning. You want to say snuggling and then you remember that it will be a while longer until the one with the biggest arms will be there to squeeze you all into one tight compact capsule.
I was looking around desperately for something that didn’t have the least bit of bitter. Seat heaters. Daffodils. Cozy coffee shops.
And I lifted my eyes, and there it was. I looked up into the grey sky, thinking about our annual Mexico trip, trying to find the sun through the Northwest mist and the fifth consecutive day of rain. There was something there, hiding just behind the stop light. It was faint, but I recognized it right away. I gasped, out loud, in my car. It was a rainbow.
Promises. Priorities. Hope.
My whole day changed after that. My whole outlook changed, really. It turns out it was easier to get over The Wall than I thought. I just had to concentrate on what made me happy, which meant looking for it. It was suddenly easy to trust that getting over The Wall was just a part of moving through the process. It was suddenly palatable to give up control – again – over this crazy year (plus) away from Husband. It made sense that I needed to simply put one foot in front of the other, and keep looking for what makes me happy, right here, right now – not what I think will make me happy in the future.
But maybe next time I’ll look around for hidden rainbows before I set out for any more self-inflicted brain damage or undercover oxygen deprivation. Trust me. Rainbows are way easier.
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