I'm clumsily making my way through the normal stages of Predeployment Anxiety. Yes, you heard me right. My husband is leaving for Iraq in a few weeks. As a military wife, you always know that this may happen, but you try very hard not to jinx yourself, not to prepare, because preparing means accepting. For the first time today I can almost breathe, but I know it's only temporary. I may stand up from my chair and lose it all over again or I could be fine for a dday or two. Thus is the emotional cycle of deployment, and like another blog I've visited trying to identify with the women I will soon relate more closely with for at least a year, I am undoubtedly "knee deep in the hooah."
Stage 1: denial and disconnect. He can't actually be going. Doesn't the Army know we have four kids? That he's the love of my life? That nobody else can listen to me rant and rave all day and still love me enough to bring me a glass of wine and a kiss to make it all better? I'm in a limbo state where everything is a frozen blur. Or, maybe it's more like standing at the racing line, poised for action, waiting for the gun to go off, but wanting to sprint the other way.
I'm generating the lists in my head and fighting them with my heart. What lists do I have to make and why am I so anal? There are lists for picking up and dropping off kids, what I'll need to cut out of my schedule, and ..... I forget. Why does it really matter, I'll be doing it all anyway? Wait, that's not fair, my husband will be in a war zone, what right do I have to brood? I'll be here safe with my children, not in the middle of a ridiculous combat zone fighting for something we don't even fully understand or endorse. Tony makes lists too. Our birthdays, our Social Security numbers, identifying marks like his wedding ring tattoo.
Then sadness. The mornings I wake up already crying, with a lump in my throat that travels down and engulfs my lungs so that I feel like I can't take one step further; as if moving will actually cause time itself to move forward. Moving is one step closer to Tony leaving.
Then this week, the anger. But who at? Tony? George W. Bush? Osama Bin Laden? The Army? I kick the caked red mud off my shoe, cursing the rain. I'm mad at the rain now. I'm mad at my shoe. How insane is it that I feel I need a target just because they are turning my husband into one? The anger causes distance that we cannot afford to have.
Reality sinks in. We tell the children and wait for reactions. We will watch them muddle through these phases too. Normal. Natural. We'll get through this. It's only one year. Pray. Be strong. Lord has a plan for us. Not to harm us. A plan to give us hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11. It will be my mantra this year.
Meanwhile there is a husband, a father, a son, a brother preparing to leave his family. He knows we love him, but he will need more reminders of just how much as the days draw nearer. I don't want to be rude, but if you see us out please don't talk about the war. Our children will be listening more intently to the conversations we'll be having for the next month. They will carry your words to sleep with them, they are not like us, they do not have the ability to filter their anxieties. Tony will need your hugs, your pats on the back, a good cold bottle of beer if you have one ;) and some encouragement. Most of all, if you pray, he'll need your intercession.