As a military spouse I hear this question almost daily. My response is generally a dismissive shoulder shrug and a, "You just do." I try not to think about it much. We have spent most of our marriage apart and are currently experiencing our first actual deployment. Despite my effort to not think about it I constantly am. How could I not? Our daughter just turned 14 months old and my husband has only seen her for less than 4 months of that. Birthdays, holidays, important milestones, all missed. We all have our own ways of dealing with our trials and for the longest time my answer was to basically box up important moments and store them away to be celebrated at another time.
I kept just wishing and hoping that the small milestones would just wait until R could be home or that he would just happen to be on the phone when Little Miss Sass would giggle for the first time or when she learned to roll over or walk. It was a difficult conundrum of wanting time to stand still and speed up. Eventually living like that will catch up to you and you end up a bit of a hot mess. Or I did anyway. A hot, confused, blubbery, complainer of a mess. I let all of what I'd been holding in boil over with several friends and even some acquaintances and to them I say sorry and thank you. Sorry you had to deal with my breakdown(s) and thank you for loving me anyway and for listening.
The funny thing about having a breakdown is it makes you stop and evaluate what you need to do differently to not go down that path again. I fully believe that it is okay for you to have a bad day on occasion--it's inevitable. However, I don't believe that it is okay to make every day a pity party when life is difficult. I hadn't necessarily been doing that but I had been ignoring my situation. And so I did some thinking. And praying. A lot of praying. And crying. (More of that than I care to admit.) It has taken me some time but I have learned a thing or two and am still learning a thing or two more.
First, I've learned a lot about patience. R and my marriage is based on our love for our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. We rely on the Gospel of Jesus Christ to guide us and help direct us to live a life of righteousness, kindness, love, and devotion. As a family we pray to know that the decisions we are making are in line with these characteristics and that we are where we need to be that we can best help others. Joining the military was a process of much prayer and sleepless nights for months without answer so we stopped asking and months after that one morning in separate situations we both felt the affirmative answer come. R signed his contract the same day we found out we were expecting our first baby. I thought my patience had been tested with waiting for an answer but I had yet to learn anything. Two months later we went our separate ways--me and my barely pregnant belly to Oregon and R 3,000 miles away to Georgia. Patience comes in many forms. Waiting for letters, phone calls, and then the worst, waiting for the military. I could write a book on my frustrations with the military but I'd rather not. They probably aren't what you would expect anyway.
Second, and more importantly, I learned about my convictions and how I feel and where I stand as a mother and especially on my convictions about how I feel and where I stand as a wife. Particularly a military wife. My biggest struggle has been reconciling how important we feel family is with the importance of R's job (which in my mind was seemingly less important.) Now, forgive me as I go into this next part as I am still feeling it out myself but as I have prayed and cried and seemingly received no answers I actually received much more than I initially thought. I can't say that I understand it all and I know I will always be working on it but I feel at peace. I feel reconciled in many ways. R and I read our scriptures together each night and we also discuss our big decisions we have coming and all of my crazy I have rolling around in my head. As he can't tell me what is happening where he is our conversations focus mostly on me and Little Miss. Our last few conversations have been hard ones.
How can I feel like I have any sort of a relationship with someone so far away? Someone who can't tell me where he is or what he's doing? And then the only relationship is sporadic letters and hopefully nightly phone calls or Skype dates if we are lucky and home? How can I teach Little Miss about how amazing her daddy is when their relationship consists mostly of slobbered kisses on a computer screen or ignoring him altogether if she doesn't feel like coming by the computer? How can I teach her and anyone else I meet about the importance of family when I don't quite feel like I really have a family on most days? How can I support this job that takes my husband from my family to fight for something that I feel so disconnected from and can't comprehend?
"How do you do it?"
I honestly don't know. I take comfort in the words of the scriptures and these verses in particular stood out to me in our nightly reading. I barely made it through them through all my tears.
"We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against us. We would subject ourselves to the yoke of bondage if it were requisite with the justice of God, or if he should command us so to do. But behold he doth not command us that we shall subject ourselves to our enemies, but that we should put our trust in him, and he will deliver us. Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God. Therefore, come unto me speedily with a few of your men,...give unto them power to conduct the war in that part of the land, according to the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in them. Behold I have sent a few provisions unto them, that they may not perish until ye can come unto me. Gather together whatsoever force ye can upon your march hither, and we will go speedily against those dissenters, in the strength of our God according to the faith which is in us...yea, we will go forth against them in the strength of the Lord, and we will put an end to this great iniquity. And now, Moroni, I do joy in receiving your epistle, for I was somewhat worried concerning what we should do, whether it should be just in us to go against our brethren. But ye have said, except they repent the Lord hath commanded you that ye should go against them. See that ye strengthen Lehi and Teancum in the Lord; tell them to fear not, for God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made them free. And now I close mine epistle to my beloved brother, Moroni. (Alma 61:11-21)
There are unspeakable atrocities occurring all over the world. My husband (nor I) feels we can sit idly by while such harm is being done. Someone must stand up for our freedoms. Someone must resist our enemies with our swords that we may retain our freedom. My husband is one of those men. I do not fault him for this drive and desire. I support him more fully than I could ever express. He is an honorable man and an amazing father and husband. Distance may change the definition of those attributes but it certainly doesn't change the truthfulness behind them. R is a man that cannot look upon others lack and not share the goodness of what he has. This man is my husband and my hero. His selflessness, his ambition, his drive, loyalty, and love are why I love him. I know that God will deliver my husband and the brave men he works with because they stand fast in the liberty wherewith God hath made them free.
Where does this put me as a wife? Proud would be the first word that comes to mind. I am a proud wife. And a conflicted one. I want my husband home with me at all times. I want to know he is safe. I don't like the gut wrenching feeling of not hearing from him for days and wondering when I will again. I want the kind of movie relationship you see where it appears no one has jobs and there is endless amounts of money to do whatever you want. But that isn't my reality. (If it is yours please share your secret to success. Unless you say trust fund.) My reality is that I hold down the fort at home. I pay the bills, I deal with the credit card fraud, I deal with our only car breaking down on the side of the freeway with my one year old and someone else's 10 year old in the car, I keep the house clean (hahahahaha.....), I do the laundry, bath time, dinner time, play dates, reading time, I clean up the vomit at 3 am from my dog and then a few hours later the vomit from my toddler. I kill all the spiders and cockroaches and fire ants. And I worry. It keeps me up until all hours and then I am up an hour later with the sun and with a hungry toddler. And I do it because I love my husband. And more importantly I do it because I love God and I believe in His plan. I believe that we each, no matter what country we live in, have the right to certain freedoms in this life and that good people have to be willing to fight for those rights. I'm not on the actual front lines but I'm as much committed to this life as my husband is. Whether it be for one enlistment or as a career.
"How do you do it?"