March 15, 2015

When My Husband Travels

As of this May, my husband will have made four trips to America on MAF-related business since we were last stateside in ’13.

Four times he’s traveled to the other side of the world, and oceans and land masses have separated us.

I know there are men and women who do this ALL THE TIME for their work, be it military assignments or airline jobs or international intrigue or whatever.  And my hat is off to them.  I feel like such a wimp when David’s gone for just two or three weeks at a time. I can’t imagine a six-month or year-long deployment.

There are different stages I typically go through during a separation.

1.       I am Superwoman. 
2.       I am Emotional.
3.       All Hell Breaks Loose.
4.       We Eat Junky Meals.
5.       I Rally.
6.       Resentment Toward Everyone Who Has a Spouse At Home.
7.       I Stop Counting the Days.
8.       A Minor Crisis Occurs.
9.       I Start Counting the Days.

 I am currently at Stage 9, with only one day to go. 

I have a wonderful group of friends who are awesome at helping out when D is gone.  They have us over for meals, let me cry on their shoulders, pray with me, go to the spa with me (it’s a sacrifice, to be sure), and help put out fires (both literal and figurative).

As amazing as my friends are, I still miss David.  I don’t know if I can accurately describe the feeling, but I almost have to block the thought of him being on one side of the globe and me on the other, because it weirds me out – like thinking about eternity and how long it is. I miss him because he is half of my heart, half of my life – our shared experiences, our children, our hard times, our inside jokes; those are ours alone, and when he’s not here, I feel it.  I guess it’s reassuring to know that after almost 19 years of marriage, I miss him when he’s not here.  That’s a good thing, right?

It seems like I learn something new each time he travels – about myself, about him, about the way we interact, about my kids. 

Here are several lessons that come to mind:

1.       Sleep.  This seems so obvious, but I’m always cutting my sleep short when David’s gone.  I piddle away the evening hours, putting off the inevitable – climbing into bed (which sometimes has Zoe and 17 stuffed pandas in it), closing my eyes, praying the “big one” doesn’t happen that night (one of my fears when he’s gone is that an earthquake will happen).  If I don’t sleep enough, it only makes life for all those around me – but mostly me – worse.

2.       Accept help if you need it.  This can be hard for me, because I’d like to think I can handle it all on my own.  But when your stove is on fire, or your electricity isn’t behaving, or your kids need you to be in two places at once, it’s okay to ask for help.
 3.       Have little treats to look forward to.  Chocolate.  A tv show. A hoarded stroopwaffel.  A cream bath. Enjoy without guilt. Have treats for the kids, too.  Their main treat is to take turns sleeping in my bed.  The second treat is to (gasp!) eat supper in front of the tv.  It’s the little things.
4.       Keep your routine very, very simple.  Other people could probably do more, but not me.  I pare it down to the basics, which right now is: my kids, my teaching, our food.  And believe me, it’s enough.

5.       Remember that he misses you, too.  I have to remind myself, he’s in America working – not going to Disney World, not relishing trips to Target, not partying every night.  He’s working, and he’s missing us. Try not to make him feel too guilty about perusing the cereal aisle or enjoying a burger.

6.       Go easy during the Change of Command.  This has been my hardest lesson.  The Change of Command is those few days when he’s just back – we’re excited to be together again and that lasts for a blissful 24 hours or so, then reality hits and I’m saying stupid things like, “But I don’t lock the doors that way, and I’ve been locking them for the past few weeks just fine.”  Yeah.  Don’t do that.  Better to slowly hand the reins back over than to shove them in his face, or forget to hand them over at all.  
7. Don't dwell on the "what if's." This also has been a hard lesson.  I have an overactive imagination that can dream up all sorts of horrible scenarios. What if something happens to us? To him? What if a tree falls on the house? (It's windy season and this scenario is very likely.) In the Bible study I attend, we've been learning about putting the correct ending on those "what if's" and that is: God.  I cannot anticipate or control every situation that might come up while D is away, and I have to trust the LORD with the outcome.

Okay - enough lessons for tonight.  One more sleep!