Three months after we were married, my husband was commissioned as an officer in the United States Air Force. Four months after we were married, he left for training.
Growing up, my dad traveled a lot for work. The amount of travel increased as we got older, because my dad was adding more to his work – president of this society, chair of that committee, keynote speaker at this conference, and so on. As such, I thought I was equipped to be a military wife because I was used to these brief but frequent absences. But I was only looking at it from a kid’s perspective, not from a wife’s perspective.
Shutting the door behind Daniel when he left for training was the hardest thing I’ve done all year, maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I cried – big, gulping, ugly sobs – as I turned the deadbolt. My eyes grew puffy and my nose turned red as he drove away. A little while later, the post-crying headache settled deep beneath my scalp and lingered there until I finally gave in and took some Tylenol.
As someone who deals with chronic depression, to say I was worried about this moment is an understatement. I have a therapist, a pastor, my parents, my parents-in-law, my sisters, my siblings-in-law, my friends, my coworkers, my cat… and yet, I still feel alone. Feeling alone is a common symptom of a depressive episode. It’s also a common symptom of being apart from my life partner for two months.
If you see me, please don’t ask me how I’m holding up. I can only answer that question so many times before I fall apart. Also, the answer is obvious: it sucks and I miss him. There’s only so many ways to reword that to be interesting and not sound like a wounded animal. Yes, we video chat almost every night, but it’s not the same. I can’t smell him over video. I can’t hug him. I can’t kiss him. He can’t hold me close and make the world disappear for a few moments.
And I know that these absences are something I’ll have to grow accustomed to, the way a raw blister becomes a tough callus. But right now, with this first period of separation, I’m not going to let anyone say I’m weak for missing him.
Less than a week after my husband returned from training, he told me that he had been assigned his first deployment. For security reasons, I cannot share the location or timeline. But suffice to say, neither of us were expecting a deployment so soon on the heels of training. We thought we would have more time.
For now, we’re cherishing the three weeks I have off from graduate school before the spring semester starts. Our separation will begin again in mid-January, while he stays at Little Rock AFB, and I return to our little apartment and the University of Arkansas. Fortunately, we’ll have weekends this spring, since only a three-hour drive separates us.
Thinking that I was equipped to be a military wife because I have a well-traveled dad was naive. But I am reminded of something my music minister said: “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” I may not have the skillset for it right now, but I’ll learn it.