I realized something today, thank God. The thing about going through a deployment, or anything difficult, is that it becomes absolutely necessary to live in the exact moment that you are given. To step out of the moment causes everything that you have been given to be traded up for everything you wish you had. And it's a poor trade.
All today I was thinking about how it would feel if Keith were a civilian and he came to me and said, "Honey, I must go on a business trip. I have to leave in a few days and I'll be gone until August."
And then how devastated I would be. There goes our entire summer, I would think. What about all those barbecues? What about the fourth of July at my parent's? What about lying in the dark listening to the thunderstorm from the open windows of our bedroom? Or the smell of lake water on your skin, or taking turns putting on the aloe vera lotion after we've both turned as red as lobsters? What about all the love we would never make in that slow and sultry way in a warm, half lit evening while the fan whirled away? What about those things?
If he told me, "Don't worry, hun, it's just until August," I would not be comforted.
And that's if he were going somewhere like Cincinnati or Milwaukee. We could make plans to meet for a long weekend, maybe on the 4th. Make the most of it, get a nice hotel. I would look forward to it on the first week with out him, when I would be miserable thinking of the other nine long weeks I would be without him.
Then I switched up the scenario. I thought, what if he came to me and said, "Hun, I have to go on a business trip to the Middle East. I'll be in so much danger that I'll be paid hundreds of dollars more per month because of the risk to my life, but we'll be able to pay off the credit cards!
"Oh, and I need you to become my POA in case anything happens here because you have to take care of it; I won't be able to. You won't be able to reach me, you'll have to make the best decision you can. We need to review my will in case I die over there and I want you to give this to my mother and this to my brother and this to my father if I do die. Don't worry, I've bought additional life insurance, in case of death or dismemberment. You'll be fine; it's only until August."
Would I be comforted, knowing that he had only ten weeks of putting his life on the line? Would it console me to know that I would still be using the same bottle of conditioner by the time he came home, that the leaves that are on the trees will be on them still when he returns?And when we had reached the end of one week, would I think, "One week down and he is still alive and well; nine weeks to go?"
What has happened to my serenity? I turned away for one moment; I looked down and I saw that all along I was walking a tight rope across an abyss so wide I could not see the edge I had started from. And that at any moment I could lose everything that matters. I have been over this abyss for months and months and months; it has always been there and the exhaustion of ignoring it has worn down into me.
Now I am nearly to the other side and my legs are shaking, from the strain and the fear of being this close and not making it. I am beginning to wonder if there is no way for me to regain the oblivion that sheltered me for so long. I will have to in some way make my peace with fear. I have to stop wishing for what is not real.
What is real, for one, is Keith himself. He is real and he wears my ring on his left hand. This house, so quiet and warm, is real. The two girls are real, the cooling weather, the keyboard under my fingers.
The fear is also real, but it does not undo everything else that is. It's just a dark shadow that I must not focus on. There is no reason for the fear to define the proportions of my life and it will not, even though it will be, I suspect, my close companion for the rest of this journey.
Is there, I was wondering today, any reason in particular why I must continue to gain character? Why should this be necessary? Am I not already passable, at least? I mean, sure, I could use a little improvement, why not, but a deployment? Was that really necessary?
Whatever possesses us to engage life at this level, at the level where it is deeply uncomfortable? How and when do we learn that to turn away from the pain is to ultimately short change ourselves? Today I wished to raise my hand, to say, "Excuse me? I wish to be excused from class today. I need a hall pass."
But I couldn't. This is the life I was given, it is this moment that I'm living right now. I don't have another one available. And I can either choose to live fully, right now in this space, or to check out and miss something that I will never get back again. And I decided long ago, for right or wrong, that I would never live like that, like a ghost in my own life; I have far, far too much to be grateful for.
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