There are stages in a deployment. They start way before your loved one ever walks out the door.
I've always said the weeks leading up to the deployment are the worst for me. Maybe not the hardest, because with 3 littles there are gonna be some long hard days. But it's the time right before the deployment that i hate the most... when the dread builds up so strong, it's suffocating. That same dread i've buried deep down inside repeatedly for the past 2 months is inescapable in these last few days together.
And I have had the most wonderful day. We didn't do anything--at least nothing special. Days like today are hard to come by even when life is good, much less during these more stressful times--and i just have to thank the sweet Lord for this one. All the kids were in great moods. There were no fights, no misunderstandings or tears. There was no arguing (which i hate to say is all to common in the weeks leading up to a deployment). We were productive. We had sweet quiet times and then unexpected precious family moments snuggling in our bed, eating an impromptu lunch out and then spending a warm summer evening outside on the trampoline.
And now I'm cooking dinner. The day is winding down and we're getting ready to have our last dinner and movie night with Daddy, where we are sure to all end up entangled on one small couch, all legs and arms and giggles. I look forward to this time at the end of each week. Sitting here in my kitchen, it's quiet for a moment and i can't help but reflect on the sweet day we've had and then like a ton of bricks, the weight of the next 9 months and how they are sure to be so drastically different, fall upon me.
And that's when it's the worst. When the reality of the situation comes crashing down in the middle of a perfect moment. It literally makes me ache. My chest is heavy. My heart races. My throat tightens. You'd think i'm just about to walk out and give a speech to a thousand people. It's nerves. It's dread. It's more than that. It's panic. and I hate it.
I fight it down with any distraction i can get. TV shows. Phone conversations. Household chores. Errands. The kids. But sometimes there's nothing left to do but just sit down and feel it. Or maybe i should say face it. But then not for too long, or else it feels like i might drown in all of the emotions flooding through me.
I've said it before. I know I'll get through it. I'll be okay. I'll even have other good days. It's just that i don't want it that way. I don't want other good days. I want good days like this one. Where my husband is with me. When my family is whole. Every fiber of my being is fighting this deployment and it will only get worse in the next few days.
As contradictory as this sounds, i'm ready for next week or even next month . I'm ready for this stage to be over. I'm tired of thinking of everything we do as a series of 'lasts'. I'm ready for Monday to be over and done with. I'm ready for the goodbyes to be behind me. I'm ready for the heartbreak Monday will bring to be gone. I'm ready for Tuesday--the day I'll pick up the pieces and move on to be long over. I'm ready for my new reality to be my routine. I'm ready for the panic to be over.
But right now i'm in the thick of it all. And i've gotta be here...be present. I've gotta be brave.