Wednesday, May 23, 2012


 "Lucky I'm in love with my best friend,
Lucky to have been where we have been,
Lucky to be coming home again."

*Warning... This is another one of those obnoxious I-love-my-husband rambles, so if you're not a romantic sap, feel free to ignore this one.*
Today has been an amazing day.  I got to spend all afternoon on FaceTime with Alex, and it was EXACTLY what I've needed. I've been getting so worked up about things lately, and I finally got to sit down and really talk about everything on my mind. Normally, I don't get more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time, and never do we have complete privacy, so sometimes the really big important things are hard to discuss. Today, however, he not only talked through the things about our future that were stressing me out, but he surprised me several times and reminded me AGAIN why I love him so much

I've been a little anxious about when to start school, what I want, and how we're going to pay for it. And I've been worried about the timeline of our future. Whether or not he stays in the Navy for his full 20 years makes a huge difference to me about when we start thinking about kids, and I've been stressed that we hadn't really decided. Everything is all interlinked: how long it takes to get a degree, how long Alex will be at a shore command, how long and when Alex might be deployed again if he stays... It's a complicated puzzle to get it all to fall together right, and there are factors that we can't know and can't control that make it scary. But one afternoon was all it took for Alex to remind me that everything is going to be more than ok.

First, while we were talking about his reenlistment, he told me he made that decision so that he'd get to his 10 year mark. I was a little confused, because I had always just assumed it was for the money. We've talked about reenlistment often, and every conversation we've had revolved around the bonus and what it would do for us.  What he told me today was that the money is secondary. "I have job offers all over the place, making a lot more than I do now," he told me. "But when I finish this and get my 10 years, I can give you my GI Bill so you can follow your dreams too." I cried. I knew that he made most of his decisions based on what would be best for our family and our future, but he made it clear to me that he has little intentions of making the Navy a career. He just wants to give me the chance to make something of my life too, if I want. He went on to describe his hopes that if we find we can pay my tuition sooner and out of pocket, we can give his GI Bill to one of our children.

If you've known my husband in the past few years, you'd know that while I was babysitting almost every day, he was making it ABUNDANTLY clear that he ranked babies and children up there with root canals and having his toenails removed with pliers on the list of things he didn't want to happen to him. I joked that he was running an anti-baby campaign to try to keep me from getting any ideas. Lately he's softened up a bit and admitted he was sure that one day I'd decide it was time and he just wouldn't have a say in the matter. But today, he went even further. He transitioned smoothly from college plans into family planning, and when I tentatively mentioned that I was feeling a little pull to move up our original timeline (no kids until at least 4-5 years), he shocked me with his response. Not only did he agree, he went on to say that he's been thinking a lot about it and how he wants to be young and be able to keep up with his kids. "I want to really be able to PLAY with my kid... kids... you still haven't sold me on more than one," he teased. "Maybe a year after I get back. Maybe sooner." I didn't cry this time, because I was just too astounded at what was coming out of his mouth. He's NEVER expressed any interest in children in anything more than the abstract, and here he was today telling me he thought maybe we should back up the timeline even more than I was going to suggest. We talked about a whole lot more, but these two things just absolutely made my whole year. 

It seems that every time we have one of these talks, I am totally blown away first by how amazing my husband is at being a husband. He was MADE to be a provider, a lover and confidant, a protector and comforter. He is so good to me and for me, and blossoms more and more every day in this role. Second, it's incredible how in synch we are. As our lives progress and develop and change, even while we're apart, we seem to be on the same wavelength. There are a few bumps in the road, but nothing talking doesn't sort out quickly. But like with the idea of kids... I hadn't mentioned it at all, and here we are, agreeing and on the same page with something I NEVER thought we'd feel exactly the same about. I thought I'd be dragging him kicking and screaming into fatherhood. Or at the very least, persuading and reassuring him into it. But time after time since we've been married, I've been so pleasantly surprised that we've growing together effortlessly. Every month that passes finds us a stronger team, and every obstacle life throws our way draws us closer to each other and to a better understanding of each others needs. Our marriage is becoming seamless, and I have to believe that we were truly meant for each other. Made for each other. It's an incredible feeling.

So I felt that I just had to share. My mom even noticed the huge change that an afternoon talking had made for me. "You've been morose for DAYS," she remarked. "Is it so usual for you to be like that?" Maybe... I hope not quite so bad. But my husband truly makes me happy. Not getting to talk to him and dealing with struggles by myself when I'm craving his support and insight is hard, and the affect is noticeable. And getting to talk, having my soul comforted and my heart encouraged, makes me feel instantly brighter. I am madly in love with the man I married, and even from half a world away he makes my heart feel like it's racing and floating and melting all at the same time. Tonight I'll be spending a little extra time thanking God for him, because I can't even put into words how grateful I am to have him. I wouldn't have traded today for anything... it was an almost perfect day. All I need now if for him to make it home. :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The chance that maybe we'll find better days

One day at a time, I'm still breathing. The past couple of days have been getting better, and I'm starting to realize that part of my struggle is my own stupid fault. I really really HATE being messed up and miserable over Alex being gone. I mean, obviously, no one is happy to be miserable, but when I fall apart, I get mad. Every part of me rebels against the weakness, and I get so angry and frustrated that I'm not strong enough to hold it together. In my head, being a mess is such a waste: of time, of energy, of emotion, and it doesn't help anything. My husband is still just as absent whether I'm happy and enjoying myself or an inconsolable wreck. I'm beginning to realize, though, that by being angry with myself and trying to force myself NOT to be upset even when I am, I'm shooting myself in the foot. It's not going to be easy to change, because I can't even describe how much I detest falling apart. I hate feeling weak, and I hate feeling selfish and pitiable when my life is REALLY not so bad. But I can't be so hard on myself. I have to just let myself feel what I feel and let these things run their course. Like extracting a poison, or emptying out the trash, I have to have some time to be able to siphon off these awful feelings so they stop collecting and collecting and eventually bursting the damn and ruining my life with their bad timing. I had a meltdown in the middle of a good day with my best friend, and I was lucky that she's so insightful and wise that she helped me get through it. Still, I don't want that to happen at work, or in public. Since then, I've toyed around with the idea of scheduling meltdowns. It sounds kind of silly, but I think it might actually sort of work. I know I'm not the only one who has a tendency to sit around and watch movies I know will make me cry, or listen to music that reminds me of Alex and that I know will bring on the waterworks. I've been trying NOT to do that this time, thinking I was being strong by not being pathetic and wallowing. But I'm starting to think that maybe some of that in moderation would be healthy: To give myself time to grieve, and be ok with being a mess during acceptable times. It's going to take a mental adjustment, and I'm going to have to accept the fact that sometimes it's alright to sit at home alone and cry instead of filling my time with so much that I'm never alone. I have to accept that I need alone time more often now than I ever did before. And as long as I'm doing that in a healthy way, a way that makes my time with other people more more fun and enjoyable, being reclusive and sad sometimes isn't a sign that I'm a pathetic person who can't function without her husband. That's what I'm really afraid of. I don't want to be so much a half of a person that I can't live without him. I don't want to be disgusted with myself. But instead of changing my feelings, I'm starting to think that means I need to start forgiving myself for the weakness.

The cat and I send our love :P
The good news is, I have had a few things that have helped pull me up this week. I finished packing up another box for Alex, and this one has been fun. The last one made me miserable... handing over a package full of things he forgot and wishing desperately to be able to just go with it put me in to a pretty deep funk. But this isn't full of stuff we bought together and then forgot, or things I know he's missing and having a hard time without. This one is full of stuff specifically picked out to make him smile: Play Dough, Silly Putty, a bunch of games, a rubber rat and spider, three novels I know he's looking forward to, a book of puzzles, a whoopie cushion, some cold packs for the days it's unbearably hot, and a few 5-hour energy shots. I'm also printing up pictures of me and stuff going on here, and writing a handwritten letter for him to be able to read whenever he wants. I'm really excited to send this one, and eager for him to get it. I really hope it helps the boredom and loneliness I know he's dealing with.

Not even sucking in my stomach!
The other nice boost was the number on the scale yesterday. I've officially lost 20lbs since my last doctor's visit in November. I'm down to 156.5lbs! I can hardly believe it... After hearing so much about how weight loss is hard, I thought losing 20lbs would be a mountainous feat. I thought it would take blood, sweat, tears, and LOTS of hard work. I had no idea how much my admittedly horrific nutrition and almost completely sedentary lifestyle was affecting my weight. As easy as it was to creep up the scale by eating badly, it's been just as easy to creep down the scale by eating better. And not perfectly! Just better than I was. Not treating veggies like the plague. Getting up and around and out of the house at least 6 days a week. It's been INSANELY easy. I'm not where I want to be yet... I know that if I started exercising, I'd be looking a lot better. But the fact that I could put on a small t-shirt today that I haven't worn in 3 years and wear it out of the house without feeling self-conscious was HUGE. I'm planning to get a bike sometime soon, and I'm hoping exercise pushes me even further toward that goal of being high-school skinny again by the time Alex comes home!

I've also had a few projects to keep my spirits up. Nothing huge, but I finally finished my room after my desk arrived. I love everything about it, and I'm sorry I can't just pick the whole room up and take it to Virginia when I go back. I spent the other day picking out my favorite photos to finish hanging on the walls, and surrounding myself with good memories of all my closest family and friends was wonderful. I now have a whole wall over my bed with my favorite photos of my favorite people, and it makes me smile every time I'm in here. I also helped my brother move out of his dorm today, which was pretty cool. It's hard to believe he's so old! And I'M so old! Remembering how much time has passed since high school, and how fast the college years are flying by makes me feel better, because no matter how much a mess I am right now, I've come a long way emotionally and my life is so much more stable and happy than it was a few years ago. Looking back is a good way for me to gain some perspective.

I'm in love with this wall. :D
All in all, I'm coping. I'm still searching for that perfect balance, and trying hard not to be too frustrated in the process. I'm too much of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my emotional health. I'm learning to let go of the idea that I have to be perfectly in control, perfectly balanced, and perfectly emotionally stable all the time right now.... but it's a slow process. I'm lucky to have some really fantastic friends and family on my side, forgiving me and reminding me of these things when I'm too wrapped up in my own stuff to see clearly myself. It's a work in progress... but at least I'm moving forward. : )

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If today I don't see your face...

 "I love you more than I did before,
And if today I don't see your face,
 Nothing's changed, 
No one could take your place.
 It gets harder every day.
Say you love me more than you did before,
And I'm sorry that it's this way.
But I'm coming home, I'll be coming home,
And if you ask me,
I will stay."

Alex is in port!!!! These weeks are SO crazy for me... my emotions are everywhere. I feel like a super ball thrown against a wall in a small room. I'm ecstatic I get to see his face and talk longer than usual. I'm anxious and nervous waiting for him to get in touch. I'm filled with longing wishing I could reach through the screen to touch him, and I'm frustrated that I can't ever think of the right things to say and I end up just staring like an idiot. And half the time I'm elated buy the frequent talks and the sight of him, and the other half of the time I'm crushed. Seeing him keenly reminds me of how lonely I am and how much I miss him. I lose it after hanging up, and I struggle sometimes even to hold it together while we're talking. It's so frustrating to be getting emotional whiplash, all the while the very fleeting time that he's going to be in port is ticking away. I wish I could just appreciate it without all the chaos in my heart. Yesterday, I was over the moon thinking about getting all day on Thursday to talk to him while he has overnight leave. And tonight, I have this awful sinking realization that I'm just going to have the one day, and I'm going to be looking at him on a tiny screen... And all I want is for him to be here. Or me there. I want to touch him. So instead of enjoying my time, I'm afraid I'll be fighting not to completely break down over the horrific hole in my heart that seeing him is going to open wide up again. So on top of everything else, I'm furious with myself for having a little tiny part of me that looks forward to that time with dread. I should not dread talking to my husband. But a part of me does. And it SUCKS.

Nights like tonight make me feel like I was NOT cut out for this. I think of how much time is left before I get to hold him, and I feel dizzy. I want to curl up into a ball and refuse to face the world until he comes home. It reminds of the ignorant people who say, "I don't know how you do it! I know I couldn't." I want to scream at them, "I don't have a choice!" I am madly in love with my husband, and this is the life that gives us the means to be married and have a good life. Every day that he's away, I have two choices: I can collapse in despair, and give up on living, or I can get up, get dressed, and face the day with as much courage as I can, putting one foot in front of the other no matter how bad it hurts. I'm not some superwoman, that I can just wave goodbye to the love of my life, my other half, and live happily ever after until the ship comes back. And it's not as if he's gone for a few months and it gets just too hard, and I can say, "Oh, I didn't realize how hard this would be. I can't do this..." and leave him. How does it happen that you can love someone until they aren't there for too long, and then you just aren't cut out for long distance? Is that what people imagine when they say they couldn't do it? Really? How selfish and shallow. Maybe there are women out there who are made for this sort of thing, who don't need their husband present for their marriage to be fulfilling and meaningful and completely satisfying. I'm not one of them. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, I am NOT cut out for this life: I do not thrive while he is away. That doesn't mean I can't do it. That doesn't mean I'm not being a good wife, and it doesn't mean that I'm weak. I don't even know how I measure up on the scale of how well I'm coping with this whole deployment thing. But I'm doing my best, and that's all I can do. All I can do tonight is cry, and hope that I can get it all out so that Alex doesn't see it tomorrow. I want to be happy to see him and enjoy our time instead of ruining it with tears and misery that neither of us can fix. But it's hard. Oh, this is so hard. It's the cruelest thing, that his absence leaves me desperate for comfort that only he can give. This ache just can't be filled with the love of family or friends... I need his arms, and I can't have them. It's devastating.

Tomorrow is a new day. One foot in front of the other. No matter how awful this all gets, the days are still going to go by. They don't go faster or slower, even if it may feel that way. And he's coming home. Every day that goes by, even the absolutely horrific ones that I don't have the strength to face, is one more day closer to him being home again. So I just have to keep breathing until then. I can keep breathing. In the end it's always that simple, really. I just have to keep breathing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I've had a mixed bag of a week. I feel like I've been up and down and up and down all week, and I'm trying to stay on the positive side of things. I had my first big meltdown over something going on that Alex isn't here to help me through, and that was NOT fun. But I felt like it was a woman's kind of meltdown rather than the overemotional freakouts of adolescence I used to be inclined toward. It was for the most part appropriate for the situation, and what WAS influenced by hormones I recognized and worked through fairly well. Overall it wasn't awful. I've been dreaming of Alex, which makes it hard to wake up in the mornings, but I'm still hanging on.
I wore these in HIGH SCHOOL!

On the flip side, I had a HUGE personal win today. I finally pulled out all the summer shorts that were too tight by the end of last year in the hopes that I wouldn't need to lose TOO much before it gets too hot to wear pants anymore. I've made a rule that I will no longer buy clothes until I am too small to fit in my current clothes, but I've been afraid to see just how long I'd be stuck in pants until I'm back in my size 8 and 10 shorts. As it turns out, I'm already there! I pulled on pair after pair of shorts I haven't worn in almost 2 years to find that one after the other fits perfectly: not one is the least bit snug. In fact, I wore one pair today with a belt so they wouldn't get too lose by the end of the day! I was even proud enough  to take pics. :)

And I figured that while I was having a good day, I'd go ahead and take a good picture of the tattoo that I never made a big reveal of because I felt like I looked too heavy in all the pictures I took of it. Now since I've never posted any pics on FB, I have a feeling that at least half of the people who know me have no idea that I've had a tattoo for 2 years. :P Surprise! Alex has an identical sparrow on his left shoulder facing the opposite way... we're one of those couples. >_< But just because I don't go around plastering it all over the internet (until now) doesn't mean that I'm not in love with my ink. I am. I don't believe you should get a tat unless it's deeply meaningful. And I love everything about my sparrow: the way it happened, what it means, and even the fact that Alex has one too, though it's a little cliche to have matching tattoos.

I always knew I wanted a tattoo, and when I was a teenager I even played around with semi-permanent designs with Bic pen ink and a safety pin *cringe*. Not my best moment. But I've always loved the idea and spent a LONG time trying to figure out what and where. I couldn't decide for the longest time, and told myself that I'd wait until after I was married so that I wouldn't look trashy in a wedding dress. That changed when Alex decided about 4 or 5 months before our wedding that he wanted new ink, and he really wanted to get a sparrow.

Soon that little muffin top will be history!
Now if you know anything about the symbolism in Navy tattoos, or about about birds in general, it makes this particular design (that HE picked out, by the way) especially meaningful. Sparrows are one of natures monogamists. They mate for life, and they represent true love, commitment, and soul mates. In the Navy, sparrows are shared by sailors and their wives as symbols of their relationship. Also in the Navy world, sparrows have become synonymous or interchangeable with swallows, birds known to migrate vast distances only to return to nest in the EXACT same place year after year, generation after generation. Sailors get them as good luck symbols to always return safe home, no matter where in the world they go. Our sparrow has the perfect blend of meaning and of art: the head and body are very sparrow-like, and the tail flows apart in a classic swallow profile. By the time I finished researching the lore and Alex pulled up the concept photo, I was absolutely and 100% sold on the idea to get them together. I added my own personal touch of, "Always come home," mostly because I love script and I didn't want us to be COMPLETELY identical. And that was that. We talked it through and went the next day to do it.

Normally, I'd NOT recommend getting ink less than 24 hours after deciding exactly what and where. I really believe it's the kind of thing you sleep on at least a week. But it felt like I knew all along that it would happen, I was just waiting for the right thing to come along, and I knew it as soon as I saw it and realized where it would go. I've not had one day of regret, and I doubt I will. I'm almost as proud of the placement as I am of the actual design: I managed to find the only good place on my body that was big enough to display it beautifully, won't get awful stretch marks or bloat in awkward ways when I have kids (as long as I don't become obese), won't show in ANY outfit unless it's a 2 piece bathing suit, but isn't anywhere near "trashy" or embarrassing to show off in public if I so choose. I don't think you should get a tattoo if you aren't able to show it or tell people. There's no point altering your body if you're going to be ashamed or embarrassed. But that's different from being wise about your placement. The hard truth is that some people will judge you for having one. And if you are in a professional setting, it can close a lot of doors if you aren't careful. I like being able to control who sees it and when, so that I can avoid the setbacks of narrow-minded or unfair opinions. So I'm very happy with where it is.

Hopefully I'll continue on my way toward my weight loss goals, and I'll be more and more confidant showing it off. But for now, I'm pretty darn pleased at where I am! I just have to keep my chin up and keep moving forward. And maybe it's not a HUGE deal... but I have to say that finally sharing this so publicly is a big step for me. Here's to the little wins! :D

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Not-So-Fantastic Work Plans...

So I really thought being busy was going to help me not be lonely... But I think I was wrong. It's just that after the high I got  from the move, I was eager to find a way to keep postponing the empty feeling of being alone, so the very first thing I did was fill up my schedule. And then overfill it. Unfortunately, I am not a fast-paced person. I don't like making snap decisions, and when I'm required to do things quickly I get anxious and make mistakes. And for whatever reason- temporary insanity brought on by major life changes, maybe- I didn't remember this when I applied to be a waitress. I saw the sign in the window of a place I'd only eaten at once, thought, "I don't have anything to do evenings and weekends," and jumped right into it. I don't do that. I stress out from making choices just like that. And from that minute on, I got a knot in my stomach that made eating, sleeping, and doing anything besides be a tight bundle of nerves, almost impossible. But I deluded myself into thinking that they were the good kind of nerves... until yesterday.

Yesterday I was supposed to work my second training shift at the restaurant. Sunday I spent the day pretty much a wreck. Monday, I could barely eat or sleep. And by yesterday morning, I was kind of numb from being so wound up for so long. But when I got there and my training manager started quizzing me on the menu I hadn't even had time to GLANCE at, much less study, I started to unravel. "Describe the maranara?" It's red? "What's special about the marsala?" Not a clue. "Well do you at least remember the wines and beers we carry?" No. Not one. Totally blank. I couldn't even answer with basics, because my head was filled with a kind of blank buzzing and the only coherent thought I could grasp was, "I can't do this. I gotta get out of here. This was the worst idea of my life." And that's pretty much what I said. First one tear, then a second, then a steady trickle escaped down my face, to my frustration and horror, as I haltingly explained that I was, "so, SO sorry for wasting your time, but if I try to keep making myself do this I'm going to embarrass myself and embarrass you and piss off customers and it'll be bad for everybody. If I stay I'm going to have a meltdown." While in my head I was angrily thinking, "Too late!" I don't think I've ever been so angry with myself, or embarrassed in a work environment. I'm a capable, intelligent, personable employee. Not an incompetent mess.

But as I stumbled out to my car and tried to compose myself, another feeling broke through the misery and shame: Freedom. For the first time since I started shopping for my uniform, I felt relieved. Almost giddy. I even started laughing. I have no doubt that if I really wanted to, in the right time, at the right restaurant, and in the right frame of mind, I could be a good waitress. But this was the worst possible idea I could have had for this week, and I was indescribably glad to be rid of it.

 I think part of the problem that led to this was my interview: I sold myself as superwoman. "I may not have serving experience, but whatever you need, I'll learn quick!" They believed me, and wanted me to go from no serving experience and one visit as a customer to knowing the menu and the wines and being able to take lead server in a week. And of course, there's the tiny detail that between my personal life- husband leaving, death in the family, moving all by myself over 500 miles- and my professional ambitions of juggling two other jobs on top of waiting tables, I was stretched way way WAY too thin. But whatever the reasons this seemed so appealing and then fell apart so quickly, the only thing I am completely sure of is that I made the right choice... in the end. So I'm not going to be a waitress. I'm going to work in a office, help my dad on the side, and that will be quite enough for me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


It's finally happened. I have been forcing myself forward, staying insanely busy, and going going going until I crash at the end of the day too exhausted to feel anything but numbness. But today I had free time for the first time since a week before Alex left, and I finally realized that I'm not even nearly ok. I mean I am... sort of. I'm not going to have a mental breakdown or become catatonic. I'm surviving. But I've spent the day with my arms folded, my mind wandering, my eyes prickling, and my body taunt as a bowstring. I can't relax, because when I do, I start to cry. I miss my husband.

I had a dream last night of something normal... I don't remember what specifically, only that it was an average day with friends just spending time, and Alex was there. I dreamed he came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me like he does almost every day, holding me close as we talked about something unimportant. And then I woke up, and his arms weren't there: only blankets and sheets. It was devastating.

I've spent all day feeling an aching loneliness deep in my chest, so much that I hurt all over because I've been so tense and clammed up. I finally nailed down the feeling well enough to explain why I've been pushing so hard to get stuff done and be busy, and also why down time is absolutely excruciating and terrifying. It's just like the moment when you're running and you catch your foot on something. In that instant, your forward momentum threatens to force you into a face plant. Your adrenaline spikes, you stumble, but you try to run faster because you think that of you can just push ahead of the trip and catch up, you won't fall. I'm stuck in that split second. Emotionally, Alex leaving has tripped me. I'm stumbling forward, trying to catch my balance and desperate not to fall. But I can't stay that way. I've been running and running, trying so hard not to let myself fall apart because I HATE falling apart... but if I keep this up I'm going to make myself sick. So on the advice of several people that I trust, I'm just going to let it out. Please, no one worry. I just need to get all this out, and I'm sure soon I'll gain my balance again and I WILL be fine. I'll be happy and settled and I'll get my feet back under me, even though Alex is gone. But tonight, I've got to get all this weight off of my chest, because otherwise I'm going to lose it.

I feel like a failure. I only have two responsibilities while Alex is gone: manage the money, and be there for support. That's it. I don't have to work if I don't want to, because Alex makes more than enough. I just need to be there for him and make sure I hold down the fort. And this week I've completely failed at both. I'm ashamed of myself. I wasn't paying close attention, and I didn't manage our joint checking the careful way I usually do. I spent so much time trying to make sure I was getting stuff done and being busy that I didn't pay enough attention to how much it all cost and didn't keep in mind future costs, so this week I've been as tight as I think I've ever been trying to stretch money out to the end of the month. And it has made my promise to Alex to keep his phone card charged very difficult. I've been trying desperately to make sure I have enough gas in my tank, the right uniform for work, and Alex can still call home... And I've been doing it by myself. I can't stand asking for money and I won't do it now that I have no excuse, but usually Alex and I are both aware of what's going on and we work through the tighter spots together. Without him here, the frustration and embarrassment is so much worse, because I've been trying not to let him know since there's nothing he can do and I don't want him to worry about me or worse be upset with me. Not that I think he will. We've talked a little, so he's not completely in the dark, and he keeps reassuring me that it's all ok. I haven't been extravagant... there were a lot of costs to move. But I'm still furious with myself and embarrassed and a million other horrible feelings that are piling on top of the loneliness and making me half crazy. I know that by the end of next week it will all be better, and I have a couple credit cards to fall back on, but there's nothing like money trouble to stress you out. Like I needed that.

But that's only a part of it. The other half of my wifely responsibility is support. And I have been trying so hard! Every night I've diligently sent an email to him before bed. Often for as long as an hour, I've poured my heart out, making sure to chronicle my days and keep him up to speed, let him know what's going on here, and ending with at least a paragraph of encouragement and appreciation. Behind every word has been careful consideration to make him feel connected, loved, and appreciated every day, even on days he doesn't get to call home. But I had the wrong address, and my email program somehow didn't save a single one. Every carefully crafted letter has been sent out into the infinite void of the internet with an incorrect destination, and there isn't a record anywhere to send them again now that the error is realized. They are simply gone. Alex hasn't gotten one single email from me the entire time he's been gone. I wish there were words for me to explain the horror of realizing that he must have thought I was too busy for him now that he's not around.

So no emails, and no money in the bank for him to charge his own phone card with... but I could charge it with a different card and still keep my promise. He could still call home with money I send to that little piece of plastic if I could just shuffle finances around a bit. Except that AT&T outsources to India, and when you move, your billing address changes. So the person I spoke to didn't understand and couldn't figure out how to help me when NONE of my options were going through to reload his phone card. I almost started screaming at the guy when he told me for the fourth time, at midnight, "I'm sorry, you need to call your bank," instead of just listening to me and trying to enter my NEW zip code instead of my old one.

Alex finally found a way to buy a new phone card to call me using his personal bank card that he has with him, and we've pretty much figured out a system that will work until I get the zip code problem sorted out. But I doubt I have to explain why I'm stressed about the whole ordeal.

So I'm struggling. Alex tells me that I'm doing fine, and that it's all ok... and thankfully I've been able to answer every phone call. But with all this, plus juggling 3 jobs (working in my Dad's office, working for my good friend Sharon in her office, and starting to wait tables), I feel like any second I'm just going to collapse in a shaking, sobbing heap. I'm not even going to start on the new job waiting tables: this post is very long already and that's an entirely different level of anxiety. It's fast-paced, intense, and very draining, and I'm just hoping I can remember everything and settle in quickly because right now I'm overwhelmed with it. Everyone else says I'm doing great, but it's a huge amount of pressure to be perfect. I don't know what I was thinking. Or rather, how I could have NOT been thinking. But I'm hanging on.

My aunt Joan lost her husband this month. On Thursday, there will be a service honoring his memory and celebrating his life. And even though I would NEVER claim to feel what she feels exactly, because I know I'll see mine again sooner than it feels, the depth of her pain and the things that she feels echo through me in a familiar way. I've been combing through pictures, scanning the best for display during the service, and it's bittersweet. It's nice to have something tangible to do to help when there's so little I can do to make this better for her. But the sorrow makes me wish deeply that my own husband were here to help me. It's the kind of event that makes me want to reach out and touch him, put my hand on him to reassure myself that there's still a sense of stability in the world. It's hard not to let my thoughts turn toward that longer goodbye that I know we'll face someday, hopefully many years from now. His absence is so much keener when I'm feeling that way. But it's not my week to grieve, so burying myself in helping with this project is the best thing I could have done. Helping Joan and myself at the same time is one thing that doesn't stress me out.

Tomorrow I have nothing to do but work on those pictures, and I'm so relieved. I'm going to spend the day in peace and quiet, doing something to ease the burden for someone in more need than I. I'm also going to put my life a little back in order, cleaning and doing laundry and putting a little simple sanity back in where it's been set to the side. I need tomorrow more than I can even say. And the sooner I go to bed, the sooner it gets here, so I guess I should head that way. I just hope I have nightmares so I can be glad to wake up. I don't really want another good dream.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Week One... Home Again, Home Again

I keep beginning each new post with an apology about how long it has been since the last one, but I've realized that this blog is mostly for me and I actually haven't had anyone clamoring for more ramblings about my life. It seems narcissistic and silly, then, to imagine that I need to apologize for silence I don't even know anyone has noticed. I don't even know how many people actually read my posts, or if they make it to the end of each one. For all I know, you family and close friends that make the effort to read this stuff do so out of love and a sense of obligation, and therefore are relieved that I don't post novels every day. So I'm not apologizing. I've been busy the past month, and now I have time to write. That's all. :P

The day Alex left...
Alex has been gone for 8 days, which sounds like SO long compared to the fact that it feels more like 3. In a total of about 4 days, I said goodbye to my husband and then single-handedly sorted and packed up our lives, arranging for almost everything to be stored, donated, or thrown out. I've wrapped up all the little details of moving, from selecting and directing the movers to move our stuff, cleaning, cancelling all our utilities, finishing our last minute shopping things, keeping track of ten different lists of where different items are going and how they should be packed and in what order and where to make sure nothing I need ends up in storage, everything Alex forgot gets sent to him, and everything that needs to be packed away stays safe and fits where it needs to go. I pulled everything off almost without a hitch, and I feel like Wonder Woman. I think I deserve a title or a certification or something at this point, because I've mastered the art of car/truck/storage unit packing. Liz Richmond,  Master-Packer. :P But in all seriousness, I'm so proud of myself for handling everything and it all going so smoothly.

4 days after we said goodbye.
The best part of the whole week, though, has been with all the insanity of juggling all the moving, I haven't had time to miss Alex. I mean, I do miss him, obviously. I keep wishing he were here, especially at night when I have to go to sleep alone. But the crushing, empty, lonely feeling I'm used to, the one I've been fighting off and dreading for over a month now, hasn't descended. I have had, and still have, so much to keep me busy that I literally haven't had the time to sit down and really realize that he's gone. I'm sure it will hit me eventually, but for right now, I'm just fine pushing hard to get to the next thing on my to-do list. I'll take crazy busy over completely catatonic any day of the week.

 In fact, I'm enjoying the rush so much that I've set up an interview tomorrow to take on a second job. My Bath and Body Works position transferred to a local store, and I'm scheduled to start on the 1st of April. But I happened to eat at a really nice little Italian place called Porto Bello right around the corner from my house, and they're hiring a new person to help on weekends part time. So I'm going for it. I can probably make a lot more money in tips than I'm making at BBW, and since that's part time anyway, there's no reason I can't do both. And Alex and I have budgeted for me to be able to not work at all if I want, so there's no harm in trying to see where it goes... if it doesn't work out, that's ok. But being busy and making more money to save for our future seems like a win-win to me. :D

New hair!
There are a few other great things going on to help keep my spirits up. I found out just before I left that I have lost 10 POUNDS since the holidays! I got my hair cut today in anticipation of my interview and a new driver's license. It's shorter than I've had my hair in a really long time, but I LOVE it. It's prefect for a new job, a new me, and a good start to what I know will be one of the hardest six months of our marriage. Between the weight loss, the new look, and my forward momentum of my successful transition, I feel like I'm doing really, really well. I feel in control, confidant, and happy, which is the opposite of what I feared. Overall I'd say the whole week has been an amazing start.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Tangled Mess

It's been forever since I last posted... Sorry. I've been doing that head-in-the-sand thing that I do, the thing where I just barrel through my days thinking as little as possible and purposefully NOT reflecting because if I let myself think too much I know I'll get bogged down. The closer deployment looms, the more I want to throw my hands over my ears and shout,  "LALALALALALA!!!! I'M NOT LISTENING!!!" As if reality needs my acknowledgement to exist. But there's a lot going on.

Today was my last day of work at the Bath and Body Works here. It's funny how stressed out my job was making me, until I gave notice: As soon as I knew there was an end in sight, suddenly I wanted nothing more than to stay indefinitely. It was so strange saying goodbye, clocking out for the last time, putting on my jacket and walking out, all knowing that I wouldn't be coming back. I almost cried. But even though I really enjoyed the work, and even more so the people I worked with, these last few weeks with Alex are far too precious to me to spend a single second of them anywhere but here at home. And I have so much to do.

The pre-deployment to-do list is my responsibility, and the most stressful part is the pressure. It's a big weight, knowing that our lives are going to be in my hands for most of this year. Right now Alex and I talk about everything together: neither of us makes decisions alone on anything. In a few short weeks, though, I'm going to be solely responsible for everything. He's not going to be available to give input, so I'll be on my own on everything from finances to where we live when he gets back. I'm really afraid that I'm going to forget something important until it's too late, and I'll  be on my own trying to figure it out without him. I'm glad we have this week together with no work to get in the way to make as many preparations as possible. Already it looks like I might be stuck here longer than I planned the way our rent allotment works out. Apparently, if we want to move out mid-March, our rent program will charge us for April as well. In order to pay rent just through the end of March, we have to move out April 1st. I'm not sure how exactly that makes sense, but I know I was NOT happy to find out that in order to avoid another $1200 charge, I have to stick around here in an empty apartment without my husband for 3 weeks. But I'm sure we'll figure it out. Somehow.

On the bittersweet side, my marriage has blossomed even more under the shadow of separation. Where many couples I know or have heard of struggle with short tempers and distancing in the fact of being forced apart, Alex and I have found the opposite is true for us. He's been so incredibly sweet since he got back from this last underway. He bought me a new iPhone 4S so we can facetime while he's in port. He cleaned up the apartment while I was at work, just because I mentioned in passing that the mess was stressing me out. He took me to a jeweler to get a new wedding band custom designed to match my engagement ring so I have a beautiful reminder of his love while he's away. And every day he's been extra sweet, especially affectionate, and amazingly patient. I keep having little meltdowns, either tears at stupid stuff or stressed out snappishness at all the stuff left to do... but he's been understanding and comforting and absolutely wonderful pulling me out of my own head and making me forget that I'm absolutely coming apart at the seams. Which I am, when I let myself think about it. And I'm having nightmares even when I'm ok during the day, which is my biggest indicator that I'm subconsciously stretched thin. But when I'm with him, he makes everything ok. It's almost been like a honeymoon. Which now that I'm thinking about it makes me want to stamp my feet and pout and cry, "It's not fair!!!" I'd very much like to just skip the whole freakout and meltdown and get to the point that I've found my feet again... Come deployment, can I just check out until mid-May? That'd be awesome.

But enough of my pity party. I started going to a women's fitness boot camp 3 times a week with Amanda, and it's been awfully awesome. : P I mean literally, it's awful and awesome at the same time. I'm a HUGE wuss... probably the worst in the class. But I'm already feeling a huge improvement in my energy, and I've been buying healthy food and making healthier choices... I really feel like this might stick. It's not nearly as hard to make little lifestyle changes as I always though it would be, and I'm SO encouraged. So there's a little ray of sunshine in my increasingly stormy emotions as the days tick by. I feel better physically, and it's a nice motivation to get out and not totally shut down and waste what time I have left. It's good. And I'm proud of myself, which I haven't been much in a long while. Who knew everything everyone ever told me about the benefits of healthy activity is all true? Haha

Now I need to put my computer away, because I want to spend some time with Alex before I get too sleepy. I know tonight's been a rambling mess, but my brain is sort of a rambling mess at the moment. Hopefully I'll gain a little more stability after a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I officially have NOTHING to do except spend all day with Alex in my pajamas. The fridge is stocked, we have movies we haven't seen yet, and nothing on our to-do list can be addressed until Monday. I think a day together doing nothing is exactly what we both need. :) Thanks for bearing with me through the tangles in my head.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Spongebob is My Homie

I'm going to let you in on a secret: I'm not actually good with talking to people. Ok, well maybe sometimes. But after a little while in the retail business, I've found that some people have a gift of being able to walk up to anyone and start a perfectly natural conversation without hesitation or reluctance. I work with an amazing woman, a teacher, who has this gift and can talk ANYBODY into a sale. Beyond that, even, when the customer walks out our door, she know their name, their spouse's name, their kids names, and their life story. And they feel like they've made a new friend.

Man do I WISH I could be like that. Me, I get this crawly awkward feeling half the time I approach a customer, and the voice in my head is rambling about bothering people and being the creepy sales person who won't leave you alone, and then I start talking and I talk too fast or I get tongue tied and mush words together and it's just uncomfortable. Forced. Now I do a pretty good job of faking it, and most customers have no idea that I'm uncomfortable, and sometimes I really do alright without the subconscious self-sabotage.  But a lot of the time when I'm walking up to someone to say, "Hi, can I help you?" I really want them to tell me to go away.

Then I have this other problem: On my good days, when I'm on a roll and my conversations are going well, I'm out of my own head and I'm actually enjoying my job and talking to people, sometimes my mouth gets ahead of my brain. I go into auto-sales mode, and I say dumb stuff like, "Hi ladies," because that's what I just said to the last group when actually I'm looking at a woman and her husband. Or I start to say one thing, but my brain is thinking something else, and I end up with some weird combination of the two differing trains of though that makes no sense, or worse, makes sense but means something weird. I had a moment like that yesterday.

It was a GREAT day: Alex came home yesterday morning, and I was walking on air to have him back. When I'm in a good mood, I work well, and we were scheduled to have a special event for Valentine's Day with lots of business and my favorite coworkers all lined up to work with me, so I came to work in a pretty upbeat mood. That's probably why I didn't freak out when my manager told me she had a special job for me for the event; and by special she meant exactly the worst job for me to be doing with my awkward don't-be-creepy-and-bother-people mentality. She made me that person out in the mall that you walk on the other side of the hallway, or pull out your cell phone for an imaginary conversation, or suddenly become fascinated with the ceiling or the floor or the opposite wall to avoid. She made me the "Would you like to try this?" girl. In a pink apron and a pink bow (blech), I stood outside the store with samples of our newest fragrance and shouted at passers by. I shamelessly tried to guilt guys into Valentine's Day purchases, enticed children with free ribbon bracelets, and called to people obviously trying to avoid my gaze... all in the name of doing my job well. I exchanged sympathizing looks with the kiosk girls getting the same treatment, and joked that we all needed "I promise I'm not creepy" t-shirts. But I was doing alright, minimally creepy and actually successfully luring customers in to shop, until I happened to see an African American family with a little boy wearing a Spongebob shirt.

Families with girls were easy, because the pink ribbons I was handing out brought them running. Getting moms with little boys over required a little more interaction on my part. I'd been thinking on my feet, dishing out compliments and waves and friendly greetings, but I saw that shirt and knew it was an opportunity. I bombed it. I pointed and said excitedly, "I LOVE your shirt! Spongebob is my..."

Now you know that moment I was talking about when your mind is going one direction and your mouth is somewhere else and something embarrassing comes out? I think my head was going for "Spongebob is awesome" while my mouth was more in the direction of "my favorite." Anyway, there was an imperceptible instant of confusion that I had no CLUE what I was saying, and somehow I spit out, "my HOMIE!"

Spongebob is my HOMIE? Oh, I did NOT just say that out loud for all the mall to hear. But I had. Here I was, a white woman in a pink apron handing out perfumed pink ribbons, declaring in a crowded mall hallway to a little black boy that I have a cartoon homie. Fantastic.

I think my face saved me, because even though I recovered quickly, his parents laughed at me instead of getting upset or offended. Or maybe it didn't sound as racist or offensive to them as it did to me as the words left my mouth. Maybe I was funny. I got a few mixed chuckles and weird looks from other shoppers, so I have no idea. They kept walking without stopping to talk to the creepy homie lady, which was fine with me. I kept doing my thing, and soon everyone who had heard the exchange had moved on to do their shopping. In the scope of the entire day, it was a tiny speed bump. Embarrassing, of course, but fleeting.

But that's what happens to me sometimes. Most people don't know, but I'm a socially awkward person pretending to be a confidant extrovert most of the time. That is, until something stupid like, "Spongebob is my homie!" slips out. Oh well.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Uninteresting Ramblings

Today, I am sick. The nasty, gross, feels-like-my-head's-filled-with-cement kind of sick where I'm sneezing and coughing, my nose is running like crazy, and my face hurts because my sinuses are so stuffed up. Plus I can't breathe, so it's hard to sleep. YAY!!! Apparently, the person who gave it to the people who gave it to me (*cough* AMANDA AND LUCAS! *cough*) said she had this stupid cold for 2 weeks. And THAT means I'll be sick when Alex gets home! MORE YAY! So what should be a joyful reunion will more likely be exhausting, uncomfortable, and probably end up with BOTH of us sick and nasty. Because if I'm sick when he gets here, I REALLY don't think I'm going to be able to keep enough distance to keep him from getting it too. : / Gross.

Not so bad if I do say so myself. : )
Baby streaker! Kind of. : P
But the good news is that I'm off work for the next few days. : ) I spent the night over at Amanda's with her and Lucas last night... that was pretty awesome. We spent last week painting her upstairs guest room over the garage (rehabilitating it after the last person to stay in that room nearly RUINED it with the worst paint job I've EVER seen), so I got to sleep in my own newly-painted guest quarters. It was pretty gratifying, using to space we worked so hard to polish. And of course it was nice not to be alone. Amanda is definitely my number one girl friend when Alex is gone... she and Lucas pretty much keep me sane when I have nothing to do and no one to talk to. Plus we get stuff done together! Today she helped me get Alex's car checked out because it was making a funny noise, and also get my own car cleaned and shampooed. She got her car cleaned up, and in the whole mix we had a great sushi lunch! Allover, it was a productive day, even though all three of us were stuffy and sniffly and gross. : P

Bath night with two of my favorite people! I LOVE this pic. : D

Honestly, I don't really have anything interesting to say tonight. But I'm at home with just the cat, and even though she's talking enough for the both of us what with her nagging about me leaving her alone too much, I'm feeling the silence. So you guys get to hear what's up in Lizland. I'm sick, but ready for Alex to get home and excited about my time off of work. My life is so interesting and exciting, huh? Tomorrow's going to be just as interesting: I'll be picking up my car from the shop where it's getting brake work done, and then maybe some shopping. Or maybe cleaning. I haven't decided. Lemme tell you, I'm livin' it up here in Virginia Beach!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Healthy Again!

So last night's post was... melodramatic. Sorry about that. This morning I'm feeling much better, both physically and emotionally, so I'm going to share a few of the more positive aspects of my life so no one thinks I'm all doom and gloom and emotional turmoil. I'm actually usually a pretty upbeat person. :P

One of the big things I'm planning to do while Alex is gone to pass the time and to keep myself happy is to change my eating habits and my lifestyle. Ultimately, the goal is to lose weight: And before you say, "You don't need to lose weight!" or "You look fine!" know that I am not fishing for compliments and I DO need to lose weight. I have always secretly loved my shape. I've had problem places that I haven't been happy about, but all in all I've been pretty pleased with my curves and where I carry my weight. When I wear the right clothes, I look great. But since I quit marching band in my junior year of high school, my lifestyle has become more and more sedentary while my eating habits have become more and more... gross. Fast food, carbs, fried foods, unhealthy sauces... I love food, and I've always eaten what I love, not necessarily what is good for me. I don't eat a huge amount of food, but my nutrition has been in the tank.  All of these things combined, plus my horrible eating patterns-- nothing until at least noon, then dinner late, and usually food before bed too-- have added a little at a time, creeping the scale upward and upward through the past few years. If you don't believe me or think it isn't really that bad, I'm told a photo is worth a thousand words. Here's two:

2006 : I weighed 125 lbs
2011 : I peaked at 176 lbs
In case you suck at math, that's 50 lbs. I'll say it again... 50 POUNDS. And that's not ok with me. I've spent a long time looking at myself in the mirror only at the angles that look good. I've been wearing clothes that hide the pudge and show off the parts that still look good. But when the numbers come out and the pictures are put side-by-side, there's just no excuse. I don't have kids. I work part time. There is NO reason I should look like I do, except laziness.

My "Virginia Beach Bestie", Amanda Jessen has embarked on a lifestyle change to lose 100 lbs. Her blog, 100 lbs or Bust!, and her daily journey to eat better and exercise more has been an inspiration to me, and I know that if she can do it, I can too! I'm not planning to do weekly weigh-ins (yet), but her influence already has my refrigerator full of healthy foods instead of the junk that I used to have. Or worse, the empty shelves that had me at fast food at least four nights a week. And I'm not unrealistic. I don't expect to look like I did when I was 15, or weigh 125 lbs again. I don't even have a weight goal. I want to fit comfortably in a size 6 again. That awesome blue dress in the picture is a size 4, so I know my body can be a size 6 again, healthily.

So that's the plan! I've already signed up for a boot camp with Amanda before I head home. In 2 weeks, I'll begin a 4 week, 12 session fitness class to get me jump started. I have plans to buy a bike, and I hope my dad will go with me to the greenway near our house, or the park to ride. : ) I'll be walking my mom's dogs, and using the treadmill at her house. And I'm eating healthier already! My breakfast this morning was a light and fit yogurt topped with fruit, almonds, and a half serving of corn flakes (because I don't like milk, but I do like cereal). And it looked almost as good as it tasted!

And the part I'm looking forward to the most is getting to do it while Alex is gone. I'm going to have tons of time on my hands, and I have great motivation! I'm SO looking forward to the day he gets home from deployment and sees the girl he fell in love with when he was 16 standing on the pier waiting for him like nothing has changed. The first week he's gone, I have a shopping trip to make: I'm going out to buy the hottest red cocktail dress I can find. Something satin and sexy and perfect for a welcome-home date... in a size 6. There's already a place on the wall of my bedroom in Atlanta that has room for a peg for that dress. I'll see it every day, and that's going to be what I'm aiming for. I'm doing it for Alex, and I'm doing it for me, and I can't wait to get where I'm going!

Friday, February 3, 2012

An Overdramatic Freakout Over an Imaginary Problem

I know it's been a long time since I've posted. It's funny: In high school, I wrote about EVERYTHING. One summer I penned an entire book full of letters to Alex while we were apart, complete with pictures, applicable quotes and song lyrics, and at least 2-3 notes per day about every insignificant detail of my life without him. Now that I'm an adult, I find myself purposefully not writing in times of greatest stress. I put my head down and push through, as if being as busy as possible and keeping my head in the sand will get me through it. It's almost the same sensation as swimming the length of a swimming pool without coming up for air... the harder it gets, the more my desperation to push through without stopping, without thinking, without coming up for air. So I'm trying to get used to this whole regular posting thing, and it's more complicated juggling emails to Alex and my personal journal as well. Usually by the time I send something off to my husband, I'm all worn out. But today has been a sick day for me, and I've spent most of my day watching movies and feeling sorry for myself for being sick on my day off. And of course, on days when I'm forced to take it slow and watch romantic comedies and tear-jearking dramas all day, I end up thinking about the stuff that I'm usually running hard to avoid.

Today my focus fell on something my mom said to me while I was home. "I hate to see you so dependent on another person to be happy," she told me as I sobbed over some facet of life without my husband.

Now if you don't know my mother, sharing this risks making her sound callous, which she is absolutely not. She doesn't always know the perfect thing to say: she's a little blunt and black and white sometimes. But she loves me fiercely, and she has always been very much concerned that I be a well-rounded, happy person. As I get older, I understand that what often sounds like criticism from her is actually driven from a desperate desire to protect me and guide me toward health and happiness. She has ever only wanted the best for me, and to help me avoid the heartaches she knows are out there. And of course, with our family history being what it is, I'm sure she worries about how my relationship with my husband might be effected by the tragic implosion of her own marriage. She said this because she firmly -- and I think rightly -- believes that if you cannot be happy by yourself, you cannot be truly happy with someone else.

But I can't help feeling that the point isn't as applicable when your spouse is gone for huge chunks of your life, like in the military. (Now, bear with me, because I really don't mean for this to be a Navy sob-story. There's a larger point to this, and I'll get to it soon.) Your spouse should be your best friend. You plan your lives together, make your decisions together, enjoy the little quirks of being around each other, and as you grow together they become your other half. Alex has always been the first person I turn to when I have something to share, something to discuss, something to laugh about, or a shoulder to cry on. He's the very first person I want to talk to and share everything in my life with. And when that person, the one you've centered your whole routine and habits and emotional stability around is suddenly removed, you grieve. It's natural. In a normal circumstance, that kind of sudden and total absence might be a break up, or a death, and it would cause tremendous grief that you would have to work through to heal. But the problem with the military is that even though you know that person is going to come home again when you say goodbye and the ship pulls out, it feels the same. You still have to deal with that huge gaping hole in your life where that person used to be. It feels like they've died. You have a bad day or something terrible happens, and your first response is that you want to talk to your spouse. But you can't. You can't call them. You can email, but you probably won't get anything back for days... you have the same thought and immediate let-down as if that person were entirely gone from your life. They can't provide the support and everyday role a spouse is meant to.

And yet, at the same time, they aren't entirely gone. If someone you loved died, the natural process of grief ends in eventual acceptance and healing. You never forget someone you loved, but you find ways to fill the hole they left behind, and carry their memory into your new life without them. You learn to let them go... but obviously, not when they're going to come back. When you're faced with being apart for so long, with so little contact, you've ended up in a horrible catch-22. There's a huge, aching void where they used to be. Your confidant, your partner, and your soul mate has been ripped out of your life... but you can't fill their place. You have to hold it open and keep that space vacant for them so it's waiting when they get back. The whole emotional process itself is brutally painful. I find myself bouncing back and forth: bad days, I miss him so much I want to curl up on the couch huddled in a ball, holding myself together because I feel like there's a physical hole in my chest. And then there are the good days: the ones that I'm so busy and so happy that when I realize that I didn't miss him all day, I feel horrifically guilty. Not to mention the ever-looming battle to jealously guard his place against inappropriate emotional replacements. It's exhausting, finding the right balance between holding his place open and not living my life on hold, in mourning, waiting for the day he can step back into his role. And I'm terrified that I'm not doing it right.

On the bad days, I feel pathetic. I hate being so "dependent," as my mom called it, on Alex to be a stable human being. I feel like it's sad, that my situation isn't nearly as bad as it could be, and here I am crying like a kid who misses its blanket. He's not dead. His job isn't even that dangerous, comparatively speaking, and it's not like we NEVER get to talk. I get angry with myself, and wonder how I could possibly be doing this marriage thing right if I'm such a mess when he's gone for just a month. Maybe I am clingy and pathetic and have no life of my own. For that reason I'm going to be looking for some good volunteer opportunities while he's gone for deployment, and to go back to school in the fall. I need some purpose and direction to make me a stronger person, to feel more balanced and less like Alex is my whole reason for existing. I'm pretty sure that's not healthy. And I'm working on it... like I said, those are the bad days, when the demons all come out and I'm feeling much worse about myself than I deserve. Most days I give myself more credit. I don't think I'm COMPLETELY co-dependent.

But the good days have their low points too. I struggle a LOT with guilt. I feel guilty when things are good, and I find myself not feeling his absence so keenly. I know that he would want me to be happy, and would hate the idea of me being a mess all the time while he's away. But I'm worried that somehow I'm dishonoring him if I don't miss him terribly. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel, to be honest. I know many people who look down on couples who cling desperately to each other, and believe that space and individuality are absolutely necessary to keep a relationship healthy and happy. But I don't know that many people who feel that way who are also in loving, happy, committed relationships that have stood the test of time. Actually, I can count on one hand the number of marriages I'm close to that I admire. That terrifies me. How am I supposed to be a good wife when I don't know how I'm supposed to feel when my husband is gone? Am I supposed to be strong, and happy, and ok, while still being the wife he deserves? Am I denying my husband his due by NOT missing him? Or am I pathetic when I'm a mess, and pitiable that I can't handle life without a man to turn to?

If I'm being honest, most days are the days I miss him, and I'm just going going going going trying not to think about it. And I don't know if that's right or not. But that's the reality of it. And even when he's here, I struggle every day trying to figure out if what I'm feeling and how I'm acting is "right." I want so desperately to get it right. I want to give Alex everything he deserves, because he's an amazing person. And he's such a wonderful husband. Our last phone conversation he talked all about his plans for our financial future with such enthusiasm, all because he's trying to provide for me. He had found the book I'd recently read about finances, then gone and worked out a whole plan based on things I'd said to him in passing and what he'd read on my recommendation. The longer we're together, the more I realize that he is naturally an amazing and loving provider, and I want to be an equally amazing wife. But I feel like I'm floundering, because I have such a fuzzy idea of what things are supposed to be.

Like I said: I think the time is right for me to find a steady volunteer job in ATL to keep me balanced while Alex is gone. I'll have close girl friends and family to help hold Alex's place until he's back. And most days, if I keep busy and keep in touch with him as best I can, will be good days that will go by quickly. When things are bad, I find myself searching for that terrifying, unknown, and unforeseeable THING that will ruin my marriage; because so many marriages end, all around I see heartache, and obviously people don't get married when they can put a finger on the problem that will eventually cause divorce... But then again I realize that we AREN'T most people. We've survived so many difficulties, and me just second-guessing myself and searching for something that isn't there doesn't help either of us. I don't know if I sound crazy or over-analytical, but I wonder if I'm the only one who struggles like this, over seemingly nothing. Maybe I'm just weird. Anyway, I'm sure a good night's sleep will make everything look better in the morning. It always does.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

15 Ways to Feel Better: Because This Morning Kinda Sucked

It's raining today. It's rained on and off for days and days this past week, which is lousy. I was late this morning because I had a heated discussion with my mom: One of those almost-a-fight-but-not-really discussions about the dangers of the world and how it's a scary place and how I should live under a rock where I'm safe. Ok, maybe it wasn't quite like that, but it felt like it, and I was grouchy because I got barely any sleep. In general, life is just kind of dreary today, and it seems that way for a lot of people today judging by my Facebook feed.

So in honor of a dreary, grouchy, kind of depressing day, I've decided to pull together my own compilation of crappy day pick-me-ups. Not all of these are from my own head. But between my own experience with grief and counseling, dealing with the loneliness of Alex being gone, and reading literature online and in personal growth books, I've compiled my own arsenal of ways to pull myself out of slump. I think it's important to know how to get yourself up and going again, whether you're dealing with big life struggles or just a rainy day, and I hope that putting these down in one place will help me turn my day around.

  • Get up and move. If you find yourself sad, grouchy, tired, or generally feeling blah, getting your blood pumping helps! Even if you just get up and jump up and down yelling, "I feel TERRIBLE!!!" you will probably find yourself feeling just a marginal bit better. Or ridiculous. But then you can laugh at yourself, and that's just as productive. A good routine of being active will help your mood in the long run as well. Being active and excising releases chemicals in your brain that will elevate your mood, and you'll have more energy throughout the day, which will keep your spirits up. You don't have to work out either... sports are a good way to be active and not be bored!
  • Laugh! Laughter really is the best medicine. Find a stupid website: I like and because pictures of goofy animals just crack me up. Netflix and Hulu both carry America's Funniest Home Videos... go watch some poor dad get hit with a bat by his kid playing T-ball, or people falling off of things and running into things. Go find something that you can get a good long belly laugh out of, and you'll feel instantly better. 
  • Wash your face. Use cool water and a maybe a facial soap with a smell like eucalyptus or lavender, and just wash your face. The cool water will help you wake up, feel refreshed, and certain scents have an amazing power to relax and refresh. 

  •  Change your socks. This is one of those weird things I found in an article about being tired, but it works! Change your socks to a clean pair, and it instantly refreshes. I usually take it a step further and grab a wet washcloth to clean off my feet with and then put lotion on them before I put on fresh clean socks. Maybe it's weird, but I never take the time or spend the money on pedicures, so a little lotion and socks on to hold the moisture in is a good way to keep them from getting awfully dry or gross in the winter. And it just makes me feel better.
So maybe a prom dress isn't practical, but something clean will do!

  • Change your clothes. When I'm having a lousy day, or string of lousy days, I often stay in whatever I slept in unless I have to go to work. (Don't judge me, you know you've done that.)  But changing your clothes and putting on fresh, clean stuff, even if it happens to be another pair of your favorite PJs, will actually make a difference in how you feel. If changing your socks doesn't work, try the clothes change, and if you're still down in the dumps, continue to the next tip and just start over with a clean slate!
  • Take a shower! There is amazing power in a good, long, hot shower. At the end of a long or stressful day, a shower gives you time to take a breath, relax, and not think about anything. The hot water physically relaxes tension in your neck and shoulders, where most people carry their stress. And it makes a huge difference at the beginning of my day too. Waking up to a shower helps me feel more awake and ready to handle my day, and my mood is always significantly higher when I feel cleaned and well-groomed. Make sure you put on fresh clean clothes to get the most out of feeling better after a shower.
  •  Take a shower EVERY DAY. This is one that may seem obvious, especially if you have to work or you already do this. But one of the things I've learned about depression is that is saps your motivation and your will to do anything you don't have to. If you don't have to go to work, you have no one at home to tell you that you stink, or you have no particular reason NOT to stay in your pajamas all day, it's easy to just not care. Especially if you're not happy. Get up and take a shower anyway. Taking care of your body and being physically clean WILL help your general state of mind and mood. Likewise, sitting around in your pajamas or skipping the shower and doing the bare minimum to get by will adversely affect how you feel. If you're struggling, then you don't feel like putting forth the effort, especially if there isn't an external motivator to make you care. Then the longer you let yourself go, the less you feel like trying to get out of your slump. Get out of the downward spiral and make it an emotional health routine to shower every day, just for yourself. 
  •  Get good sleep. This doesn't necessarily mean sleep all the time. Feeling bad will make you tired, and if you let yourself you can oversleep and feel worse. But getting a good 8 hours a night on a regular schedule will do WONDERS for your mood. Sleep is one of the biggest factors in your emotion and physical health. To get the most out of your sleep, you should have a routine: go to bed and wake up as close to the same time every day, even if your routine during the day varies. Have a bedtime routine that doesn't include TV or the computer, both of which are stimulating and will make it harder for your brain to wind down. Reading is a good alternative. And if you have trouble falling asleep, Melatonin is my choice because it's a naturally occurring hormone that signals your body that it's time to wind down, and it doesn't become a crutch you need to get to sleep. 
My scrapbook, which is bittersweet to work on when Alex is gone.
  • Get creative! Whether you like to write, listen to music, sing, make things, fix things, cook things, decorate, or whatever, doing something creative and engaging helps get you in a good mood. It can be as simple as turning on the radio and belting it out. Or, if you want to spare your family and neighbors that particular horror, find a task to get started that will help occupy your mind. Anything productive is good, but the more creative I can get, the more happy I feel. I like to organize and decorate spaces. I've often pulled out my color printer and worked on getting photos printed and framed, and I'm looking forward to painting and decorating the room I'm staying in at my mom's to give me a sense of well-being and accomplishment while Alex is gone for deployment. It's a huge morale boost to create something to be proud of. 
  • Drink water! Another dual-purpose pick-me up. It's a good quick fix, because it helps you wake up, refresh, and feel better. Being dehydrated will make you feel bad, and sometimes you won't realize that's what's going on. A tall glass of cold water never hurts, and almost always helps my mood. In the long run, this is also one of those things that you should pay attention to for your overall mental and emotional health. Taking care of your body will affect your emotions, and the caffeine in sodas, tea, and coffee, plus the sugars in most drinks (even fruit juices!) will cause burst of energy and highs followed by crashes. All those fluctuations effect how you feel, so being well hydrated with what your body needs without the ups and downs will help you stay in a better, steadier place emotionally.
  • Eat something good. I love to eat to feel better, and it's not always a good thing. But eating is physically connected to the place in your brain that controls your mood. Chewing, tasting, the whole process of eating actually gets your body to release the endorphins that elevate your mood! So if you make good choices about what you eat, having a snack will make you feel better. Crunchy things are good for your mood, and berries help increase alertness and energy. Heavy, greasy foods may taste good and be awesome "comfort foods," but they'll have longer effects during the day to make you feel worse. Being bloated, weighed down, heavy, and tired are all-day consequences of eating bad food, so grab something good for you that you like to make you feel better physically and good mentally. You'll even feel better about yourself for making good choices. Being fit and healthy are great mood elevators!
Number one on my list, my best friend Claire. : )
  • Have a short list of feel-good friends. I've learned over a long time of ups and downs that a short list of people you know and love and that lift you up is absolutely invaluable. Personally, my list includes GIRLS (This is important! Same-sex friends are critical to your emotional well-being. I'm not saying you can't be friends with the opposite sex or that they can't make great confidants, but from experience, same-sex friends are more stable and safe if you're counting on them for your emotional well fare!). It also includes close family that always have time for me, and are all people that are upbeat, generally happy people I have things in common with. When I'm having a bad day, it's absolutely the best true fix to go through my list -- my best friend, my dad, my mom, and then my list of girl friends -- until I find someone who has the time to chat. Human interaction with people you trust and who know you well enough to be able to help you out of a bad mood is your best defense against serious depression. And for the bigger stuff, plan to get together. Go have lunch, get a massage, go to the gun range and blow holes in paper terrorist (or an Edward Cullen t-shirt)... whatever helps you feel less grouchy or lonely and be more happy.
  • If you don't have friends, MAKE THEM! Join a fitness class. Join a band. Take a class. Go to one of those Events and Adventures things or a church retreat. A Bible study or small group is awesome too. Find a way to connect with people with the same interests as you. It's not hard to make friends, even though it can be intimidating. I know, I'm terrified of putting myself out there and making new friends. But if you smile, talk to people, and are as nice and as true to yourself as you can be, people will gravitate to you. Smiling and being nice to people is all it takes. Really. And jump in with both feet! Don't hesitate to initiate a conversation or a friendship, and don't chicken out when someone shows and interest in being your friend. You can never have too many people who like you. 
My baby-sitting charge for a good part of last year, Lucas!
  • Do something for somebody else. A GREAT way to meet new friends is to volunteer. There are dozens of volunteer opportunities out there in every community, for every conceivable interest. Whether you like animals, kids, the outdoors, even pretty dresses... I found a volunteer opportunity in Charleston that a group was organizing to distribute donated prom gowns to teen girls who couldn't afford them. Schools have lunch buddy programs that you can go have lunch with a kid every week just to give them a role model. You can lead outdoor adventures, walk dogs, help distribute food from the food bank, volunteer for Meals-on-Wheels for the elderly... there are whole websites devoted to hooking up willing individuals with the right volunteer opportunities. And the best part is that you can do it for yourself. It's a reason to get up, get dressed, get out, interact with people, and it gives you a purpose. It's a fantastic way to pull yourself up, just knowing that because you exist, someone else's life is better. Whether it's a huge change in the community or as simple as babysitting for a friend, doing something helpful is a gift that lifts everyone up.
  • Give yourself 15 minutes. One of those things I already kind of knew, and was reminded by a friend: Sometimes life sucks, and it's ok to fall apart. You can have a bad day. You can be mad, sad, depressed, or frustrated. The trick is not to be a super-person, it's just learning to own your weakness and not let it own you. When I get a phone call from Alex, I cry. As soon as we say goodbye, the waterworks have already started and I'm a complete wreck immediately after hanging up. And I HATE it. But I have to remind myself that it's ok to fall apart. For 15 minutes, I can let go and curse the Navy and miss my husband and have a pity-party by myself. That's healthy. You have to give yourself the time to fall apart in a structured way to make sure it doesn't stay bottled up and come bursting out in inconvenient and unproductive ways. So give yourself the freedom to admit that life sucks, and then pull yourself together when your time is done and move on.
I have probably forgotten some of the stuff I intended to have in this list... I've never actually written everything down in one central location. Maybe I'll make a sequel, if I remember a bunch more and people seem to like this post. But these are the big ones. Bad days, grief, and loneliness are often an unfortunate fact of life, and some periods of our lives are worse than others. Mine's been a pretty crazy roller coaster ride lately, and I use a lot of these tricks to keep me going. And already, today is getting just a little better. :D

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

You can't escape the Navy

My first blog post EVER! I've had a bunch of stuff on my mind lately (thus the decision to finally jump on this blog-wagon), but I have SO much on my mind over so many topics, I'm a little afraid to just let loose. I don't want to scare anyone off with my first post: I know most people don't have time to read a novel just to humor me. :) So I guess I'll start with the biggies. It'll probably still be crazy long, and I'm sorry... but I'll do my best to be interesting. Feel free to let your attention wander if I'm not. 

The past two days have been a lesson in what exactly it means to be a "Navy wife." I don't intend for this to be a Navy wife themed blog, because frankly my life is more than that and I don't know nearly enough about ANYTHING to pretend to be an expert. But it would also be absolutely ridiculous for me to ignore that facet of my life, because whether I like it or not, that's what I am. You don't spend weeks and months apart from your spouse and have your whole life directed by the government without it shaping your life and your decisions and especially your emotions. So here's the Navy stress: Alex is out at sea. Now there are rules about what I can know, what I can say, and ESPECIALLY what I can post online about the Navy, and in particular ship movements, dates, and times. It's a harsh reality, but there are many people and organizations out there that want my husband and every other service member on that ship dead. I'm going to do my best not to help them out. But what you need to know to understand this post is that he's gone. This isn't supposed to be a particularly long separation in the grand scheme of things, but because we're fast coming up on a much longer deployment, this time apart has already been stressful for me. The weight of that longer time has overshadowed this trip. That's the normal Navy stress, and I'm getting used to it.

Now for the background for the NEW and BIGGER Navy stress: With any underway we're reminded that these men and women are first and foremost members of the military. If somewhere in the world there is a crisis, or something in the political climate of the globe comes to a head, it is the duty of the ship and all its crew to go do the service they are employed to do: be the "Big Stick." The carriers are sent out as a show of power, a source of inspiration, and a reminder to both our allies and enemies of what our country is capable of. The sailors are reminded before they leave, "Pack like this is deployment," because at any moment, they may be needed. This is especially true if they happen to be out at sea, able to respond, and already close to a deployment when political unrest arises. You can imagine my distress, then, when the news headlines in the past few days have declared that the United States is on the verge of reigning in Iran on their threats about closing off trade. One quick quote from a major station on Sunday morning stated only, "President orders Enterprise to Persian Gulf." No dates, no specific details, nothing to say WHEN. Or more importantly to me, if my husband is coming back before his scheduled deployment, or if the goodbyes I said a few weeks ago are going to have to last for most of the year. A quick call around and check of Facebook confirmed what I already knew: no one else I know who has a loved one on the ship knows anything, or has heard from their sailor. It's all speculation. This person says there's no way they'll not come back. This news station has an article declaring that the planned deployment will last around... *panic attack*... more than a year and a half. All the comments on all the forums and articles are a mix of navy wives panicking over dates that are FAR exaggerated beyond what we were told or expected, or worse, the doomsayer conspiracy nuts. My friend found quite a few comments along the lines of, "Well, they needed to decommission the Enterprise anyway. Now they have a perfect way. Iran says they'll sink any warship that goes through the straight: fine! Now we have an excuse to put them in their place AND the government doesn't have to pay to tear down the ship." Or worse, "If Iran doesn't blow it up, we will and blame it on them so we can enter another bull**** war! It'll be Pearl Harbor all over!" I stopped reading. Nothing online or in the news will have the hope I'm desperate for, and people like that make me angry, embarrassed for my country, and remind me that not all the people my husband is willing to die for are equally deserving of his sacrifice.

I know that if plans change, I'll hear about it eventually. Somehow. Amanda (fellow Enterprise wife and close friend) joked that if we show up to pick up our boys and the ship isn't there, then maybe they aren't coming back. But that's the truth of it. The price of keeping our loved ones save is sacrificing our own peace of mind knowing where they are and when they may be coming home. After a few days of coming to terms with that, I'm surprisingly calm... maybe I'm in denial. I don't quite believe they won't come back. There have been MANY times in my few years of Navy experience that storms have loomed on the horizon and I've wasted hours of tears and angst only to have it blow over or dissipate or change again and be completely different than I've feared. If I spent time worrying about every possible problem that might arise as the spouse of someone serving in our armed forces, I'd lose my mind. But I do wish I could get a phone call. Aside from my own fears, there's a picture in my mind of what it might be from Alex's point of view. If he knew that he weren't going to come home, he'd be devastated. And I know he'd be pulling out his hair and clawing the walls not being able to tell me, or talk to me. As much as I lean on him for support and encouragement, he leans on me. And being cut off from each other, neither knowing what the other knows, not being able to share information, encouragement, or words of love... that's really hard. I'll be ok. And Alex will be ok. We'll all be ok, but this bump has definitely reminded me that just when I've got a handle on this whole Navy life, I get a curve ball. Life is supposed to be steady and stable, right? *smirk* Not exactly.