Communication law? Ugh.

I am struggling with my schoolwork again today. I’ve been successful at avoiding Monday night struggles with 2000 word papers for about 3 classes now. I stress over the papers over the weekends, but they are usually posted and out of my head by Monday morning (due dates are usually 11pm on Mondays). This week, I am right back where I started. And I think I figured out why that is. I have zero interest in Communication Law. At least less interest than it takes to write 1500 words about libel and defamation, right to privacy, and privilege. Ugh.

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It was Veteran’s Day today, in other news. Today’s Dear Prudie column had a letter from a wife who was miffed (the 4th letter down). Her mother-in-law chose to celebrate one son’s service and not the other because “he hadn’t seen any action”. Or some such nonsense. Now, I’m not a huge fan of days like today. Setting aside one day to honour or celebrate something always seemed silly to me. Want to show your support for veterans? How about you do it every single day in whatever way you can find? In any case, that a mother would be that dismissive of the sacrifice of one of her sons is huge. I don’t get that. If anyone has ever been near the military, in any capacity, one knows just how much of a sacrifice every single day is. It’s not a job. It’s far more. To sign your life over in the way today’s soldiers do, is a sacrifice worth recognising today and every single day of their lives.

Personally, I tell my husband every chance I get just how much of a hero I think he is. It takes a special kind of selflessness to submit to this kind of life, not just once, but continuously over the years. I don’t care what else you may have done, or may yet have to do as a soldier – all soldiers are heroes. Make them feel that way.

 

A not-so-good week.

I’m not sure what’s in the air this week, but it hasn’t been all that productive for me this week at all. Distractions abound. Every task I attempt is interrupted by some frivolous pursuit. Nothing is happening the way I want it to. And when I think of how well last week went, I want to cry. And so I try to think what I did differently last week, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Among those distractions? A new series that I discovered via Netflix called Twisted. I’ve already finished all 11 episodes. : Earlier in the week, it was just trying to stay focused through my not-quite-ill state. As flu season descends again, and hubby receives his bi-annual nose-squirt, he comes home and breathes on me and shares it with me. So I’ve been fatigued, and stuffy, and achy all week. My tinker hobby (Vaping) took some more of my attention later in the week.  So frustrating.

In the mornings, I can barely crawl out of bed. As a result, in the evenings I’m not tired enough to go to bed early enough. I sleep like a rock throughout the night, but not restfully because I wake up just as tired, if not more so than the day before.

Yesterday, I left the house. I needed to get out. The walls were closing in. I refilled a couple prescriptions (which reminds me, I need to message my doctor about refills), and then spent a good 2 – 3 hours at close-by Starbucks. I got *some* work done, but not half as much as I’d have liked.

This morning, I woke myself at about 5am by unconsciously trying to yank my nose ring out by the fingernail. At almost 7am, I gave up and just got up and started the coffee maker. Because after laying in bed for 2 hours without any sign of sleep returning, it just seemed more prudent to get up.

The best part of all of this? I got so much done already this morning for work. I really do need to get up at 7am or earlier if possible. Even if it means a nap about noon. Hubby heads off-road (and possibly into the snow) tomorrow, but I think I’ll be sitting here writing and reading. Bummer! So much for trying to get much done during the week so I’d have the weekend to myself. Even more of a bummer since I’ve not seen hubby for longer than about an hour or two each day in the last week or two (#HellishArmySchedulesFTW).

Argh! If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d have torn all my locs out already. Grrr….

No matter; next week *will* be better. /nod

Marriage retreats, relationships, and other lessons

Considering deployment is an ongoing possibility being in a line unit, marriage retreats are something the army tries to send their soldiers and their spouses to when they can. We were fortunate to be approved for our second one this last weekend.

It was far from as enjoyable as the last retreat we went to in Texas. (Imagine that; I found something about the Texas experience that was better than the Washington experience. Ha!). There are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that both hubby and I were ill, and he ended the weekend with the worst food poisoning I’ve seen in a while. The second reason is that I don’t believe this particular facilitator is as familiar with the subject matter provided for this retreat as the facilitator in Texas was.

That’s a little bit of an understatement, actually. Chaplain Adams in Texas was a riot! I will forever hold him in the highest esteem as being an army chaplain of a completely different calibre than I have ever seen – and please remember I grew up in the arms of the church. He was unorthodox in ways I can’t even begin to explain. But he was effective and memorable – and that I believe is the whole point. Chaplain Adams was the only Christian minister of religion who has ever made me want to attend a Sunday morning service. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to attend one of his services.

To get back to this year’s retreat, though, it wasn’t so much that the course material was at fault. In fact, as I looked through the material, I was impressed with all the ways they chose to deal with issues that can be particular destructive to the military spouse. We just did not have enough time to get the full benefit of the course. Chances are, a savvy facilitator would have been able to summarize and distill this material down to a usable size for a weekend schedule such as we were given, but I get the impression that this was sprung on our facilitator on medium term notice (if not short notice).

In any case, what hubby and I took away was that we need to be constantly communicating respectfully and in detail about our feelings, expectations, and dreams. Even though our relationship is rock solid (especially compared to other military spouses we have both come across), we found we were still disconnected from each other about certain things. Nothing too alarming; no need for panic. We were just reminded that even the best of relationships need consistent TLC.

This is not a new lesson for either of us. We both know that constant and detailed communication is a necessity in any long term, intimate relationship. For me, it was like a dash of cold water to the face; a wake up call. A reminder that at any point along the way, something can go so badly wrong that things get really bad, really fast. And all without either of us even seeing the danger signs along the way. That’s the worry wart in me over-exaggerating for emphasis.

These retreats aren’t all about learning something new. It’s about being reminded about the tools to maintain a healthy relationship considering the challenges we both face. I think hubby and I might need to set aside a regular “test the temperature of our relationship” talk for ourselves.

Get all the touchy subjects in a list (e.g. finances, sex, babies, chores, relatives, etc.), write down what we like, dislike, and what we expect. Then compare notes to make sure we’re both on the same page. Schedule the talks like how we decided to schedule a date night at least once a month. Yeah – that sounds like a plan.

Off-topic for a minute though: one of the sections in the course was about forgiveness and reconciliation and something that resonated for me outside of the context of my marriage.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is giving up on the sense that you have the right to “get even”. And forgiveness is not reconciliation – that is a whole other step in the process. For reconciliation to take place:

  • the relationship must be “safe”;
  • the one who hurt you must be taking responsibility;
  • the one who hurt you is changing the hurtful behaviour; and
  • enough time has passed for trust to be restored

Something for everyone to keep in mind for all your relationships.

Who’s a little more crazy gonna hurt?

Even after discovering the research that said that depression and creativity come from the same place, I still had a day of utter non-productivity. I don’t want to use the term depression just yet lest I associate my feelings with a clinical condition in my head. Positive thinking and all that… maybe if I tell myself it’s temporary and going to pass via language, I’ll convince myself that it is so.

Friday morning, I just could not get up out of bed. The incessant whispering of hubby (“Honey! I love you!”) in that space between wakefulness and sleep was beginning to wear on me. It is as if I was the glue and the bed was the paper. If I tried to get up, the sheets would tear apart leaving strips of cloth hanging from my skin. Crazy things start to happen when you remain alone for too long – like hearing your husband whisper to you from a few hundred miles away.

Even when presented with information you need to progress, sometimes it is still hard to do the work. Yesterday, my faculties failed me completely. I spent the first half of the day drowsing to some unknown storylines in ‘Lie To Me‘ on Netflix. (Yes, I renewed my Netflix account. Mainly because I wanted access to Law & Order and a few other shows.) The second half of the day was spent drowning my sorrows at my inactivity and general low feeling in episodes of In Plain Sight.

The bad part about it that I have homework to finish, on top of work-work and a little creative project that I ought to be working on because today I drive to Seattle for the night. Tomorrow is Pride and I can tell you that that parade is going to drain every bit of energy I amassed this week and even since the last time I was out in public for an event such as this one. Why? Because as I am reiterating to myself with the help of a book called The Introvert Advantage:

“Introverts are like a rechargeable battery. They need to stop expending energy and rest in order to recharge”

And I am the very definition of an introvert. Put me in a room full of people and I guaranteed to be exhausted within an hour or two.   Put me in a crowd, say at a parade, and I am going to be exhausted for days.

That said, I look forward to the experience. My parents would be horrified, but I think that it’s important to expand my horizons and experience as much as I can. Knowledge and experience can only enrich, it can never cripple of corrupt. It is what you choose to do with the sum of your experience and knowledge that makes for corruption. Besides, getting out of the house will hopefully cure that craziness that has borne those whispers in my head. (I love you, honey, but that whispering can drive a girl mad.)

The good news is I finally got to talk to hubby last night. The crazy part of that news is that when I told him about the whispers, he laughed and said he whispered to me as he went to sleep and when he woke up everyday. Like I said, crazy shit happens when you stay alone for too long.

Contemplating the failures – large and small.

I’ve had a pretty bad week. On Sunday, I said goodbye to my husband for yet another training exercise that the army saw fit to send him away on. On Monday, I had a tooth extracted. And all week, I’ve been battling a fatigue borne only out of the kind of depression that is fed by dark, cold, rainy days and lonesomeness. Ah, the life we military spouses live… never a dull moment.

To make matters even more interesting, because of the extracted tooth, my diet has been a mixture of omelettes and some kind of innovative mashed potatoes/potato salad mix. No lemonade, no Pepsi, no hard foods. That was fun. Today and for the first time this week, I was able to eat solid foods. I made chicken and rice in the slow cooker because I’ve been so down and out that I’ve spent the whole weekend on the couch in self-flagellation and recrimination for spending the whole weekend on the couch.

I’m pathetic.

I once stumbled onto a tumblog a few months ago in which the author speaks about unfucking her life one small piece at a time. It was an inspiration. It helped me realize that I can’t beat myself up because I have difficulty getting out of bed some mornings. (This week, that would be more like most mornings). I have to allow myself the latitude to gain control in as small bites as I can manage.

So, today I focused on just that and managed to accomplish a few different chores … not just one. I washed my husband’s uniform. The one he wore that last week he was here. Nevermind that I stood with my nose buried in it for a few minutes before sticking it in the washer. I restocked the extra toilet paper rolls in the upstairs bathroom. And I took the clean wash upstairs to the bedroom. I haven’t folded and hung them yet, though. They’re still in the basket. Still – it’s progress from sitting in the laundry.

And oh yea – I cooked.

When I was done eating, I outlined my essay for tomorrow’s deadline and put in a couple of hours of work so that I don’t feel so rushed tomorrow. Not bad for someone who’s feeling a little less bright and cheery than usual. At least Angel, seasons 1 and 2, have been keeping me company in my despondency. I’d forgotten how much I liked the brooding vampire with a soul. Mostly, I just eye his black, knee-length, leather coat in envy.

Maybe tomorrow will be a more productive day than I’ve had all last week. Maybe …

It’s play time! Shall we watch TV or read a book?

I have always thought that television viewing dulls the senses. I don’t know where that idea came from to begin with, but I do recall that the state of being vapid is closely associated with the boob tube in my head. As a child, I always opted for the book over the television, although I can’t say that was as a result of not wanting to become vapid. I suspect that was as a result of being restricted from watching the television and being strong-armed into the world of reading by my parents. Chances are, it was them who wanted to prevent me from becoming vapid.

When I find words like vapid, I tend to use them over and over until their meaning is stuck in my head. I guess this is why my vocabulary is a bit larger than you might expect. My husband accuses me of using “big words” all the time to show him up. I tell him that I don’t think about it like that at all. It’s simply a matter of using those words ordinarily to myself and them bleeding over into my everyday conversations. Quite like how I used the word “vapid” 5 times in this piece already and still counting.

Anyway, the idea of empty-headedness being associated with the TV was sort of confirmed for me when hubby was deployed in April 2010. It was the TV that saved me from dealing with those crippling emotions of loneliness and abandonment in the days following his departure. I was especially tense since his departure had been postponed twice and he didn’t leave at the time and date that we were initially told.

Those first couple of days, and indeed throughout most of the deployment, the television proved to be my best friend because it gave me the mindless escape that I needed to postpone dealing with emotions I felt too fragile to deal with. Whenever I found myself in that puddle of despair on the bedroom/bathroom/living room/kitchen floor, I’d turn on that TV because that was my way of shutting out the world until I could pull my ass up off the floor and think it through. To be completely honest, it is during that year long deployment that I found myself finding and becoming addicted to TV shows. It is while hubby was overseas that I found and watched the entire series of Lost in but a few weeks.

The final straw in this hat for the fate of television and it’s mindlessness was reading Stephen King, of all people. In his book “On Writing”, he says: “…you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.” Although his thoughts are centered on advice for aspiring writers, I think it goes far beyond that. King even goes on to say explicitly that “…turning off that endlessly quacking box is apt to improve the quality of your life…”

Meh … I like to read and I am perfectly well aware that there people in the world who have no idea why that might be. To them, reading is like listening to grass grow. That’s fine. I respect that. Different strokes, right? This post is about my experience of reading compared to watching the TV. It’s not intended to be any kind of debate on the wholesomeness of TV (or not) in general nor is it intended to be an indictment on those who don’t read.

But then, that’s what this blog is about, isn’t it? My perspectives?

How do I do this MilSpouse thing? Here – let me tell you how.

My best friend asked me recently how I did this MilSpouse thing, I’ve had a few other people tell me they don’t know how I do it and I know that other MilSpouses get the same comments and questions, too. It’s a tough gig, I’ll tell you that. The responses are many and varied and each of us does it differently. Yet we all have the same basic tools that we use and build on.

If you spend anytime at all trying to understand it for yourself, you’ll see that most articles and bloggers, other writers and advice columnists start off by telling you to “keep busy“. And at the core of dealing with military life, keeping busy is the single most important tool you have.

Some of us have jobs that keep us extremely busy and occupied, some have kids that keep them busy (and tired!) – others have their causes and hobbies, and still others have artistic ventures. There’s so many different ways to keep busy that it’s hard to pin point any one way.

For me … I have tons of interests and hobbies. For the year while he was down-range in Afghanistan, I had my job, I had my reading, my cats, I picked some TV show addictions. I had projects that I started – and most of them never finished. And I had sleep, lovely sleep. I learned a lot in that year; I read almost incessantly. And when I wasn’t reading or working, I was watching mindless TV or sleeping. I kept busy alright.

Oh don’t get me wrong!

You have moments when you feel you really, absolutely cannot go on. Those moments when the shit hits the fan and a big piece hits you in the face. You realize cleaning up would be so much easier if your other half was here. It’s a moment or two (or hundred) when you break and you fall on your ass on the floor and sob and blubber because at that moment, you are as alone as you have ever felt. And every time that moment happens, it’s worse than the last one. You literally break in half and settle into a puddle on the bedroom/bathroom/living room/kitchen floor. Pick one or all – it happens enough times for each floor to get it’s own special time with your face buried in it.

If you want to live, though … and you do because you know at some point your DH will be home and finding you on the floor in a puddle of unwashed, tearful misery is not the kind of image you want him (or her) to see … if you want to live, you will realize that food must be eaten, baths must be taken, bills must be paid, and work must be done. So you eventually pull yourself up from the puddle and wipe your face.

Then when you do that, you realize how positively septic you smell, and how ravenous you are and suddenly, the shit that hit the fan and how difficult it is going to be clean it up, is of far less importance than having a bath and eating some food. And in the eating of the food or the taking of the bath, you realize that the soap is almost done, or the towels need to be washed, but you’re out of laundry detergent… or curses! … you’re out of ice cream!

In short, you get past those moments of utter and complete despair and since life goes on whether you want it to or not, there are reminders that bring you back to the present and keep you busy again until the next break.

It’s a cycle. A long-time friend of mine once said to me that he savoured the emotional lows because they allowed him to really appreciate the highs. He wasn’t wrong… when you can survive through the lows, while you scrape the bottom and eat ice cream … then the highs are so much brighter and enjoyable.

It is being able to survive those lows that gives me my strength. I’ve survived some lows in my life. Oh boy! Some lows I thought I would never dig myself out of. Some lows where not even the brightness of the high was visible from that far down. Some lows where I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the next 5 minutes much less another few months. But I survived and I am here to tell you that the one thing that kept me going through a year of separation from DH … was the thought that one day he would hold me in his arms again.

And when he finally did …. it was absolutely the best thing in the whole world!

And oh yea – now that he’s here, I take every single opportunity to hug him … over and over and over again … because since the war isn’t over yet, I don’t know when he’ll be gone again and I want to make sure to store up as many of those hugs as I can for the days when I won’t be able to just take one.

You ask me how I do this? I do it because the alternative is inconceivable … now that I have found him, there is no way I am letting go of him. And when the army takes him away from me, I just think forward to when I get him back. And when he’s here, I make sure to maximise as many of the moments we have together as I can so that I have tons of memories and reminders to keep me going when he’s gone… and something to look forward to when he comes back.

And that is how I do it… because I can’t not. Simple – no?