Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Goodbye, 2012

Confession: I typed, deleted, and re-typed this particular blog post about seven times. It started as a post about the new year--about hopes and aspirations, about resolutions (or the lack thereof). It morphed into something a bit different, and something much more honest. While I believe  the new year is a time for great celebration and hope, I also think it's a great time to get real, with others, and especially with yourself--with myself.  So, that's what I'm going to do. Here's a little tale about 2012, and how it kicked my butt. 

First, my husband and I committed the cardinal sin of military families: We planned.  Since PCSing to a training base two years ago, we became comfortable with the idea that he was done with deployments.  After numerous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and endless separations, we were so very happy to finally be together, we let ourselves believe it might stay that way.  And in this glow of our own naivety and bliss, we even bought a home. 

Actually, we bought a huge home--bigger than we need--with an even bigger yard.  But, we thought we could handle it.  Homes are very affordable here, and we love the neighborhood and the little lake (pond, really) it sits on.  It may be a lot of work, but we can do it, we rationalized.  After all, we'd be doing it together.  

The year began with my husband going away for a six-week school.  Just six weeks. That's a mere blink of an eye compared to deployments.  But, this separation hit me harder than I ever could have imagined.  I became depressed. I stopped socializing.  I was angry, sad, and lonely.  I've always been able to make it through separations with support from incredible friends. But, I don't have the same support system here that I had in our previous home.  I became angry that I was isolated, and reacted by isolating myself even further. I know, not a smart move.  But, as I'm sure many of you know, sadness doesn't bring out the best in us. 

I've also struggled (a lot) in my career this past year.  And by struggled I mean, overworked.  A lot. Overworked to the point that I rarely slept, I have a seemingly permanent twitch in my left eye, and an ulcer I recovered from years ago has resurfaced.  At first, I thought this job was a miracle.  Shortly after moving here, an opportunity arose to become the director of a statewide agency addressing domestic and sexual assault--issues I've worked on for years, and am incredibly passionate about.  I thought the heavens had opened and hand-delivered my dream job.  But, as soon as I started, I dove head-first into 60-70 hour work weeks (sometimes more), staffing disasters, financial meltdowns, and spats between colleagues that can only be adequately described as drama. I found myself completely responsible for the well being of this organization, of my staff, of all victims all across our state (or so I believed). I worked day and night. And even when I wasn't working, I was thinking about work.  This hit home while I was apologizing to my daughter for yet another out-of-town trip.  "I don't mind that you travel, Momma," she said.  "What bothers me is when you're home, but you're not really here."  Ouch.  And so it has been for the past year and a half. My work has consumed me. My family has suffered.  And I allowed it to happen.

Of course, having my friends to support me would have made this stressful career much easier.  But, how could I possible have time for friends?  In previous jobs, I've always become close with my coworkers. But, as the boss, that's not really an option.  (I know it sounds cliché, but it really is lonely at the top).  And when you're at work all day and many evenings, there's no room for a social life.  So, I was alone.  Yes, I have a few great friends I met here. But, I didn't give them the time they deserved. I didn't allow the friendships to develop as they could have, because I was too ... busy. 

(By the way, telling a mil spouse to just stay busy is really not helpful advice. We're always busy.  And staying busy doesn't take away pain, it magnifies it.  I'm learning to really loathe that word). 

When my husband came back from the school, we tried to work through the resentments that had built--not necessarily at each other, but by each of us at the situation we were in.  As he worked to address the PTSD he's experiencing due to years of combat, I had to face the reality that my own PTSD, from years of sexual abuse, had resurfaced.  We spent the year treading around, and often tripping over, each other's triggers.  I would lie awake at night, watching him sleep, and waiting for the next nightmare.  He would sit by helplessly as I shut him out, trying to deal with my memories on my own, as I always have.  And because neither of us did a good job of holding on to friends, all we truly had was each other--each other to lean on, each other to cry to, and each other to let things out on.  Again, not a great decision. 

Just as we were starting to figure out how to support each other, without bringing each other down, we received the news.  My husband would be leaving for another year.  Not on a combat deployment this time, but on an unaccompanied tour.  It hit us hard.  Very hard.  He thought he would get to see the kids get older, be here for their birthdays and holidays.  After 18 years in the service, he was ready to finally be home.  And we needed--we need--him to be here. 

I tried to convince myself that it would be better, because at least he would be safe.  But, having him away and not at war almost felt worst.  At least when he's in a combat zone, I know he's there for a reason.  But, what reason is there to rip him away from his family--away from me--just to work in an office?  I know the military has their reasons.  But, it all just seems and feels wrong.  And once he got there, we found out that this may be a two-year assignment, not one.  Two years?  We've survived one-year deployments, even 15 months.  But, two years? 

And what about my husband?  Who is going to gently wake him and tell him everything's ok when he has a nightmare?  Who is going to support him when he's weak, and when he's pretending to be strong?  I became very worried about my husband, and about our family.  And honestly, worried about me.  Here I am in this new home.  The new home that we proudly picked out and bought together.  The new big home with the huge yard.  I didn't plan to be responsible for all of this--all by myself, again.  I know I should have. I mean, I'm an Army wife, separation and independence is what we do.  I've done it before.  But, I wanted so badly to believe that we would, that we finally could, do this together. 

How can I possibly keep up this strenuous job while taking care of an almost-teenage daughter, two very sad and confused step-sons, five pets, and (did I mention) the humongous yard?  I ended 2012 being completely overwhelmed.  And afraid.  That's what it really comes down to--fear.  I've survived so much in my life, and consider myself to be a courageous person.  But, now, I'm truly afraid.  2012 brought that fear back, paraded it around, and sat it squarely in the middle of my living room, so I can see it every. single. day.  But, as I look back on the year, I realize that maybe I needed that fear to be out in the open, so I could finally address it.  I have always said that everything happens for a  reason.  Maybe it's time to start (truly) believing it. 

Yes, 2012 was tough.  And now, as we start a new year, I am trying to be--no, I am--hopeful. And I am excited for the new opportunities it will bring.  A new year is always a blank slate.  And heaven knows, I need it.  And while it will be incredibly difficult being away from my husband for nearly the entire year, I really do know that, somehow, some way, we will get through this separation.  Because that's the kind of love we have--the kind that can survive combat and nightmares and past hurt, the kind that can span oceans and time zones, and the kind that can survive anything.  We will get through this.  Because we have to. 

As for me, I am going to work on facing and finally letting go of fear.  I want that monster out of my living room, and out of my thoughts--for good.  I'm going to try to focus on the blessings I have right now, today.  And I'm going to start making decisions for my career, for my life, based on my dreams, and what I truly want, not on just what I'm afraid not to do.  It's time for some changes.  It's time to reconnect to friends, old and new.  And it's time to focus, not only on my family's well being, but also on my own.  Because I have to. 

It's time to say goodbye, 2012.  You really did kick my butt.  But, you also taught me a lot of lessons, and gave me some great moments.  So, I am grateful for you.  And now, 2013, it's just me and you, kid.  Let's do this.

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