Last night I had several dreams that woke me up one right after the other all night long- all bad, all scary, all involving Lane. When my alarm went off this morning I was completely confused and couldn’t remember what day exactly it was. Should it be going off? Was last night real?
One of the dreams I do remember- Lane and I are at a poker table, sitting across from each other. The cards he is playing all have to do with his job in the military, what it asks of us. The cards I am playing are my reactions to what his job asks of us.
I wake up before I find out who won.
It’s just a dream, Sarah, just a silly dream.
Is it though?
Or does this all feel like a game of me versus him.
It’s a Monday night, the second one of the new school year.
We’re still in summer mode I think, because I have actually forgotten how to put food together to make a meal. Do you need to think ahead for things such as these? And also- why do my kids need to be fed so often?
I look at the clock and it’s already 5:30pm. I dig in the freezer to find some frozen pizzas, toss them into the oven, tell the girls to wait between 14 and 16 minutes.
I pour glasses of milk, grab carrot sticks and ranch from the fridge, do my best to sort of round out the meal. As I walk around, I smirk to myself about how we scrounge when Lane’s gone, about how this wouldn’t happen if he were home- this last minute searching of the freezer, this not cooking for two months of the summer.
I decide I don’t want to do dishes tonight and reach down to grab enough paper plates for the four of us.
There’s four of us under this roof right now. I know it because I’m sad about the deployment and I know it because it’s the reason I’m throwing together a last-minute meal.
There’s four of us in this house, there’s four of us in this house, there’s four of us in this house.
I walk to the table, lay the plates out in each of our spots.
Five. I grabbed five plates, laid out five plates.
I stare at the plate sitting at his place at the table and I can’t look away. I start to cry without even meaning to.
I didn’t even have to think about it- I grabbed five plates.
All I know is that it felt like my body remembered how it’s supposed to be and my soul hadn’t reminded it that we’re in the middle of a deployment.
He used to be home, there was a time that he was home.
For a moment, the sadness feels overwhelming.
And down goes a card on the table.
Just stay in today, I remind myself. One day at a time, just take it one day at a time.
I one-day-at-a-time it for a whole week and now it’s Friday night.
It’s been a long week and a sad week and a hard week and now yet again I’m the one to rally and get the girls down for bed by myself.
Also? Lane hasn’t checked in all day and I try to be cool about it, but each time my phone dings I check if it’s him.
What else is there to do but make a way, get the hard thing done, and I get the four-year-old into bed. She won’t let me leave the room though, not yet, “Just stay in here one mo’ minute, Mama?”
And so I sit in a dark room, I watch her eyes get heavy as I rub her back, wondering why Lane hasn’t texted me all day.
I start to get sad.
And then I get mad.
I decide I am a strong woman and I don’t have to wait on him to make the first move. Stop playing games, Sarah- so I send him a text:“Missing you a lot today. Your night going alright?”
He replies quickly, says some things about his day, asks about mine. I’m still in the dark in Mae’s room and still feeling a little mad and a little sad and also can’t really believe that in order for our military marriage to remain intact right now, our communication depends on text messages.
As I am thinking about our relationship, how desperately I miss him, how fiercely exhausted I am, I see the three dots.
Surely, surely this will be the message that makes a way between us, that reunites us after an off-week.
“I’d love to hear more, but I’m about to go to the gym- Can we talk tomorrow?”
Oh. Well, then. I suppose you must go to the gym, then.
But: Of course we can, of course we can- so I make room for him to do what he needs to do. And I can’t help but thinking right after: like I always do.
And there it is, the moment the bitterness rises to the top.
Down goes another card on the table.
I have a meeting on a Monday, a good one, an encouraging one; one that could mark a before-and-after in some things I’ve been working toward for a very long time.
There’s so many thoughts I have about it, so many takeaways, so many words and feelings and ways I could just burst about it.
It’s three days later though that I’m finally able to talk to Lane on the phone again and my meeting doesn’t really come up. I remind him about it, but honestly there are bigger things demanding our attention.
I feel myself carrying not only the hard things alone in our military marriage, but the good ones too and I’m not sure which one I resent more. And there it is- the trump card that I’ve been reluctant to play, but the one that can alter my perspective the most.
Down goes a card on the table.
Before we get too far though, something stops me- this isn’t a game, remember?
I come to a point where I realize I need to pick up my cards.
It can’t be a game, it just can’t. In a game there’s a winner and a loser, and if that’s how I handle this military marriage, I’m always going up against Lane.
That’s not how it is, that’s not how we are, that’s not how I ever want my marriage to be- me against him against the rest of the world.
There’s a better way, a way where nobody is against no-one, only for, and when I see our life through this lens, it changes the narrative.
Instead of seeing all the ways it feels like Lane is against me, like our hard life is against my best life, I begin to ask the question: What do we want to be for?
We are for wholeness, we are for fun, we are for adventure, we are for love, we are for courage, we are for each other.
We got ourselves some adventure in this military life. We got ourselves some courage in this military life. We do what we can to restore the broken places, bring light to the dark places, live abundant in all the places, and do it all together.
When I see it all this way, the military life isn’t against my best life- it’s simply a creative avenue that God uses to allow us to live out who we want to be. When I see it this way, suddenly all of these hard things have meaning.
Withness and love found in the separation and hard?
It’s there, it’s there, I just had to make the choice to see that it’s there.
I think about military marriage and I think about all of the things we come up against that could divide us, and how important it is that we are not also against each other. How important it is to let these hard things drive us closer together than further apart.
We can get through just about anything as long as we get through it together.
When I see everything this way, remember he is for me as I am for him and all of this can drive us closer together rather than farther apart,
I’m able to see this hard life, this military life, is the actual same thing as my best life.
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