It’s a Thursday, dinnertime. We’ve made the food, fed the children, and the house has dissolved into utter chaos. The older two girls are playing actual tag around my kitchen island, and Mae, who feels feelings and feels them big, is still upset that she didn’t get to eat goldfish for dinner.
Lane turns to me, “Not sure if this is the best time to talk to you about this…”
“No. Uh-uh. This is how all of these conversations begin. We’ve done this dance enough times that I know what comes next is something I need to be prepared for. I can tell you right now I am not prepared for it.”
Mae is now so upset that she’s moved over to the chairs by our island and is throwing them onto the ground, clearly aiming and timing them to fall right where her sisters are running.
It’s as if Lane doesn’t even hear me and is immune to the kids running literal circles around him because he keeps going: “There’s some things that we need to talk about, some conversations I’ve had lately, some things I think you need to know about.” He stops moving, a plate in one hand, dish rag in the other.
So we’re doing this.
“Girls. Upstairs. Now.”
He says out loud but also to himself “Have I told you about this yet…
…Probably not, the last two weeks have been crazy…
…Wait. Really more like ten months…
…Change that… four years… When is our life NOT going to be crazy.”
And what he tells me next makes me cry a little, makes me feel overwhelmed a little, and reminds me that our military life is, in fact, crazy.
He walks over to me and wraps me up in his arms. I bury my head in his shoulder and take a couple deep breaths to stop crying, take a couple deep breaths to remind myself remember this, remember this, remember what it feels like to be held by him.
And I can’t ignore the next thought because it bullies its way to the front anyway: Do we actually have what it takes to be in this for the long-haul?
Over in our living room, there’s a picture on our wall. He’s in a uniform, I’m in heels and lipstick. My back is to the camera, Lane’s arms around me tight, three little girls at our feet looking up. A 9-month deployment is over, our reunion surrounded by one thousand other reunions too, uniforms and heels too, holding each other, barely holding it together.
I love looking at Lane’s hands in the picture, how they’re digging into me, like he never wants to let go.
We had done three deployments before that one and have done three more deployments since then, three more goodbyes, three other days we hugged in a parking lot and didn’t want to let go then either.
It seems our military marriage is destined to be a series of holding onto each other and never wanting to let go.
That’s how it is though, not much to do about it.
What if that’s okay? What if rather than a burden of this life, what if it’s a gift instead?
What if this part of the process- this series of holding onto each other and never wanting to let go- has actually made our marriage stronger when I feared it would make it weaker?
I think about moments when he was in my arms in one moment, walking away to the bus in another, I climb back into my car where his scent still lingers- Wait, he was just here, though. My hand grazes across the seat that is still warm, I wonder how long it will be until I can reach over and hold his hand in mine again.
Holding him one moment, not holding him the next, pointing me in the direction I want to be looking anyhow- him. Not any other life, not any other man, not any other place than by his side. I’d rather have him half a year than any other guy every day of a year.
Instead of a wound, what if the emptiness is an arrow pointing me to what really matters?
Is there any other way to make it through this military life that requires our everything than by holding onto each other through everything?
Yes, it’s my husband holding me sometimes, but what about the other times?
I realize that I’m never not held, and when I do it brings tears to my eyes.
I’m never not held, as it turns out, whether Lane’s home or away. The sisterhood of military wives is a real thing and they hold me tight in the mornings for coffee and late at night when I can’t sleep and send out a text and on Tuesdays, too, until he can again.
Also? I am always, always held by God and I’m not sure I would appreciate the tenderness of this love of my life without the absence of my other.
I’m just not sure there’s any other way to get through a hard life than being held and holding onto each other.
And so one more time: Can we do this for the long-haul, you ask?
My answer is this: Yes, by holding onto some things loosely and the right things tightly.
What goes where? Hold loose to the things that just don’t matter, hold tight to the things that matter the most. (Spoiler: That’s each other.)
If we’re daring enough to let this military life teach us to hold on to each other tightly, it’s the best lesson I know of in how love can endure for the long-haul.
I think back to that moment in the kitchen and how our ordinary Thursday flipped to heartache and then back again, I think of being held by him in the midst of it all.
The most unexpected part of this wild and adventurous and military life for me? It’s that right there- how fluidly you move in and out of suffering and trauma and heartache right into ordinary and Thursday. You quickly realize you can’t shut your eyes to pain, but in a way that’s what I appreciate most about it.
All of this shows me there’s goodness no matter what circumstances look like on the outside, there’s courage in allowing yourself to belong to others, that love makes us strong instead of weak.
Where I have seen goodness and courage and love the most, in the enormity of pain, in the hard? I see it in my husband, I see it in each other- the ones we do actual life with, the ones we have real conversations with- the ones who refuse to give up and courageously keep going, keep giving, keep loving.
What I’m saying? I see it when we hold on to each other like we never want to let go.
Struggling with the demands and depletion of military life? Maybe this will help: 5 Ways I Stay Sane in this Military Life. Click here and I will quietly send it to your inbox.
For more of the daily stuff, my favorite place to hang out is on Instagram. Come join me over there!
photo cred: Courtney Bond Photography