The Silent Support Army, A Series About My Life As War Veteran’s Wife.
In last week’s post I talked about the baptism of fire I experienced entering the world of ‘Defence wifedom’ while still walking around with ‘heart eyes’. Looking back, I wondered how I managed to navigate my way through the obstacles and remain relatively damage free. I sit here thinking about that time, I have a grin on my face that has people around me wondering what I’ve been up to. To be honest, at the time it didn’t seem all that different to any other new relationship. We were learning about each other just like everyone else does in a new relationship but the thing you realise very quickly when you begin a love story with a soldier is this; he is strong, he is courageous and he will love you more than anyone else in his world, but you will always play second fiddle to the ‘Establishment’. They never say it out loud, they don’t have to, it oozes out of every pour on their scarred and battered bodies.
‘Do not operate heavy machinery whilst under the influence of a new relationship’
It was like my life should have come with a warning, you know, like the ones that you receive when you check in to hospital for a general anaesthetic? Mine would have read, ‘Do not operate heavy machinery whilst under the influence of a new relationship’. I was on the crash course of induction of being a military WAG. My emotional airbag was at risk of deploying without notice. All I can say is thank God I have a great memory, a healthy appetite for knowledge and a closet crush on all things military, for what I learnt in the eight short weeks we had been together would have most looking for a quiet corner to take a little nap! Things like the difference between an Officer and an O.R. (other rank), who reports to who and how soldiers eat in order of rank. Listening to him tell his story and educate me in the ways of the Army made me fall in love with him just that little bit more every day and then there’s that uniform… (sigh) …Anyhoooo, moving on!
Nothing prepares you for the day they ‘step off’ to deploy. When you watch them disappear through the gates at the airport. They trying to mask their excitement of a new adventure and you try to mask your despair and fear as you wave them goodbye with a big smile on your face. Most of the time you can manage to keep your shit together while you lug your aching heart back to the car to fall apart in the blackness of the night. Sometimes, I think the Army plans deployment farewells on moonless nights to afford us the privacy to breakdown in the darkness.
We were an abnormally new couple living in a world that was foreign to me and normal to him, Normally, you would have been in a relationship long enough prior to deployment to have met and socialised with some of the other Army wives and would have you own little community that understood what it feels like to have a house with a revolving front door. Alas, I was either late to THAT party or perhaps my invitation got lost in the mail ’cause I didn’t know anyone else. It was looking like the road ahead was going to be bumpy without anyone to help and guide me through the months ahead. I was hopeful I would meet a group of defence spouses that would welcome me into their flock. Come to think of it, I’m still hopeful but that’s a story for another time.
Anyhow, I always thought that our children were the teachers of emotion. They are the ones that expose us to the extremes of emotion (Google tells me there are only six emotions. I think they are lying!!). I have since realised that my philosophy on this matter is flawed. It is actually my brain that has been stretching my emotional resilience ever since. When his tour was over and we were in our happy place of long talks on the couch over a glass of wine, we explored this topic and reconciled what was going on for me, when IT was ‘going on over there’ for him.
It felt like a soap opera, you know the type, where a glass of water gets knocked off the table on Monday and hits the floor on Friday?
So, it turns out men and women are more the same than different when it comes to the games we play with ourselves. There were more than a few times while he was over playing in the ‘sandpit’ that communications were disrupted. Understandably, it’s a war zone right? But when you are both living in a heightened sense of awareness for a long period of time, you begin to tell yourself things and write stories in your mind which are not always build on solid foundations, let alone really happening. I remember a time in particular, it felt like a soap opera, you know the type, where a glass of water gets knocked off the table on Monday and hits the floor on Friday? We, as far as possible, tried to email daily and speak on the phone a few times a week. We were right in the middle of a fairly deep and meaningful email conversation and comms when down for about three days… Enter stage right a hefty dose of fear, fear that I had said something wrong to alienate him. Fear was followed closely by its co-star, paranoia. Paranoia that I had alienated him to the point where he would come home and not want to be with me anymore and it just snowballs from there. Well my friends I hope you are sitting down because here is the revelation…He was experiencing the same thoughts and going through the same motions 10,200 kilometres away on the other side of the world.
Turns out Men aren’t from Mars and Women from Venus. We are more alike than we have been lead to believe. What’s important is to have the foundations well laid on your relationship before you open the stage door and welcome in emotions because with only six available (thanks Google), may you only have enough sadness in your life to keep you grateful, enough disgust to keep you focused, enough anger to realise self-control, May the only fear you experience is that you may not have loved hard enough, taken every opportunity that surprised you and had a taste of happiness to keep you hungry more.