Boy + Girl + Army + e-Harmony = Captain and Mrs. Butters! This is what we're up to. Observations, opinions, events, images, and more.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Depolyment Update #1: Am I normal?

Several people have asked me why I don’t update my blog frequently anymore. The short answer is, after Spike’s career course, I have rarely found Army life to be amusing. And I try to keep the bitter/angry/frustrated posts to a minimum.

The longer answer also includes the fact that I’m writing a lot more for work than I used to (I work as a copywriter/ghostwriter, and create material ranging from whole books to press releases to blog posts for my firm’s clients). Usually, the last thing I want to do after work is stare at the computer screen and keep typing. That’s also why my former plans to write a trashy romance novel during deployment fell by the wayside! For now, I prefer to focus on the writing that contributes to my paycheck.

To update those who are curious, Spike ended up deploying in mid-May after a few false starts. At the beginning of June, I packed up my Mini Cooper with enough luggage to see me through the summer, shoehorned the dog in too, and drove to my ancestral home of North Carolina. I’ll be staying with family here through the end of August (probably).

The upsides: I’m not in Kansas, of which I am not a fan. I can go into my actual office every day instead of telecommuting (read: my days now include forced social interaction and I am not a hermit). I can drive an hour or so on the weekends and visit good friends who live nearby. I’m mostly enjoying the time with my parents and grandmother. But I know that I’ll be ready to go back to Kansas and live “my” life by the end of the summer. It kind of feels like I have gone back in time to my pre-marriage self right now—except I am married, which means I don’t quite “fit” into that prior life, and it’s not as comfortable as it used to be.

Of course, changing my geographical location hasn’t changed the facts that:
  • Deployment SUCKS
  • I miss Spike A LOT
  • Time is moving at a glacial pace and needs to speed up
I’ve heard a lot of good metaphors for deployment, and now I’ll add mine to the pile:

You know that feeling you have when you wake up from a wonderful, awesome, transcendentally great dream? For a little while after you get out of bed, before the dream fades, you feel a mixture of sadness, frustration, and dread because you just want to be back in that fantastic dream, and you know that whatever your day holds can’t be as good as what you just experienced. For me, that’s deployment. A constant sinking feeling because reality is just lacking. Sometimes the feeling is overwhelming; mostly it just lurks on the fringes of whatever I’m doing to some degree.

I really am trying to live my life while Spike is gone. I go to work and spend time with my family in the evenings. On the weekends, I go visiting and crash friends’ guest beds (highlight so far was attending a Wing-Fest and eating lots of buffalo wings). I’ve completed a few art projects, including crafts for Spike’s care packages and a portrait of my friend’s in-laws that she’s giving her FIL as a birthday gift. And I’m looking into the possibility of taking a few fiddle lessons over the summer—currently making inquiries from a few local instructors.

All in all, I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of establishing a routine. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not my “old self.” (Is anyone with a deployed spouse?) I’m never quite as happy as I used to be. I’m not unfailingly positive. Sometimes it’s a struggle to go through the motions. I feel “blue” and hollow a lot. And I do have bad days during which I’m grouchy, negative, and just can’t summon up a smile.

That said, I don’t wallow. I do my utmost to shed any tears in private. I don’t blabber on about how much I miss my husband to everyone in earshot. (I get the feeling that nobody really wants to hear it.) And yet—here’s my rant!—anytime I am feeling down, a shocking number of people tell me to “try harder.” To “get over it.” To remember that “this is about Spike, not about me.” Even to “be less dependent on Spike for my happiness.”

Maybe this is because I’m not currently living in a military community? I guess many of the people around me genuinely don’t get it? Still, it’s frustrating. I want to shake them and scream, Hey! My husband is in a war zone for almost a year! How long have you been apart from your spouse?!? This IS a big deal, for both of us! How could I NOT be affected? I love that man so, so much, and OF COURSE he is now an integral part of my happiness! I can’t just conveniently forget about him and the role he plays in my life, nor would I ever want to!

Women (and men) who have been there, am I overreacting? Do I need to just suck it up and bury any evidence that life has lost its shine while my husband is in Afghanistan? Or is this normal and okay? I’m asking honestly here, as this is my first deployment as a spouse. Thanks!

I'll end on a positive note. Spike is on a larger base, and for $65 a month, has Internet in his room. So usually, we get to FaceTime or Skype for a few minutes before he goes to bed. I know how fortunate that makes me as the spouse of a deployed servicemember. And believe me, our talks are the highlight of every day. Wherever in the world he happens to be, whether it's in Afghanistan or next to me on the couch, I am such a lucky woman to be Spike's wife.


  1. I think everything you are experiencing is completely normal. The first time B-man deployed, it almost felt like my life was on pause. I wasn't dependent on him for my happiness, but he is a large piece of my life that makes me happy. It's the same way this time. I can't forget to mention that living at home makes it seem like I am not even married and him being my husband is a figment of my imagination. It's odd. Anyway, ignore the people who tell you to suck it up If they haven't been there, they don't quite understand. Sometimes, I don't even think being in a military community helps the situation since many have that attitude too. We all deal differently and I think everything you are feeling is normal. This may or may not make sense but my brain is fried about my long shift today.

  2. I think everything you are feeling is normal. My husband is in the Reserves so I don't have a huge support system either. I think those comments are because people just cannot or don't want to understand what it's like to have your husband in a war zone. It's completely different to have him risking his life daily instead of just being on a business trip. There is nothing wrong with feeling like the shine is gone while he is away. Plus these are your feelings, you can't change the way you feel, you should never appologize for your feelings. Everyone copes differently with a deployment. You do what is best for you and your marriage. Keep your chin up. If you ever need an ear to listen, I'm here for ya.

  3. You know Meg, I haven't experience deployment. I can't imagine how the reality of potential danger in his deployment (probably) haunts the quieter moments of day to day life. And I have no idea how you, or any of the other friends I have who are military spouses, manage deployments that can last a year or longer.

    My partner is currently in Uganda for two and a half months. Communication there is really, really bad. Skype has a subscription for Uganda, but it is very time limited and the connection is nearly worthless. And I, in a much more benign situation of being separated from my loved one, can identify with most of the feelings you express. I don't think you are overreacting.

    You have a right to your own experience, and it is absolutely inappropriate (and inaccurate) for another person to tell you that deployment and separation from your husband is not about you. While you each exist outside of the relationship, your marriage is an integral structure in your life. It sustains and supports and bears both of you. Take ownership your deployment life - embrace the good and bad feelings about it, and have some compassion for yourself. Let yourself feel the way you feel, and don't feel guilty about it. You can't cope with emotions by suppressing them or ignoring them. Also, tell anyone who wants you "to get over it" to "shove off."

    Finally, I would say that "army harmony" sounds like a blog about two people, and although Spike is in the army, you aren't. You could write about your life experiences that aren't directly related to the army. If you need a prompt, I personally would be quite interested to read your takedown (which I can only imagine will be scathing) of the genius who ranted on IMDB that Tolkien ripped LOTR from J.K. Rowling. Signs of the times, my friend. (NFL) ;)