Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Working Vacation

I am back home in the cottage after a lovely extended visit with my husband. Unfortunately, since I left immediately after the end of the school year, I am facing the aftermath of the last month or so of school when it seemed like all I did was eat, sleep, and work on papers or study for tests. Of course, that was on top of the mess left when my husband moved to his new Duty Station. So it is one crazy mess here in this cozy little cottage, and I am taking one day at a time to work on it slowly. Finding places to put things that makes sense when I am busy and don't want to take a lot of time to pick up all the time.

I am realizing just how much being a bi-locational couple has turned my world upside-down. It isn't that we weren't prepared. It is simply that as much as we talked about the possibility that we would be geographically separated at least once in both of our careers nothing can prepare you for the reality of what it is like. The sense of dislocation and emptiness after a visit together. The strangeness of rearranging your apartment to fit your "alone" life instead of the way it fits when there are two of you. Even having your "alone" life and your "together" life - having to have those different parts at all.

During the school year it was easy to focus on my ministry. In this pause I am facing the reality of the Army Wife side of myself. Learning this aspect of my walk that much more clearly. I had hoped it would be all about the Future Soldier side of me; that this Summer break would be about exercise and eating well. And in some ways it is. But it is far more about learning to be a soldier's wife who is also a future soldier and not a future soldier who happens to be a soldier's wife. Funny how there is such a distinction there. It looks like a matter of word order, but it is much deeper than that.

I will always be a soldier's wife. Soon I will be soldier, and lose the "future" in front of it. Therein lies the difference. Even when I am a seasoned Chaplain ministering in the Army many years from now I will still be a soldier's wife. That is a part of my self now, a part that influences how I read the news, how I prepare for my own life as a soldier, how I pray, how I engage with community and friends.

I hadn't realized the difference it made until we had to learn to live as a geographically separated couple. I look around me and I see couples happily all over each other and I swallow a stab of jealousy that I didn't even know existed. I see them everywhere. Couples walking hand in hand through the streets, sitting together in church, filling the restaurants and coffee shops I walk past in my neighborhood. Sometimes I just want to scream. I see them talking together and I think about how I have to wait until we can find a time when we both can be on the phone if I want to have even a simple conversation with my husband. I think about the letters I write when he is out it the field and there is no contact for days and weeks at a time. The text messages that can make my heart flutter just because they are a moment of connection for us - even the ones that just say Hello.

At school I know I am not the only one who is geographically separated from their spouse/partner/spartner/significant other/whatever you choose to call your other half. We can talk about it and encourage each other through the difficult days. I know that I am lucky to have a community that is understanding and supportive through this experience. It still hurts sometimes.

There are good sides to this aspect of our life together. I am forced to be fully independent. I have to squish my own spiders, change my own light bulbs, make sure the car is maintained, do everything to make sure that life continues to run smoothly. I have to think for myself and not always talk it over with my husband before making a decision. I am learning to accept the support of the community around me and to love that community as a family in a way that I had not understood before.

When Fr. Mike pointed out that I am on a Trinitarian Path, I agreed but didn't see that all three strands of my path were equal. I thought the Army Wife path was just a thread along the side of my Army Chaplain path. It certainly wasn't much in comparison to my Seminarian path. How wrong I was. It is just as important for me to be learning and experiencing as the other two.

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