First, let’s start with “neutered Quiche.”
I flew into Montana a few weeks ago to come spend some quality time with my folks while The Pilot is gone. As a way of showing my gratitude, and earning my keep, I’ve volunteered to cook for them during my stay. As Momma Dunn and I sat down to scan my Pinterest recipe board, she saw a Quiche that she wanted to try. Dad (apparently) was close enough to hear the following conversation:
Momma Dunn: “Oh, this one looks delicious. Can we try it?”
Me: “Of course! Does Dad like Quiche?”
Momma Dunn: “He does, sans onions. But is there a way we can make it lighter? More healthy? Can we use less butter and cheese so it’s not so rich?”
Then, out of nowhere, we heard a deep voice bellow, “Don’t neuter my Quiche! If it calls for butter and cheese, make it with butter and cheese!”
And that is the story of the neutered Quiche we never made. The moral of the story is simple: Men don’t take kindly to neutering of any kind.
Moving on to non-neutered life lessons.
With the second month of deployment under our belt, I couldn’t help but think of some things that I have learned that I thought may be helpful to pass along. So here it is. My “Top 3 Deployment Lessons Learned.”
1. It’s OK to not be OK.
Right after The Pilot left, I was asked by a lot of people, “How are you holding up? Are you OK? What are you doing to keep yourself busy?”
My immediate response was: “Oh I’m fine! I knew this was part of the package when I married him. No need to worry, I saw this coming. All is well.”
Like a duck, looking so elegant as she gracefully glided across the surface of a serene pond. But underneath, she was paddling like crazy to get from point A to point B. That was me.
While it’s true that I knew deployment was inevitable after I said ‘I do,’ knowing what that would mean and understanding what it would feel like were two very different things. Even if you know deployment is coming, it doesn’t actually make it easier to get through. It doesn’t mean that you know what to do in the midst of it. It just means you were warned. And allow me to clarify; being warned is in no way related to being prepared.
So the point is simple: It’s OK to not be OK. It’s good and right and natural to grieve during the immediate shock of his departure. If you bounce back and find your “new normal” after a few days, that’s wonderful! If it takes you a little longer, it doesn’t mean that you are inferior or that you have failed as a marine’s wife.
2. There’s one rule: There are no rules
Another thing I encountered even prior to The Pilot’s deployment was the rumor that it is important, nay, imperative, that as the wife you stay right where he left you. Dig in with your heals and if you have kids or not, whether the storm of the deployment right there in the front yard of your base house.
“Leaving just because he’s gone is weak, you dirty maggot!”
Ok, no one actually said that last part to me. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with approaching deployment that way either. I admire those who have the gumption and courage to endure a deployment that way. My strategy however, was quite different.
I spent the first six weeks at home after he left. I continued to work as usual and did my best to keep our routine as intact as possible, to help me cope and process through the transition. Then when I ran out of BBC movies on Netflix and resorted to watching Jeopardy and Dateline NBC, I came to the conclusion that I needed company. Quickly. So I bought a one-way ticket home.
Whether you stay or leave, it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, if your husband is gone, you need to surround yourself with whatever support group you love and trust the most. One thing I learned very quickly was that when I am steady and strong, it makes it easier on The Pilot while he is away. And for me, going home granted me a deeper steadiness and strength.
3. Stop asking for everyone else’s’ opinion
The last thing that I learned, the hard way, was that asking every other wife I knew about their deployment experience was the worst way I could have “prepared.” For one very simple reason.
Every wife is different. Every marine husband is different. And every deployment is different. To compare your unique relationship to another completely different relationship is simply not fair.
Another couple’s weaknesses or hardships during a deployment may in fact be your strengths or successes. Determining that another couple’s successful experience following some formula that they have only discovered via trail and error, robs you and your spouse of all the potential lessons, memories, and treasured victories that are meant to be solely and uniquely yours.
Sure, other wives may have valuable advice or important things to keep in mind. But do not fall victim to playing your role as spouse with someone else’s script. The Pilot tells me all the time, “I married you, for you. And that’s who I want and need you to be.”
Be who you are. Go where you need to go. And do not be afraid to allow yourself to feel the pain of deployment. Let it change you for the better. Face the challenge, lean in, and believe that you have what it takes to be the woman and the wife that he knew you would be.