January 28, 2013

Safe from harm

Ask me which language of love I speak, and I will tell you - all of them. Except expensive gifts. They make me feel like I owe the giver something, like I have been bought. Maybe there is more Marcel Mauss in me than I know, or it could be that I’m just cheap that way. But yes, I cannot get enough of love letters, compliments and expressions of adoration; I will never leave the house – or come back – without a hug and a kiss; no multitasking or playing with your phone while you are talking to me; I want to hold hands while walking down the street, and if we are just sitting on the couch, I will want to have a finger or toe glued to you, if not more; thank you for making lunch and picking me up from the airport, and… do we have to say goodnight just yet?
I would like to think I give all of that back, but that is for me to hope and others to know. I am totalitarian, inclusive, fluid and osmotic in matters of the heart. It can be a little intense sometimes.
A few years back, I heard the words “Not everyone is cut out to be an army wife.” They struck hard because I immediately recognized myself as one of those people. I was too selfish. There, I’ve said it.
And they are gorgeous indeed; the soldiers, the shamans, the rock stars, the surgeons; the templars, the warlocks, the shepherds, the preachers. They are charming, and charismatic, and lead the way so effortlessly; and you want to be close to their fire, so intoxicatingly bright and infectious. But there is a part of them that belongs to the world. A fraction of their loyalty that will always reside elsewhere. A call in the middle of the night and a disappearance for howeverlong, whereverfar. Is your ego bendy enough to take a back seat in times like those? Mine wasn’t.
It just so happened that my baby was called upon again to do what he does best, and what he does better than anyone. A mission of fixing the human condition, one broken lost soul at a time, molecular and epic in one and the same instance. I knew this about him from the beginning, and I was torn. You want to protect what’s most precious to you from catching the brunt of other people’s shit; an illusion of control, and patronizing to boot, but I could not help it. Yet this is why you love him. This is who he is. This is what brought him to you. How can I negotiate that?
Just one look at his face last night, and my stupid little pussydog ego harnessed its own wicker basket, lit up the propane, and ballooned its way into outer space. Just one look at the toll it took on him, the weight, the pain, and his superhuman strength in dealing with it, and I knew what every army wife probably has grafted into her bone marrow, heavier than lead yet carried without complaint. Because that’s what you do.
I always knew, but I didn’t know. He told me, but I was reluctant to understand. I thought I was protecting him, but I was protecting myself from something I didn’t think I could handle. Because it made me feel small to think I couldn’t match the greatness with which he supported me. What a relief to grow. I knew that I was up for this kind of insight, and I feel embarrassedly late for the party. But there it happened. Everything else evaporated, except for love. I could care less about control and about feeling threatened by the public sphere invading my introvert hamster ball. It will not do to feel helpless or internalize his pain, when it is my place and my power to nurture the nurturer. He deserves a warrior, and a warrior he shall have. This love won’t let me be anything less.


  1. Ah, yes. I have been a soldier's wife for almost 20 years. Half of the time, he was a fire support specialist in the 82nd Airborne Division. Basically, this meant he radioed coordinates to the helicopters with big bombs go boom... and he had to be ready to deploy worldwide in less than 18 hours... at all times. We have weathered 3 combat deployments, the first was during the initial push into Baghdad. It was the closest experience I have and will ever have to being a Vietnam or WWII wife. I went weeks without hearing from him. Phone calls ended abruptly with gunfire in the background. The last 2 combats were just as bad except internet and email were becoming more prevalent so communication was better. After the 3rd, he changed jobs. Being a combat soldier was doing things to his brain that he was not very happy with, to say the least. He changed jobs to the farthest thing from combat the Army provides- Civil Affairs. In the simplest terms, he gives flu shots and passes out basketballs to poor kids. In the most complicated terms, he infiltrates local governments and gains their trust so that he can "gather intel." Either way, he is so much happier, his brain is quiet. Well, that and he got promoted wayyyyyy faster than he would have in fire support ;-) Now that I have rambled on about inconsequentials, yes, we come in 2nd place. The Army was his wife. 'Tis true. You learn to get over it pretty quick, or go insane. Not much of a choice. But you know what? It never really bothered me. I knew what I was getting into. When I say that, people look at me like I've lost my mind. How could a 17-year-old girl know what she is getting into? I don't know. But I did. I have never gotten a bad taste in my mouth for the Army like so many others do. I have nothing but good things to say about his 20-year career. They have treated us well. He is proud of himself, and I am proud of him. More than that, our kids are proud of their Dad beyond words. But we are so much more than ready to move on. You know what freaks me out more than taking 2nd place to the Army? Taking 2nd place to fervent religion. I actually read a facebook status yesterday that said "my children are the most important thing in my life!! After God, of course." I'm sorry. But there is NOTHING okay with that. When a woman allows anything to jump the gap between her and her children (and one can assume her spouse, as well), there really needs to be some sort of intervention and reality check.

    Okay, I'm done rambling now.

    How's this for fucked up- A soldier's wife and a muslim woman have been BFFs for 3 years, yet have never met face to face. The muslim (but American) woman lives in Pakistan with her husband. The muslim woman moves back to the United States.... and will be living with the soldier's wife and family until she gets her feet on the ground and is able to get her husband a visa.

    And I am picking her up at the airport on Friday.

    Soooo.. if you don't hear from me in a while, I'm probably in Guantanamo Bay ;-)

    1. I was hoping you might have something to say about this, and thank you, I love it :) The army wife was a metaphor in my case, obviously, but it's definitely a dedication to service, and one that does involve putting oneself in harm's way at times. The long distance thing is not helping either right now. Of course my brain knew a long time ago that it was not about me, or even about the flock being protected and led back to safety. It's about him and who he is. But I knew there would have to be an "aha!" or a click when I would just get it, because this is not something to be rationalized.

      I don't think I could be a priest's wife, either. Linking on to what you said about religion, perhaps we get more bothered when it is a principle or abstraction that takes over, rather than a type of service. Having a partner who is passionate about and dedicated to what they do is inspiring, even more so if they help or save people. But the Mahlers and Dedaluses and Abrahams of this world, willing to neglect or sacrifice human beings for an abstraction... Not something I can understand.

      My God, you must be crazy excited about your friend coming over :) My only reference for getting a U.S. spouse/fiance visa is Elizabeth Gilbert's "Committed" (don't judge, it was recommended by a friend at a time of soul searching), and it sounded like a neverending ordeal of bureaucracy and background checks. My guess is that your friend is already on top of this and I hope it goes smoothly. I also hope you write about it, for the rest of us that might be going down that road at some point :)

    2. Oh believe me, I'm going to be blogging about it. It's one hell of a story, and a LONG time in the making. So yes, she's got her bases covered as far as her husband's visa and greencard and all that nonsense. She is just waiting on him to get his renewed passport sometime in February. So much more to the story, and I'm itching like hell to get it out, but she has sworn me to silence until her feet are on US soil. So. I shall remain silent.

    3. Absolutely, personal exhibitionism and exploiting our own lives for the sake of the blog is one thing, but when another person is involved, you want to respect their wishes. I just read your last blog post, you're totally freaking out :))) Awesome. Glad to hear she's worked everything out.

  2. Ah Chris,

    You grow and you grow in the knowledge that it aint some contest to see who loves the most. You know and you do grow. Strangely enough, I couldn't visualise myself ever being an "army wife" :)

    And Massive Attack, iconic British group. Which makes me think of another song by them, truly haunting and a poignant reminder of my love lost. "Unfinished Symphony"


    May love continue to embrace your heart, my friend.

    In kindness,


    1. Hi Gary,

      "Unfinished Sympathy" was actually the first song I looked up. I also happened to inadvertently type "symphony" instead of "sympathy" (maybe The Verve was messing with my head?) and got corrected by the interwebs - coincidence? Hmmm.

      I think I was in a self-imagined contest with... I don't know what. Other people, situations, principles, anything external that might however temporarily shift the focus from our relationship proper. Ridiculous, I know. And petty. And counterintuitive to the respect and gratitude I have for this love. And I'm not going back there again. Promise.

      Thank you for stopping by, and for all your kind words, here and on your blog. A love lost is a sacred thing. May love continue to embrace you as well, in every imaginable form.

  3. I've been a bit turned around and feeling under the weather of late so I am not on top of my blog-reading game. I'm still a bit unclear on some of this but it's ironic that when you mentioned military wife...my initial thought was that your great LOVE was in the Military.

    So much of your description of him meets the MO of some of our SF's Guys:High IQ, Creative, Artistic, an individual...a poetic nature ..etc. He may very well be a grad of the Naval Academy and living in the Bay suggest I could totally be barking up the wrong tree here and if I am don't print this. I suppose if I am correct and he is a SEAL or other Spe. Ops guy you shouldn't print that either.

    Good to see you post...it has been a very long time.

    1. No he isn't in the military but the profile is definitely spot on, as is the sense of mission and dedication. I find myself in a bit of a pickle because I cannot speak for him so I won't, but I wanted (needed?) to write about what this did to me as one half of this relationship. You give and become your best if you love someone, it's as simple and complex as that.

      I've been somewhat MIA in the bloggyworld myself. Not for lack of inspiration or trying, it's just that some things have gained momentum professionally and are taking up all of my time. I couldn't be more thrilled and it's quite possible I might blog about that too - my typing fingers start to ache when I stay away for too long :) I hope things are better with you, sending positive thoughts.

    2. I'm certainly glad things are happening for you professionally. you have been through some rather dramatic changes in the last 24 months so it's good to hear that the professional YOU is flourishing. It can often go the other way after divorce and major life changes interrupt our daily routines.

    3. Thanks ever so much, T. I was definitely stagnating for awhile, but I am lucky in that I had the luxury of time and support before I got my bearings. I am attacking that mofo now full-on :)

  4. Chris, he is very fortunate to have such a warrior guarding his heart. Your love is ferocious and fearless. His gifts and calling may take him to the dark alleyways and condemned corners of this world, but with such a love as yours waiting to soothe and restore, he will conquer the world!

    You're one amazing lady my dear. Sending love from the other west coast.

    1. West coast?! Does this mean what I think it means? :O

      LOL, thanks for noticing the ferociousness. I know who to call if he ever forgets it ;) Lots of love your way.

  5. My oldest son was born with the hero cape...and I believe they are born, not made. I knew early on, that if there was a burning building to be entered, a flood to be navigated, a crime in progress, that he would be the first one all in. No hesitation. I remember the day he said he wanted to join the military. I freaked out inwardly, having just been through the military funeral of my friends son at 23. But I knew the cape was there, always had been, and who was I to stand in the way? So I said, "Son, if that's what you want to do, I will be the proudest soldier mom that ever was, but it better be because you are willing to die for your country or your countryman, or something more noble than a free education because I would rather work on my back that have you enter a war just for that." I don't know if that was right, or wrong to say. But that's what I said. He didn't end up in the military, but he still wears the cape. You could see it flutter when I called to say his dad and I were separated. "I'm coming home right now" he said, as if he could save us. He still is the first to say he is coming to the rescue. My youngest is the first to offer his support. So different. Night and day those two :) You are support to the hero. Night and day are both required.

    1. Oh yes. You tell me what you need and I will turn the planet upside down to make it happen for you. I will walk through fire with you and will not leave your side until you get your bearings. But you have to tell me. I don't make decisions in someone else's name, and I don't like to call the shots for anyone but myself. And I only had to watch The Incredibles once to remember that it's the cape that turns out to be the bad guy's downfall. It was the bad guy, true, but everyone has a mother, a friend, and someone who cares :)

      "Who am I to stand in the way" is such a simple and perfect insight, billions of people live by it every day, and yet it feels so over my head at times.


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