Life is amazing. There’s a rush of energy and happiness after welcoming our loved one home from deployment. The built up anticipation, your heart beating loudly in your chest, the excitement of homecoming. This is it! The wait is over, finally! The reunion with your loved one is here and the moment comes and you can put your arms around him and feel flesh and bone after having had only virtual hugs via the web from thousands of miles away. The honeymoon period has begun. There’s a period of disbelief, is this really happening? It hasn’t really sunk in yet that my husband is really here. I find myself checking and looking for him from across the house not wanting to leave his side because in one instant, poof, it could all vanish.
Once I’ve come out of that cloud of the surreal, it begins to soak in slowly. Yes, this is real, he’s really back. Life is good. We are truly blessed to be back together as a family. We took some time and allowed ourselves to enjoy the quiet, simple moments of being together again. The kids and I enjoyed his presence in the house again, sitting down for a home-cooked dinner together. Before rushing into the mundane, talk of the practical, adult, house stuff, we just enjoyed it.
Everything is special and charming. Adulting could wait. Work could wait for a time. Just pure joy and family time was on the agenda. Doing what we enjoyed was on the schedule. Let life go on around us and we can just stay a while longer in this bubble of happiness. We took a few days to go on vacation, just us on the beach in Mexico. Getting away they call it. Getting away from what, exactly? This was a well-planned out strategy on my part, a way to take my hard-working man away to unplug for a bit. I’ve found that coming back from a deployment is challenging and that even though my husband was off duty for a couple of weeks, that he would find a multitude of projects to do at home. He’s in work mode even on his time off, a to-do list in his hand at all times. So, my plan was to take him away from the never-ending tasks of being a homeowner and have him take a break for a change. Mind you, this may seem like a no-brainer, but to a military person just back from a deployment, this too has to be re-learned.
Relaxing has to be practiced because it’s doesn’t happen automatically. Living back in the real world takes some getting used to again.
My very nature is to be curious, understand other’s points of view and put myself in someone else’s shoes as much as I can. In our conversations, I’ve gotten to understand some of what my husband has experienced being away for many months. I empathize as to how challenging it must be to feel a distinct kind of culture shock, having been in a floating city, a microcosm on the high seas, to confronting traffic, crowds and people again. I can only imaging how unnerving it would be to have to wait in line to pay for something in a grocery store, with the signage, background noise, beeping as the cashier rings up items, the buzz of people’s voices chit-chatting, the swirl of constant stimuli. What was once a simple task may become intolerable. When out to sea, life is routine, predictable for the most park and extremely scheduled. That predictability does provide comfort to some extent. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are at the same time each day. The everyday interactions are limited to respective divisions and personnel. The outside world is just that. It’s other. Connections with that world are solely through Internet virtual contact and phone calls when possible. There is a transition period for those coming back to feel like part of the world, community and family again.
My purpose and intention as a wife and partner has been to help my husband transition with some ease. I thought about how I could support him through this process. How could I help him to integrate back and make it as painless as possible? I turn to yoga and its teachings for guidance when facing any challenges. It’s become so integrated into my daily life that it’s what I turn to. First, I have to let go of control over things that are out of my control. Even with the best intentions, I can’t take on someone else’s experiences nor can I go through the process for them, as much as I wish that I could sometimes. I can only be there to support and as things come up just deal with them. Life will always continue to change as it should and all that I can do is to be as fluid and flexible with those changes. There’s discomfort in change but with change comes growth.
A realization came after the so-called honeymoon period of deployment homecoming. A few of them actually. I could try as much as I could to remove the things that I felt would be stressors or triggers but that’s not realistic. Right before Frank got back, I discovered a small leak in the kitchen sink. It was messy and there was some water damage to the cabinet. The boys and I put a Band-Aid on it for the time being. We cleared the cabinet to dry out and placed a small bucket underneath it to catch the leaking water. Frank discovered it after coming home and got right to work, replacing the necessary part and it was good as new. He started to scan the place for any other necessary repairs and unless you live in a brand new home, there will always something that needs fixing and/or updating. I let him be. Other times, I would tell him to just take a break and relax. In hindsight, not very helpful. Now, I know that this is part of the process for him, fixing things and being productive is his way of relaxing. I get it. I let it be and trust me I’m very grateful that he can take such good care of our home.
Another light bulb moment I had was that this is a transition period for me too. I was making it my job to help Frank get back to normal life again but in that very noble gesture, I had brushed my own experience to the side. Life had to go on during our period apart. I had to live and stay true to my intentions, to take good care of myself, mentally, physically and spiritually. I had set out to thrive and explore new opportunities in my career and to grow and learn as much as I could. This is what I dedicated the last few months to and it all began to manifest, first as a seed that I planted, then as a tiny sprout, then a bud and finally a full grown blossom. My focus was on serving and letting my purpose here bloom. My time was wisely spent investing in myself and my growth and development. I enjoyed family time when I had time off but otherwise I fully immersed myself in my new ventures.
I set aside time to fully focus on the homecoming period because my family is my priority. Living together as a family of four again does take getting some getting used to. That’s all part of the process. Things can’t be manipulated or perfectly choreographed to go smoothly all of the time. There are little bumps and turns along the way until we find our rhythm again. Staying fluid and flexible is helpful. I attribute any bit of insight that I’ve gained to my yoga practice. Having our family back to four is lovely and I’m so grateful. There will be silly moments along with tense moments. There will be always be a mix of liveliness, humor and joy in our home. We support each other and have each other’s backs. We genuinely love and root for one another. We practice kindness, compassion and a lot of patience every day. We do this because this is what brings us closer. There will be little disagreements and differences of opinions and that’s okay too. We can travel the distance to meet each other halfway because of our deep appreciation for each other. We know what it’s like to be apart for long periods and yearning for that homecoming day to come. We remember how much we missed one another’s presence and what it was like not being able to share our joys and triumphs of the day. We remember that not long ago we longed for a real life hug or kiss. When there’s a split second of taking this for granted, we can flash back to that sharp primal pain in our guts and the emptiness in our hearts when we had to say goodbye. We are so grateful to be reunited again and whatever work we need to do is so worth it. A sustainable, loving relationship is more than just the honeymoon phase with extravagant bouquets of roses and interlaced arms while taking sips of champagne. This 25 year relationship is built on an unyielding desire to be life-long friends who support and uplift one another by honoring and meeting each other’s needs.