So without further ado, here is my top secret deployment project which I have titled,
The Adventures of Flat Nick.
On August 8, 2012, my husband Lt. Nick Miller finally returned home from a six month deployment. I was so excited to see him...and almost more excited that I could finally show him the project I've been working on since the day he left.
So without further ado, here is my top secret deployment project which I have titled,
The Adventures of Flat Nick.
Special thanks to all my friends and family who put up with the very weird looks from strangers as they helped me complete this project- and also kept it a secret. Couldn't have done it without you and my good friend, wine.
Nick and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary last month, with me in Hawaii and him somewhere underwater out in the Pacific Ocean.
“I don’t know how you do it. I could never do that.”
As a military wife, I hear this comment about as frequently as a vegan gets asked “But what do you do for protein?” Which is a lot.
It can be difficult to explain what being a military spouse means and I’m sure it means different things to different people because there are so many kinds of jobs and situations. It’s a different type of worry every day. Sometimes it’s the slow steady worry. Sometimes it’s the instant worry and burst of adrenaline when you hear something has happened or is going to happen. Maybe it’s a constant level of crazy-manic worry, especially for some of those jobs that are really secretive. Maybe it’s all of those things combined all the time. (I’m not saying there aren’t jobs or situations out there other than military that are similar in worry. I know there are. But because I can’t speak from experience for those, this one is about being a military spouse.)
I think the simplest way I can explain being a military spouse is this:
Being a military spouse is no different than what a marriage should be anyway. You have to work hard at it, and it should take a lot of thought, support, and love all the time, every day. You don’t choose to be a military spouse any more than you choose to fall in love with someone. You love someone and you then decide to be there for them to support them in any way you can, just like in every other relationship in your life.
(Note: Even though I refer to wife/husband/spouse in this blog, by no means is this an exclusive term. It’s just easier than saying husband/wife/fiancé/fiancée/girlfriend/boyfriend every time. This blog is for all military relationships and loves, straight or gay, married, engaged, or in love, period. And credit should be given where it is due; the non-married relationships, which are not recognized in the military can be the hardest by far. More often than not they go unsupported by other married military spouses and groups and are some of the last to know in case of emergency as they are not legally considered to be “Next of Kin.” They often move hundreds of miles across the country and across the world on their own expense for the one they love, again often with no recognition or support from the military. They often have little to no access to the things in our lives that do make being a military spouse a little bit easier, such as commissaries, health insurance, military bank accounts, military housing, support groups, FRG or military spouse meetings, vital news, and so on.
So if you hear someone is in a relationship with someone else in the military, respect what they must go through, all because they care about someone.)
Marriage & the Military
A marriage should be about trust and honesty.
It takes a lot of trust to know your spouse is travelling overseas, sometimes to places that are known for rampant prostitution and other dangerous or tempting situations. The same goes for us. Amidst stories of military wives participating in scandalous events while their husbands are deployed, our guys have to trust that we are there for them 100% from the time they board their plane/ship/submarine to the moment they step back into your arms. In life as a general rule, you should never put yourself into situations that you wouldn’t feel comfortable telling your spouse or your family about.
A marriage should be about Respect and Support.
Whether they’re here with us some of the time or deployed most of the time our military spouses depend on us for support when they’re stressed or under pressure and for respect when they just need to focus on doing their jobs.
The support stretches to us as the waiting spouses as well. Our spouses need to understand what we go through while they are doing their jobs, the stress we endure moving from place to place, and the responsibility of caring for things that they are unable to.
In addition every person who is in a healthy, loving, non-threatening relationship deserves to have the support of their friends and family for that relationship. Especially during those high-stress moments of deployment when the cable/electric/bank/school/insurance/miscellaneous company refuses to talk to you because they don’t acknowledge your Power of Attorney or understand your husband is NOT here right now. Those are the times we need someone to talk to about it. Even if you don’t entirely understand, we just need someone who is willing to respect us and listen to us when our spouse isn’t always able to do so.
A marriage should be about Communication.
Gearing up for a deployment for my husband, the submariner, I cycle through a lot of emotions. We don’t get to send mail to the guys while they’re deployed. Occasionally a wife who is planning on visiting the guys at a port during deployment will make a letter drop. But that’s exactly what it is - a letter drop. I can’t send a package and I’m limited to a small, very flat letter so as not to take up a lot of room in someone’s suitcase. I don’t get to talk to my husband on Skype unless he is in port (and has reliable Wi-Fi), which is only a few times during deployment.
What I am allowed is an email or two a week with no attachments or pictures, and even that is limited because I know it will be read by at least one if not several other people before his eyes see it. Obviously I can’t put anything in those emails that I wouldn’t want someone else reading, and I am also unable to mention anything that would negatively affect him emotionally, i.e. financial problems, deaths in the family, accidents, etc.. An email with a mention of any of those things can and probably will be flagged. If something happened to me or one of his family members, there’s a good chance my husband would not be allowed to know about it until he pulls into the next port, for fear of endangering his mental ability to do his job.
Because of these reasons, a few months before deployment I’m actually cycling through all the emotions of actually being in the midst of deployment as I write out letters and prepare packages and love notes in advance for my husband to take along with him on his journey, to be opened up a little bit at a time to provide him with support along the way. The fun part? I can’t tell other people because I am not allowed to talk about the dates or times of an impending deployment to pretty much anyone other than one of the wives from the boat, and that can only be discussed in person. No emails, texting, phone calls, Skyping, or Tweeting/Facebooking to complain that my husband will soon be leaving me to go on deployment.
During this time it’s the most important to communicate with my husband and for him to communicate to me. It can become really easy to cut off yourself emotionally. I know this sounds weird, but it’s unfortunately a great defense for emotional preparation. Putting up an emotional wall with him so it won’t hurt as much while he is deployed can happen really easily, but it’s then that it becomes most important to love harder and talk to each other more about how each other feels.
A marriage should be about Friendship.
The thing I learned after a few disheveled relationships, none of which ended very well, is that I am a highly emotional person. (I know you’re thinking, “What woman isn’t?”) I can get very passionate about causes, movies, animals….You name it. I don’t know how else to explain that. The most important way I can explain is that I learned that someone else who as erratic and as emotional as I am does not make a good match for me. And what I realized is that, while I want someone in my life who cares about causes and feelings as much as I do, I need someone who will ground me emotionally and will think before acting or speaking.
That is what Nick is to me. He is Ying to my Yang. He balances me in a way that I will never fully understand, and in that way he is truly my other half. Because he is my other half, if I stop to think about it too much it feels like half of me is missing all the time, every day while he is gone.
But in that same way, Nick is always with me. The couch cushion where Nick usually sits while watching TV with me remains unoccupied because I see him there sitting beside me.
It’s blasphemy to sleep on the other side of the bed. I tried it once, just out of a crazy concern that my mattress would become unbalanced. I spent that night restless. It was terrible. It felt wrong, and I kept waking up the whole night confused. Now I remain on my side - because the other side is and always will be Nick’s.
That shirt he took off and threw on the couch one day a few months ago? That’s staying stuffed lost in the couch cushions. Sorry, visiting friends. (Though if it starts to smell, I promise I’ll wash it. Maybe.)
I still purposely put my makeup on his side of the sink picturing him giving me faux dirty looks and making little frustrated sighs as he moves it all back to my side. (I can’t help it- it spreads on its own.) His shaving brush and after shave remain untouched, albeit a bit dusty on his side of the sink as well.
I won’t touch his favorite coffee or especially his coffee mug.
When I watch something I know Nick would love, I imagine his expressions or comments while watching it. And if I remember a funny joke or hear about something he would love, I immediately stick it in an email or on his Facebook wall so he is reminded of the bunch of little things that made me think of him.
And I won’t even get started talking about the little project I began for him while he is gone, in case he’s reading. A few of my friends know about it, and I’ll announce it when he returns. For now, it’s fun keeping it a secret. But it’s a way of keeping him in my thoughts, even when he isn’t actually here. ;)
Nick is my best friend, my go-to person I am so happy to share my life with.
A marriage should be about LOVE.
It can be hard for some people to love someone who isn’t around much but it just makes it that much more important to love harder. My husband needs to know that he is the only one in my life and that I will be there still loving him and caring for him when he returns home. Love shouldn’t fade just because I can’t see his face in person every day.
A marriage is not easy. Love isn’t easy. No relationship is. You have to work at it. You have to surround yourself with pictures and reminders of your love and to do your best to surround your spouse with happy thoughts. It’s important, vital for him to know that I am in love with him, and that an ocean apart and several hundred or thousand miles will not alter that love.
That’s what it really comes down to. Loving, honoring, and respecting that individual with all your heart every day. Isn’t that what marriage vows mean anyway?
No marriage is perfect, including my own. And a military marriage is kind of like a marriage on steroids. But just remember that every single one of those sad, low moments makes all the happy ones, like seeing your love for the first time in months, just that much better. And that first Homecoming kiss makes it all worth while. :)
Wow. It's a new year? When the heck did that happen?
I guess what they say is true about time flying by as you get older. Hmmm.
So I've now made it a whole year following last year's new year's resolution to go vegan. Which was only supposed to last a month. Guess I beat that out of the ballpark, eh?
I have a few new years resolutions this year. I'm totally serious. Very serious new year's resolutions.
THE BLONDE'S NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS