During Panel 2 Sarah spoke of "anticipatory grief".
I pointed out to my husband something that every servicemember needs to remember when he thinks of his family back home. We’ve never been to Iraq or Afghanistan. We don’t know what it’s like. We imagine the worst, and our mental war zone would probably seem cartoonish to you. But we simply can’t fully grasp what war is like. And while you know when you’re safe or bored or having a slow day, we don’t. Many times you can see danger coming if you have to go on a mission and you can emotionally prepare yourself to let slip the dogs of war; we have to stay emotionally prepared for the entire deployment, never sure of when your mortality is on the line. Your deployment is filled with the ebb and flow of adrenaline; your life is monotonous days punctuated by moments of anxiety or excitement; our adrenaline is always half-on, since every moment that we’re not on the phone with you is a moment when you’re possibly in danger. Such is the life for those on the homefront, those who stand and wait. Such is the life my husband can’t begin to understand, any more than I can really understand his.
I almost fell out of my chair.
What she described articulated exactly how I have lived the past 9 months of my life. And to have that feeling...that pressure...that elephant on my chest...described so articulately and so elegantly almost took my breath away.
A few weeks ago, I had dropped Princess Trouble and Little Man off at church for our Military Ministry's Mom's Night Out. We drop the kids off with the youth workers for a few hours and go sit at Starbucks and enjoy the company. On my way to church, I had spoken to MacGyver, hanging up just as I arrived (yes, mom, I DO talk on the cell phone and drive at the same time...sorry!). When I sat down with my friends at Starbucks, my phone rang again only this time it was a local official phone number.
So I took a deep breath and answered it. The male voice on the other end of the line asked "Mrs. **********?" and I cautiously answered, "Yes" and then held my breath for what felt like 9 hours. As I am waiting for the voice on the other end of the line to start speaking again, thousands of things ran through my head.
I was JUST on the phone with him not more than 15 minutes ago. What the HELL could he have been doing in that time that would warrant a phone call so quickly?
He wasn't scheduled to fly today. He's on nights and it's morning there.
He didn't mention being on the flight schedule at ALL for the next few days. Said he had some mission planning to take care of.
Who am I going to call first if this is bad news?
If this IS bad news, have I gone to the bathroom recently? I don't want to make THAT big of a fool of myself, regardless of circumstances.
How quickly can my best friends and family get here if this IS bad news?
JUST. KEEP. BREATHING.
All in the span of about 0.5 seconds. Finally the voice on the other end of the line responded and it was one of the LTs looking for the contact information for the Rear Detachment. He was home on R&R and needed to get in touch with them. He couldn't reach our FRG leader (because he had transposed 2 of the digits of her phone number) so he was working his way down the contact roster from an official phone at the hangar, trying to find someone who had the information he needed.
I calmly explained to him that I did not have the Rear D contact information on me at the moment but I did have the correct phone number for the FRG leader and he could try to reach her.
I then hung up the phone and stepped into the bathroom to compose myself. Over a 30 second phone call. That was harmless.
But when you live on the precipice, it's quite easy to slide off in the wrong direction. One strong gust of wind and you're tumbling down the side of the mountain and you find it incredibly hard to stop the slide.
I did not realize that I was not the only person who lives like this until I heard Sarah speak on Saturday.
I did not realize I was not alone.
Thank you, Sarah.
And thank you, Andi and everyone else who worked to put the conference together. Someone said that going to this conference was like going to a high school reunion with people whom you did not go to high school. That is so incredibly true. Walking into The Carpool on Friday night, I KNEW I was among friends even though I had not met 90% of them. I KNEW that each and every person in the room Saturday was like me in one way or another. And there is such a comfort in that knowledge. Such comfort.
And that comfort - that knowledge that I am not alone, even at 3am when I'm lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, afraid to close my eyes again because I'm afraid the nightmare I just had will replay itself - will sustain me through this deployment and the others to come.