Thursday night, Friday afternoon and evening, and most of the day on Saturday, I was on site. I stood near The Weight Of Time with my artist tag. I greeted people. I tried to strike a balance between letting them experience the piece and sharing my story behind the piece. There were viewers from all walks of life. Other artists. People that claimed to know nothing about art. Young and old. Groups, couples, and loners. People that had a lot to say and people that avoided conversation. I had one guy refuse to hear because he didn't want my story to "mess up his impression of the piece." Overall, most were friendly and kind people, who were happy to meet the artist and hear this Army wife's story. I had those who teared up. Who shared how my story related to their experience. I got hugs and thank yous, but I also got many "Thank your husband," and "When is he getting out?" and "Is he home?" And I realized they didn't quite get what I was trying to say. The hardest comments were "I hope he makes it home", but the one that still has me thinking is "I am sorry you miss him so much."
It was heartfelt. A sorry you hurt kinda sentiment, but it struck a chord in me. I didn't really respond because it was in passing, but I want to address this now. I AM NOT SORRY I MISS HIM. Missing takes courage. Staying connected takes risk. There is this sense that "it should get easier", but in reality as you continue to build a life TOGETHER, there is more to miss. There are deeper bonds- but isn't that what marriage is about? Having a life that is influenced by the other. Where you consider them. Staying connected is a must. We have said if it ever gets to the point where we are looking forward to the separation then we need to take a look at why.
So what I am not saying? I’m not saying I have no life or ambition outside of him. I have my personal goals but I do my best to invite him in. That is why he has learned to appreciate art.. That is why I have read books about the army and have learned the army language of acronyms (even though translation is still necessary at times). I am an artist. I have friends that get a lot more attention when he is away.....girls nights in, or out. A bit of travel with my kids. I realized that I can't wait to do everything I want to do until he is home because that would mean I was just biding time while he was away. So we live life. We enjoy where we are. He is happy for the good things I get to experience when he is gone. I celebrate his successful missions and I am happy for good training opportunities. When we are back together, we squeeze the most out of our time. We travel. We have lazy Saturdays. We spend time connecting with others.
I want those who read and see my story to know, yes, it is sad. But more than that, there is a beauty that is being forged. There is a beauty being forged in me as I learn how to navigate this hard, but good process of releasing the one I love to live out what he was made to do. In turn, I discover I was made to stay and how staying takes a different courage but courage nonetheless. The courage to stick with it through many unknowns and uncertainties. The courage to be over your head and accept help. This is my new definition of ARMY STRONG: meaningful connection at home and away that creates strong family bonds within families and with other families.
We will still need help and encouragement. Individual families will not be able to handle all the military asks of them, alone. But let's not just "handle it." Let's thrive as we embrace the risk of true relationship. Let’s be honest and receive help, and give it too. Let’s not be sorry to do what we were made to do. Let’s embrace the beautiful messy lives that we and others live, even when it is uncomfortable. That’s real strength.