The Five Stages of Hurry Up and Wait or: Please Don’t Go but if you Must Leave Now

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A practical example of “Hurry Up and Wait” via a glimpse into our conversations at home the past few weeks:

J: “We’re leaving October – for 6 months with –th fleet and we’re going to – .”
J: “Our deployment got pushed later. We’re now leaving October – and we’re now going to –th fleet where we will be in a combat zone and I might be there 9 months…Two other ships that weren’t supposed to deploy until – are scrambling because they’re now coming with us.”
M:  “What? No! What?!?”
J: “The other ships aren’t going anymore. Their deployment got pushed to – . Ours might even be canceled completely!”
M: Silent, hopeful celebration (!!!!!)
J: “We’re still going but we’re not going to –th fleet anymore! We’re going back to –th fleet and it should only be 6 months but we’re still leaving October – .”
M:  Suspicious silence.

Which leads to me to:

The Five (Unofficial) Stages of Spouse Pre-Deployment Grief

1. Absolute Denial and Refusal to Listen to Reason (More than usual) Stage. In this stage, it is highly possible that the Spouse will insist on refusing to acknowledge that deployment is approaching and will start conversations that will make no sense to the service member like, for instance, this one:

M: “What should we do for Thanksgiving?”
J: “You know I’m not going to be here right?”
M: “Should we spend it with yours or mine? I don’t remember whose turn it is since we were in Newport last year.”
J: “You know I’m not going to be here right?” M suddenly becomes very busy doing something else….

2. Anger/ Rage Monster Stage. In this stage, the Spouse rages against the evil tyrant that is the Navy. The service member will undoubtedly remind the Rage Monster that the Navy provides their livelihood, medical insurance, job security, benefits, community, ADVENTURE….At the mention of this last word the Spouse/Rage Monster will lose all semblance of composure while insisting that service member gets all the adventure and she gets all the benefits of watching a baby constantly without so much as one port stop in Singapore. In the course of her raging, she (momentarily) forgets all the amazing military wives that have supported her, how it only cost her $70 to have her baby thanks to Tricare, and that she herself has spent hours excitedly day dreaming about where they might be stationed next. She writes a few embarrassingly immature and whiny Facebook statuses that she later deletes and prays nobody actually saw.

3. Bargaining Stage. The utter-helplessness of the Spouse’s ability to change things sinks in, but doesn’t negate her increasing sense of anxiety. She starts to feel hopeful every time another ship’s deployment gets canceled or delayed, but her fake cheerfulness makes the service member more nervous than her honest raging (He is wisely perceiving the next stage coming before she even realizes it). She thinks that if she can just stay positive enough, his deployment will be canceled too! But it, of course, isn’t. Which leads to…

4. The Tears Everywhere, All the Time Stage.

 5. And finally, finally….Eventual acceptance and, unbelievably, HOPE.

I think I can say with a certain amount of confidence that I’ve accepted that Jake is going now, and I’m glad that I waited until now to write this post. There were a lot of times in the past couple weeks that I was tempted to use this blog as a venue to vent (see stage two) and although I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, I don’t really like who I am when I’m at that place and you probably wouldn’t either.

The best part about accepting the deployment is that now every minute we have left feels precious. That’s really the only way I can describe it. I feel overwhelming gratitude for every laugh we share over something stupid. I could watch Jake play with Kai on the floor forever. I treasure every text. We’re actively seeking more ways to spend as much time together as possible (“What time does your train get in? I’ll meet you there and we can walk back together”). We’re not letting days go by without using them for something great because they feel numbered, precious. As sappy as this sounds, there is definitely this feeling that it’s us against ‘the deployment,’ and that even when he goes, we’ll have won because we’re so in love despite it.

And that feeling is delicious. It’s summer sunshine in a Rhode Island December, it’s hot coffee on a foggy morning, it’s a foot massage after a day spent at Disneyland wearing ballet flats. But the thing is, this feeling shouldn’t be temporary. Why didn’t I feel like this all summer? Why is it when time is flying by so fast toward deployment that we can come together and live life abundantly but when there is no imminent separation we fall prey to the lie that life is redundant? Because the truth is that every day is numbered and precious, deployment or not.

And I think that’s where the real benefit of military life comes in. The separations might seriously suck, but they serve as regular reminders not to take Jake (or time with him) for granted. Being a new momma often feels monotonous and overwhelming at the same time, and it starts to get way too easy for me to fly off the handle over something like Jake forgetting to take the trash out. I mean, really? Where does this attitude of entitlement come from? Because then I start to think about six months without him and I immediately am reminded how heavily I benefit daily from his generosity, strength, and courage. There is nothing like an upcoming deployment to remind you how freaking blessed you are to be married to a man like Jake.  So thank you, US Navy, for reminding me that I’ve got the best there is. I’m not going to forget it this time.

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