Wednesday, November 16, 2016

So your Seaman got deployed: An adventure in 13 steps

In February, prior to Pete's deployment, we went to a pre-mobilization meeting in Virginia. I found it to be largely a waste of time. Not to mention that when I got up to use the restroom during lunch, I came back to find my half-eaten apple pie slice had been cleared away. The Navy took my Pete and my pie! To be fair, the meeting was full of earnest and lovely people. I got the impression that they wanted to be helpful. It's just that no one was offering any answers to the things I very much needed to know. Like: How do we stay happily married when we're thousands of miles apart and we are limited to electronic (monitored) communication? How do I not feel guilty going on runs and adventures while Pete is working long, hard days far away from home? How do I keep myself from automatically assuming the worst if I haven't heard from him in a few days? How do I stop feeling such profound disappointment in humanity for being at war with itself? How do we come back together at the end of all this? 

No one provided any answers to these question, so in the months that Pete was away, I set out to figure it out for myself. This is what happened and the adventures that ensued:

1. Drop your new husband (You have a husband?! This may never cease to astound you) off at the airport, not knowing when you will see him again. Cry. Experience a tornado of WTF feelings. WTF Navy? WTF humans? WTF is the point of any of this? 

2.Go to Alison's house and do intricate, infuriating, strangely soothing wooden puzzles with Alison, Danielle and Laura. Thus begins the tradition of ladies night dinner/puzzling get-togethers. As it turns out, wonderful friends, delicious plant-based foods and Liberty Puzzles are a surefire way to fill your heart with so much gratitude and happiness there is scarcely any room for sadness or worry.

3. Get two chances to go visit your Seaman in Virginia during his stateside deployment training. The trip to get there requires two planes, one rental car and one tunnel under the water. Even as you are thinking "This is why we need a teleporter," you cannot help but wonder at the magic of your life. You literally traveled through the air and under the water to get here, to spend these last few days together. You try your best to savor these moments, the zip-lining and trail running and mini golf adventures. But long weekends are never long enough. Soon you are driving away from him again, heading for the new home which you should be sharing together but cannot. The Navy did pay for the two of you to go to Busch Gardens, which was roller coaster filled and awesome, but this does not seem like a fair trade-off. 

4. Buy a banana costume from Mr. Internet. This will be the best $20 you have ever spent. Wear it to volunteer, cheer and dance at races. Because it's ridiculous. Because it's hilarious. Because you can say "I'm just happy to see you" and it is both funny and true.

5. Go on roadtrip adventures. With Chris, to run the Celebrate Life Half Marathon in Rock Hill, NY. With Alison and Bob, to run past waterfalls and through hail and to eat breakfast at the Ithaca Bakery. With Steven, to spectate at Muddy Sneaker and to cheer/tree climb in a Tigger costume. With the Eagans and Valones to Letchworth for running and rafting. With Alison, Bob, Steven, Mark and Todd to run Thom B. Trail Run in Hammond Hill State Forest (and sadly, to experience the thuds heard 'round the Gus). To Albany for solo adventures in Mike Doughty Living Room concert-going and to Saratoga Springs to hang out with Alison and Bob in their lake house rental. With Laura and Alison, to the Adirondacks for a ladies-who-adventure mountain climbing, cake eating birthday weekend. 

6. Discover the shortest, most toucan-and-awesome-filled running shorts online. Talk about them incessantly until you have formed a whole posse of toucan short-shorts wearing friends. Feel self-conscious about the extreme shortness of these shorts and wish that your ratio of squats done to cookies eaten was much, much higher. Realize that you can spend your time feeling self-conscious or you can spend your time feeling awesome. Go with awesome. Time is short. Wear the short shorts.  

7. Write ridiculous limericks and haikus and other terrible poetry. This starts as a way to fill up the emails, funny cards and weekly care packages you send to Pete, a way to occupy your racing brain with silliness instead of worry. And then it spills over into race reports and Facebook posts to friends before their big races. No worries, be happy, get limericked. 

8. Run. Run at all hours of the day and night. On trails, on roads. Dodging logs, dodging frogs. Run all the hill repeats. Run through the mud in a fancy dress at Mess The Dress. Run Cayuga Trails Marathon, a gorgeous elevation and popsicle filled romp in the woods. Run a 99 mile relay with your SWAT Team, which is not the fastest team but is most definitely the best dressed. Run an impromptu 50K at Mendon, burst into tears on your 4th ascent of water tower hill, yet somehow beat your previous time at this race by almost an hour. Run for 12 hours and 55 miles overnight, through sunset, moonrise and sunrise, until everything hurts and nothing hurts and you feel unstoppable and dead and so fucking lucky that this is your life. 

9. Use your muscles. Do push-ups and squats and bunny hops at Fit1 until it feels like your legs and arms have fallen off. Buy a chin-up bar and struggle until you are strong enough to eke out one unassisted chin-up. Keep struggling. Be grateful for your muscles. Use them well. Especially your heart. That's your very best muscle.  

10. Despite your best efforts to avoid them, have doubts. About your ability to run, to be a good friend/wife/person, to spider crawl backwards up the stairs (why is this so impossible, arms?), to produce anything edible in the kitchen. Instead of being consumed by the doubts, shrug them off. Embrace your weaknesses and gain strength through struggle. Practice the things that are hard until they become less hard. Be where you are without judging or feeling bad about it. (If you succeed in doing this on the regular, please send me your advice).

11. Feel the acute ache of absence, and the frustration at this third wheel in your marriage, let's call him "Navy," who is super good at making things inconvenient and complicated. Find yourself Googling "Weird facts about the Navy" to find things you like about your third wheel (because you don't like disliking things). Things like how MC Hammer was in the Navy before he developed his affinity for parachute pants. And how Navy Seals do not have pet seals (sadly), but they do have dogs, some of whom are trained parachutists! Then whenever you get upset by this whole deployment thing, your imagination kicks in. And in your head the Navy ceases to be this conglomeration of ships and weapons and stuff your pacifist brain doesn't want to think about. Instead it is replaced by images of puppies being parachuted in to fix everything with their adorableness while everyone dances to "U Can't Touch This." And you relax and realize that the Navy is just an organization of people (and parachuting dogs!) And (most) people are awesome (most of the time). 

12. Feel extreme gratitude for your people, the ones with kindred genes and the ones with kindred spirits. The best part of life is people. And for reasons unbeknownst to you, all the very best people have elected to be a part of yours. This is true wealth.

13. Finally, after the better part of a year, which has felt like an entire eon, travel once more by the magic of airplanes to meet your Seaman as he arrives in the US. Feel extremely grateful that you can afford to buy last minute plane tickets to make two trips to Virginia, so you can be there for his arrival in the States and return to spend Thanksgiving with him (He cannot return home home until December, after he completes all the post-deployment debriefing and what-not. Because deployment is the gift that just keeps on giving!) Hug your husband man for the first time in 8 months and feel a happiness like you have never known before. (And you have known happiness. As a kid, you had not one, but two treehouses). Though you are two airplane rides away from the house where you reside, the moment you run into his arms, you feel like this, this is home.

This is the path I blazed through this year of Pete's absence, a trail of laughter and tears and challenges and joy. So what do you do when your Seaman gets deployed? Everything. You cry until you laugh and laugh until you cry. You fill your life up with people and adventures and runs and ridiculousness. You go all extreme aliveness on that shit. And you feel like the the luckiest person in the entire universe. That you live a life of options and opportunities and experiences. That you are surrounded by amazing people who accept you for who you are, in all of your ridiculousness. That you have found a love that can go any distance. 

Picked up some Pete and some Pinkberry at the Baltimore airport

Lyric of the moment: "I'll be loving you always. With a love that's true always. When the thing you've planned needs my helping hand, I will understand always. Days may not be fair always. But that's when I'll be there, always...." ~Leonard Cohen "Always"

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