It's funny how the last week before Michael comes home is almost as hard as the week he left. I'm so over this stupid separation!
True story: in high school, I lived right next to an Army base, Ft. Hunter Liggett, in a very small town called Lockwood. When I moved in, the Population sign read 123. When I visited there last summer, it was somewhere in the 400's. Most of my classmates had lived there from birth. I was the new girl, who had lived in the Los Angeles area right up until that first day of high school. Most of my girlfriends there had aspirations of marrying one of the guys on the Army base so they could move away from that little town. I personally vowed to never even look at the Army guys because I knew that I could get in my little red pickup and leave town any time I wanted without being tied to some guy or the military. And besides, I had no interest in moving every two years, always being away from my husband, and being dragged all over the planet. The joke is on me, of course. I'm not tied to the military in any way, but I have moved way more often than every two years and lived all over the planet!
Michael's career causes us to be apart quite a bit. This is by far the longest separation we've ever had. He's been on tours that have lasted longer, but one of us always flew to where the other one was at least once a month. This is just shy of 11 weeks with no physical contact. I don't recommend it.
There is a typical pattern that always repeats after a separation. I'm a fiercely independent girl, who was raised by a fiercely independent mother. You can tell me your way is better than the way I'm doing it, but you may never convince me of it. I never shared a room, never had a roommate, only ever ran track- which is not a team sport, and love to do my own thing regardless of what anyone else thinks. Being married, being in a partnership, being on a team... all very hard things for me (hard for most people I'm sure). I make a much better leader than follower. I really have to work at being a team with Michael, not racing ahead or to the side or lagging behind. Thankfully, Michael is a strong leader himself or else our relationship might have been doomed. When we're apart, my fierce independence really comes out. After all, in the last ten weeks, 100% of the day to day decisions have been made by me, without his input. With no one here to encourage me to go to bed or eat breakfast, I do things on my own schedule. Or don't do them at all. And when it comes to this move, I'd say I had to make about 95% of the decisions on my own. What to keep, what to sell and for how much, what to store, what to give away or toss. Of course, after 17 years of making decisions together, it's not like I'm gonna go rogue and make crazy choices that would harm us or our resources. But there is a certain amount of control and power held by the one who makes the decisions, right? Plus, while he's gone, I've had to do everything. All the household chores, all the discipline of the children, all errands and bill paying and shopping. And while sometimes it's overwhelming, I've proven that I'm perfectly capable of doing it, without Michael's help.
So here's what happens: When Michael comes back, we fight. We fight like crazy. We fight because I've gotten used to doing things my way without him, and he is simply trying to fit back into the pattern of daily life by doing things his way. And though he would never intentionally criticize any choice I've made, when he asks questions such as, "Huh, why did you stack all the boxes like that? It would be better if you'd done it like this," I hear, "You did it wrong, wrong, all wrong, you don't know what you're doing and can't be trusted with anything you fool!" And then I say something like, "You weren't here to do it! Don't tell me what to do! If you would have been here, you could have done it your way! But you weren't! So live with it! GAAAHHHHH!!!" Or, my sweet husband will do something helpful without me asking him, such as pick up milk from the grocery, put gas in my car, or fold my laundry and put it away, and I become completely unreasonable, demanding that he admit I can do those things without any help from him, which leaves him perplexed and then defensive, because after all, he was only helping! I'm sure if it wasn't so pathetic, it would be hilarious. If I saw it on a sitcom, I'd laugh. In real life, it's draining.
For the last five weeks, our daily conversations via Skype have featured some variation of the following script:
Heather: I'm afraid when you get home we're just going to fight like we normally do.
Michael: No. Not this time. We're not going to fight this time.
Heather: But how can you be so sure? We always fight. It's like our tradition.
Michael: Because we're going to make up our minds that we will not fight. Easy as that.
Heather: You call that easy? Just making up your mind not to fight? I mean, we can try...
Michael: (throwing my favorite Yoda quote in my face) Do or do not, there is no try!
Heather: Fine, then I guess we'll be fighting.
Both of us: (laughter) I love you!
Three days until we pick him up from the airport, crying happy tears instead of sad. Three days until I force myself to enthusiastically and gratefully accept all the help he can give to finish up the final bits of random things that need to happen. Three days until I'm occupying the same space as my spouse, which fighting or not, is something I'm greatly looking forward to.
And then... thirteen days until we all go back to the airport and leave for Macau, China. *gulp* I think that's the key to nipping any fights in the bud. I'm going to need my husband, my partner, my teammate, to get us through the next two weeks. Because I don't want to waste a single second disagreeing about anything when we are about to launch into the most incredible adventure of our lives. And I certainly don't want to do it on my own when it's sooo much better to share every tiny bit of what lies before us!
P.S. Several of my high school girlfriends did meet and marry their husbands thanks to that Army base and have had long and happy marriages. I'm not saying a single bad thing about them or any military spouses. My husband is only working on a show that entertains people. Their husbands are fighting for freedom and saving the world and spend way more time apart from their spouses and make millions more decisions on their own than I ever will. I'm in awe and have nothing but respect.