It's been over a year now that the man I love left to begin his tour of active duty with the military. Hard to believe how fast and yet how slowly it has passed by. In raw honesty, it was one of the hardest years of my life. When he first left I found myself pouring over "so you're dating a military man" blogs, and what I read completely horrified me. Girls were gushing about never leaving their phones, passing up nights with friends, and not doing much else but watch their phones, should they light up with a call from him. I read these posts and told myself I could be the exception, I didn't have to abandon my life just because I was now alone. I remember taking deep breaths and praying. I prayed for strength and I prayed for patience. I asked God to grant me the two things I felt like I was without.
You'll never know the journey of being a military girlfriend/wife until you are one. The women I've met and who have listened, laughed, and cried with me, have taught me that compassion is a quality you must have if you are to travel down the road of the red, white, and blue. To them I offer a million thank you's-and that wouldn't be enough. You all are my inspiration and show me that strength can be summoned even in the most despairing of times. There exists a kinship so sacred that I have felt both privileged and honored to know all of you.
I remember talking with a new friend of mine while I was visiting my boyfriend's base over Christmas. With her I shared my recent struggles and how at times I have felt completely helpless. I shared with her the disease of loneliness and how at times it seemed my boyfriend did not or could not understand. She listened and told me something that I have since cherished... she laughed and nodded at my words and told me everything I was feeling was completely normal. She too had gone through similar bouts of loneliness and helplessness. She wanted me to know it doesn't last forever. The minute I heard the word normal...that was the best feeling in the world. My head, often so full of thoughts and ideas, was quiet for a quick moment. What I was going through, everything I felt, was something bigger than myself. For generations before my birth women have survived the sacrifice of separation. It's not something that just any woman can handle. I feel that God knows very well what he's doing when he picks out which one of us will rise to the challenge of the ultimate sacrifice.
Now, I know I still have a long way to go before I make it to the ranks of some of my sisters. I'm still learning the terrain, and I have my good days and my bad. There are moments where I still feel crazy and there are days where I wish I had a private jet. But I'm trying. In a lot of ways I can almost hear God laughing softly when I look up with frustration. I like to think he's up there cheering me on, saying to me, "My child I would not have given you this if I thought you couldn't handle it. So buck up and push on." And in my heart I know he is right. I know that loving a military man means putting yourself second, because much like the person you love, the country we call home becomes an undeniable first. But to someone who is just beginning, I'd tell her, it takes time, and you'll fail a lot along the way. You just need to keep trying. It's never easy when someone else's choice becomes your only option...but every good story needs a hefty obstacle to overcome.
My biggest battle right now is learning to accept. A sense of control must be abandoned while we adopt a means to accept whatever the next assignment or situation that is fast approaching might be. And I just enrolled in Acceptance 101. There are no textbooks and there is no teacher. In this scenario, the lessons are my mistakes from which I am taking notes.
But, where there is love, there is hope. And between the men and women I have met facing this reality, along with my boyfriend and myself...there is enough love to sustain me for years to come. There exists a fierce passion behind the belief that one must fight for the beautiful things in life. One must be willing to get down in the dirt and even after falling, have the perseverance to get back up. Because the men far away from us aren't the only ones wearing camo. We just sport ours on our hearts.