December 06, 2008


[Cross-posted at SpouseBUZZ]

AWTM has the distinction at SpouseBUZZ, like it or not, of being our resident go-to person on reintegration. And I personally always felt fine letting her have that title, because I didn't really grok her experience. I always assumed that her discomfort with reintegration came from the fact that she had babies while her husband was gone, so they went from being just a couple to being a family. Or I thought it was because her husband came back changed. Or that they were having a hard time getting back in sync as a family when he got home. Since I had not experienced any of those things, I never fully understood AWTM's trepidation about reintegration.

But I wrote before that deployments are like snowflakes. I was talking about my soldier in that case, but I am starting to see that deployments can feel very different from the homefront too.

My husband's first deployment was harder on him than this one has been: tougher mission, less amenities, more danger, longer deployment time. He was out in the thick of things and had some difficult experiences. During that deployment, my life was relatively straightforward. Nothing big happened to me that year, so our focus was on my husband and how he would react coming home.

This time around has been the reverse. My husband's job is easier -- safer, shorter, and relatively cushy -- but my life has been tumultuous. I have gone through some pretty heavy emotional growth in the past eight months. And all of a sudden, we're single digit midgets...and I am starting to think that this reintegration will play out differently.

AWTM called me the other day and asked me how I was doing. I didn't even fully realize that I was so apprehensive until she began to drag it out of me. And then she told me something that I know will be part of my vocabulary for the rest of my life. She told me about an interview with Mike Myers in which he talks about how hard it was to lose his father:

I've always felt I was given these emotional casino chips which had no value until I went home and told my dad about things. My father was like my spiritual cash window. I would tell him about stuff, just to hear his reaction.

AWTM said that she and I and people like us need a "spiritual cash window." We need someone to vent to, to rehash every detail of our day with, to take note of every ebb and flow of our emotional cycle. We need someone to cash our chips in to. And for both of us, that person is our husband. So when our husbands are gone, we stockpile our emotional casino chips.

I seem to have a lot of emotional chips from this deployment.

I have started to realize this past week that I am afraid of overwhelming my husband when he gets home. I am afraid that when he walks in that door, I am going to unload on him like a firehose. I'm afraid I won't be able to pace myself...because I have over seven months of chips in my hands that I am going to dump on him at once.

And I've realized that I am also sad that he hasn't been here for me to cash my chips in to on a daily basis. He hasn't seen me grow moment by moment. He is going to get the insane recap version at the end, where I have to explain every detail of everything that has happened to me lately.

And how do you do that? How do you explain what you were feeling six months ago and still make it relevant? How do you tell someone that, while you are no longer feeling stressed about X, Y, or Z, you used to feel stressed about it and therefore would still like to cash it in?

Poor husband.

My husband does not have emotional casino chips. The last time he was gone, the majority of the fighting and danger he faced happened at the beginning of his deployment. By the time he got home eight months later, that was old news to him. That was over and done with. He didn't need to cash it in. And I remember feeling a tad hurt that he didn't need to do this, like what did he need me for if I wasn't his spiritual cash window? I didn't understand how he could've had these enormous life experiences -- to include watching a man die -- and not need to cash it in.

I just never knew how to put that feeling into words.

I have always known I am this kind of person, but it took AWTM acknowledging it and giving it a name for me to realize how important it is to me and how hesitant I feel about our reintegration this time around.

Because, boy, do I have chips that need cashing.

And all of a sudden, I understood what AWTM has been talking about for years. It clicked for me, and I realized that it wasn't just having her husband underfoot in the house, or that he had a daughter he had never met, or that he might be jumpy or less patient. It was that she held these chips too and didn't know how to cash them in.

I didn't realize that she was this type of person too, and I think we both felt some relief talking about it on the phone and realizing that we're not the only one who holds these emotional chips.

Heck, Mike Myers does too. Maybe he should read SpouseBUZZ...

Posted by: Sarah at 02:25 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 So this post has me kinda choked up. You just summed up one of the biggest reasons deployment and reintegration are hard for me. Thanks for putting it into words.

Posted by: Lucy at December 06, 2008 10:32 PM (nzG0t)

2 You Hubby is probably prepared for your chips unload. He seems that kind of person from what you have said of him. AND.. he's reads this blog and talks to you regularly. I bet he is going to be ready with all the right words and reactions. Have a little faith in him, expect the best and I'm pretty sure that is what you will get. I think you're having the pre-integration jitters. I'm not saying "get over it", I'm saying things WILL be good again. Remember he lost those babies, too and I think you mentioned he is not the type to talk to others about it, so you both have some chips and grieving to do together.

Posted by: Ruth H at December 07, 2008 04:52 AM (zlUde)

3 the way you felt talking to AWTM on the phone was how I felt when you were talking about anticipatory grief at the Milblogging conference 2 years ago. As for the chips, I have them too. And the our last deployment was incredibly tumultuous on this end (and not so much on his end) too. I worried a lot of the same things as you. It will be ok. Even though he hasn't be there to see the moment-by-moment growth that you've experienced, he loves you and you love him and it will all work itself out.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at December 07, 2008 09:56 PM (4Es1w)

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