I came through the door at lunchtime and greeted Spencer, who was in the kitchen. I immediately noticed he was boiling water for Ramen noodles. “What are you cooking??? Why are you eating that???” I started in because we had agreed to eat chicken and vegetables for lunch all week, AND he had just told me not to cook for dinner because we needed to eat leftovers…but he’s making Ramen.” You’re not being a good gift!” he said. I stopped and laughed because he was right.
I was frustrated. We were frustrated. And it’s the Army’s fault. Spencer went to Ranger School in November. He was dropped after the second phase, two thirds of the way through. Being dropped meant instead of starting over on that second phase or starting over from the beginning, he would have had to wait six months to go back. Ranger School is a training/testing course where life is hardly worth living for 62-93 days, or longer if the soldier is “recycled.” It is physically and mentally hard on the soldiers as well as the family.
When I picked my husband up from Ranger School at Fort Benning, GA, the trial wasn’t over. It was hard to think I had just sat home for 6 weeks contemplating my life, just hanging in there to be with my husband again, and now his emotional needs would be greater than my need for peace. And they were. He was disappointed and beat down by the physical endeavor, and that superseded my feeling useless.
The first few days of the trip were rough as we struggled to meet each other’s needs. This was the first lesson to me on how the Army is hard on families. The disappointment is like showing up at Disney World and it’s just one of those carnivals they put on in mall parking lots, and surprise, it’s shut down because of rain. And for the soldiers, the effect of the failure is like the dread I felt when I had an iPhone for work that I would lose every couple months and not be able to enjoy anything until I inevitably found it again a few days later.
Our soldiers go away, and for a while when they return they are only half of what we need and they can’t help it. Malnourished and tired, his priority was not affirming me. We eventually made up and trudged through the three weeks of travel, finally making it home after the first of the year.
So we were home. I decided to attack for finding a job. Those prospects were daunting, but first we had to face any possible repercussions of Spencer being dropped from Ranger School. At the end of the first week of work, he received the news that he would be going to a new unit.
My present perspective on the Army is that as far as a career goes, it’s all up in the air. I can’t find the thread of reason for how anything works; we’re only two years in though. So the prospect of a new unit was stressful to both of us. More unknown. Will it be better or worse for Spencer? How will it affect our home life? And I was stressing about if his leadership would actually follow through with sending him away, and having my feelings hurt that they want to.
I’m frustrated that I’ve given my up my career for him to have his and after a year, we are literally right where we started. It’s frustrating that nothing ever seems fair and there is absolutely nothing to do about any of it. I assume Spencer is frustrated because he always does his best.
What this had done to us was the equivalent of what a challenging day at the gym does to your body. You don’t move as easily and everything hurts and sucks every time you try to live your life and sit down on a toilet. We weren’t navigating gracefully. We exchanged terse words and curt commands. I fussed about whether or not he’s working out and how much television he’s watching. He quipped back when I make innocuous requests. And none of it has to do with us. It’s just the effects of the Army.
We joined a biblestudy at church based on a book called “The Art of Marriage.” It’s for couples. The first week we talked about how our spouses are God’s gift to us and we have to receive the gift. When Spencer told me I was not being a gift worth receiving, I started to think.
I thought about how I know my husband is stressed, yet I wasn’t doing anything to aid him. The least I could have done would have been to just to shut up and let him be disappointed, or whatever (he doesn’t talk, or possibly not even think, about feelings). Instead, I had developed some expectations of him (to help myself cope with the disappointment) that my stressed out husband was never going to meet.
I understand what was wrong now. I would say we’ve corrected our behaviors so as to stop making the situation worse. The reality is the Army will always be a domineering factor in our lives. This last 6 weeks has shown me how it could break us. I don’t want to succumb to that. But it isn’t just the Army that puts people in situations that aren’t anyone’s fault but end in the marriage taking the fall; it’s work, illness, family—life.
As my husband plays with my ear right now and says something silly, it is easy to believe my honeymoon phase isn’t over. I was afraid it was. I was afraid I spent the last year in rose colored glasses, and would henceforth find life irritating. But even in trying times, I’ve got to always choose to always try for the best in every situation and be the right person instead of questioning whether the other person is. The Army will continue to try us, but just like my real life spectacles, I have to choose to pick up my rose-colored glasses and look at my husband and life as a blessing.