The Reality of My Marriage: Year 3

It occurred to me that each year I’ve written some sort of year end review about my marriage for my anniversary. Today is my third anniversary. Without looking back at my other essays on it, I know I’m not as happy and not as profuse as I was one year in. I don’t want to shy away from the realities of marriage and the Army, but I do understand how sensitive of a matter being honest actually is.

I am not as happy as I was two years ago because stress exists, namely the fact my husband has been on a different continent for the last 5 months and I have been pregnant for 7. I’m also not as happy because being married is not the least frustrating experience I have on a regular basis. Being home alone during this time has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on this.

One of the differences in this year and last year is that I was convinced my husband had committed an array of new offenses against me mainly resembling neglect. I had started working and expected more from him as I had less time for myself. This year I understand he doesn’t choose to neglect me; that’s how I have chosen to define his actions. The unchanging fact is that my husband loves and literally hasn’t bothered to imagine any level of a future without me. And he hasn’t actually done anything offensive to me. Still I’ve been quick to assign his actions or lack thereof to disregard, finding reasons he doesn’t actually love me like he should. Why would I want to prove that? What I understand now is that what is most important is that we share the same definitions of love, disrespect, effort and we currently do not. I accept I can’t label his actions for him, just as he can’t qualify or disqualify any feelings I have about his or my actions.

I went through a period of thinking he was refusing to do what or be who I want, which made me angry and feel helpless, then I started to believe he could not do those things, which made me feel helpless and desperate. At this point I understand this predicament is that other meaning of “marriage takes work” because my husband can be what I need and I can be what he needs, we just have to learn how to do that.

The first bit of marriage was easy because of the novelty of being married. I finally got to live with my boyfriend! And I wasn’t responsible for taking out the trash. Bliss. When you marry someone you think you know them in this intimate way, which is probably as intimate as you can know someone before marriage, but there are still levels to your spouse and yourself you have yet to discover, both higher and lower.

I knew my husband’s polite passion for me and general desire, but I did not know he would ever put me second. I knew the Army would be the priority but I did not know it would take every ounce of energy he has. I didn’t know my husband would not need me on a practical level, but I love that he needs me on a spiritual level.

So at moments I have felt bereft about what I haven’t had, but more recently I have felt clear about what I actually need. It is important for me to acknowledge the ways my happiness and contentment have nothing to do with my husband (not to mention the fact he hasn’t done anything wrong), but I have still placed it on him. My self-actualization and current job, isolation, his spirit, and my relationship with God have more to do with how happy I am than whether or not my husband surprised me with a date, but I at times have chosen to only focus on the date because that is the only factor I seem to be able to affect or that I can remove from my own responsibility. (More on my roadblocks with God in a much later post).

The reality is, he is not super happy. I have learned that being in the Army can be difficult, but apparently being Infantry is the bottom on the barrel. Given my high opinion of my husband, the way Infantry units run is detrimental to him. He is intelligent, assertive, responsible, respectful, and athletic, but he seems to be redirected into nonsense at almost every turn. My husband, having not experienced adversity as I have and not being a woman in general, is not most adaptive to these conditions, and that’s why I am second, in my opinion.

I have thought “how happy would I be if we just lived in St. Louis with near our friends and family with nice jobs?” I would like to think I would be happy, but let’s face it, its human nature to find any situation wanting.

I would be “happier” if my husband were more needy. It would give me purpose. As my husband says “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and makes for this nonsense I’m entertaining now- finding ways to be unhappy. But if he were needy, I would have long ago collapsed under the pressure of his needs, work, and my high standards. Most importantly, I would be happy with this person if stress didn’t exist, but it will and all the more, so we must adapt.

Thinking about the constant resistance to ease and grace in my life, I have thought about what it would be like not to be married. No, I haven’t considered getting divorced, I’ve just thought about what if it never becomes easy again. The prospect of being apart from my husband is the most miserable feeling I can conjure and even makes me cry right now. I chose him for a reason and I have to remember that because it will always remain true. Even at his worst or my worst, being divided from him is still the worst. Because of this fact and my realizations about self and the spouse as an individual, I choose to initiate the actual thoughtful work of sustaining a growing marriage. I need to pray for my husband for the specific things I think he needs. I need to pray for myself. I need to seek peace in my life and promote peace in his. I need to always look inward instead of outward because my emotions and beliefs are always my choice. If Paul can sing shackled in a jail cell, I can smile with my fake nails, loyal spouse, apparent health, and iPhone.

But, this still has to be a joint effort. I’m writing this on my own. These are my choices and all I can control. Given who my husband is, I am not sure he is required to make this same conscious distinction or decision. I’m the over-analytical one. The frustration comes with not having the tools to navigate the both of us to the same place, and maybe someone who does can help. Until then, I am here.

Marriage is like math classes. Not to say Asians are better at it, but some of us may have found algebra easy, but geometry difficult, calculus impossible. Most of us will have to practice and study. Some of us eventually make our way through, (some of us cheat our way through), some of us need tutors, some of us do better the second try, and some of us really should stick to art.

Dis Tew Much


About a week ago…

This is officially too much. My fantasy is to evade work for a week. Actually, on my 40-minute lunch, and 20-minute break I lean all the way in and literally pretend like I don’t work. Something about not working because I can’t stop coughing or crying feels off base of that dream. 

I had a rough weekend with physical exhaustion, stress, and nosebleeds and was finally motivated to figure out how to use my FMLA benefits at work. As soon as I initiated the process, I called out work for the second half of Monday. On Tuesday, I managed to stay clocked in for 30 minutes. Then Wednesday and Thursday I didn’t even bother trying to work. Wednesday I lie in bed with no medicine and no obvious way to obtain it. A coworker, IraShalee, offered to bring me something but she was working until 6. And then could I really ask her to go to a store, hike up to Post, do a background check real quick (or slow) so she can get through the gate to bring me some DayQuil? No, I would have to get up myself. 

As a person who is self-admittedly vain, as well as formal, the prospect of getting myself together to be in public seemed like too much and caused me to delay going out. I eventually threw on some eyebrows and accepted I’ll just have to look like shit in order to stop feeling like shit. 

Car on E, I drove myself to the PX. I realized after my perilous hour and a half drive home in the dark and pouring rain Monday my car was more sketchy than usual. I decided not to fill the tank, because this could be it for us, and rounded off to $20 worth of gas. 

At the PX, I purchased my medicine and other random pity items including a $6 cone of cheddar popcorn that I always want but seems like a bad deal. It was a bad deal. 


Meanwhile, my brain is wracked by the fact my Masters Program just started Monday and I can barely read text messages, let alone 9 chapters of text between my two classes. Not to mention the fact I have no books, because the school I applied to months ago managed to only accept me with four days notice. Sunday I sat down to try to follow the insufficient registration instructions, which ultimately culminated in me crying, followed shortly by a nosebleed. That experience is what led me to where I am now, which is propped up on six pillows on a Friday night to avoid coughing myself into an early labor. 

Thursday I felt pretty good and hoped to complete some errands to help me return to work with as little stress as possible. I went out with only a headache and a raspy voice. Iwent to the chiropractor who miraculously cured my headache. Unfortunately I traded one headache for another as I had to return to my car in the parking lot with the front right tire basically flat. I put air in my tire for the fifth time in the last month.

Next I went to Chick Fil A for comfort food, but ended up getting a salad because of the kid. 

From there I drove directly to a Jeep Chrysler dealership where they showed me a Toyota Corolla and tried to Jedi Mind trick me into believing as long as I can finance, I can afford it, when my aim is to pay cash. 

Next I saw a new counselor because mine is on a mysterious medical leave. She strongly advised me to drop a class and suggested I work part time. Don’t have to tell me twice. 

I think I’ve called my mom approximately 12 times in the last 6 days. Times like this make me realize she is truly the best friend I’ll ever have. No one else will ever care as much about me as themselves. 

Tonight I called in regards to coughing so hard I was starting to feel like I would throw up. She advised me to go get Delsym. Once again, I pull my raggedy ass together to go the commissary. I didn’t even draw in eyebrows this time, but put on jeans. I made it home to attempt to study but my 2008 Acer laptop wasn’t working. When I finally rebooted it I found myself coughing and texting Allison my judgements of my teenaged neighbors for playing 2009’s greatest rap hits at their party next door. 

I decided to give up on studying and get ready for bed but found a dozen little chores to do. I realized I hadn’t eaten, but coughing was making my stomach upset. As I peed for the 20th time this evening, I coughed and sprung a nosebleed for the fourth time this week. 


From my pillow mountain, I texted Spencer who I knew was asleep “I need you,” because I do. With so much on me mentally, physically, and practically, I didn’t see how I could continue. I am always tough and rational, but I need my husband right now. I need him to do laundry, get me medicine, buy me dinner, fill the humidifier, force me to drink water, bring me a charger, buy me a car, and make me feel like I’m going through this for the team.  

But alas, all I have is myself. This being pregnant during deployment is much harder than I could have imagined. Something has to give. 

The Boys Are Deployed

bootsonbedI don’t want my husband to deploy. I want my husband to deploy. My husband is about to deploy. His battalion has been gone for a while now and he will be joining them soon.
Am I sad? Not on the outside- or the inside really. In my brain, it’s a sad situation; in my mind, there is no use in crying about it.
I have been trying to articulate my feelings on this for weeks because they are complex. Feelings about being away from my spouse are the simplest. Feelings of not wanting him to stay are hardest to express.
When my husband leaves, it will just be me, endlessly taking calls, not cleaning up after myself, doing hobbies. I am hundreds of miles from friends and family with no vacation days left. I’ve tried to make new friends, but no one is ever close enough. It will be lonely.
On the other hand, I have it better than the other ladies. I don’t have kids. I’m older and have actually lived on my own in a city away from home. I am highly capable of reaching out to others. I’m equipped for this. For that reason, it is hard for me to feel sorry for myself when dozens of other women are enduring this same thing with a fifth of the survival skills. I’ll be alright. I’ll write more, eat better, and save money. I have no doubt I will find something to do with myself.

My plan is to find things to work on. Immediately, I should be taking a four-week statistics class. Oh, I decided to move forward with a masters degree, so I’ll have that to focus on as well. I may try Paleo again, which I tried when he went to Basic Training and lost 15 pounds! There is also that novel I started writing last year that I would be proud to complete. I have enough things to do that I see this separation as an opportunity rather than a pause.

That isn’t why I don’t want my husband to stay though. The rest of the Spencer’s battalion left a couple months ago. He didn’t leave because he was on medical profile after having vision correction surgery. There was a moment when his leadership told him they wanted him to stay behind as the point person during the deployment. I felt frustrated by this. Not just because the plan kept changing. I was frustrated because I didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity. I didn’t want him to be the old dude in the battalion that still hasn’t deployed. I didn’t want him to be that one guy in a group that doesn’t get the joke because “you had to be there.” I didn’t want to spend the next nine months knowing my husband was wishing he were somewhere else, but that’s not what made my eyes sting.
While I was still unhappy with my career in St. Louis, there was at least the illusion of opportunity and the reality of money. You already know what the reality of my career prospects is here, so the consolation is the success of my husband’s career. If he doesn’t deploy, then he’s “behind.” I’m behind. This whole time I have watched opportunities be taken away from him and my career stall and roll backward. What made me tear up was that overwhelming feeling that if he has to miss out on something else, my professional sacrifice will be for absolutely nothing. It will be for his spun wheels, broken plans, late nights, and deep-seeded frustration, compliments of the Army.

So of course I want him to stay, but it is important that he goes. And he is going. True soldiers join the military to go through hardship. And I understand the danger and reconciled it when I decided to become a military spouse, that’s why fear is not a part of this discussion. We didn’t come to the land of chain restaurants for the chain restaurants. We are here because the one thing my husband knows more than anything is that he wants to be a soldier.

#WifeGoals

Working From HomeI had a marriage epiphany a couple weeks ago. As I was presenting to my husband my quarterly list of grievances about him, and argued about what qualifies as “effort,” it occurred to me that I could put more “effort” in myself. Last month I heard myself refer to a previous version of myself as “when I was a full time wife” in conversationEven though my husband never complains, I figured I could try to be the girl I know he would like. As I do, I made a list of goals for the week:

  1. Keep the house clean.
  2. Consume and discuss politics.
  3. Have meals ready when Spencer is home from work.
  4. Spend quality time…on the couch.
  5. Look decent when Spencer comes home.
  6. Text throughout the day.

I started the week with ambition and initiative, but I will go on and tell you I failed at all 7 objectives even though there were only 6. Oh, I can find a way to fail. There was a moment that week that made me consider my actual value as a wife.

  1. Keeping the house clean.

I like a clean house and I work from home. That means I am impacted by the cleanliness and have more time to clean. My husband is actually very neat and methodical so I know he likes the house clean and everything in its place. Despite those facts, the house did not get cleaned until I was off Friday and that was just the kitchen. I had cleaned throughout the week, but I guess it made new messes at the same speed.

  1. Listening to Politics

I downloaded NPR Politics and NPR’s UpFirst in an effort to stay abreast of current events. As a clueless, married woman, I usually depend on my husband to brief me on politics and global events. I didn’t grow up around people discussing or caring about politics. I have certainly tried to seek knowledge, but find it to be a literal effort to retain any information. Not to mention that I don’t really watch television or read news. Spencer on the other hand, is very interested and has opinions. I know it would be stimulating for him to be able to discuss news with me and have an intelligent conversation. Despite having identified what and how, I didn’t even listen to the podcast.

  1. Have meals ready

The goal is to have dinner ready by 7:30 and make sure he has a meal for lunch. Things I used to do, even after I started working. Not only did I fail to cook this week, Spencer actually ended up cooking one day. He grilled bratwursts and hotdogs, with no bread, because I forgot to unthaw the ground beef. Then we had leftovers for the next few days. It’s fine for Spencer to cook, but not fine for me to be lazy.

  1. Hang out in the evenings

Quality time with my husband is watching TV with my husband. I would prefer he do what I’m doing sometimes since I don’t want to watch television all the time, but since this was about me meeting him where he was, I wanted to do what I know he would like. Keeping with the theme, there wasn’t a single evening that I sat down after dinner to do more than watch an episode of Veep. Instead I baked or cleaned.

  1. Look decent

Many people think I am attractive, but I just don’t know what you would think if you saw me at 1 pm on a weekday. If I have managed to put on a complete outfit, meaning not a robe or pajamas, then my hair is likely in the same ponytail I wore to the gym with a headband barely hanging on there. I know my husband would at least like me to look groomed, forget the makeup, but I didn’t even manage that. My edges were kinky and my eyebrows were faint, knees ashy…and dinner wasn’t ready.

  1. Text throughout the day

We don’t text regularly because Spencer comes home for lunch, but I am usually working the whole time or he’s napping so we don’t really get to check in. I thought texting throughout the day would be a good way to connect and let Spencer know I was thinking about him. Apparently I wasn’t thinking about him because I didn’t manage a single text that wasn’t logistics related.

  1. Don’t break my husband’s things

A goal not to destroy the other person’s property should be a given for most partners, which is why it was not listed. Even though I didn’t list it, the moment I broke my husband’s iPad case was the lowest point of my week. I am clumsy and I am careless and short-sighted. I did not foresee the iPad falling backward off the ledge and into the empty bathtub, but that’s what happened. I did my best to duct tape the hinge of the case, but it was no use. I sat it on the coffee table and waited for my demise

Scratching Dandruff
Spencer scratching up my dandruff… Sexy.

I really did fail at being a better wife. I tried and I failed. I was discouraged that I couldn’t even achieve what used to be my standard performance. I used to take pride in the package I provided as I anticipated my husband’s needs and stayed on top of my self-given responsibilities. I used to do things like make sure his water bottle was sanitized every week. Now I feel like I am going through the motions and sometimes not even that. I complain a lot about not being able to do both as a full time employee, but the reality is that I am going to be an employee for the foreseeable future. I can’t allow it to take away from my relationship. As I lamented to a friend about my failure, she pointed out took on a lot and should just focus on one thing at a time. I was kind of setting myself up to fail. But most importantly Spencer didn’t seem to notice one way or another. Even though he stayed on top of his chores, he never complained about the clothes crammed under my side of the bed or eating dinner at 9 pm. He didn’t even get mad about the iPad case. He only made a joke about getting a better model that isn’t clumsy. And that, my friends, is unconditional love.

2017 Baby!

 

Moving into 2017 is like the excitement of opening Facebook and seeing that you have more than ten notifications. Unlike Facebook, I refuse to let 2017 be just another game request.

I am 28 years old. Not yet 30 or panicking about being 30, and also not still trying to figure out what the heck I’m supposed to be doing for once. I am excited about my opportunities over the next year. One year ago, I was applying for jobs at chain stores and hoping my husband didn’t end up in some worse situation after being dropped from Ranger School. I never heard back from any of the obscure places I applied to except the prestigious one I am employed with now, and my husband is fine; often on the cusp of being stressed out, but overall fine.

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This year I will lose that five pounds, except after the holidays it’s ten. I will sell baked stuff with the help of my brand new Kitchenaid Mixer I received for Christmas! (Look at God!) I will blog consistently. And I will try to learn to pop and lock. I am excited about the fact that our next vacation is this year, and that will be in New Orleans, or in Gulf Shores with the in-laws. But what is most exciting about 2017 is that this is when we are supposed to try to have a baaabbyyy!

The start line is many months away, but I am cross-eyed with pleasure at even the prospect. I know having a baby isn’t as easy as staying in for one well-timed evening- I am very aware of that, but for me, sometimes anticipation is the best part. I fully expect my husband to pull out on the deal at the last minute, but I’ll just be disappointed then instead of tempering my excitement now.

I have wanted to have a baby since approximately November 22, 2014, which is the date of my wedding… So I have just been waiting for the past two years; the past 12 years really. When I was in high school, I really wanted a baby. No, I wasn’t sexually active in high school, but I was obsessed with the idea of being pregnant and having a baby. Then in 11th grade I had to take home Baby ThinkItOver. I realized having a baby wouldn’t be primarily fun and games as I repeatedly woke up in the night to feed and change the thing like a zombie. That was when I thought it over.

 

Despite having no sex in high school, as a black female I was proud that I graduated without becoming pregnant. I was again proud of myself for the same thing when I graduated college. I wasn’t having sex then either. Since I have become of age to actually support a child, my feelings about it have evolved; primarily from possible to impossible to actually do it in a healthy way and not be poor. I am past that and finally gave in to my desire against rationality last spring accepting that I would just have to wait for Spencer to be ready.

In September I thought I could influence him by not bringing up having a baby for one entire month. I was basically successful at it, but with no gain- he still wasn’t interested discussing a baby. He had already said when he would be ready one year prior. Then, we fast forward to December where I feel ambivalent about having a child at all. Ambivalent means fluctuating in commitment one way or another. I could have just said that in the first place, but I need to elevate our collective vocabulary.

I was ambivalent because I finally felt I had something to look forward to in terms of personal goals and hobbies so I wasn’t fixated on the imminence of having a child. I had previously merely been focused on making it to an existential break-even point and a baby represented a significant, positive change. Fortunately I am not that desperate anymore.

To my surprise, our holiday travels tipped the scales. No one said it, but I think everyone in our families is lowkey dying for us to have a child. It’s like we have been at this stasis since all us children became adults. My sister-in-law is finally out of college and so begins the mundanity of adulthood for the last of us. The youngest cousin on his side is driving. There needs to be a baby to add intrigue and everyone knows that. She could get married, or my brother can get married, but regardless, we won’t be related to those persons, so we need a baby.

While I am excited about the things 2017 has in store, I plan to be patient. It’s the climb, people. I hope others can find the optimism I have unearthed in the wake of the busted trashbag of a year we just had. We have nowhere to go but up!  I should also mention that there is a possible deployment in the books for 2017. If that precludes us from fulfilling our familial duties this year, I will still live. Previously the prospect of having to wait another year and be THIRTY, nearly brought me to tears, but now I am strong enough to realize that was irrational and to appreciate the additional time to just “do me.”

Working From Home: One Step Closer to Not Working

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I loitered in the shoppette enjoying what my husband would later be disappointed to learn was a pumpkin spice frappuccino. I received a phone call from the technician saying he was unable to progress onto the military post. I was annoyed because I had given the company a heads up about the fact that I lived on the post and even called the Welcome Center to get instructions for them. Nonetheless, about two hours later I was driving the gentlemen onto the base in his huge, black Envoy. Getting in the car with a strange man was naturally sketchy to me. I did consider waking my husband to have him meet the man instead and pursued this option by standing next to his head for about 45 seconds to see if he would wake up. Obviously he didn’t wake up and I didn’t wake him because he deserved to sleep in.

That was the day my work station was set up in my home. That was essentially the first day of the rest of my life.

I was unsure about working from home when my Team Lead first approached me. For one I was concerned about the solidity of my skills and knowledge base after only being a customer service professional for a total of 3 months in my entire life. Despite this, my managers were confident I was ready and cornered me into it. Even though working from home would mean not having to be asked “are you okay” every other day because I’m not holding my face right, I just knew I was going to get lonely without my variety of coworkers to talk to and tell me I’m pretty that day; and I would no longer have anyone for whom to bake. Basically, I felt like the best part of my job was my coworkers.

In a shocking turn of events, working from home feels like I have gotten my life back! My day isn’t spent getting ready to go to work and then recovering from being at work. Instead of spending 7am to 9:15 am dressing and doing chores, I don’t really get dressed and I can do chores and prepare for dinner throughout the day during times that would have otherwise been spent in the office trying not to get caught texting.

As a bonus, working from home also feels like I have my relationship back! One day as my husband prepared to leave for PT, he kissed me and tucked me in. In that moment, I felt like I was living my best life: as a princess. See, the dynamic of me “working harder” than my husband set me up to be hard to please. I needed so much more from my spouse to make things seem balanced. Now that I have minimal stress in my life as an employee, it is not hard for the scale to seem even. This is why I chose to do it. I cannot say I have had any complaints for him….I am thinking…no, I haven’t had any fundamental complaints since I have been working from home and that in itself makes any negative effect supremely worth it.

Of course there is a downside to this. I would not say I have had a proper conversation with another person in over a week. Spencer has been doing EIB (Expert Infantryman’s Badge) training for the last 2 weeks, which means he has not been home for breakfast or lunch. And shame on me, but I’m on hiatus from the gym after a weird October. I find myself irritable because I want more quality time with my husband, but the playoffs and World Series have been on… Actually the problem is that he had to work some late evenings and over the weekend as well, which is time we need to rejuvenate as a couple. To help myself out, I have decided that I will go back to Crossfit a couple times a week…even though it’s more than 5 minutes away like my other gyms. I could use getting away from the house though.

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Getting ready to clock in one morning…

Working from home is essentially the best thing ever happened to me. Okay- behind knowing Christ, marrying Spencer, going to college for free, and when I lost 15 pounds in 2014. It has made work something I do rather than what my life centers around. It is weird that physically going to work was responsible for some of the hardest moments I have had in my marriage. I do not know what to make of it, but I don’t want to think too much into it because finally, my contentment is easy again. I will say that this past summer taught me how circumstances can affect or distort the reality. I can make a choice to eliminate or change something to restore whatever it is that is suffering, and likewise if I can persevere, things may change in time.  Focusing on myself, my home, and my husband has inspired me to take back my ambition and ingenuity. I look forward to the blessings to come of this new season of being one step closer to a life as a stay-at-home wife!