Would you choose it again?
Would you choose this life, aka-the military, if you knew then what you know now? Wow, that’s a loaded question. I was taken back a bit when asked this by a civilian friend. She has watched me for years juggle the life of a single mom with a part-time husband. This girlfriend has my life, but as a civilian’s wife. Our kids are about the same age, our husbands are very similar. So why do we have trouble relating after years of friendship? Well, because my husband is in the Navy.
Her husband is home every night. She makes dinner at the same time each evening, because her husband is there at the same time every night. He never works weekends or holidays. He never goes away on business.
Once he went on a fishing trip for three days and she called me exhausted saying, “I know exactly how you must feel!” I didn’t know whether to laugh because that was the funniest thing that I had ever heard, or cry because she really had no clue. I just told her to focus on the fact that her husband would be home soon. At that point, I had been alone for a month and it would be over four months until I would see my husband again.
I tried to rationalize in my head what the purpose of the question was. She seemed to want to prove a point. I knew by the way she asked it that there was a part two, or a follow-up question. So, I took a deep breath and answered truthfully. “Yes”, I said. I was almost as shocked as she was with my answer. I guess because I never really thought about it. She quickly came in with the low blow/part two. “So, you would choose for your husband to be away from you and the kids THIS MUCH if you could do it all over!?”
Ah ha! I knew it was coming, but I wasn’t ready. She said it with such energy in her voice. She had obviously thought this out. I stayed calm and replied, “It’s complicated”.
Of course, now I look back and think of the smart and witty things that I could have replied with, like how he is serving and protecting, the fulfillment of my writing and volunteer work, etc, but I was more hurt than defensive. I told my friend that I had to go, dinner was almost done and just as quickly as the conversation started, it was over. I had dinner with my children around our big round dining table; my husbands’ seat across from mine sat empty and my heart hurt.
There is no right answer. I love my husband more every day. He is truly my best friend. I feel that there is a depth to our relationship that my girlfriend wouldn’t understand. A connection or the result of a primal survival instinct that is only known or revealed when life tests you in such ways as “fight or flight”.
My husband and I don’t want to be away from each other. When he joined the Navy, it was our decision. That’s why my girlfriend asked the question. I didn’t fall for a military guy. The man who I fell for became a military guy. So, after many long sleepless nights, ER visits, broken cars and appliances, hurricanes, family deaths, health scares, buying houses, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and many special moments all spent without my husband, my answer stays the same. Yes, I would do it all over again. I wouldn’t change a thing. Ok, so I’m lying. Maybe I would throw in a few more days at home with the husband, but really I would go through every deployment, heartache, and every sleepless night to be where I am today.
In some twisted way, the Navy has made me who I am. Who knows if I would have patience and be so laid back if it wasn’t for everything I have been through? What about my sense of humor? I have to thank the Navy for that one. If I weren’t able to laugh at things, my head would have exploded years ago.
And most importantly, I have had the honor of meeting some of the most incredible milspouses whom I look up to and those whom I am lucky enough to call my friends.
These women have inspired me in ways that I can’t explain. It is truly a family that you choose. After going through deployment after deployment, I have found a sense of strength that I never knew existed. I can do anything. I may feel foolish when it takes me ten tries to get something right, but I’ll get it. Maybe this is a question we should all think about. You might find strength in it like I did, or maybe you will take a different path in the future. However it affects you, whatever your answer, I hope you have gained something from your life as a milspouse. So, would you choose this life all over again, if you knew in the beginning, what you know now?
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