Jacob is about to finish his first month of training as a chaplain candidate, the phase of Commissioned Officer Training (COT). While I’ll wait for him to come back and write his own post about that, I’m here to say our first time of being separated as a married couple was, admittedly, harder than I expected it to be.
I went in to this training time feeling equipped and confident about the time apart. My family lives overseas, so I’m used to goodbyes and being away from loved ones. I am a strong, independent, black woman (well, that’s what I tell myself although part of that is obviously untrue), and I’m not one to shrink back from responsibility and independence. I’m not a worrier. I’m fully supportive of Jacob and his endeavors; I’m a Christian with God helping me daily. I was fully expecting to kick start a time of self improvement and find myself healthier, buffer, holier, and more resilient at the end.
Well… it didn’t go exactly as I planned. I struggled to get the house back in order after the pre-leaving packing chaos, and I never really caught up. I slacked on things I know I should be doing like working out and spending time with God. I felt tired a lot of the time and just “off” emotionally.
However, I have a habit of downplaying anything difficult in my life by comparing it to others, and I stayed true to form this time around with thoughts like:
“Well, it’s just a month, not like an 18-month deployment or anything.”
“I don’t have kids, so it’s probably a lot easier for me than for others. I’m good.”
“At least I didn’t have to move or anything; that would be harder.”
“BMT was way harder than COT. We get to text and talk on the phone now, and it’s only one month instead of two. WAY easier. I’m fine. Not a problem.”
While sometimes these thoughts are helpful in keeping a positive perspective, I think I overdid it. Around week three I finally started journaling again and admitted to myself that this experience was more difficult than I anticipated it would be. It’s different when my husband goes to training versus my boyfriend, like my last longer separation from Jacob. Our lives are far more intertwined now and his absence isn’t just sentimental; it’s very practical!
I got angry the fourth day when the dishes weren’t done. Then I remembered… If I don’t do them…. They don’t get done. I ran out of gas on the highway because, since Jacob usually drives that car and fills up the tank, I hadn’t even thought to check the gauge. Brilliant. I attempted to get a military ID and had all paperwork… except a page Jacob needed to sign if he isn’t present at the appointment, of which I had not been informed.
While I’m definitely not crying into a wine glass every day, I wasn’t quite the rockstar I thought I would be. It felt like I had put a heavy backpack on when Jacob left. I am doing the same tasks I do most days and managed things well overall, but everything feels harder and more tiring because of the extra “weight,” even things I normally love. However, I am glad to say that around week three I really felt like I hit my stride. I’ve been more productive and feeling more normal. Right in time to get a “Jacob fix” at his graduation, haha!
Jacob won’t be coming home after COT graduation, so I’ve still got some time to practice my separation skills and be the rockstar I intended to be at the beginning! Here are some of my observations and practices I’ll be putting in place for myself for future times apart:
- Don’t downplay my emotions and just admit when things are difficult. – I don’t have to broadcast it to everyone or cry every-day-all-day about it, but accepting my own emotions helped me get back to normal faster.
- Give myself more time to adjust to the differentness. – I think a big part of this is simply the fact that transition and change is hard on humans and I didn’t give myself enough of a break to adjust. Next time I’ll let myself chill a bit and get used to things before getting ambitious.
- Keep up the good times! – I did do a good job of scheduling fun things for myself to do this month to get me out of the house and make memories. I’m proud of that and I’ll keep that going!
- Spend more time with God and less time feeling misunderstood. – I’m not living in a military community, so sometimes in my conversations with people I haven’t felt understood and I’ve been annoyed by some of their comments. Instead of thinking about how “terrible” that is, I should spend more time with the one that does completely and totally understand how I feel and where I’m at: Jesus. When I do that, I’ve noticed I feel less offendable, more gracious, and less in need of outward affirmation.
What about you? Was anything more difficult than you expected during separation? What are some things you learned during your time apart from a loved one that have helped you later? If you’re really experienced at this, what tips would you give to people like me that are newer to it?