07 August, 2009

Blowing Shit Up... Sarah style...

It's Friday and I have my first physical therapy appointment today... YAY! In the interim, my dear, dear friend Sarah has submitted a guest blog written in her usual stream of consciousness, make-you-laugh-so-hard-you-cry-and-then-maybe-find-a-point-so-touching-you-really-cry, way. Her bio, in her own words: I'm talkative and sassy, with a day-job that most would find utterly boring, but I find fascinating, (I do risk analysis for about $2 billion worth of investment securities, which means that I spend my days staring at Excel spreadsheets). I've been married for a little over three years to a swell guy that's at least as crazy as I am. I am starting to get really snarky when defending myself against the "So-when-are-you-going-to-start-a-family?" question, which seems to be asked more every day. I love to cook, but love to eat even more, and have been trying to lose the same 15 pounds for the past two years. My pasttimes include sleeping, breathing, thinking up new insults to shout at crappy drivers during my daily commute, and watching my ever-changing hairstyle. I read because I can and write because I must.

When I was bothering to enter my food choices in the Weight Watchers "Points Tracker" on Friday, I realized it was July 31st. (Note: I like how the "Points Tracker" doesn't judge me for having hot chocolate, a piece of string cheese, and a mini Mint 3 Musketeers candy bar for lunch.) You'd have thought that I would have realized this before now, being that yesterday was July 30th and the day before that was July 29th, and so on. But, I honestly haven't paid attention to the days recently, which is very unlike me.

For example, my dad's 52nd birthday was July 16th and I totally forgot it. Not like "Oh dad, I bought you a card, I just haven't mailed it yet." More like I was finishing up my mid-year performance review and signing my name at the bottom of the review and saw the date next to my manager's signature and said, (out loud), "Holy crap, it's my dad's birthday". About 20 minutes after I got back to my desk, I got a text from my sister, who was on her lunch break, that said "I completely didn't realize that it was dad's birthday until I had to sign my timecard today. Did you get him a card?" I texted back, "Nope."

I finally got my butt in gear this past weekend, more than a week post-birthday, and got him a card at B&N, patron saint of all things Sarah. Then, two days ago, I was working like mad, minding my own business, when my phone buzzed. It was a text from my sister. "What did you get Mom and Dad for their anniversary?" Shit. "Shit. Nothing. I haven't even mailed Dad's birthday card yet." Text back from sister: "Good, me neither. But, I should." (And this wasn't just any anniversary, it was the big 3-0. Yikes.)

Clearly we are neither of us winning "Daughter of the Year" awards so far this year. But, I digress. That whole spiel was to give you some indication of how oblivious I've been, holed up in Sarahland with my dented iPod nano and a stash of snacks. The year is two-thirds over and I don't think I've done nearly as much as I've wanted to this year. Now, don't ask me what I had hoped to do this year, because I can't tell you definitively. (Incidentally, a lack of goal-setting and not knowing what I want more than likely contributed to not having done what I wanted to, but that's another story.)

Mostly, I'm starting to worry that I'm running out of time.

I'm starting to worry that I'm running out of time with my husband. It's probably not completely unfounded or totally irrational, and I've been told that it's normal, but all of that doesn't make me feel better about it. He's deploying to Afghanistan in October. I know, it's not earth-shattering news, and it's not even surprising. I'm a military wife, I should expect it right? Right. But, I don't think that that's supposed to make the process any easier, especially for a first deployment.

He was supposed to leave last year, about one month into my treatment. We filled out about a forest's worth of paperwork so that we could convince a Department of Defense medical review board that yes, I really did have cancer and yes, my husband really was my only caregiver. That paperwork kept him here for a year. Not that I want to prevent him from deploying- I understand that it's his job, and I knew that he would probably be deployed many times throughout his career when I married him. It will be a great opportunity for him, and he will learn so much.

But, I'm still just a little bit anxious that he won't come back.

When we were first dating and into the first part of our marriage, I sort of worried about him all the time. My husband is brilliant and calculating and analytical, so naturally, when he joined the military, he wanted to be an EOD tech. Well, let me rephrase that- he wanted to be an EOD tech which is why he joined the military. EOD is "Explosive Ordnance Disposal", government jargon for "bomb squad". It's an incredibly hard program that has an attrition rate over 90 percent and is second only to Navy SEAL training in physical, mental, and emotional difficulty. (If you're really intrigued about EOD as a profession, and you should be, because it's horribly fascinating, check out the movie "Hurt Locker" that was released in theaters this May.)

It really took me quite a while to wrap my head around the fact that my husband, (in his own words), "blows shit up", for a living. In the summer of 2006, after I had moved down to Florida with him but before the shindig that was our October wedding, I noticed that the box some of our wedding supplies had come in had a light switch on the side. Hubs had to teach a class on those improvised explosive devices you hear about on the news all the time, and so he partially constructed a fake one for the class with just a little light bulb inside as a prop. Do you know how strange it is to find out that your husband made a fake IED out of the box that some of your wedding stationery came in? Very.

So, you can understand why deployment is a big deal for him. It's not like he's in the military as a mail sorter or an executive assistant or something (not that those jobs are not important); it's just that his career field is directly tied to conflict, so his work suddenly becomes more relevant in a deployment situation.

I'm starting to miss him already, to miss him for the things he's going to miss- holidays, birthdays, and those random sleepy weekend mornings when we don't do anything except hold each other in the hopes that we can make time go slower. (That actually hasn't happened yet, as far as we can tell.) I think he's starting to miss me, too. When he's leaving for work in the mornings, he kisses me just a bit longer than he did just a few months ago. When we're going to sleep at night and he's all cuddled up behind me, (don't tell him that I told you that he's a cuddler), he holds me quite tightly. It's not uncomfortable, but it is a noticeably tighter than usual; normally, he only holds me that tightly when I'm sick or something, (ie: most of last year).

I've always had some trouble falling asleep, and often lie awake for a while every night. These days, I'm lying awake for an hour-and-a-half to two hours because I don't want to miss any time with him. That probably sounds hokey and stupid, and much clichéd like that Aerosmith song from "Armageddon", but it's what I've found myself involuntarily doing, night after night, for the past few months. I even made an appointment with my gyno because I thought my birth control meds were screwing up my sleep cycle. I did get new pills, (which make me less bitchy, so that's a plus), but the insomnia stayed, along with the sporadic weepiness.

It comes along at random times, angry and hot and vicious. It's the nastier older brother of the depression I was treated for when I was in college. That was a crazy time in my life- my maternal grandfather had been diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 83, my parents sold the house that I had grown up in and moved in (next door) with my grandparents, and I was taking an academic overload that semester so that I could graduate in four years with a triple major and three minors. You could say that I pitched a pseudo-grown-up temper tantrum that lasted most of my junior year. The insomnia and sporadic weepiness was driving me nuts. I thought it was the birth control meds, (which I've been on since I was in high school for various and sundry reasons). My gyno gave me an antidepressant instead, and I felt like me again, after a few weeks.

I'm going back to the gyno this coming Friday to discuss how I've been doing on the new pills and to talk about whether I'll need another antidepressant. I stopped taking the other one four years ago when I got better, (turns out my first depressive time was probably situational), and I think I might need one again, not because I'm a slave to pharmaceuticals, but because I hate the way that my brain makes me hate myself sometimes. I didn't tell Hubby this right away, because, well, I'm not sure why I didn't tell him. Probably because I didn't know what to tell him. Plus, I wasn't sure if it was my body adjusting to the new birth control meds that might be causing the funky mood stuff, as they are sometimes wont to do.

But, about a month into the new pills, when I was sure my body had adjusted to them as well as it was going to, I didn't feel that much different. My mood swings were better, but I was still having these little bouts of anger within myself, these little episodes, that were totally irrational. And even when I was thinking these irrational thoughts in one part of my brain, the other part was thinking, "This isn't right, and you know it." And I would stop thinking irrationally and the thoughts would dissipate until the next episode. And when I say irrational, I mean, crazy irrational- thoughts like, "I didn't make a new batch of sweet tea so my husband will get mad at me and leave me".

(If you're backing away from your computer now and wishing that Merci were back so that you wouldn't have to hear crazy talk, I don't blame you.)

My husband is the sweetest guy and so laid back, pretty much the polar opposite of the person my psyche assumed him to be in that particular episode. When I finally got around to telling him about the whole, "Hey-I-might-need-to-go-back-on-antidepressants" thing, and was describing to him why I thought I was going nuts, he didn't understand until I gave him that example. He said "oh", very quietly and hugged me hard, which only made me cry harder, and for someone who cries a lot, (by "a lot", I mean at least once per week), I HATE crying. It makes my already stuffy-from-allergies nose that much stuffier. That was a month or so ago, and the really crazy part of it is that I haven't had any of those thoughts since, and no crying episodes. Ok, so that's a lie- I cried when we watched "Bolt" last weeekend, even though I've seen it before; I always cry towards the end because I'm a total sap.

I told him that I didn't like the way that I felt, that I wanted to feel normal again. "What's normal?" he asked. "Well", I said, "I don't know exactly, but I'm pretty sure that this isn't it. This isn't how I'm used to feeling." So, there might be some antidepressants in my future. We'll see.

As dark and depressing as this blog may have been, I didn't mean for it to be that way. I really didn't. It's just that this is the first really grown-up thing that I'm going to have to do. I'd lived my entire life in a town of 5,000 people until I moved to Florida with my husband, and the change nearly broke me. The traffic was scary-terrible and there were so many people and they weren't friendly like the people back home. (When imagining my home town, think "Mayberry", and you'll get a good approximation.) And I really couldn't have managed it, at first, if it wasn't for my husband, even though that probably makes me sound woefully codependent. I'm just such a homebody that I never would have moved to a place where I knew no one and had never been before if I didn't have him.

But, now, for the next 7-9 months, starting in September (or late August, we don’t know for sure), it will be just little old me, holding down the fort. And we have a house now, as compared to a less-involved apartment, so there's more to do. I have to learn how to cut the grass. The only time that I've ever used a lawnmower, it was my paw-paw's riding mower and I just drove it around the yard without actually mowing anything. This is a much smaller yard, but it's not a riding mower, and I’m paranoid that I'll run over my own foot. I've been assured that this is nearly impossible with the safety features that the mower has, but I am so incredibly spastic that I'm sure if it could happen to anyone, it would be me. I actually cut myself with a teaspoon once. (The thought of using the weed-eater is also starting to become intimidating.)

For minor electrical, automotive, and plumbing-related issues, I'm going to be the first line of defense, before calling up the specialists that will charge so much I'd have to sell my left ovary to pay the bill. I always jokingly referred to Hubs as a "useful mammal", (a line John Malkovich's character says to Nicolas Cage in "Con-Air"), but I'm only now, three years into living with him, realizing how useful he truly is. He does all the maintenance on our cars- oil changes, minor body work, replacing the brakes, etc. He does all the home-repair stuff, and not in an "oh-my-god-the-wiring-is-so-awful-that-the-ceiling-fan-comes-on-when-I-turn-on-the-left-front-stove-burner" kind of way. In a "geez-you-really-are-MacGyver/Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor" kind of way.

It's a lot to live up to. And even though I'll miss him like mad, I'm secretly looking forward to the challenge, like it's the next big step that I'll have to conquer before I'm worthy of calling myself a grown-up. (Though I will take the car to Jiffy Lube for oil changes- my spasticity is such that I wouldn't trust myself to jack the car up and have it stay perched on the jack stands while I'm crawling around underneath it.) I'm not sure what that worthiness would entail, but I think I'll feel quite accomplished when Hubs returns to the States and I can show him that not only is the house still standing and in one piece, but it's clean and habitable and in working order.

It will be a lot easier to keep clean without him in it. Being a boy-type-person, he attracts dirt the way that atoms have electron affinity. And by dirt, I don't mean that he doesn't bathe- he does daily. I mean that he can go outside to the mailbox and return immediately to the house, a journey of maybe 60 feet roundtrip, and have bits of nature attached to him. It's quite strange. So, I'm looking forward to having the house be neater than it usually is.

I'm also looking forward to living on my own schedule only. So, if I want to spend my entire Friday evening at the gym, I could. (I got that gym membership because I need to work out, obviously, but also so that I'd have something to do rather than spending all my evenings at home alone.) I can eat Rice Krispies for dinner and be perfectly content with it, or I can whip up and entire meal out of Bon Appètit and eat it all myself. The past few years, I've been a bit envious of the girls I went to college with who moved off to bigger cities and had amazing social lives and lived for themselves. I think this will be a teeny bit of that- not the scary dating scene bit, (which does not appeal to me), but the glorious solitude that comes with spending time with yourself.

I discovered last year, when nearly all my days were spent alone, that I'm not as extroverted as I once thought. Or maybe not as extroverted as I once was. I still enjoy conversation, even inane conversation, but I really like my quiet time. I once wrote, in the blog that I kept in college as a diary meant for no one else, that I enjoyed being the only one awake- whether it was because I was the last one to go to sleep or the first one to wake up. I think I was starting to realize the value if flying solo then, even if I didn't realize it.

I have scheduled some things for me this fall/winter, to give me something to look forward to every month so that I don’t live only for my job. My dad's flying down to Tampa in October and going to the U2 concert with me as an early Christmas present. I bought a plane ticket for November, so I'll be home for Thanksgiving for the first time since I left home three years ago. I'm going home for Christmas, and possibly going to see my best friend at some point in the early spring. My mother-in-law wants to fly down here and take me seashelling on Sanibel Island some time. I think my schedule of events will help pass the time.

I'm also planning to visit DSW once a month or so for a new pair of shoes. By reviewing my grocery bills, I realize that more than half the money spent on food was for Hubby's food, so I figure I'll use what I would have spent on food for him on shoes for me instead. I plan on having quite a collection when he returns, probably none of them practical. (Well, only just practical enough- in the sense that they will all provide my feet protection from the elements, sort of).

So, if you happen to be in Barnes & Noble or DSW or Sephora or Baskin Robbins any time between now and next spring, there's a good chance that you might run into me, and if you were to ask how I was doing, I'm sure I'd say, "just fine", and actually mean it.


  1. Thanks for posting this Merci! I just found two typos- though there might be more. Sorry. (sheepish smile)

  2. Sarah,

    I love this! The strength that you show is incredible. You will do just fine when your husband is away, I'm sure. It sounds like you have a wonderful plan to keep yourself busy, learn new things and buy some great new shoes in the process. =)

    You know... I've lived on my own since 18 and I've had to learn how to do a lot over the years. It's actually very freeing knowing that I can hang things, use a drill, paint, repair things, etc. without having to call someone every time. I'm not sure if they still sell it, but The Container Store used to carry a brand called Barbara K. It's tools designed for women, so they aren't as heavy as regular tools. I have a drill from that line and a bunch of other stuff. Might be worthwhile to check out.

    Hey, maybe you can plan a swing through Atlanta too? There are a bunch of us here, so it might be fun to have a huge get-together. =)

    Thanks for the wonderful emotion you evoked from reading your blog. Enjoy the time and know that we'll be thinking about you.



Thank you for taking the time to not only read my blog, but to comment as well. Bright Blessings of the day to you!