Two days ago the moment we've all been waiting for happened. The news. The news I'd been hoping and wishing and praying for. The news that I had made a secret pact with God that if I knew I would be forever indebted. The news that I could start planning the rest of my life around.
Houston: we have a release date.
With the good news, however, came bad. My boyfriend called me Monday in the middle of class and when I saw the phone ring at such an odd time, a small part of me knew. This is what we've been waiting for. I couldn't contain myself and had to call back the minute I left. Then he laid it on me. In a even toned, never wavering, calm voice, he told me: release has been set for August. I exhaled. Finally, I thought, this is what I needed. And then I heard what I wasn't prepared for, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. "The bad news," he said, still never wavering, "is I will have to go back on the ship. I will have to deploy to Europe. For four months." It came like a violent storm, like waves. Bad news. Crash. Ship. Crash. Deploy. Crash. Europe. Crash. Four months. Crash.
Silence. Say something, I thought. Anything. But I couldn't. I was breathless. Confused. Nauseous. Out of my body. I tasted salt on my cheek before I even knew I was crying. On a bench in an empty lecture hall. This couldn't be happening. This wasn't part of the plan. Deployment was not an option, it was never on the table. It doesn't make sense.
Anger came first, followed by an overwhelming sense of selfishness. Before I could even process words to come out of the mouth, my mind flashed forward. To all the things that were now gone, robbed. As much as I forced my mind to play "worst case scenario", when I pictured our summer, there he was. Waiting for me when I crossed the finish line at my first half marathon; proud, cheering, excited. Meeting my new baby niece with me, finally able to get to know the family I had told him so much about. Picking out our first apartment together; comparing, arguing, but ultimately coming out with something perfect for the two of us. Selfish, yes. But my first thought was that all of these things were gone just as quickly as they were imagined.
After gathering the few details he had, we spoke briefly and I headed home. My head throbbed. My heart was heavy, my head in a cloud. I knew the first person I had to tell. Someone who had survived. As much as I wanted to vent, I felt guilty. That my sister, someone who had sent her boyfriend away for a whole year, would have to listen to my heartbreak about a deployment one third the duration. I was self conscious. But she told me everything I needed to hear. That it was ok to be mad, and angry and upset. That I will mourn the loss of this time we'll never get back. That it will be hard, but I will come out clean on the other side. And most importantly, that its ok to talk to her about this stuff, even though its only a fraction of what she's been through. "It doesn't have to be a comparison," she told me, "we can both feel sad."
Within a few hours, I'd calmed down. And within 24 hours I could breathe again. And now? I'm doing the only thing I know how to do. Staying busy. Diving into the details. Travel plans, moving arrangements, nitty gritty details that need to be ironed out before deploying in 5 weeks. I have to let it consume me, or I will have too much time to think. To pity. To mourn. To avoid revisiting that place I felt trapped in a mere 48 hours ago.
I also have to force myself to look at the silver lining. I now know what lies ahead. I have my eyes on the prize, and I have to get to August. August is good. We can start living. Although there will be times, milestones, places where I will miss him, there are plenty more ahead. Spending the end of summer together, moving into our first place, our first birthday together (his), our first family holiday together (Thanksgiving, mine), and celebrating our third New Years together, where for the first time there will be no goodbyes after. There are silver linings because there have to be silver linings. Because without them I will drown in this deployment. Without them this deployment wins.
There is no more looking back, only forward. This is a good thing.