And eventually this (tucked away):
There has been a lot of packing and unpacking in our household over the years – packing to move across the country once we got married, packing for moves, packing for gunnery/NTC/field time… Packing for deployments, for Korea, for extended TDY…
There is a certain emotional component to packing up the gear that I’ve learned to accept, acknowledge, and then just sort of shelve in my mind. Set it aside – as My G puts it, “Build a bridge and get over it.” Other spouses have echoed my dread for the days when the duffels come out and the gear vomits across the household in so much green/brown splendor.
However, how often do we acknowledge the unpacking? How often do we look at the changes that have occurred during the “trip” (so to speak)? Whether it’s a move across the country or a deployment across the world – or even a field exercise numbering in the days – there are things that happen during those journeys that sometimes go unregistered or unnoticed. We put away the socks, we launder the gear, we find homes for any new stuff. Over time, though, the unnoticed and unacknowledged emotions and events start to build up and create a cluttery mess inside our minds, where it is most difficult to resolve.
As we reach single digits in our countdown to My G’s signing that beloved (and somewhat scary) DD214, there is a lot of unpacking going on. His gear is turned in, but our closet, shed, and garage corners all have the leftover bits and pieces that have accumulated over these 25 years. A glove here, an extra uniform piece there – mox-nix stuff here and there of little value but that still has to be taken care of and put away. And as we…ok, as he goes about figuring out what is worth keeping, what is trash, and what can be shared with others, we are also looking at the last 25 years and making choices about the intangible things too.
At night, his brain is unpacking memories it had long stuffed away – soldiers today have huge numbers of sleep disturbances, because eventually these things have to be dealt with.
In conversations, we are acknowledging the loss of time with his girls and together, the lack of deeper connection to extended family, and the loss of health and changes to his body that the Army has wrought.
All of it- unpacking.
Long-term Army spouses have long recognized that even joyous homecomings can usher in some mixed feelings. There is a cost to everything the Army asks of us, and disregarding that truth doesn’t change it. While this is a “homecoming” that is filled with just as much joy as all the others, it is also a time of great change and future-planning. In order to make space for the new things we get to experience, it is time for us to unpack some of the old.
We are unpacking memories and frustrations and joys and sorrows that have been piling in the corners of our hearts for many years. Heartaches and hurts and yes, even petty grievances lurk in the corners of our emotions and we have to figure out how to clean it out and start anew. After so much time, our hearts are beginning to look like those well-worn duffels that he just recently turned in! We’re both a little battered, a little bruised, but also reinforced by things like acceptance, joy, stolen moments, gratitude, and even duty.
This month, we unpack. We clean, we dust, we mend and we make decisions about what to keep. This next journey is one we choose.