We are down to the final few weeks of a year-long deployment. My chief thought at this point is "God just get us through these last few weeks and bring him home safe and sound." Two voices in my head are speaking, one saying "we did it!" and the other saying "it ain't over til it's over, don't you dare count chickens until they're hatched."
I find myself struggling with something I hadn't anticipated. Letting go of the hopes and dreams I had for myself during this year-long separation. From the minute I learned he would be deployed I was making lists of what I would do to help keep me strong, happy and inspired while he was gone. Things I wanted to accomplish, dreams I would make happen, volunteering I would do, places I would visit, changes I would make in my life.
And here at nearly the end of the year, most of those dreams remain mostly unfufilled. I have spent very little time with my family. In fact, I have seen none of my family in the second half of deployment. I have not been able to see my husband's family at all. I have not taken the two week road trip I have been planning for the past two years. I have not gone out and seen more of our big, beautiful city more than a handful of times. I have not made plans with many friends I hoped to see more of this year.
I am not at my high school weight. I have not become a regular runner. I have not been doing facial masks, foot soaks, and other at home spa treatments as I planned. I've only taken myself to the movies twice in a year. I haven't taken enough time to read. Haven't knit a thing. I've only taken one class just for fun and didn't even get around to checking out the ukelele class I promised myself I would take. Our home is not yet perfectly organized.
All this breaks my heart a little bit. I feel this desperate scramble in my soul that it's too late, that I've failed. I fear that I'll never get that time back and am feeling the thrust of reintegration concerns hitting me hard in the back. I can already see that thanks to the economy, sequestration and it's attached military cutbacks and problems with my stepdaughter's mother my husband is stressed about the garbage that will be awaiting him when he comes home. That's not helping anything.
This mourning I am feeling is not because I have been lazy, wasted the days away, been uninspired or weak. It is because God had an entirely different plan for me. This year I was meant to learn that if I don't care for myself, I can't be my best for anyone else. Due to major family stresses I have had to deal with mostly on my own, I've had to do a lot to keep myself well and standing on my own feet. All these lessons I have learned this year have come from loving and caring for my husband and his daughter.
It is important that I look at what I have accomplished this past year. I have been a stellar stepmom. I have fought to protect that girl, we have gained custody and I have gone to court again and again by myself with our attorney to do it. I have driven her over 200 miles for dropoffs and pickups, several times a month, to fulfill the court ordered visitation schedule. I have provided her with a safe, stable, loving, fun home. I have done homework with her every night. I have read with her almost every day. I have scheduled playdates and so much more for her. I've signed her up for and gone with her every week to karate class. In the next couple weeks golf and piano lessons will start. I have been up all night with her when she had nightmares. I have provided her with clothing, food and all the basic needs.
I have made it possible for Clementine to have a Daddy Doll, a photo quilt of her and her Dad, time to Skype with her Dad, access to military family support videos and books and given her a place to talk about her Dad and her feelings. I have made sure she has fun and that she had a fantastic birthday while her Dad was gone. We even had a Skype birthday party for her with him. I have held her tight and given her hours of love and care when she missed her Dad so much it felt like her heart would burst.
For Mr. Hart I have written hundreds of emails, Skyped & talked on the phone with him hundreds of times. I have handwritten nearly 150 letters to my husband including fun and inspiring magazine clippings & internet articles. I have helped my stepdaughter write dozens of sweet little letters herself. I have sent at least 20 care packages not including the 25 I helped our church congregation put together and send to my husband, his fellow worshippers and coworkers there.
I have kept myself well and that's important. No one can tell me how to do that but me and no one will take the time for that but me. Have I done it perfectly, no, but I've done it. I have learned when to stop everything and take a break. I have learned what to let go of, what to say no to and not feel a bit bad about it when I need to. I am stronger today than the day I started. I have learned to trust in God when I had nowhere else to turn and no one else who could help me. I have learned the importance of friends and neighbors with deeper appreciation than ever before. I have had the chance to see Clementine grow in the massive ways children do from kindergarten to the end of first grade. I have had her love and devotion. I have been blessed with Mr. Hart's gratitude, support and love for all I do here and I have learned to appreciate him in so many new ways.
When I look at what I have accomplished and what I have gained and been blessed with, my dreams for this year pale in comparison. God did have a greater, nobler plan for me. I may not be able to play a note on my ukelele but the there's still time and maybe it will be the perfect thing for me to do during reintegration so that I get out of the house and keep up outside interests. There's still time for my dreams but there will never be a more perfect time for God to have given me the life he wanted me to have this last year. For that I have to continue to find gratitude.