"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown

"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hard to Breathe

I was trying not to watch the time. I had deliberately put my phone on the table three feet from my bed. Far enough away that it took a little effort to repeatedly check the time on it but close enough that I could answer it before it completed its first ring. But I knew it was late. The kind of late where nothing is on the TV except infomercials. I had read half of a five-hundred page novel. I had washed my face, washed it again, then washed my hair because I needed to do something with the time. I couldn't sleep and the reason really was dumb to me. I grabbed my phone and typed a quick email:

"I know you're okay. I really do know that. But call when you can or send an email if you can't call. I'll be checking my phone in a little bit.

I love you."

And I felt so stupid - because I know how this works. But I had a feeling in my chest that made it just a little bit harder to breathe. That feeling that could defy the migraine medication that had absorbed into my system hours earlier that should have knocked me out cold. That feeling that would go away as soon as I heard his voice or saw his email.

And I felt so stupid for feeling that and at the same time I felt stupid for feeling stupid. I know that this happens. I know that we all get those uneasy moments where something doesn't feel right. I had gotten them twice when he was in Iraq and I didn't truly breathe again until after I heard his voice. I did not know until after the deployment that those two moments were times that presented a difficulty for him. And that didn't make the feeling any better. True both of those times he had walked away - but what he walked away from made me cringe. The only two things I know about his first deployment - the only two things that I have ever heard him talk about. Only one that he still talks about from time to time. The other that he has never spoken of since the first time.

But tonight I couldn't breathe. At least it felt that way - to have to work to take a breath, to force yourself to remember to exhale. Too often I caught myself holding the air in my chest - lost in a thought, focusing on the heavy weight pressing against my throat and then I would almost choke as I pushed the air back out.

I tried to reassure myself of how well I know the process - how everything happens if something happens. Reviewing the procedures in my head - timelines, time-differences, protocol. I knew I was having a crazy moment for doing that - maybe from sleep-deprivation. I knew he was okay because none of this had happened. I knew he was okay because he just had to be okay. I knew he was okay because I just did. I knew it ...

But I really didn't. How much time had passed?

I grabbed my phone and clicked on the envelope. Deep breath in.

"Connecting ... Checking for mail ... [Gasp] Loading 1 message"

"I'm okay. Busy. I love you. Get some sleep."

I could breathe.

That night, my mind went to a place that we never want it to go but that we all go to. Fear. Everytime it has hit me in different ways - once like a hard, violent punch to the gut. Coming on suddenly, knocking my legs out from under me, forcing me to crumble. Another time it was a nagging feeling that stayed with me for two days - it didn't hinder my activity, didn't stay in the forefront of my thought, but remained with me in everything. Something that felt like a rock in your shoe that doesn't quite distort your movement but makes each step just slightly uncomfortable.

This was not like either of those. This was not quite panic but not so little-noticed. I was having a battle within my own mind between two very different unknowns - the unknown of safety and the unknown of harm. And there was nothing that could end that battle but those words - simple, uncomplicated sentences. "I'm okay. I love you."

"I'm okay."

There are few words that are better to hear and see than those words at this time in my life. "I'm okay."

"Get some sleep."

I could breathe.

I rolled over, hugged his pillow and fell asleep with my phone in my hands.


  1. I was unknowingly holding my breath until he sent that sigh of relief email...the one we all wait for form time to time. When I read those words, I felt myself breathe out and felt the tension in my body release.

    Why they think an extra few minutes, or just one more day to hold out is ok, I have no idea. It just puts the doubt that we KNOW better than to have inside of us.

    I hope you did get some sleep! ;)


  2. I followed your guest post link over, AF wife myself, will be reading back to catch up on everything. And I too was tense when I was reading, and like my husband the practical answer,get some sleep.

  3. Just wanted to say hello and thank you for your blog. I just had my first baby, a precious four week old girl, and have been feeling a bit lost and emotionally drained, but the perspective your blog just lent me has helped me somehow - knowing that if you can do it, I can do it. Thank you for sharing and God bless you all.

  4. WK12 - you know we are always on the same wavelength!

    Mindingmomma ... I can always depend on my husband for the practical response too!

    Wifey, hello and congrats on your little girl. You CAN do this and you will. : )

  5. My husband will be deploying to Iraq within the week. I appreciate your perspective, since so few women can truly empathize with this lifestyle. This will be his third deployment, but first as a husband and father (and my first). I will be keeping up on your blog, for sure

  6. My prayers are with you and your husband! It will be different for him ... this one has been different for my husband since he became a dad! I am so glad you will be reading the blog! Thank you.

  7. I've read back over all your posts now in the past two days. With my husband deployed as well, I know all too well that nagging feeling and the inability to breathe until I hear from him. Since he is National Guard, I do not have that commraderie that many active duty Army wives have when they live on or near base. We live too far away to go to FRG meetings. This blog gives me that outlet and I am thankful for you for writing it, for both expressing my fears and my hopes. Rena

  8. I am so glad you have found some good in this! Your husband will be in my prayers and you as well. I intended this to be an outlet for women just like you (and for me as well!) I am also currently away from our military post and it has been a very different experience.

  9. I learned of your writings from a fellow army wife friend of mine on facebook and have been reading through (backward from the latest) and it is so true what you write about. It's real and touching all the same time. Thank you, and your family! Thank you for your inspiring and real words that we military wives can relate to! Awesome work!

  10. Thank you so much! I am so glad your friend shared it and that you found this! I try to be very real about the way this life is - at least for me!


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