May 6, 2011

400 Days

People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.
[Abraham Lincoln]

As hard as I have tried to avoid thinking about it in the past few weeks (and trust me, I have tried hard), the fact that Dan leaves in less than a month just keeps catching up with me. Every single morning, the reminder that I am going to be essentially alone for the next 13 months smacks me over the head and then plants itself right in the pit of my stomach, where the gnawing makes it very hard to concentrate on anything else. Sometimes I'm able to talk a good game with my heart, half-convincing myself that I can do this, that it's going to be fine. Sometimes I go to bed hopeful, believing that 13 months isn't really that long and that it will all be over before I even have time to think too hard about it. Sometimes I can fool myself into thinking that if I only fill every minute of my time, keeping myself booked every day of every week, I'll be too busy to realize the volume of loneliness that I know is coming. But each time I get confident that I'm going to make it through those 13 months without being utterly miserable, I'm reminded of an event that Dan will miss, an activity that I'll have to do without him, or the fact that 13 months is, in fact, longer than an entire year (did you know?). And then I'm back to square one, trying to pick myself up and fighting the urge to simply stay in bed and eat ice cream and cry for the next year of my life (year-plus... because did I mention that 13 months is longer than a year? I know, I'm shocked every time I realize it too).
When the subject of the deployment comes up in conversation, some people point out that it should be easy, because Dan and I have spent so much time apart during our relationship. It is true that we've got a lot of experience in the long-distance department -- until the past year, he and I hadn't lived in the same town for more than 2 or 3 months at a time, and often we didn't see each other more than a few times a month. We've gone as many as 4 months without seeing each other at all (although that was 4 years ago), and we've even made it through 6 weeks with no contact except for letters (those handwritten things that you send with stamps... remember them?) and two phone calls. And while I have never agreed with the logic that the more time you spend apart, the easier it gets, I do know that we've made it through this before. It will be much, much, much longer this time around, but the idea of being separated by thousands of miles is certainly not foreign to us.
The new (and entirely unwelcome) part of the next 13 months? The worrying. I am a worrier by nature. I fret about anything and everything... and more. Saying that I will be anxious about Dan's health, safety, and happiness while he is away is a huge understatement -- I have accepted the fact that there are a lot of sleepless nights in my future. Luckily, I should be able to hear from him often, but I know that I am going to be a nervous wreck for basically the entire time he is gone.
All of this thinking stressing obsessing over Dan's departure, however, has made me realize that, for better or for worse, I have two choices: I can cave into the misery and essentially waste over a year of my life on something I have no control over, or I can accept that it's not going to be easy but do my best to make it through with a smile. On one hand,I know that it would be so easy to just give in and stumble through the next year in a haze, allowing the thundercloud overhead to drench me day after day. Yep, feeling sorry for myself and letting the loneliness overtake my life would be so simple. But I've never met a challenge I wasn't prepared to take on. So my goal for the next 13 months? It's simple: be happy.
I've been in a relationship for almost 6 years now, and I will admit that sometimes I think I've forgotten how to be happy on my own. When you have a boyfriend/fiance/husband who tells you he loves you, takes you to see girly movies, cooks you amazing dinners, sometimes allows you to be little spoon, and occasionally sends you beautiful flowers, it's kind of easy to sit back and let those little details create your happiness. I don't think that's a bad thing, but 6 years later when you're facing 13 months without the person who makes you happier than anything, it's a little shocking to realize that you're not really sure what else makes you happy. I know that Dan isn't the only thing that makes me smile (Dunkin Donuts' iced coffee is proof of that), but over the next year (-ish), I am determined to find new ways to cheer myself up and enjoy life. While I have so many people to support me and help me along, I know that it I have to take a little time to put myself first, and I think I owe it to myself to explore my own happiness
I'm not really sure what the next 400 days of my life hold. I do know that they are not going to be easy, and that sometimes I'm going to need a little time just to be sad. I know that they are going to feel incredibly long, no matter how busy I am, but that, in reality, none of them will take more than 24 hours. I know that there will be a lot of counting down involved -- until the next email, the next phone call, and the day that I get to finally see him again. But I also know that I am going to do whatever it takes to make these 400 days happy ones, despite the rather large obstacles to that. I know that they are going to involve lots of meals with family, lots of quality time with my netflix account, lots of miles of running, lots of laughs with friends, lots of furry snuggling (get ready, Toby), lots of nights curled up with a good book, lots of blog posts, and lots of cross-town trips just for my favorite coffee. These days may also require occasional bouts of retail therapy, big doses of comfort food, hot bubble baths, random dance parties, relaxing pedicures, massive bowls of pasta, Friends marathons, and ridiculous amounts of late-night baking. Whatever it takes, I'm committed to making each and every day worthwhile, combating the loneliness with everything I have, and making my happiness a priority.
For the next 400 days, a huge piece of my life will be missing, and not a day will go by that I will not worry about him and miss him terribly. But no matter what, I won't allow these days, weeks, and months to be lost in misery. I will fill my time with happiness, in whatever form that may take, and maybe... hopefully... I will learn a little bit about myself in the process.



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