May 20, 2011

Into the Unknown

To say that I am a planner might be the understatement of the century. I make lists of my lists. I plan menus in my sleep. In college, I often spent so much effort researching and outlining that I nearly ran out of time to actually write the paper. My apartment is afloat with post-it notes and index cards (my mediums of choice) with grocery lists, weekly budgets, songs I want to buy, workout records, and recipes to try. I prepare and anticipate and calculate and schedule every little detail to death and back again, despite the fact that this tends to drive some of the more spontaneous people in my life (including my poor husband) to distraction. Whenever I am upset or stressed, I cuddle up to Dan and ask him to help me: to plan the day, the weekend, the solution to my problems. There are days that I try hard to be a little more impulsive (mainly when my impulses tell me I want ice cream), but the closest I come, usually, is heading out for a run without a route already planned. In general, though, I thrive when I know exactly what to expect... and I figure that at 23 years old, I should probably stick to what I know works for me.
This is where the army and I disagree. I swear that Dan's only job description is "unpredictable," unless it also includes "frequent and drastic last-minute changes." Which makes it a little hard for my ever-planning brain to cope. I can't tell you the number of times I've been mentally prepared for a certain duration of training, a specific return date, or a particular state in which Dan could be found at a given time, only to discover that they would in fact be much longer, much later, or much further away. After almost 6 years, one might think that I would start to get used to this way of life. Let me tell you, a little adaptation would be welcome. But my stubborn self just continues to plan and count on things and write dates in pen... and I still get horribly thrown off track when plans are changed (as they inevitably are). If nothing else, I suppose I'm getting used to disappointment.
When Dan first found out about his deployment, I immediately started to ask questions. (Ok, that's not completely true: first I cried, then I asked questions) I wanted to know everything about everything, to have a clear vision of what our lives would be while he was gone. I quizzed Dan on every aspect of the 13 months: what his mobilization would be like, what would happen when he got overseas, what a typical day would be like for him, how often I'd hear from him, and every single contingency I could come up with. It was here that we encountered problems: I had questions, and my hubby, through no fault of his own, had very few answers. Besides a very rough timeline and general location, the details were fuzzy at best. Dan was not worried, but I was terrified. I needed a plan.
Since at that point we were still over 6 months from his departure, I tried to relax and be at peace with all of the unknown. In reality, I think I spent the first few months in denial, thinking about everything as little as possible and putting off the stress until an unspecific later date. Probably not the best way to deal with it, but at least I didn't let it ruin the holidays. As June 1st has crept closer and closer, however, it's become increasingly harder not to yank my head out of the sand just a little and look at what, exactly, is going on around me. 
In the past 6 months, since we first learned about the deployment, it seems like everything has changed. We jumped from 7 months to 13, Dan's responsibilities during those 13 months have shifted (and continue to change even now), and even his location may change at some point while he is gone. The only thing that hasn't changed? The details are still fuzzy as ever, of course. We don't know exactly when he will leave the country, or how he will get to his actual destination. We don't know how often he will have to make trips off-post, or how reliable the internet access will be. Toward the end of this year, we know that his location is likely to change, but we don't know where he will go or what he will be doing there. We don't know if he will even get a typical 2 week R&R, much less when it will be. Fuzzy. At best.
This unknown factor has been the absolute worst part of the past month, as we "prepare" for Dan to leave. It's hard enough that this is our first deployment and neither of us really know what to expect, but all the extra question marks have made it exponentially scarier. I'm trying to hard to take each day at a time and not stress over all the things I still can't plan, but this goes against every single instinct I've spend 23 years honing. I want desperately to know what the next 13 months will hold for us. I want to know if it will really be as hard as I am dreading, or worse. I want to know that he will be happy with what he's doing there. Most of all, I want to know that I will be able to hear from him -- whether it is daily, weekly, or monthly... I just want to know.
Chances this whole experience of diving off the cliff, not knowing what waits for me at the bottom (nor what the trip down will look like) will force me to become a little less focused on planning my life and a little more focused on living it? Well..... a girl can hope, can't she?



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