Deployment: Heart Catch Up With My Head

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I do not have time for this. I can count on my own two hands the number of days I have left with my husband at home before deployment.

I do not have time for complicated emotions. I do not have time for sulks. I cannot spend our last scraps of time together slamming doors and thunking cabinets and stomping around mightily.

So of course last weekend I was slamming doors and thunking cabinets and stomping around mightily.

Our 10-year-old noted all this angry activity and sidled up to his dad. “What’s wrong with Mommy?”

“Mommy is mad because I’m going away. She doesn’t want me to go,” Brad answered, slipping an arm around him. “It is going to be OK, Honey. We always do this before a deployment and it is always OK.”

The 10-year-old thought about this for a minute. “Then why do it?”

Good question, kid. I wish I knew why we do this. I’m pretty sure it is because my heart cannot keep up with my head.

This is our eighth deployment. My head knows this part of predeployment friction is a normal part of the process. My head understands how the slamming and thunking and stomping helps open a little space between us so that my husband can deploy.

So why does it hurt my heart to do it every time? Why does my heart insist on playing the Little Match Girl, hopelessly burning through the last days before deployment -- as if these are the last days we will ever have together? 

There is only one answer to this: My heart is, in fact, stupid.

That’s the problem with the heart, I think. It is too stupid to understand a logical argument. It is too stupid to be convinced that eight months apart is totally doable. It is far too stupid to understand that all this predeployment angst won’t change anything.

The deployment is coming. So why does my heart insist on this nonsense? 

I don’t really have an answer for that. Deployment would be easier if we could approach it as a head-only proposition: Here are the papers you need to sign. Here are the things you need to pack. Be safe. Take care. I’ll be right here when you come back.

The head gets more efficient with every deployment. Yet the work of the heart is slow. No matter how often you do it, if the heart is engaged, it never gets faster.

The work of the heart requires that a certain number of procedures should be followed. A certain kind of pain has to be distributed. A certain pulling and unthreading and parting has to be accomplished.

Experience does not rush that work. The head cannot invent shortcuts. Instead, we have to stop and wait for the heart to catch up. Because a heart has to do what a heart has to do.

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Jacey Eckhart is the Director of Spouse and Family Programs at Military.com and a military sociologist.  Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan??

Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times.  Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom.  

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