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One Bite at a Time

In the comments, mrsmartin says something I'm sure we all can relate to, about a phone call with her husband:

well, we finally got to talk for like 17 minutes and in that time, all the stress, tiredness, and worry rolled into one and somehow instead of letting him make me feel better, i just didn't. since last night, i just can't seem to stop crying because i feel so bad for not being happy for him and angry that i can't make things a little less stressful right now.

Haven't we all done this?  The spouse calls from far, far away, and all our best intentions to be brave and strong dissolve in an instant.  I know I've been in this situation, because I documented it two weeks after my husband left:

Why is it that 15 minutes drags on like an eternity when things are slow here at work, but it passes in the blink of an eye when you get a call from Kuwait?I'm so stupid; I cried on the phone. I haven't cried since the day he left, and I've been so good about being strong. I don't even know what happened, we were laughing about the camels crossing the road in front of his convoy and then I just lost it. And I wasted our time on the phone with my stupid tears and then his phone card ran out and we didn't even get to say goodbye.I'm so mad at myself right now. How childish...

I remember feeling just awful that I had hurt my husband's morale.  I felt like I was being a drag on him.  But my dear friend Tim (some of you may remember Tim and CPT Patti from OIF I) had this to say:

Oh...and if I may say so - don't be so hard on yourself. When allowed in moderation - tears on the phone emerge on the other end as "Your place here is permanently reserved". That can mean a lot in a sandy camp on the border of Hellville.

Tim was right.  There are going to be times when you just don't feel like being upbeat.  We do the best we can to fake it, but sometimes we're not going to be convincing.  And we sure can't trick ourselves.  But it's OK to be grumpy for a day, as long as we are able to move on from it.

My dad gave me funny advice during the deployment.  One night on the phone he asked what I was doing. I said, "Nothing, just trying to cross another day of this year off my calendar." He came back with, "Well, it's just like eating an elephant: tackle it one bite at a time."  Some bites may be harder to take than others, but it sure is a proud moment when that durned elephant is eaten.

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