What happens when life as you know it ends…
I have been looking for a reason not to write this post ever since my wife first suggested that I document my experiences over there. I have been dodging this particular subject but the time has come that it must be addressed. Not because I want too but because if I am going to be honest with all the other stories, then I have to tell you about my failure.
I alluded to it when I started this new series documenting the particular rotation. I don’t remember the exact time in the rotation that my wife told me that I was not a good husband or father but it had to be fairly early on in the rotation. The details of what I did to her isn’t as important as acknowledging that on the morning that she confronted me, I was sure that I would return to the USA with an empty home and a daughter who would be raised by a single mom.
I have repressed most of the details about that conversation with her but afterwards, I went out to the airplane to fly all day. All I remember about that flight was that it was the day that would not end. I told the crew that my wife and I were having issues and that she would probably divorce me when I got back. I asked Shy Dog if he minded flying and letting me work the radios. To his credit, he said yes and he flew every bit of the twenty-hour day while I sat slumped in my seat totally lost and borderline depressed because I had failed at the most important job.
I don’t remember anyone talking on the intercom other than checklist items. Again, that is so not cool to bring a personal matter into a combat zone but I wasn’t smart enough to say that I couldn’t fly that day. Somehow, we made it through the day and got home safely. I think I apologized to the crew for bringing them down but if I didn’t, then I will do it now. I’m sorry.
Eleven years after that rotation, I believe that if I had been at home when my issues were discovered then my wife and I would have divorced. I believe that things happen for a reason and I believe that there is a higher power that intercedes when knuckleheads like me go off the rails. I believe that it was divine intervention that I was on the other side of the world while my marriage was crumbling. That sounds counter-intuitive but in my case it was the very best remedy for my failures because the problem wasn’t with my wife. It was totally, 100% me. I needed to take a self-inventory and figure out what was really important in life.
A day or two after my wife told me she was leaving, I was laying in my bunk when I decided that I needed to talk to a professional. I got dressed and went out to the Chaplain’s tent. That was a big deal for me because I am not the guy that goes out and pours my life onto someone else. I remember pausing at their door trying to think of a reason not to open it. But since I was desperate, I went in. I looked around and there was no one there. The tent was empty. Normally, that would have made me happy but it was like a kick in the gut because I knew that I would have to try again later. The tent had an exterior waiting room that doubled as a library. There were several books on the counter top. My eye went to one specifically, it was The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
I’m not a self-help book kind of guy but I picked it up and flipped very briefly through the pages. This was one of those moments when you have the feeling that you’re on the right path but you don’t know why. If I were to state this another way, I think that the book found me. I hurried out of the office before the Chaplin returned and went back to my bunk. I started reading and began to get right with myself. Looking back and summarizing why I was engaging in self-destructive behavior, I think it was an issue of being angry. My heart was filled with anger that was directed at God and myself.
The opening chapter of The Purpose Driven Life dealt with accepting the fact that the God that created the universe also created every human that has walked the Earth and that the God that made everything never made a mistake which means that I was created perfectly, exactly the way he intended. I don’t want to get into the discussion of religion or humanity but for me the huge hurdle in my life was to get over was that I am perfectly created to be who I am and my anger issues were built into my DNA. I still have issues with this but I’m still a work in progress.
Another thing that saved my marriage was the fact there are no secrets on deployment. A day of so after it all went bad, the deployed commander found me at the chow hall. I can see his face but I don’t remember his name. I think he was from the Georgia Guard but I really don’t remember. He told me that he heard I had troubles at home and he told me that his office had a private phone line that I was welcome to use anytime I needed to call home. He said that if he was in his office and I needed to call home then he would leave his office to give me some privacy. It is almost impossible to explain what a blessing that was to us. Normally, to make a call home I had to go to the morale tent where there was a large bank of phones. There was always a line waiting to use a phone and once you got a phone, you were limited to a ten-minute conversation then the line would automatically disconnect. That was all you got unless you got back in line. It was painful but having a private line that could be used anytime and for any length when a long way toward helping my wife and I work through everything. Soon after that offer by my commander, I called home every night and we slowly began to rebuild the relationship.
Another blessing was that a long time married couple back home found out that we were having issues. When we met this couple, they were the picture of the perfect marriage. But they approached my wife and told her about how close they were to divorce early on in their marriage. They are the best mentors ever and have remained close to us to this day.
Those were dark days but thanks to an understanding and forgiving lady, I am still married today. I am so unworthy of her love, but she loves me anyway.
There are probably new people reading this article today who are new to my little side of the internet and why I write these articles about my old life. The point is to give my kids an understanding of who their dad was before they were born. But if you are reading these words and you are currently in a dark place, I hope you can see that there is always hope. One of the things that I had to accept was that I couldn’t control what decisions my wife would make and I couldn’t make her learn to trust me again. That was totally on her, all I could control was my path in life. Those types of decisions are tough for a control freak like me. But the point is still valid, control yourself, be a better person starting with where ever you are and move forward.
I am always here for someone who might find themselves in that dark place. I promise that I will not have all the right answers but I will be honest and try to point you in the right direction for you as you move forward through your dark path. I don’t do this often but I want to post my personal email for you contact me directly: email@example.com
I am serious, if you are in a bad place. Say hi.
Until next time, keep on rockin.