But right now it is an ache. An ever present ache.
He slung his sea bag over his shoulder and I let out one last sob as we pulled away from the air terminal. The girls and I had cried all morning long, but we dried our tears as we drove out of the parking lot, out of the gate, and out of town to the Cineplex at a mall in the next town over to see a movie to keep our mind off of what had just happened.
I haven’t stopped moving since.
I haven’t felt any feeling all the way through since. People talk about not being able to finish their thoughts… I can’t finish my feelings. They surface and begin to register and then something in my brain makes me turn the other direction as fast as I can.
Saying it like that makes it sounds like it’s a conscious decision. What I’m finding most troubling is that it isn’t. I feel incapable of producing the emotions that I am supposed to be feeling.
I know that I miss him. I know that if I sat still long enough, or if this auto-pilot coping program could be turned off, the grief would come creeping in like a cat gingerly padding over to me. It would creep in silently and then once it was all the way in the room, sit on my chest like an elephant.
Maybe I’m stuck here because I just can’t afford not to breathe right now.
The numbness though… is unsettling.
I feel disconnected from him. The disconnect makes me sub-consciously stall sitting down to write letters, or putting together packages, or even writing him the bread and butter kinds of emails to keep some line of communication flowing. On the rare days he is able to call his voice almost can’t reach me and the emptiness that fills me after we hang up the phone makes me want to run as far and fast as possible.
I struggle at the closing of each of my letters. Of course I tell him I love him. Of course I sign with “Love, Val” but our old familiar sign-offs don’t seem to work. I feel cold and formal. I can’t conjure up any language of intimacy.
Throughout his workup cycles the word that kept coming to me was ‘optional.’ My husband is optional. He is a posh feature in the mini-van of my life. Not something essential like a transmission or brakes, but an option… Like air conditioning or power windows. He can be in our lives… or not. And we go on just fine. I’ve told myself that for six months now, preparing for this deployment—our longest yet.
It isn’t true. I need him like I need air or water. But staring down the sheer number of months we were going to be spending apart, my brain shifted into this ugly mindset.
Who thinks of her husband as ‘optional?’
What have I done letting myself believe this? If this is a defense mechanism, I fear I am defending my heart too well.
If I feel this numb now at a month in where will I be at 3 months or 6? Will I have any space left in my heart for him when he returns at the end of this? Will I be able to turn the switch back on or will it have rusted into the off position?
The guilt I feel about feeling so flat about the person I love most in the world is as crushing as the numbness itself. He is gone. GONE. How dare I NOT cry? How dare I not allow every shade of the darkness to overtake me? How dare I not look at his goneness square in the face and feel the gaping hole that is left when he isn’t in the bed beside me, at the head of the dinner table, reading or watching t.v. on the couch next to me in the evening?
Is this just denial? Will the wall breech? Will the feelings I have been stuffing back burst out of the dam and drown me?
Do I want them to? Do I want to feel it? Or do I want to stay here with my finger plugging the hole?
I’m afraid to answer that question. I’m afraid of either side of the equation. If I stay in this numbness I am afraid my heart will die. But if I don’t can I withstand the weight of the feelings?