By GI Jane, Alaska Post contributorMay 19, 2011
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - It began when my husband left for a week in the field. It was our first winter here and it had just started to get ridiculously cold. I walked by the garage door shortly after my husband pulled out of the driveway. I noticed a strange hissing sound coming from the garage and went out to investigate. I found the boiler filling the garage with steam. This was not a good sign. I went back into the house and felt our baseboard registers; they were cold. This was a bad sign. Our boiler was broken.
The second instance happened when my husband left for some training in another state. The same day he flew out our house got cold - really, really cold. When I checked the boiler it was completely lifeless. Our boiler was broken, again.
The third time, the day my husband deployed, I realized the house was colder than it should have been and discovered we had no hot water. Fantastic. We had run out of fuel. To make it even better, on the way to our house to fill our tank the fuel truck broke down and wouldn't make it out again until the next day. So far, every time my husband has gone away we have lost heat. It's a little distressing.
When faced with situations like this my first reaction is, I have to admit, to sit down and cry a little. But during my time as a G.I. Jane, with all the uncertainty this life brings, I have learned that sometimes laughter brings a much sweeter release than a few desperate tears ever could. Take last night for example. When I went to check on my three-year-old son before heading to bed I discovered he was not in his bed. This is not highly unusual so I was mostly just irritated at this point. I checked his closet where he likes to hide when he is being naughty but there was no mischievous munchkin in sight. Still not concerned, I checked our hall closet. Nope. I checked under his bed, my bed, my closet, the bathrooms, upstairs, even his sister's room. No boy! I have to admit at this point full panic had set in. I began checking the windows to be sure they were locked while my mind filled with unthinkable scenarios of what could have happened to my son. After checking all of those same places again I stopped by the small linen closet near his sister's room. I opened the door to find him sound asleep, curled up under the bottom shelf surrounded by blankets and towels. Seeing him safe and oblivious to my anxiety, I realized I had forgotten to breathe. Trying to catch my breath, I carried him back to his bed. I went to my room, collapsed on the bed and waited for my panicked heart to start beating again. Overwhelmed, I felt hot tears fill my eyes. I was faced with a decision. I could cry, which would be completely understandable, or I could laugh. I chose to laugh. In that moment all the stress and strain of the day melted away and I sat renewed and able to look toward tomorrow and all the adventure it would bring. I could breathe.
During deployments, those of us left behind have to deal with countless stresses. Even little things like broken appliances, misbehaving kids (or hiding ones) and financial strain can be completely overwhelming. One of the best resources in learning to laugh is other G.I Janes. We all have some wild stories and hearing another's heart-stopping tale can quickly put life into perspective. I am not alone. You are not alone. Choosing to surround yourself with women in the same life situation can be lifesaving. There will be times when you need your friends to cry with you but no one needs a pity party. We need to get up and move on, for ourselves, our children and our hero Soldiers. Many times I have difficulty accepting with grace the well-meaning words of those who don't understand the way we live. The most trying of statements is, "I don't know how you do it." Really' What are my options' I either deal or die and since dying is not really something I aim for, I deal. Choosing to laugh rather than cry can instantly put little disasters into perspective. Friends sharing your same experience will allow you to see that you can do this thing called life and laughing really helps.
Sometimes, tears are the only option. But when I am overcome with the need to cry I try, though sometimes unsuccessfully, to give laughter a chance to heal the raw parts of my soul. As life in the military brings us challenges and heartache many "outside" will never understand, let's consider the strength and healing laughter brings. Besides, laughter is so much prettier than teary, swollen eyes!
So, if you are looking for me while my husband is away, try the garage. I'll very likely be staring at a broken boiler feeling overwhelmed. Oh, and I'll be laughing.
Editor's Note: The Alaska Post features the GI Jane column every other week. GI Jane is a composite character of many different military spouses and offers a wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives. Submit column ideas and feedback to email@example.com.