Three nights ago, I spent the evening in a hotel in downtown San Antonio. I was attending a conference not far from my home, and had managed to reserve a room for two nights within spitting distance of the Alamo. The weather was beautiful, the conference informative, but it was the total silence of my little hotel room that had me doing naked cartwheels (while singing cuss words and drinking wine straight from the mini-bar) around my bed. The very moment that I managed to shut the hotel room’s door: I kicked off my high heels, let my hair down, plopped down in the middle of the floor… and waited. The sky did not fall, my children—and thankfully, grandma—were all still alive at home, the emails from my phone finally stopped blinking, and I was blissfully alone.
A few texts came in. “Do you want to go running on the Riverwalk?” No. “Do you want to grab a bite to eat.” No. “Interested in drinking few martinis at the hotel bar?” Ummm... what kind of vodka—Smirnoff?-- HELL NO!
But what I did crave, was to be free of responsibility, expectations, unrealistic goals, and that damn strapless bra that had been suffocating me since lunch. I wanted to soak up that golden silence, and forget, for at least two hours, that although I always felt totally lost and alone… I unfortunately, never could be. The United States Army had appointed me the Queen Bee of the Lonely Hearts Club—and with it came a ton of responsibilities, phone calls, text messages, and tear-filled mommy moments. My kids needed me (most often, when I was in the middle of washing my hair). My students needed me. My friends needed me. My deployed husband needed me. And without even realizing it, I had practically become the Red Cross of army-family-support, providing enough transfusion’s of encouragement to keep the heart of the US Army beating strong.
But it had left me drained.
For those that actually know me, this may come as quite the shock. I am the one-woman-army who wakes up, runs a ba-jllion miles, teaches, and then takes the kids to their evening activities (all at exactly the same time, and usually completely across town from each other). I am almost always smiling, wearing a kick-ass pair of shoes, and able to provide the most inappropriate sarcastic remarks that leave people smiling, laughing, and mumbling, “That’s our Amy…” But what the world does not see, is the fractured woman that can only keep moving forward because the thought of stopping-- and having to re-start the freight train on the home front-- is too daunting and terrifying to even contemplate a rest. I run a million-miles-a-hour because the journey of life constantly threatens to leave me behind, and there is no way I could ever possibly catch up carrying three kids, a deployed husband, and an endless war on my shoulders. Last I checked, only a Super hero could shoulder that load—and let’s face it, there is no way a tiny 5’4” thirty-something could ever pull off a pair of red go-go boots and a cape.
So, like so many other army spouses, I am in desperate need of some super-human powers. I know in my heart, I should be celebrating that I have somehow managed to power through the first half of a deployment—I have just done eighteen longs months as a geographical single mom AND all my kids are still growing, I am still employed, and the house has yet to burn down. But I can no longer find the energy for the expected fist-pump, and the yellow ribbons around my oak trees are starting to fade. Across this great country, military families and marriages are in crisis. Suicide amongst service members and spouses are on the rise. Behavioral disorders in military children are becoming increasingly common. Divorce is the norm. The statistics are staggering—the backbone of support for our nation’s military is starting to crumble, and my family is no exception.
I have long ago accepted that unless I happen to fall into a vault of toxic waste, my most powerful weapon was going to be my voice. As much as I would love super-human strength or x-ray vision (and before you ask, yes, I would totally peek into the guys locker room), the best I can offer this world is awareness. I may only have six more months to this deployment, but the United States is invested until, at the earliest, 2014. Apparently, the mental breakdown that I have so rightly earned is going to have to be postponed for a little bit longer; and until then, I guess I will just have to find peace and solace by sitting in the middle of the floor in my underwear while listening to the cars blow past the hotel window.
And to those who nonchalantly walked past the downtown Residence Inn on Monday and happened to notice a naked woman drinking wine in the middle of her hotel room… You’re welcome.