It is the final day of 2016. Most people would say that this year was a terrible year…at least, that’s the consensus that I get from Facebook and social media. I’m not bragging when I say that 2016 didn’t seem all that bad for us. It’s just my personal observation.
Was it the best year? No. But it was better than 2011 was for me.
The year began with my husband already deployed – he had been deployed about 6 months by the time January 1, 2016 rolled around. I was three months into my job.
Between the deployment and my job, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and about life.
I’ve learned (more) patience. Patience with myself; patience with my loved ones; patience in my work; and patience with others. Admittedly, I still struggle with patience sometimes, but I’m more cognisant of it.
My husband taught me patience, because I would not receive a call or Skype from him every day while he was deployed. Sometimes this was out of his control, sometimes this was his choice. He would not call me if he had had a rough day and was in a bad mood, and knew that all he would do on the phone with me was complain or argue. I learned to be more understanding of his needs, and not just the needs and wants of my own. I would much rather have conversations with him that made me laugh, or that I could look back fondly on, that having arguments with him. Because of this, we laughed a lot with each other, and were never angry with each other on the phone during his deployment.
Living with my parents during the time of his deployment also taught me to be more patient with them, and others that I love. Admittedly, it was more difficult to be patient with my parents. I love them dearly, but there’s forever the struggle while living with them again of being their child, but also being a grown adult. Having been a child to them longer than I have been an adult with them, there’s learned roles and behavior that has proven more difficult to outgrow than outfit that you absolutely hated to wear that your mother just loved to see you in. However, in becoming an adult, I’ve recognized my own behavior and tendencies, and learned to control the child-like outbursts of learned behavior in reaction to their own parenting tendencies. While my parents will always be my parents, they are also among two of my best friends.
Between learning to be more patient with my husband and my loved ones, I’ve also learned to be more patient with myself at work, as well as with my work. I absolutely love my job – which having worked jobs that I absolutely hated, is so refreshing to be able to say! – however I did expect more of myself in my first months of employment than was possible. I had to be patient with the learning curve of learning in the in’s and out’s of the Organization, of learning the details of my duties and reports that I am responsible for generating. And with patience, and slowing down, I have learned so much in my job, and continue to excel.
2016 has also taught me more about love. To love more deeply, more openly, and more genuinely. 2016 taught me this through Homecoming, Holidays, Family, Giving, and even through Loss.
My husband’s unit came home from deployment in late April. There is nothing like the feeling of having your loved one away (for so long), and to have them come home. I am extremely sympathetic to those who will not get to experience this feeling – my heart goes out to you.
Family means more to me than anything, and fortunately both of our parents could be with us for the homecoming, and have been able to be together for the holidays this year as well.
However, this year has not gone without loss.
First, my husband’s grandfather passed away this spring shortly after his homecoming. It was unfortunate that my husband hadn’t been able to see him since his last night that he was home on leave; thankfully his grandfather was in good health at that time, and his last memory of him is a good one. My husband had spoken with his grandfather on the phone while he was in the hospital, but had not been able to see him as my husband was battling the rhinovirus and didn’t want to make his grandfather’s condition worse. The phone call was a good one, as it was a better day for his grandfather and he was in good spirits. However, only days later, his health failed, and he passed away.
Most of the family was able to come together for the funeral, which was a wonderful time spent together remembering the memory of the man who passed away. There were tears, but the day overall was a joyous one of a celebration of the life that was.
Shortly after, in the summer, a heavier loss came into our lives. For one of the soldiers in my husband’s unit took his own life.
I’ve debated writing about it – I don’t want to take any chance of disrespecting his memory, his family, or anyone effected by suicide. It’s not easily that I write about this, but I write it fully out of respect.
I do not know the details leading up to this soldier’s decision, and I will not write about the details of the suicide, because that is no one else’s business than those who needed to know. However, unfortunately, this soldier felt that it was better for him to end his life, than anything else. No one knew what was going on in his mind, that this was a decision he had been thinking about and finally decided upon. But suicide hits you in ways that you didn’t expect.
You feel remorse; you should of known, you should have done something to prevent it, to be there. I saw the guilt rip through the unit as news of his suicide hit. I saw the guilt in my husband. You spend months with someone, and feel like you should have done more. No one really knew how to process the news. In hindsight, everyone said they would of done this or that to prevent it, to of proactively been there for him, for everyone. But no one knew, because the soldier didn’t say anything. Everyone came home and became immersed into their lives again by their loved ones, by their jobs… The soldiers had MONTHS of civilian life after deployment before they were reunited as a unit again. I could go one about the hindsight of soldiers coming home from war, without any support or system in place to help them decompress from being and thinking like a soldier to resuming life as a civilian again, but I digress. That’s for another day.
The soldier that took his own life, is one of many, by my speculation who come home from deployment/war, and feel lost, or without cause. And in 2016, for the first time in the 7 years that we have been involved with the military, we have had to experience a suicide of a soldier.
It is with loss that I have learned to be more loving, to give more of myself to others in need. Military or civilian. You never know who is struggling with their own inner demons, their own silent battle, who just needs a “hello” or a hug, a smile or a kind deed. These gifts are free to give, but can mean the world to someone.
I feel like so many people function under the notion that it’s easier to just do nothing. Which, is a true statement. But, what kind of world are we going to turn into if we don’t do? What would a world look like without human compassion? Is that a world we want to live in? A world that we want to pass down to our future generations?
2016 was a “bad” year for a lot of people, why would we want to continue in such a way that 2016 actually looks “good” in hindsight or comparison to the years to come?
Otherwise, for us 2016 was an unsettled year. Homecoming also means “transition”, so we spent a few months getting to know each other again, getting used to living with each other. We went on a few local trips and made memories together, but everything did feel rushed. Now, as the year comes to a close and we embark on a new year, everything finally feels like it is settling down, like we have found our groove. I have a bright outlook for 2017 (politics aside), and hope that for the rest of you, that 2017 is a wonderful year, and brings you joy when you sit down on December 31, 2017 and look back on the year.
Happy New Year, and I am sending a hug from me to you if you find yourself in need of one. Or, even if you don’t.