Ive got to stop hiding.

Keeping up a front of “coping”during a deployment is exhausting.

It is so exhausting that I can’t actually do it in front of my closest friends. I know if I see them and we have a quiet moment (I.e I have bribed the sprogs with biscuits or quavers or similar) they will ask how I’m doing. 

And I will lose it. The floodgates will open and I will cry. I will get all snotty. I will be a total tit. 

Even if I am actually doing ok. Even if today was going alright up to this point. Even  if I got an email this morning. 

And then, then I will have this weird compulsion to apologise for being like this and will start to call myself names to lighten the situation. 

“I’m being an idiot”

“My god he’s only been gone X weeks, im such a loser”. 

“This is pathetic I’m so sorry!”

Then usually crack a joke. 

So I avoid my nearest and dearest in the beginning. Because with them I can let my guard down. Because with them I can let rip because I feel safe and supported. Because with them I can become a snotty, blubbering mess.

They’ve already seen me at my worst. Either puking in a toilet crying about a boy and how I’m never ever drinking sambuca again (uni and “wild youth” friends), or utterly zombiefied with massive black bags under my eyes and no make up with my v sore nipples out trying to work out the sodding latch (early motherhood/breastfeeding friends). 

So me having a howl at the dining room table clutching a coffee whilst CBeebies blasts out of the living room isn’t all that shocking.


But I don’t want to get in that state.

I am coping, I’m doing this deployment. If they ask me how I am and I lose it then surely I am not coping. 

That’s just logic.

Except I know that it’s not true. Yes I am coping. I mean, everyone is alive, clean fed and dressed. I’m still getting out and about and we still have lazy days. 

Maybe breaking down in tears is part of coping , it’s just the part we all forget from time to time.

Maybe I need to let go of the pressure of being a navy wife and a mum with a deployed sailor from time to time. Like a release valve. So that I can keep going, one coffee at a time.

To my civvy friends

To my civvy friends,

First of all I need to say thank you. Thank you for being there for me when I was doing my first deployment and doubting if Popeye would still fancy me when he came back. Reassuring me when I had worries about if I could do this navy life lark, and turning up with a clinking carrier bag and packet of twenty. 

Thank you for being there during all the other deployments when I leant on you for support, when I needed an emergency buddy at A&E, when the car broke down and I needed help. For sending round your partner to mow the lawn when I was by myself with Sweetpea. For answering the phone when I was in tears from watching Christmas adverts.

Now for the apologies. And an explanation. 

I’m sorry that as soon as Popeye has leave I go to ground. I’m less reliable than a Flake. I don’t text back. I forget plans. I cancel plans and I am so vague about making plans until the last minute. 

Please don’t take this personally. I still love you and need your friendship. I’m not ditching you. I think or rather I hope you understand this.

If you don’t then maybe our friendship isn’t strong enough to survive one of us being a military spouse. And my marriage will always come first. 

My time with Popeye is so precious. And since we became parents it is even more so. When he’s home we are in our own bubble and we never know what we want to do day to day. Except to be together. As much as possible. Even when we start to annoy each other.

Because of this we don’t make plans. When he’s home I find it hard to socialise and not be a bit unhinged. We might do a longstanding birthday party or a few spur of the moment meet ups, but, in general we are, and will continue to be selfish.  

 

When he has leave it is our one chance to put us first, possibly all year. 

Our relationship might need alone time desperately, not just rudey times but quality time. 

We need time together to get to know each other again. We’ve both changed whilst he’s been away and we need time to date, to flirt and then to become a functioning couple again. Whenever he comes back it feels weird to even kiss him or have him close to me for a few days. It’s a good kind of weird but it still takes a while to get used to it.

We need to create memories. All the missed birthdays and anniversaries have to be compensated for in a few short weeks during the summer and possibly Easter. Christmas is usually filled with family visits and as such is so mentally busy we hardly see each other. Besides he’s never had all 3 bouts of leave in a year since I’ve known him. So we use these precious few days to treat ourselves and spoil each other. Because we don’t know when our next opportunity will be.

Sometimes our time apart has really tested us. We need time to resolve any issues that have come up whilst we’ve been apart. This is not something we can do in a public/social arena. We need to be at home, talking and finding our way back to normal. 

We need to get practical. As you know I try to carry on as “normal” when he’s away but there are always projects or plans saved for leave. This can be because only he can do them or because I feel only he should do them.

Like putting together his daughters new bedroom furniture because he missed her birth and first 6 months of her life. Like decorating the house so it feels like it’s his home too, and so he can find out where everything is kept in the kitchen before we have that big summer BBQ. Because he hasn’t been here since before we moved house and he would be mortified if a guest asked him where something was and he didn’t know. In short we need time for him to feel at home. 

I hope you accept my apologies because we won’t be changing. And I hope you accept my thanks because I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being my civvy friend and balancing out the madness and giving me a reality check of how it’s supposed to be. Thank you for your perspective. 

I hope you understand why I am the way that I am.

All my love,

A military spouse, or partner.

Xxxxxx

Christmas Bingo.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… My arse.

This is a post dedicated to all you ladies who have involuntarily become the Grinch this winter.

Yep, the navy has once again, messed up your festive plans and you’re feeling about as festive as, well, you’re not feeling festive at all.

So in a bid to raise a smile this Yuletide, I’ve come up with Navy Wife Bingo, Christmas Edition.

Let me know if you get some or all of these!

Ahem:

Annoying “home for Christmas” advert on TV makes you want to throw your shoe at the TV.

Annoying “home for Christmas” advert then makes you cry, whilst hugging the other shoe.

Relatives make super helpful not patronising at all comments such as “are you sure you’re still married to Popeye? We haven’t seen you together since your wedding! ” Mega lolz.

You open your fridge and it’s empty. Apart from wine. So you pour yourself a drink, shut the fridge and open it again, in the hope that full Christmas lunch with all the trimmings will appear. You sigh, and reach for the bottle.

You get the Christmas decorations down, either by yourself (brave) or with a relative. You spend a week staring at the box with a look of loathing before deciding a) sod Christmas, hate Christmas, hate happiness. Or b) I will put them up then make a scarf out of tinsel and cry.

Turn on the TV or radio to listen to some jolly Christmas carols to cheer yourself up. After a belter of “a partridge in a pear tree” and “silent night” you put on the Pogues, fairy tale of New York, because it’s your favourite one. But end up singing it fiercely at the top of your lungs, standing up, swaying side to side refusing to let the tears spill over your cheeks. The dog goes upstairs to hide.

You make a den on the sofa and don’t move from it until until Christmas Day. There are blankets and duvets and glasses, cups, bowls scattered about, the TV times is dog eared and listings are circled in biro, and by now there’s a bum imprint in the sofa cushion and your outline is traceable in Quality Street wrappers.

On Christmas Day you become the Festive Phone Ninja. Your phone, possibly with holiday themed ringtone is glued to your hand. You make a trip outside. This is a big deal and you blink in the crisp December sunlight.

Happy couples walking past you holding hands become public enemy number 1. They should not be so bloody happy. Idiots. I hope they break up.

I want to be holding hands walking around with Popeye. Not them. I hate happiness. Stupid Christmas. Stupid couples. They couldn’t do a deployment anyway.

You make it to your Christmas lunch destination. There’s a tiny nagging voice in your head saying that they’ve only invited you out of pity. You ignore it and pull out your biggest ear to ear smile. Everything is going to be fabulous. Just freakin fantastic. So you smile and nod when they do the Dreaded Head Tilt and and the inevitable “heard from Popeye yet? Where is he at the moment?”. You suffer the sympathy and jokes stoically. Just pass the Buck’s Fizz please.

After you’ve eaten, you’ve got the silly cracker hat on and have had your fortune told with a magic fish, you pause for a moment.

This is ok. Dare you think it, you’re actually enjoying yourself.

Is this allowed? Is this alright? I thought I was supposed to be miserable?

Hmm…. I’ll have a second helping of trifle and watch Elf with the family and wait it out for a bit….

I am enjoying myself!!!! Cripes! How did this happen?

Before you know it you’re sitting in front of the TV watching the Christmas special of Downton laughing with your loved ones.

And that’s it, it’s all over, done and dusted. You survived.

It’s done. Finished, and it wasn’t actually half bad.

Trust me, the thought of Christmas alone and the build up to it alone is so much worse than the reality. Go on, embrace the experience, it’s just one day of the deployment after all, just one day. And as much as it sucks, once it’s done you do feel a weird sense of pride and accomplishment. A strength and calmness and an appreciation for family and loved ones both near and far that you wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for the bloody navy.

Happy Christmas girls. You’re doing great.

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NWBFF

Every navy wife has them, and they are as essential to a deployment as cereal, chocolate, phone card minutes, Whitney Houston and wine, I’m talking about, of course, a navy wife BFF, or, best friend forever.

A navy wife BFF, or as I shall dub them, for ease of typing, NWBFF, is one of the most essential supports for surviving the madness that is having a relationship with a serving member of the armed forces.

These friendships are essential, but also, unconventional. Let me be blunt. Do you really have any civvy friends left that you can text at anytime, anywhere, just to have a moan about your partners latest deployment exploits?

Do you really have any civvy friends that don’t try to make you feel sorry for how hard your sailor is working/remind you that “it’s not long now” or how “strong” you are?!?

Do you really have civvy friends that don’t say how “I could never do it” and that “the time will just fly by/has flown by”.

I think not, and this is exactly why you need a NWBFF. They should be standard issue upon embarking on a relationship with a sailor.

Civvy friends are great, they’re a laugh, they are understanding, they are sympathetic. But they will never really get it. I don’t blame them for that, and I need my civvy friends in other ways. But, when it comes to military crap, you need friends that can understand what you’re going through and don’t do the sideways head tilt, dodging the shit rebounding out of the of the fan towards your post-homecoming head. You need a friend standing there with a poo shield saying, “yeah, that sucks, don’t it?” And holding out a tea towel.

A NWBFF is usually acquired through slightly odd friendship means. It can be through a brief chat on a Facebook group, a random barbecue whilst the ships deployed, or during a one night meet up characterised by cocktails and karaoke.

And that’s all you need. Not even a face to face meeting in some cases, and you’re set for life.

Sometimes the reality of your relationship with a sailor is so bloody crap that you don’t want a laugh. You don’t want to be understood, you don’t want sympathy.

What you want, what you need, is rage. Pure rage.

For example (ahem): How dare the navy screw you over again.
How dare Popeye go out when he promised he’d call. How dare the woman at work say that she understands because her hubby works away on business, and finally, how dare someone say how a friend of theirs is super duper tired from looking after their baby alone for the last week whilst their husband works away. For five days. So they totally know what you’re going through. Yeah.

This is when you pick up the phone, or tablet, or jungle drum, you text or you email, you forum, you Facebook, you smoke signal, you do whatever it takes to get that feeling out to your NWBFF.

And you moan. Oh my god you moan. Then they moan, and you both bitch. And then that turns into a joke. Usually about willys. Then the jokes get ruder. Then you start swapping rude stories about sex things and then you’re both pissing youself laughing and the rage is gone. you end the phone call, or email, or text chat or whatever it is and you feel so much better.

What were you even angry about?! Oh yeah. It’s funny now. Stupid Navy.

When/if you meet up, it’s like you’ve known each other for years, even if you’ve never seen them, aside from their Facebook profile pic. Once you’ve stealthily checked it is your NWBFF, cos you’re not sure, you make it that evenings mission to party as hard as the lads are, wherever they are. And you do. And you wake up with your head pounding, realising you’ve left their front door open all night (sorry Ju).

Even when sober your chatting may get so out of hand you feed someone’s child a dog biscuit by accident (sorry Ang). Or come up with elaborate parcel theme ideas (not sorry at all Em).

Put it this way. The last time I went on a navy wife night out, I went into labour. Seriously. Thanks gals!

So this blog post is dedicated to NWBFFs everywhere. You may not speak for months or years on end, but you’ve been through it all together. And you’ll probably have to do it all again. But, swapping dits, knowing that you’re not alone in this madness,makes it feel like you’re sharing a mess, chatting whilst staring at the bottom of the pit above you whilst counting down the days, even when, in reality, you might be opposite sides of the globe, trying to keep it together in a civvy-wife world.

The phrase “we’re all in the same boat” has never been so apt.

This post is dedicated to my NWBFFs, Julia, Angie, Emma.

Love you ladies

Muchos love

X

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Socialising and trying not to be mental.

I think being a navy wife has made me slightly unbalanced. Please feel free to judge me, because I feel quite guilty about it, even though I am actively trying to remain stable and rational.

Especially when I compare me, in my time-greedy-navy-wife marriage to “everyone else” and their civvy-wholesome-sensible relationships.

Let me explain a bit,

Popeye is generally away for six/seven months, then home for about 3 out of 4 weekends a month the rest of the year, bar lovely lovely leave. So suffice to say, our time together is precious. (This time of course does not include time apart for effing BOST, Super-Annoying-Promotion courses of Stress And Grumpiness, or SAPSAGs for short or any other ridiculous and possibly pointless jaunts around the home waters).

(As a side note I once calculated the actual number of days per year we would spend together, including summer and Easter leave. All I can say is DONT DO IT. Deployment Maths is evil and led to me having a massive cry and freaking out about how we were ever going to make this marriage work. Not a good idea mid deployment, or anytime for that matter.)

Without fail on those precious Fridays he can actually come home ( crazy idea I know) at approximately 4pm our world is paused and our metaphorical drawbridge goes up.

We hole up in our house and because a)he’s a chef b) I don’t want to leave his side for more than 10mins to shower/pee, we order takeaway and totally veg out. Then we spend the remainder of the weekend hiding from friends and relatives and generally being lazy, spending money we don’t have and eating out, a lot.

We do venture out from time to time and actually see other people, and when we do I have to remind myself to share. Share my husbands company that is.

I restrain myself from standing on the edge of the circle of guys talking about football and cars and simply strain my ears trying to eavesdrop from the girls circle, only vaguely listening to our conversation, and replying with vague “mmm hmm’s”, “yeah I know” and “no way”‘s as appropriate. This has back fired on me several times when I’ve said something like “yeah I know” to someone’s horrible bad/ serious news like their dog died or they’ve lost their job or they think they might be gay. There are times when I gravitate over to where hubster is and laugh a split second too late at a joke I haven’t really heard. Awkward.

If someone dares to say that we should split up for a bit during a night out, i.e boys go to a different bar, girls will catch up later, I get a bit of a sicky feeling, and I start doing Deployment Maths (Deployment Maths is a bit like OCD, so when this happens on a night out with friends you can’t help but calculate that out of the 48 hours he’s home for, he will spend 16 sleeping/being hungover, 8-12 hours socialising, you will spend x hours going to/from said friends house therefore leaving you with approximately 5 hours together all weekend. And he’s not home for another month.)

I KNOW how totally clingy and mental this makes me sound, I’m a trained psychologist remember, however, I am at the merciless grip of Deployment Maths. My only defence is that in these cases I don’t let the panic get me. I smile, wave goodbye to Popeye and quickly order a double, hey if he’s getting those 16 hours, I might as well too.

Popeye copes much better at social gatherings such as the above than I do. He is chatty to everyone, to the point where he’s sharing stories from life on board that I haven’t even been told. It’s like finding out about this whole side of him he doesn’t think is all that relevant or interesting when he’s home and we are hiding with the home phone off the hook.

If your sailor, like mine, literally sends a variation of the same email every day week for 6 months, these escapades and anecdotes of daring do’s and hilarious scrapes from deployment can leave you feeling, well, quite surprised and then miffed to be honest. Popeye literally sends this email to me 80% of the time whilst deployed, ahem:

hey baby, nothing much is going on here, same old stuff. I miss you loads and I can’t wait to see you, all my love, Popeye.

Every email. For 6 months. Seriously.

This has led me to conclude that he either-forgets about these adventures on the high seas/around the globe, can’t be bothered to tell me, or doesn’t have time to email me the details. To this day, I still have no idea which of these theories is true. I’m leaning towards the former as its not so depressing.

So when my super-sonic-social-gathering hearing picks up on how he stole a giant fish from a bar in New York and they got pulled over by the police with said giant fish in the back of their car, or how his friend broke his collar bone trying to do a breakdancing move in Norway or whatever, I am just a tad peeved.

Is it wrong that I feel a pang of jealousy that Popeye doesn’t share these stories with me when we’re sitting at home watching tv and snuggling on the sofa? Or is it that he doesn’t feel they are important enough to waste our precious paradigm phonecall minutes on? I’m not one to disapprove, in fact I think it’s bloody hilarious the stuff him and his shipmates get up to, so that can’t be it. No, it’s more likely that when he’s home he, and I, mentally “shut off” the outside world, including navy dits, bills, report writing or visiting my grandparents.

When he phones home its for a bit of escapism from what generally is drudgery day to day on the ship. He wants to hear about what he misses, not relive another day apart, no matter how much fun he’s had. Rather wait until he’s been home, had some downtime with the drawbridge up, then go out and entertain. My husband the social butterfly who just wants to come home and forget all about work. Until he’s got an audience. Bless him.