Towards the end of July it became apparent that the best that Puddle* could offer in the way of Summer was in fact … Autumn. Peering out of the landing window both Baby and I would struggle to see the shimmer of grey that was the sea, somewhere down below the rolling crop fields. The sheep stomping past our back garden with an obvious annoyance at having their winter coats shorn off, the lambs cowering beneath their mothers swollen, warm bellies.
Our daily walks through the bustling farm yard and down to the damp, cold sands were often accompanied by fleeces and wellies. Not that Dog minded, it was all the same to him, bounding fearlessly through the hedgerows and somersaulting into the frothing black waves.
On the few occasions that the sun mooched smugly out from behind the tumbling clouds, the whole of Puddle would seemly melt into a typical English village**
The wheat fields, with their chessboard of bales, would glisten against the sky, the calmer waters in the bay would shimmer and gently lap at the shell strewn sands. The breeze would carry the scent of warm hay and dried seaweed, barbecues and soft pink roses as it wandered lazily up through the woods to our kitchen window. The woods, where the trees and the hollyhocks meet in the middle, soaking everything beneath it in a magical soft, green light. The narrow foot path hidden by bracken and nettles. The larks and the bullfinches darting from branch to stream, whilst the dormice scramble back through their tiny front doors as soon as Dog crashes through fallen tree branches and last years forgotten leaves.
When He strides out of the front door, uniform clad with kitbags and briefcases hanging off his towering frame, it’s a little bit sad and a little bit scary.
Sad, because when he is away I miss him. I miss the adult, the humour, the second pair of hands and his ability to pop to the only shop in Puddle to procure wine whilst I am up to my elbows in bath time bubbles.
It’s scary, because the most obvious unanswered question is, will he actually be striding back through that door again, alive? The less unanswered question is, what will I do at 5pm every evening when he normally brings relief from the routine?
And above all of this, you’re about to spend time alone with yourself. A lot of time.
For the first half of our marriage I was a martyr. I doted obsessively on our newborn, ensured the house reeked of magnolia Shake ‘n Vac, hosted glamorous lunches and marched the dog along the river twice a day. I owned not one, but two, under eye concealers and kept madly muttering to myself about self pity. I would tut!
He would pop in occasionally with mountains of laundry, crumpled boarding passes and photographs of hot countries and cold beers. Bursting with pride and excitement.
I got cross. And then more cross and then a lot cross. Cross that I had given up a career, a lifestyle, friends and family to effectively be someones housekeeper in strange, far-flung towns that I knew nothing about. Cross that He wasn’t around to appreciate my new role (and the smell of magnolia) and just cross, because I didn’t know what else to be at that point.
And then I burst. It was just as dramatic as I had fantasised in my dark, angry mutters. It was fabulously cathartic.
We went to see a marriage counsellor. And left six sessions later wondering why we hadn’t seen one sooner.
In the days, weeks and months that followed I let the anger and the resentment go. My fears and anxiety melted away revealing a young woman with so much to be grateful for and excited about. Look at what I have when he is away!! I have time! Time to explore my ambitions, my mind, my beliefs. Time to create, to ponder, to read. Time to cook delicious hearty meals, to walk through forests of bluebells and beaches full of rock pools. I have time to be silly. I have time to do nothing, to just be. Had I not met and married this man I would be stuck in a suffocating city, in a job that would never be my own, clock watching and constantly trying to keep up with the Joneses. Always finding an excuse as to why finding my version of bliss would have to wait. Procrastination would have been my ever present hashtag.
Having all of this time alone has allowed my imagination to wildly bound over societies expectation of how a woman, not least a human, should exist. I have no excuses now. I have to fill my time with something and why not by reinventing myself as many times as I please? By conquering fears and irrational thoughts? By embracing all of the change, the opportunities for not only myself, but Baby, to immerse ourselves in different cultures constantly? I can pick and choose the hobbies I attempt, the books that I want to read, the paths that I want to follow.
Granted, when He is away it is also a fabulous excuse to get the Prosecco on ice, invite a few of the fellow wives round, indulge in carbohydrates and in the ever present moan about husbands never being present, washing machines going bust, being the default parent and shaking our heads at the lack of new scents being launched by Shake’n Vac, but a girls gotta do …
So, as much as I could wallow quite comfortably in the sympathy and awe of others who marvel at the way we military housewives cope with the isolation, the fear, the never ending list of responsibilities and the constant upheaval, I also want to make it quite clear that I have grabbed this lifestyle with both hands and am going to use this twisted journey to my advantage over and over again until I have found what I’ve been searching for. And do you know what? The realisation and acceptance of that on it’s own has made me a happier, lighter, more fun person to be around so that when He does walk back through that front door he feels nothing but love, appreciation and contentment. What more could any man want from his family and what better way to serve the man who serves his country?
*Puddle, not it’s real name.
**Side note; Puddle cannot be classed as an actual English village due to it’s distinct lack of pub. DISTINCT LACK OF PUB. You read correctly. And I live here.
A quote again,
Oscar Wilde once said, ” I think it’s very healthy to spend some time alone. You need to know who you are when you are alone and not be defined by another person.”
This rings true in my lifestyle, because I’ve learnt a lot about myself by not being surrounded by the influence of my husband, my parents, my siblings, my friends and former colleagues. It’s been just me … looking at me. And it’s not as scary as you think it might be. Be brave and embrace the solidarity that we have been gifted.
Until next time xoxo