As Brooks and I have made our way through four full deployments and head into our fifth, some things are very apparent.

Obviously, we married young.

And as we’ve grown, and learned things about ourselves and each other, what our marriage means and how it’s defined… we’ve done those things with or without being in each others presence.

When I sit back and look at each deployment, and the periods in between, there were always moments when the gravity of it all was overwhelming.

It seemed to me that we were living for each deployment, placing life on hold and making each decision based on the upcoming separation. At times, it was like The Boy and I lived one life while Brooks was home and a whole different one while he was deployed.

Our transitions to him being home went smoothly, but it was always with that mindset that we knew that our time was limited, that it was ever shifting out from underneath us, and that all too soon we would be living world’s apart.

When I looked at my husband during those periods he was home, waiting to leave us again, I saw a man who couldn’t relax and fully enjoy his time with us because all too soon he would be leaving us again. It rubbed me as abnormal in so many ways, but it was our normal, and I couldn’t make it better for him.

And then after our last deployment we were told he’d be home for 18 months. Now, of course, things are always bound to change with the Army, but I held on to the hope of that extended period of having him home, of being able to plan for his being home for two birthdays in a row, two summers, two… whatevers. To be able to plan for the following year was so bizarre, yet so unbelievably amazing.

We embraced that. Until we were told that it wasn’t going to happen anymore. I could have panicked then, but I didn’t want to ruin the time we had left. I didn’t want to mourn something that couldn’t be changed, regardless of how I felt.

And then we were blessed with going to a wonderful event, called Camp Better America. Blessed because it gave us the gift of a full year, enjoyed fully, freely, without fear or apprehension of what lay ahead. Of the long awaited “see you later.”

Brooks and I talked about it. We agreed that as time permitted, in other words, as his work schedule permitted, that we would live each day fully , with no thoughts to the next. We wouldn’t discuss the deployment, unless we did so in generic terms, as if we were discussing something happening to someone else.

So life was good. The best. We laughed hard, loved fully, and enjoyed each moment we were gifted together.

But it also got us communicating in a way we hadn’t allowed ourselves before.

That can be a misleading statement because Brooks and I talk nonstop about anything and everything. I love hearing what he thinks and how he sees things. He’s unbelievable company. Never a dull moment, for sure.

But we were no longer scared to discuss things that before were considered off limits, because someone the deployment was tied into it and it would remind us of all the sadness, the separation facing us shortly.

Because when they’re gone, time is on slow mo.

But when they’re home, time flies, like grains of sand shifting through our fingers.

As we’ve headed into the latest deployment, I love all the ways that we are able to keep in touch. I love the long conversations, the discussions, the friendly back and forth banter, the flirting. He’s physically gone, yes, but he’s ever present in our day to day. His phone calls accentuate our day with long and loud exclamation points of joy.

And the other thing I’ve learned is that empathy is a must.

I can’t ever walk a mile in his shoes. I can’t really ever come up with a clear picture in my mind of what that mile might look like. But I empathize with his day to day, with his sacrifices, frustrations, joys, hopes, fears, etc.

I lift him up and build him up, in the things I say and the things I do to show him, that although I may not necessarily get all the ins and outs of his day, that I get that it’s huge and that I support him one hundred percent.

And he does the same for me. I see it in all the little things he does for me when he’s home, and all the little things he says when’s he’s gone. I see it in the foresight he shows when he gives me advice before I even know to ask for it. The way he knows exactly what it is I am needing that day, just because he’s empathized with what I go through, through what my day might have been.

And the craziest thing I’ve learned?

That these deployments have also been a blessing at times. I know I’d be a different woman, wife, mother without them. I would be less resilient, less patient, less understanding, less positive, less organized, less… me. I’ve learned to love my husband more than i could have ever imagined. I am ever grateful for all that we’ve been blessed with, and trust fully that God’s plan for us is ever perfect and guided by His hands and his understanding for what is right for us. I may not know what the future holds for us, but I know that regardless of what that may be, we’ll do it together, regardless of the distance or the circumstances.