Personal Growth Through Separation

Separation is a difficult thing to deal with. As I write this, I’m sitting at a Desk in a Barracks room at Fort Huachuca, AZ attending a specific type of Army class. My family, wife and children, are geographically separated from me by 1,689 miles. While we’ve been separated before, I can attest that it never gets any easier. Both divisions struggle daily with feelings of loss, wanting, sadness and general to severely elevated levels of stress from having the team they’ve worked so hard to create over the years separated.

Alex, my wife, is one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. She is a strong, caring mother, a passionate counterpart, a complicit co-conspirator in this never-ending roller coaster ride we’ve chosen to take together. She is a fierce champion of the family’s needs, an outspoken warrior queen; there lies within her character a steely quality which demands she take control of her life and drive it, damnit. There also lies within her the enchantingly beautiful soul of a woman who has taken her fair share of punches (metaphorical punches mind you) from the prize fighter we all casually refer to as “life”. Sometimes we can reel back so hard from these “punches” that getting back up and re-joining the fight seems unfathomable.

I think about the kids as well. Kaylee seems to be at an age where she does not yet understand that daddy will indeed be back. While speaking to her over video chats is a great way to connect, it will never substitute for a father’s direct, loving embrace. Skyler is such a smart (almost too smart for his own good) and well mannered young man. I usually don’t worry about him while I’m gone, but why shouldn’t I? Does he not love and miss me too? I know from experience that the absence of a parent, regardless of the timeframe, takes a toll on a child’s psyche.

Also, I have but to think about myself. While I tell myself that I am not suffering or struggling with the separation because of the inherent lessened stress levels of not being around the children every day, I still hurt. I hurt because all the joy around me, all that which can be experienced by me in this area I’m in seems deadened somehow by the fact that I can’t share what I’m doing with my family. I can go hiking in the beautiful mountains which cozy up to the installation I’m on, but I can’t experience it with Alex, a woman who loves to commune with nature and enjoy these experiences right along with me. I could drive to Tucson and immerse myself in the energetic, vibrant culture and atmosphere which is so begging to be experienced, yet every façade I walk by makes me think: “Alex would love this store” or “the kids would find this awesome”.

So what can we do when we are so saddened by the fact that we are essentially a temporarily broken tribe? My personal journey with the practices of mindfulness and the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama have taught me a lot about the ideas of impermanence and grasping. While the time away may seem to stretch out for an eternity, I know it will not last. I can mentally bully and tell myself every day that this experience will never end and I’m miserable, but I know it will and there’s no reason for me to be. I already have a return flight scheduled. The same practices work on the other end of the equation. I tell my family back home that, while it does indeed suck that we’re not together, in the grand scheme of things, we’re only separated by a trickle of time. Relative to the overall amount of time we have together, I could spit across the chasm which separates us. I find comfort in this.

But the chasm still exists, I’m still separated and don’t want to be. The answer I have for myself is to stop wanting it so badly, especially in a circumstance in which it is physically impossible to negate. I lived through most of my adult years wishing things were not as they were, even when the situations I wished were over were of my own doing. I have learned to accept situations and stop fighting back. I’m not saying that if someone walked up and attempted to wrong me or cause me harm I wouldn’t fight back, I’m saying that as I learned to stop trying to defy the immovable factors of my life, I’ve become more and more in touch with a deep personal happiness. I cannot tell the Army that I refuse to leave home for work purposes, I would absolutely lose my job, but I can tell myself to stop wanting so deeply for it to be any different.

I find it interesting how often we as human beings torture ourselves within the confines of our minds. I’m no stranger to being stuck in self-destructive patterns of behavior, my personal one being the prison of self-medication through barley and hops. I also learned quickly, after reading a book by John Kabat-Zinn, how much I tend to berate myself or chase resolutions to negative thoughts and emotions through my head like Ponce de Leon looking for the fountain of youth, thinking if I could just grasp the damn thing and immerse myself in it, I would be able to stop my suffering. But sometimes the answer is simply to accept that the fountain is not there, call off the search and realize that the key to happiness and the obliteration of suffering is here and now. Stop shooting yourself with the second arrow and enjoy your life as it is/was given to you.

If anyone read this all the way, I say thankya. I probably would be better off starting a blog but I’m being lazy right now and wanted to just throw this out there. (edited from a previous posting...I did make a blog, i'm not lazy.

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