Throughout this deployment I’ve used a mental perspective one might call “close focus,” or “one day at a time”: in order to keep my head in the game, I’ve concentrated on the most proximate chunk of time possible, usually the current day. When I get up in the morning, all I think about is, “what do I have to do today?” (Of course, the answer these days is usually absolutely nothing.) There are two main advantages to this perspective: one, it seems to make time go faster (with your head down and no mileposts to stare toward, it’s harder to notice how slowly time passes); and two, by focusing more intensely on my immediate surroundings, it’s easier to forget the sensation of missing home.
This technique was particularly effective for me during basic training and AIT; I just took things one day at a time and it seemed to flow along pretty well. That was only four months, though – I’m in my sixteenth month of active duty and that’s a long time to be living one day at a time without looking up.
Early in the deployment, when I was single and busy with training, things were easy. I didn’t have a home, I didn’t have a girlfriend, I hated my civilian job, I was meeting new people, and I was about to embark on what would certainly be an adventure (albeit a potentially dangerous one). Nearly a year and a half later, though, I have a home, a wife, I hate my Army job, and all the “adventure” parts of the deployment have come and gone, leaving simple hot drudgery.
Mrs. Melobi hardly seems real to me now; I’ve known her for many years but only in the last year and a half have we been a proverbial “item.” Coincidentally, I’ve spent the last year and a half on active duty, so our relationship has developed across the miles without the usual superstructure of physical interaction.
(I can feel the ether vibrating with the collective eye-rolling of my readership, wondering at my folly in engaging in a long-distance relationship – from a combat zone, no less – but I assure you, the situation is quite under control. It’s not as if I met her through an online dating service (or in Everquest/WOW/FFXI/etc – barf) and threw open the doors to my vast fortune.)
She’s been extraordinarily considerate and understanding – almost unbelievably so, considering that she said to me that she didn’t want to become an Army wife and I made her one anyway. (Muahahaha!) But when I dream at night, I don’t dream of her – I dream of nothing but B Company, in every conceivable situation. At parties, in combat, just sitting around – it’s a red-letter night if at least one member of this damn unit isn’t visiting me in my sleep. As Agent Smith said in The Matrix:
It’s great that I can chat with her every day from the comfort of my room, but we both often wonder if there’s really a person on the other end, or if it isn’t just some Turing machine, issuing programmed responses. How would either of us know?
Having my head down for so long, staring at my feet, watching one foot land in front of the other, one day at a time – one day I’m going to look up and Melobi will be there, and the World, and Iraq will be behind me. Or…so I assume, but there’s no way of knowing until I get there.