A friend stopped by yesterday morning to pick up our tent for their own camping trip this weekend. As she was leaving we were laughing about the last time she was at my house.
It was after suppertime and she was picking up a cake I'd made for her daughter's birthday the next day. Noticing the absence of the police truck she asked if my husband was still at work. Kinda...he'd come home then been called back out for an abandoned box. About ten minutes after she left I received a text from her letting me know they'd had to detour around one of the intersections because of where my husband and his co-workers were "playing".
Talking about it yesterday she commented on how she didn't know how I managed it. Not necessarily the Job, but the call outs and the uncertainty of it all.
I suppose it does look pretty crazy from an outsider's perspective. But this is our Normal and we manage just fine. Not always gracefully. But no one ever accused me of being Graceful in the first place.
When law enforcement families break up the knee jerk reaction is to blame the Job. I think the Job can place extra pressure on whatever faults were in the marriage to begin with, much like having children or any other major life change would do, but at the heart of it all--the blame falls on the couple and how they chose to handle that stress.
I don't know if I've ever told her but the greatest marriage advice I've ever received was from my sister. Of course, I didn't realize it at the time. Because I was 19. And I rarely listened to anyone then. Because at 19 I was Wise. Full of fire and passionate about each and every opinion I had--and I had a LOT of opinions--and every Cause that spoke to my bleeding heart. And I was Right and refused to back down. Ever. I also had a massive chip on my shoulder regarding being raised in a patriarchal society that was hell bent on telling me where my place was.
I was visiting my sister and her husband. They'd been married for a couple of years already. A disagreement arose between them and, instead of fighting for her side, she let it go. Later I confronted her about it. Because the big sister I'd grown up with would have never backed down. Her answer? "Does it really matter?" I think I looked at her like she had two heads. Of course it Mattered! What's the point of having a different point of view if you don't do your damnest to convince others to see it your way?!
It took years for what she meant to finally sink in. It took even longer for me to sort out what truly Mattered from what Did Not.
My husband being called out at odd times, an uncertain schedule and the necessity of being flexible are all things that Do Not Matter. They are pointless to fight against and about. Doing so would be a waste of energy and time that could all be spent in far more positive ways.
We have friends whose marriages have recently imploded. All law enforcement. All blaming the Job. Two, in my opinion (remember, I have those), were doomed from the start. Occupation had zero to do with those implosions, no matter what the wounded party claims.
Another couple, however, have kiddos the same ages our's were during the darkest period of our own marriage. I remember that Dark. The excruciating loneliness. The despair of thinking that since I was basically single parenting anyway then I might as well make it official and do away with the pointless hope of having a partner who would actually be, well, a Partner. I would rather leave with my children than remain and spend the few hours we had together fighting.
So how did we survive, bruised and battered but intact and stronger, when others do not?
First, we took the option of divorce off the table. And then we remembered what Mattered. We never went to counseling We were our own councilors. Not only did we talk, we also listened. We listened to what mattered to the other one.
Late this afternoon I had a text from my husband.
"Going to be late. I have a bunch of civil war stuff to blow up."
It's been a long, tiring week. The least of it being I've ended up with supper duty every night this week. I had chicken thawing for him to cook when he got home. I read the text. Took a deep breath...
"Dude. You always get the cool stuff!"
Because what Mattered was that he knew I had the home front covered and that he wouldn't be coming home to a pissed off wife and stressed out children. The rest? I fell back on the immortal words of Sir Paul McCartney: "Whisper words of wisdom, let it be..."
Then I called and ordered Chinese take out.
P.S...I was just reminded that I haven't cooked every night this week. He did make burgers Monday night. See? Communication. It's a two way street.