The Difference a Year Makes

The Difference a Year Makes

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

The Difference a Year Makes

The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation.

Albert Einstein

We had been married for exactly thirty-three days when my husband received the official notification phone call. I remember everything with vivid clarity. Even though we had both known he would be called to Iraq, it didn’t scare me until he walked around the kitchen corner and said, “Honey, it’s time.”

I could never have prepared myself for what it was like when my new husband walked out our door and out of my life for a year. What do you say? What should you feel at a moment like this? Do you express worry and concern, or do you play the supportive role and pretend for a moment that you know everything is going to be okay?

One year is more than just a time period. It is every holiday. It is the first year of our marriage and our first anniversary. It is thousands and thousands of memories that will never be made together, never shared, never reminisced about later. One year is loneliness, fear and meals eaten alone in the quiet dark.

I worried about the time we were spending apart. Then it hit me—I would keep a journal!

Memories fade, and emotions are forgotten over time, but written testimonials last forever. What better way to stay connected than to inscribe our experiences, feelings, memories and activities into journals that we could later share and explore together?

I sent my husband his own blank journal and immediately started filling up the pages in mine. It felt like the next best thing to actually sharing those experiences with my husband. I found that I loved documenting the way I’d laughed through a new movie, or cried when I felt sad and alone. I wrote in great detail when I was upset or angry, and I spent pages imagining what our reunion would be like once the year was over.

I wrote about personal growth and milestones in my life as I explored my own strengths and weaknesses, and realized that I was sharing things I might never have vocalized.

Time passed, and my husband finally came home safely, bringing with him the journal I had sent. It was full of his year, his emotions and the struggles he had undergone. He wrote about the lessons he had learned and the astonishing experiences he had.

I read his journal the way I would read a suspenseful novel. Writing is intimate, and, even now, we bond on a deeper level when we read one another’s most personal thoughts. I feel like I was a part of his year, and he was a part of mine, even though we weren’t sharing a home, or even a continent.

During an experience that tested our marriage, challenged our commitments and postponed our happy ending, we found a way to laugh, cry and thrive together. And we still got our “happily ever after.”

Megan Armstrong

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