Who knew that Ben’s tour would fill me with so much guilt? I happen to think that guilt has become a natural part of my life, ever present due to constant physical distance between Ben and I, and many other military couples. Someone is always feeling as though the separation is their fault because one of us had to go on course, work on an operation, go on tour, work out of the country. It never ends. So inevitably, no matter how excited you are to go somewhere new and experience new things, it feels dampened by the guilt of leaving your loved one behind. And the person left at home feels guilty too! Sometimes, it feels like I can’t allow myself to have fun because it will be without him and what if that hurts his feelings? Oh…how the guilt haunts me. I experienced a whole new bout of it last night when talking to Ben on the phone (web cam connection was not cooperating). I was in quite the verbal tear about my vacation…how relaxing it had been, how well I had slept, how nice it had been to see some friends and make new ones. I let my own excitement take over, oblivious to how Ben must be feeling on the other end. I noticed that he seemed pretty quiet, mumbling the occasional, “Hey, that’s great.” I should emphasise that it was not, “HEY! That’s great!!” His voice was flat. Monotone. Then, I realized. I think that the worst thing about being away from home, and I’ve done it often enough to know, is the feeling that life is carrying on without you and you’re missing out on something. Worst yet, that you have become irrelevant at home and are no longer required. I know that last year, while away on course for 8 months, I would call and Ben would tell me how he had a BBQ with friends, how he went to see a movie, or how he took Duncan for a long hike. And although I was happy to hear about his day, I felt so far removed from it. The distance felt more than physical…it was also figurative. And there could be nothing worse than that. So here I was, chatting away about the glorious-ness that was my vacation while Ben has not had one day off, not one night of great sleep that has not been interrupted by rockets and hardly a moment to relax. I felt my old friend sneaking up on me: Guilt. Of course, when I apologized, Ben assured me that there was nothing to feel bad about. But I could hear the sadness in his voice and nothing could stop me from feeling like scum. We ended the phone call happily, both acknowledging that we were being silly. Still, the guilt pressed on. On both sides, I’m sure. I know this is a feeling that we’re both going to need to accept and move past, especially if we both plan long careers in the forces. But until we do, I keep feeling it creeping up on me. In the end, I will continue to remind Ben that no matter what, he’s always a part of my life and our home. The next time I go away for work, I’ll have to remind myself of the same. Take that, Guilt. I’m wise to your game.
FILED UNDER: under-fire