Most people live within at least one set of definable cycles; yearly events that help to mark the passage of time and enable people to feel comfortable and secure in their everyday lives. Many of us, for example, are subject to the Jewish holiday calendar. The four weeks between Rosh Hashannah and Shmini Atzeret often feel like an onslaught, an inescapable never-ending stream of holidays, but those four weeks also help us to feel that we are at the start of a new year. And I know for sure that my parents would say that Pesach is one of the defining moments of their year – the lead-up, the actual holiday, and the eventual relief that there’s an entire year between you and the next time you have to go through all that craziness. A college student might map out his or her year based on the academic calendar or – let’s be honest – based on vacations. Sometimes, it’s easiest to think of college as surviving from one vacation to the next: summer break to fall break, fall break to Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving to winter break, winter break to spring break, spring break back to summer. Military families often live in three-year cycles for the simple reason that most postings last for three years.
These cycles that we depend on don’t only exist on a yearly level. Oftentimes, people (and families) operate on specific day-to-day schedules that create a sense of consistency from one day to the next. Wake up at 6, out the door by 7, work all day, home by 6 for dinner, watch TV, go to bed.
While I very much operate within the yearly structure of Jewish and secular holidays (sometimes living from one 96-hour-weekend with Yoni to the next), I don’t always feel like the military life is conducive to a daily or monthly schedule. Or at least not my military life. Instead, I find myself living in a cycle of unusual, or unpredictable, events. Take 2013 for example: In February, I went home to New York for about a month to surprise my dad for his birthday. Soon after I returned, Margot came to visit me in Okinawa for a week, and together we spent about a week in Tokyo. Less than a week later it was Pesach, and Yoni was leaving for a week or two. In the beginning of May, I went back to the states for another month. The summer was more or less normal, but then Yoni left for Afghanistan and Talya arrived and the whole cycle started again.
Don’t get me wrong. All of these were good things – or at least most of them were. But they all contribute to a general feeling that I am constantly adjusting and re-adjusting my sense of what is normal. As soon as I get used to having a visitor here, the visitor leaves – and then I have to get used to spending my days alone again. When Yoni travels, or when I do, there’s always a re-adjustment period for the two of us where we remember how to be together, living in the same place, in the same time zone. And without a job to regulate my sense of the everyday, I don’t always pop back in to “regular” life (whatever that is) as soon as an irregular period is over. I would if I could, but more often than not, I have to re-create a regular life for myself; get back into a rhythm of tutoring, volunteering, having lunch with friends, and taking Penny to the beach.
I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say here except that this is something I’ve been thinking about lately. As our time here in Okinawa starts to wind down (not sure I can really say that since we’re only just about 2/3 done but I like to think of it that way) and as we start trying to negotiate orders for next duty station, I find myself wondering sometimes what it will be like to go back to the “real world.”