These days, I've been measuring and gauging my life through random acts of kindness.
It's never something I thought I'd do, honestly. I used to take things for what they were worth and move on. Now, for some reason, I hold onto these nuggets of warmth that I receive from other people.
Sometimes they're little things, like the time I bought a couple pretzels from Auntie Anne's and the cashier saw my military ID, and gave me a discount "just because". She told me that if mall employees could have 15 percent off, then a woman whose husband is serving our country was entitled to one as well.
Or the time in my Military in the Media course, where I'm one of a small handful of liberals. I experience it all the time in this state, but after class one day my professor pulled me aside and told me our class needed more opinions like mine, that I shouldn't be intimidated by people in class with very strong opposing viewpoints, and that he would back me up every inch of the way in discussion.
A significant random act of kindness came last night from my newspaper adviser, who chats with us on Facebook sometimes. He noticed my status updates were often sad, and he decided to talk with me about it. I'd always felt that he was more concerned about publishing a quality newspaper even if it meant we were sacrificing homework and personal life dramas. But he told me he was going to schedule me an appointment with the campus counseling center to talk about what I'm dealing with, the being alone with a minimal support system ordeal. He said he'd schedule it during my office hours, so I wouldn't miss class.
I wanted to cry. I work with him every day, under deadlines and all the regular stresses of a newspaper, and this was the first time he expressed concern for what's on my mind.
I'm well aware of why Patrick took the job that will force him to leave in May for eight months, and will continue to deploy him for six months of each year. He's doing it for me - he knows I'm not happy here, and he knows that getting out of Oklahoma will increase my chances of getting a decent job in this crapshoot of a recession we're in.
I think that makes it harder - he's doing this for me, and yet him being gone so much is just so damn hard at times. I have support here, but it isn't quite the same support I have back in California. I throw myself into school and work to keep myself from thinking about the way I often feel when I go out with friends. The third wheel feeling, the minimal understanding from many people about what it's like to go through this. Last deployment I found myself subconsciously avoiding the friends who were married, whose spouses were still here.
They are friends, and I didn't want to push them away, but I did anyway... I just couldn't deal with it. Now I've got eight more months of it to look forward to.
Patrick's been in California for a month, visiting family, something he needed to do. He needed this vacation. So this hasn't felt like a deployment so much - I can call him, we can talk for more than 15 minutes at a time. But I still have that feeling of wanting to stay away from couples, because I hate feeling left out. And I don't like that I feel that way - people are not going out of their way to put me in that position...
So now, with everything going on in my world, I hold onto random acts of kindness. I have a world full of stress right now - which people can empathize with, but perhaps not completely relate to. My stress is not limited to Patrick being gone. I work in a newsroom where I feel underappreciated for my work output, I'm taking 17 credits of intense senior-level coursework, I have graduation to consider, my parents are moving from the hometown I was raised in, my brother is back in prison.
In fact, in my wallet I have a "fortune" from a fortune cookie I got at Kang's a few months ago. It says, "your contribution is significant." As stupid as it might sound, seeing it sometimes makes me feel a tiny bit better.
Maybe I'm a little maudlin about this... who knows. But until things even out and get easier, I'm going to continue holding onto these random acts of kindness that come my way. They come without preface, often blindsiding me. Sometimes they make me want to cry, for no reason.
I do what I've been doing - I keep them in a safe spot in my mind, to think back to when things aren't easy, like so many things right now.