In David Finkle’s The Good Soldiers, Finkle describes a ‘bad news bucket”, an emotional coping cache that, once filled, puts a soldier near the breaking point. According to Finkle, who heard of the idea from Gen Petraus (I believe) soldiers need good news in order to drain the bad news they carry around inside them.

When I read Finkle’s description, I thought, this was it exactly.  There were days in Iraq where I simply couldn’t handle anything else, that I was barely holding on and needed to get away and pull it back together so that I could continue.

I did not expect this once I returned home but apparently, I have my own version of the bad news bucket: the mommy box. I discovered very early on in my deployment that I needed to stay busy in order to keep my mind on the tasks at hand and not sit and mope about my kids. They were happy, they were healthy and they were in my mom’s more than capable hands. I didn’t need to worry.

What I was doing, apparently, was shoving everything inside the mommy box and closing the lid. I shut those emotions down and ignored them.

Except that sometimes, the box got too full. Like on my oldest’s first day of school. My husband and I both agree that they hardest day on this deployment was missing that event. Birthdays we could recreate. Anniversaries, we would ignore. But the first day of school is something we can’t get back and we don’t get a do over.

But having put everything aside for the duration, I fully expected to come home and simply go back to normal. I did not expect to be crying the first weekend back with the kids every day for four days. It seemed like I couldn’t stop. And I also discovered that drinking makes the mommy box even harder to handle.  Apparently, alcohol unleashes the flood of emotions that I’ve still got boxed up inside me.

I can sit back and pretend that everything is fine now that we’re all home, having hauled the entire family back from the diaspora but that would be lying to myself. I’m not fine but I am one hell of a lot better now that I’ve got my family back together. There are still a slew of emotions inside me that I still have to handle and I’m sure they’re going to leak out, a little at a time (because I’m not drinking anymore, but that’s another post).

The mommy box was set in a corner for an entire year. Now, I guess, it’s time to clean it out.