At a party recently, a friend (a fellow Navy spouse) and I were chatting about the reality of being married to the military. As a defense, before anyone else could point it out to me, I said that I was absolutely aware of what I was getting into when I married Amanda – I knew her career would come first, we would move a lot, and she would be gone for long periods of time.

And with characteristic kindness and humor, this friend leaned in and said, “Yes, but there’s a difference between knowing it and living it.”

That’s what the past six months or so have been for me:  the transition between knowing it and living it. The reality is that when you build your life with (and around) someone, and then they have to leave, no matter how long they’re gone, there’s a rug that gets pulled out from under you, just a bit, just enough. And you have to find ways to comfort yourself, to smooth the jagged edges of detachments and deployments alike.

I told my wife last night that I’ve taken to enjoying a cup of hot tea and a quiet apartment in the evenings, perhaps playing a little soft music, but mostly enjoying the quiet, reading or crocheting along, keeping Otis close by. It’s one of the ways I’ve come to round out the times when she’s away. It’s my way of making peace with the quiet and solitude.

My other methods are a little less conventional, and one in particular has caused one or two people to look at me strangely:  I love, love, love to cruise the meat case at Whole Foods.

The collective Whole Foods experience is, 98% of the time, a delightful one. I enter the store and am met with fresh flowers, followed by abundant, beautiful displays of fresh produce, some of it new to me. And then just past the produce, and the dry goods bins full of flour and grains and beans, there is the meat case.

I am eating minimal meat these days, in truth. But cruising the meat case isn’t about procurement; it’s about exploration and escape. In the Whole Foods meat department, I’ve seen goose, packaged up for Christmas dinners. I’ve seen beef bacon, something I didn’t even know existed. I can survey the different kinds of fish, the flesh white or pink or gray, and investigate clammed up bivalves. I can ask questions and check out the different flavored seasonings added to bacon (coffee! jalapeno! black forest!). I can stand in the warm glow of the smoking area and breathe the deep, smoky aroma of the meat.

After all that, while I don’t necessarily feel cured of my blues – after all, life has continued on while I’ve been inside gazing at steaks – I feel inspired and somehow relaxed. I feel grounded. Give me a quick spell at the cheese case to lightly squeeze a block or two of ripe, smelly cheese, and I’m a happy girl, ready to face the world.

And one of the great things to help in all this is when you can have friends over for dinner, to share in the bounty of your shopping trip. Soup is natural for this, and I recently made David Lebovitz’s split pea soup, with bacon and onion and potato, served (per his suggestion) alongside good bread smeared with blue cheese, which cuts right through the earthy solidity of the soup and sets things spinning. Share a good wine, gather a few friends, and enjoy the glow of community, comfort, and a well-stocked meat case.

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