Afghanistan ~ and why I can’t talk about it in my book!

So, I had my book launch event on Armed Forces Day! It was  huge success! I wasn’t completely ignored! I got to sell lots of copies of the book and also meet so many people with great feedback and positive things to say. So thank you to all who came along….

22/06/2015 - Pic by Lucy Davies Military wife Elizabeth Eager with her new book Warrior Wives which has been published in time for Armed Forces Day. Reporter Sarah Contact Rebecca (Elizabeth) Eager on 401144 / 07933846569

Military wife Elizabeth Eager with her new book Warrior Wives which has been published in time for Armed Forces Day.

I also met many current and former military wives who praised the book which was lovely. One of the older ladies said that she didn’t know how my generation of military wives did it with Afghanistan. She was  what she called a ‘peacetime wife’ and it was hard enough then! Before I had the chance to explain that I don’t focus on Afghanistan in my book she was gone; into the crowd clutching her copy of ‘Warrior Wives’… and I was left feeling like a fraud!

I felt like a fraud because I only did ONE tour of Afghanistan. It was a tough, arduous, terrifying experience. The wounds run deep and if I’m honest I am still licking those wounds which is why I skim over that part of my story in the book…

Let me try and share some memories from that tour: November 2008 Hubby had been gone approximately 8-10 weeks (I lose track of time!) The phone lines and email service had gone down, which by now I already knew meant a fatality… so I waited! Like every other wife/girlfriend whose partner was serving. Watching the news or making sure you can hear the radio in every room… waiting desperately to hear the horrifying, cold, formal words ‘Next of Kin have been informed.’  … because then you know it wasn’t a knock at the door meant for you. Sometimes the waiting, with a constant knot in your stomach would go on for hours, or days, not knowing if every unknown car you saw drive into your street, every ring of the phone, every knock at the door would be the one to break your heart!

Then, when you finally hear those words, you release the breath you didn’t realise you’d been holding for the last two days! And for me, it was ALWAYS with a sob and sudden, hot, fervent tears for the families that had received that knock. Families, wives and girlfriends that I didn’t know – but who would always be much more to me than just ‘Next of Kin.’

So, November 2008 I’d sobbed my tears for an unknown family and continued to check my emails waiting to hear from my husband until 1 am. I went to bed – nothing. I got up early – nothing. I went to work. (Or rather my body went to work, I was ‘present’ – but I wasn’t really present). I came home from work, I burnt a microwave pasta (how? I don’t know!) … and still nothing!!

Eventually after I had gone to bed for the 3rd day in a row not hearing anything. I had a phone call. It was late and there was always a slight delay on the line, so I knew it was him:

“Babe, thank God you’re ok! I’ve been worried sick!”

A long pause… too long! Finally his voice, thick and strange sounding. “It was …” his voice broke as he told me the name of his friend who had been killed. My husband has had a long career and unfortunately this wasn’t the first time he’d told me of a friends death – either in combat or accidents. But I’d always been near him before, or at least seeing him within a few days.

I didn’t know many of his friends on this particular tour because he’d changed units right before the deployment. But I knew of this lad, I knew of the family he left behind. The tears I’d shed the previous evening were not for an anonymous family and those tears quickly burnt my eyes again.

The silence hung between us. I didn’t know what to say. ‘Sorry’ was just not enough. So I cried. and I told him I loved him.

“I can’t talk anymore.” He said “I just needed to tell you I was ok. I love you too.” and he was gone. The dial tone resounded deafeningly in my ears.

phone call

I couldn’t reach him, I couldn’t comfort him, I couldn’t be there for him…. and he didn’t want me to. He needed to get his head together, keep his focus and get on with the job at hand. There was no rest. Barely enough time for a quiet prayer for his friend before he was back on the front line himself.

I sat at the top of my stairs listening to the dial tone and sobbing my heart out. In pain for him. In pain for myself. In pain for the family of his fallen comrade. Stroking my pregnant stomach and wondering if I would ever be able to reach my husband again.

I know he shut me out because he needed too, but it still hurt….

A few weeks later (I always count down deployments in weeks!) I was sat on my sofa, eating a giant bag of Doritos – I was pregnant, and shamelessly giving into cravings, watching X-factor. Another ‘vice’ I could happily indulge in without Hubby’s moaning from the other sofa about the ‘crap’ I enjoy on tele (whilst he secretly enjoyed it himself!) The episode did a ‘special’ on Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion, and they featured a mini film on Mark Ormrod – the Uk’s 1st triple amputee.

You can see it here

I can honestly say this was the first time I had even considered the possibility of injury. Not because I was naive, or ignorant, but because I couldn’t. I couldn’t cope with thinking about that – the implications were too huge for a pregnant woman to comprehend. But seeing the reality on the screen in front of me was impossible to ignore. I bought the X-factor single, but could never listen to it, or watch the series again. I’d wait until he was safely home, moaning by my side about my trashy choice of TV before I could watch it again!

Afghan was hard and there were many more memories like this; many that I am still not brave enough to face or talk about. I guess as I said – I’m still licking my wounds… and I am one of the lucky ones!! My husband came home to me. He came home and he wasn’t injured. I can NEVER FORGET how lucky I am!

IMG_9353

And I only did this ONCE!!!!!!

I did it once for 6 months, 6 years ago and the memories still hurt. The pain runs deep…. There are friends of mine who had to repeat this fear up to 3 times!! 18 months of their life spent in this constant state of panic and apprehension. My children weren’t born when Daddy went to Afghan, they have no memories of who he was before that time. I know people felt sorry for me during Afghan – who wouldn’t? I was alone and pregnant whilst the love of my life was fighting on the front line. But I didn’t want sympathy- then or now.

I was angry about Afghan for a long time. Or at least I thought I was, until I reached out and went to a coffee morning with other military wives and realised that I wasn’t angry about Afghanistan at all! -I was angry about all of it!! The lack of control I had over my life, and the situations I found myself dealing with. Moving 5 hours away from everyone I cared about to spend 60% of my time apart from the person I’d moved to be with….

In the process of learning to be strong I had put up walls and got confused and angry. I didn’t want to be a bitter, angry wife or mother. So I made a choice then, I decided to let it go….. Writing it down, making friends, sharing our stories was all part of that healing journey for me.

Being a military wife is so much more than JUST the Afghan’s! They are hard, there’s no denying that. But people can recognise that is hard. But the bits you don’t see are just as hard. The phone calls from ship, that you’ve waited all week for, to then have intermittent signal, (“Hello? Hello? Babe, is that you?”) the parts of the call you can hear interrupted by a sodding unintelligible Tannoy announcement and then having the call cut short for some unexplained reason, and having nothing but next week’s call to look forward to. The times when they are given a ‘shore draft’ or supposed to be ‘home’ but they spend most of it halfway across the country “on course”. The times that people don’t understand, because after all “we knew what it would be like when we married them!”……..All equally as challenging in their own way.

But the most important reason of all ~ My book isn’t about having people feel sorry for me, it’s NOT about saying how hard it is!

WarriorWives-FINAL cover_Amazon WarriorWives-rear cover

It is about celebrating the good parts of our life. The relationships that are unbreakable! The brotherhood and sisterhood of serving your country – whether on the front line, or in a supporting role at home. The sacrifices from Afghanistan should never be forgotten, but they are already talked about. There are countless emotional movies about it – all of which reduce me to a blubbering wreck, and I didn’t want people to be reduced to a blubbering wreck with ‘Warrior Wives’ – I wanted them to come away feeling inspired, as I was inspired to write it.

Advertisements

I’ve written a book!!! 

Feel the fear and do it anyway!!!

So, I haven’t written on my blog for ooh almost  at least a year! Except maybe a little re blog post somewhere….. 

The reason I started this blog was because I wanted to write- I’ve always wanted to write! And I have stories to tell, (mostly) made up stories that come from my own head, but stories from my own experiences too, and these were what I wanted to share. Once I’d done that, I started to realise my blog was just another pro-crastination tool to stop me actually writing that book!!! Somewhere else (other than my countless notebooks!) to splurge with creative freedom and never actually have to craft it all into a book. 

So I stopped blogging (not that anyone except my mum read it anyway!) I don’t think the blogging world missed me much, let’s put it that way! 

Anyway,around the time I was giving up blogging to focus on a real book, a psychic told me I was scared of success. She said “you want people to like you so much that your scared success will make them dislike you or judge you. It’s holding you back in your business and your writing!” Fear of succeeding was as much an issue for me as fear of failure. 

So I made a choice to write a book I’d wanted to do for a long time. A collections of love stories from real military wives and girlfriends. The strength behind the strong. By writing other people’s stories it made me accountable- I had to finish, because I told them I would. I also decided to do it for charity – another tool of accountability. Who could not finish a charity project just cos they were too busy distracting themselves with their Pinterest world and twitter followers? The modern world with all it’s tools of engagement is a minefield for people like me, who constantly seek approval, and whose imagination is vivid enough to actually disappear a little into my Pinterest life.

Anyway, I had no idea how hard it would be! To write other people’s stories in a way that they liked and that fitted with your book idea, and which did them justice because so many people play down their achievements.  To write for others in more ways than just readers- a brave or stupid move. I’m not sure which yet! 

So for the last year I have been on a merry go round, roller coaster ride with a huge learning curve of self publishing thrown in! (Did I mention I also suffer with vertigo and dizziness? My nan used to call me “dizzy lizzy”) I also have driven my husband quietly insane starting every conversation- “in my book…” (Like the girl in American pie “and this one time at band camp!”)

But it’s done!!!!! 🎉✨🎉💋 I have written my book. I am very close to getting it into print.  


But it’s not over yet…… I still have to learn how to market my book, I have to build up a social media presence. I have to SELL THEM!!!!! 
I also have to edit it, and this is proving harder than I imagined.  

I know People support this project- it genuinely is an awesome idea (I don’t mind blowing my own trumpet here!) but what if they don’t like the finished product. I am sure it will be smaller/ thinner than they imagined ( I only had a limited number of volunteers and had to harass a few old friends to get involved too!) but worst fear of all – what if there are spelling mistakes!!!! 😱

This,to me, is a cardinal sin in books and the self publishing world has unfortunately made it all too common! But here I am about to put my baby into the world and I know how hard it is to get every little error, to make stories sound as though they were written in different ‘voices’, to make similar stories interesting and engaging, to spot every tiny typo!!!!!!!!!! I genuinely used to have to read a dictionary as punishment when I was a little girl- so I know I’m good at spelling- but I am TERRIBLE at typing!! And predictive text makes that 100 times worse……

So after all that look out for my book! 📚 It’s going to be awesome, and please don’t hate on me for typos!! Grammatical errors I am more than happy to discuss! – Everyone needs improvement and educating there ….. But please don’t mention the spelling!!! 

With love and big kisses 💋xxxx