merchant mariner families

...a highly unusual, sometimes maddening,
but mostly comical way of life.

February 27, 2013

absence of the merchant mariner
Mom, my first hero
 I've been independent since the ripe old age of birth! Hee, hee...  My mother was the absolute best role model a young girl could have.  Not only did she instill in me a sense of confidence about the great, big world I was headed toward, but she gave me a true appreciation of the enjoyment one can have in this life alone.  So I did just that, rather all of that, lots of adventures, many wonderful friends, I honestly never considered there was anything I couldn't do.  Yet, through all of this, I also maintained an overwhelming affinity for solitude.  So between that and having had a merchant mariner father, I was definitely primed for the life of a mariner's spouse...or so I thought.       

About 9 years ago, during the last part of winter, Callie's Mariner began to take shape in my mind.  It had been a tough one, lots of snow, little sunlight, and extremely long weeks.  I was going to school full time, working part time, and Beady was out to sea.  I found myself unable to sleep much of the time, resulting in two or three hours of rest, and not good rest, before starting another long day.  I started skipping classes, which by itself was idiotic as I was taking heavier semester loads in order to graduate sooner.  Instead of going to class, I would lay on the couch for hours watching TV, feeling extremely flat.  I didn't even miss Beady, I felt nothing about his absence.  I procured most of my food from McDonald's or Wendy's, cried at the drop of a hat, drank a bit more than usual, and stopped returning friend's phone calls.

At some point during this time, I was invited to lunch by my mother-in-law.  (Looking back, I can't even believe I accepted.). We met her daughter in Portsmouth at one of my favorite places, got a table, ordered, and started talking.  A bit into the conversation, my sister-in-law asked me how things were going. I burst into tears, had absolutely no control over the waterworks and it both scared and disgusted me.  Then the rest just started coming out--the insomnia, the fatigue, the isolation, chest palpitations, skipping classes, the absolute nothingness I felt much of the time--it seemed like I went on forever.  They were patient with me, listening with concern and sympathy, then began plying me with affection and validation.  It didn't fix me, but it helped and it was a beginning.
Four big components of my support system
Over the course of the next month I slowly began to come out of it, so to speak, with the help of my mother, other family members, and close friends--friends who were ripped that I hadn't reached out to them, but how can you when you simply don't care?  I learned quite a bit about myself as well, it was a real wake-up call.  For instance, I never realized just how much someone could screw up their mind and body with consistent lack of sleep.  And I knew the food and booze weren't great, but I hadn't understood how they had contributed to the funk.  However, one of the more important lessons I learned is that being independent, relying upon one's self, can not mean one has to isolate themselves from the world.  Just because I knowingly married a man who is absent for half the year doesn't mean I have to live this life without the help of family and friends.  I never signed a contract stating I'd love this way of living all the time, that I'd do it really well, or that I'd never complain about it. 

That concept in particular, was a difficult notion to acknowledge and I continue to struggle with it from time to time as I chose this man, this marriage, this way of living, no one forced me into it.  Rationally, I knew he wouldn't be here for half of the year, but it's not so easy to persuade your heart toward logic.  I married to be and to have a partner in this life, it's extremely difficult to override that sentiment every time he goes back to work.  However, in spite of all that, I try to remember that I married Beady not because I'm 100% on board with this lifestyle, but because I love him.  So this is what I finally did...

      I gave myself permission to be disturbed, upset, depressed, whatever about his absence sometimes, even though I knew he was leaving, even though I like being alone, even though my life is very full.

 Missing my husband, feeling crummy when he was gone, didn't make me any less of a woman, it didn't mean I needed a man to make my life complete.  All it meant was that I loved him, that's it.  This, more than anything else, freed me like nothing else had.  It was okay for me to suck at being a mariner wife sometimes and, more importantly, to let others see that.  Maybe they'd feel sorry for Beady having a wife like me, maybe they'd feel sorry for me, who cares?  I certainly couldn't anymore, it wasn't good for me, and the guilt hadn't made me a better person or wife over the last twelve years.   Enough.

In the middle of this mess, I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for other mariner spouses, thinking, they more than anyone would understand what I was feeling and might have some much appreciated words of wisdom.  But I was shocked to find absolutely nothing.  So when I finally emerged from my melancholy, I decided then and there that I should do something about it.  I kept thinking if I was having such a difficult time, how are the spouses who have to take care of children managing when this sort of thing hits them?  What about the ones who have aging parents to look after or the husbands and wives who might be dealing with medical issues?  So I wanted to create a place where merchant mariner folk could commiserate, whether positive or negative, and Callie's Mariner began to take shape.  Yes, it took a very long time (the turtle is my totem) but it's finally done and I really hope it helps.
This is a part of "all that loveliness", thank God! 
You know, this life is so odd, but it's my life and I really wouldn't have it any other way.  Beady loves his job, I love mine, and we absolutely love the life we have together.  If his being gone for half the year is the sacrifice for all of that loveliness, so be it.                        

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                                                   Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner




  1. Thanks for your honesty. This shit is real.

  2. Been there, done that, and it is okay, you have to work it out with you and then everyone else. You are not alone even when you are, thanks for writting this blog, I have been searching for others and nothing!

  3. I love your honesty and insight. It helps me to know I am not being bratty when I feel like crying.

  4. You're welcome and definitely NOT a brat!