The bags were packed and it was time to go. The hug was a little extra long and there were more than a few tears shed because this was the day my husband left for deployment. In some ways, it was an exact repeat of the scene that played out eight months ago when he left the first time this year. But in one huge way, it was very different.
The bags were mine. I was the one getting on the plane first.
You see, in a super weird turn of events, I had a work trip booked for the exact same day as A’s departure. It was certainly not my first choice, knowing how hard it would be for me to walk away from him sooner than I “had to”, but there was no way around it.
Military spouses have to watch a lot of leaving, between deployments, trainings and people around us moving, it becomes part of our lifestyle. And while we do our own share of leaving our homes, friends and family multiple time during our spouse’s career, it’s not often that we leave at the start of a deployment.
And now I completely understand why.
Y’all, I was an epic disaster leading up to leaving and an even bigger one once the front door shut behind me. I honestly don’t know how my husband does it. But once I got to the airport, I gained a little bit of insight into something he’d told me for years.
“It’s easier to be the one leaving.”
All this time, I was convinced he told me that so that I wouldn’t worry about him being sad (believe me, I’m covering down on it for the both of us). But once I got swept up in the hustle and bustle of the airport, I found myself (grudgingly) realizing that he may be right.
The enemy of a military spouse staring down a deployment is time. Time to think, time alone, time to worry. The more time you have, the more time you allow yourself to wallow in being sad, in missing him or her, in dreading how slowly the months ahead will pass. And don’t get me wrong, some wallowing is good! It’s what ice cream and the Hallmark Channel were invented for.
But when you’re the one staying behind, you can have too much time to wallow, which I think actually makes things worse.
As hard as leaving first was, I think it actually turned out to be a bit of a good thing. It was kind of like ripping the Band-Aid off. Yes, it hurt, but the pain was sharp and there was a bit of relief in it not being drawn out. I didn’t have time to mope. I couldn’t wander around the house being sad. I had places to go, planes to catch.
And the deployment monster strikes again. Yup, just like that, the fastest four months in history are over and we’re starting the next deployment. This one hit especially hard, perhaps because it came up so fast, but I’m not going to let that derail me for the next few months. I want to be productive while A is gone and have come up with some deployment goals to help keep me motivated.
This is probably my most ambitious goal only because it’s really hot here and will be for most of the deployment. But I miss running and want to get it back in my routine. It works out to just be a few miles a week, which is a good starting point after taking way too long off.
Finish decorating the entryway.
I painted the entryway the last time A was gone, but progress has completely stalled during the time he was home. All that’s missing is a new light fixture and the art for the walls. I need to finish it while he’s gone!
Catch up on scrapbooking.
Oh gosh, I am so far behind on this that it’s not even funny. You see, I started the tradition of creating a scrapbook for each year of my relationship with A and, despite enjoying it immensely, I have fallen off significantly. By the time he gets home, I’d like to be caught up.
Try 4 new recipes.
Raise your hand if you feel like you get stuck in a rut when it comes to dinner. Yeah, me too. I’m going to use this deployment to find a few new recipes to add to my dinner schedule. If you have any that you love, definitely leave them in the comments for me!
Do something out of my comfort zone.
This is probably the biggest deployment goal for me and it applies to my personal life as well as my professional life. I want to try new things while A is gone: add video into my business plan, travel by myself, maybe treat myself to something I wouldn’t ordinarily allow. I want to try it all!
If you’re going through a deployment (or any other separation), have you set your goals yet? If so, tell me one in the comments so we can keep each other motivated.
Deployment is a scary word isn’t it? When I first started dating A, the very mention of the D-word was enough to send me into tears. But now, three deployments in as many years later, I feel more prepared when the time comes. I have learned so much from others and from my own personal experience that I wanted to share a great round-up of my go-to deployment resources and advice.
Is this your first deployment? Don’t believe that staying busy will make the time pass faster; it only gives you less time to focus on how slowly time is passing. And that’s important! More advice for a first deployment can be found here.
During our first deployment, I kept everything to myself and was terrified to even tell A that I’d had a bad day, let alone that the toilet was broken for the 5th time that year. Looking back, I see that being honest with him would have been in both of our best interests. It’s important to maintain open and honest communication however you can.
Two of the ways I survive deployment is by sending my husband lots and lots of care packages and using a countdown app on my phone. Care packages help me feel like I’m still able to love on my husband even when he’s so far away. And as goal-oriented as I am, the countdown apps help me check days off just like I would items on a to-do list.
Obviously the best part of deployment is homecoming! I highly recommend wearing comfortable clothes and bringing a camera. But most importantly, remember that no matter how weird your hair looks or how uneven your eyeliner turned out to be, your homecoming will be perfect because your loved one is home.
OPSEC, TDY, OCONUS and so on. The military has more acronyms and abbreviations than any other organization I’ve ever encountered. Learning basic military vocabulary is important, especially as you get ready for a deployment.
Deployment resources are always must-shares because no matter how many you’ve been through, deployments have a curveball waiting for you. What deployment resources would you share with other military spouses?
I had the honor of guest posting on The Six Box blog earlier this month and I am so happy to have Megan on the blog today sharing some of her best reintegration tips!
It’s true what they say: every deployment is different. Since each deployment is different, than the reality that every homecoming is different as well. Of course, this makes sense when you think about it, from 6 weeks to 12 months a lot can change in one person’s life. Now multiply that by two people (or more if you have kids), with one living in a war zone, and the changes can be more intense and impactful on a relationship than anything you have gone through together prior.
My husband deployed to Afghanistan this past year and we experienced a myriad of unanticipated challenges and changes through the past 12 months (including an injury while deployed, birth of our son, loss of a close family member to cancer, and our little girl becoming a sassy 2 year old). To be honest, just one of these events is a lot to take in by themselves, but lump them all together and we now see why 2016 felt like a very long to year.
He has been home a few weeks now and we are navigating what “re-integration” looks like for our family. Somehow, through all of the changes and stress, we are finding ways to re-connect and live life in light of these new realities. While each family’s situation is different, the following are some ideas we have embraced and I share these reintegration tips in hopes that it might help another couple preparing for a homecoming soon too.
1) Expect the unexpected. If you are anything like me, this can be the hardest thing. After my husband returned, I realized my days were less “controllable”. There are now two adults in the home again so opinions, needs, schedules, etc. have to be blended together along with the fact that the Army can change his schedule without much warning which impacts our family immediately (unlike deployment where many of the changes only impacted him directly).
A deployment and a return home has forced me to learn to let go more (okay, with him joining the Army 5 years ago I started learning to let go), but even more so in the past year. There are some things I can control and so many more I cannot, so trying to clutch tightly to what he told me last week on the phone about a schedule or predict exactly how each day will go, only causes more stress. In turn, he is learning to live with children (which can greatly derail the best of plans), being part of a “home” again and no longer just responsible for duty. We have each committed to doing our best with the schedule, time and communication we are given and not worry about the rest.
2) Communicate. Have you ever heard the phrase “Listening isn’t waiting to talk”? I heard it many years ago and when I take time to really live it out, it is a game changer. My husband isn’t always a “talker” and rarely is the one to go first (oh, your husband too? ha). While we don’t always have time to sit and talk for a long time (newborn and a toddler over here) we have been finding pockets which have been great. Allowing each other to share what happened while you were a part and how you feel that changed you or fits into your post deployment life is important. We have had tears, arguments, hugs and laughter as we work to get back on the same page in our new normal. Communicating with words, actions or just a simple high five for a good day (we are into “high-fiving” at my house) is important. If you are looking for ideas on how to communicate better we have a little post on that over on The Six Box Blog.
3) Give time and allow for space. I am a firm believe that all things in life need time and space to work themselves out. Time for truth to come out, time for healing, space to reflect and grow, space to be yourself. A homecoming is a wonderful thing (for most), but not all of the emotions, fears and more need to be worked out in the first 24 hours. Give each other space as you adjust to sharing a home together again- maybe he needs to go for a quick run alone or you need to drive with the sunroof open and an iced latte in hand by yourself sometimes. Perhaps your husband will surprise you one night by telling you about an experience or revelation he wasn’t ready to talk about right away. Bottom line is, you don’t have to have it all figured out in the first day, week or month. Allow each other time and space to figure it all out.
4) Plan a vacation. Seriously! I don’t care if it is just a stay-cation at home. You both need a break together. Deployments are stressful no matter what happens. Vacation is when you allow yourself to let go a little bit, re-connect and have fun. Go enjoy each other without the pressures of life pushing you around. After a deployment, I can think of no better thing than letting go of daily life for a little bit with your partner in a relaxed environment!
Whether you are preparing for your first Homecoming or you’ve had many, I hope these reintegration tips resonate and help you in the transition.
Megan is one half of The Six Box, care packages created for military spouses holding down the fort, an Army wife, momma of two sweet kiddos, lover of sunshine, red wine, coffee and the kind of laughing that brings tears to your eyes. You can find out more about The Six Box on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Each deployment offers unique opportunities to learn valuable lessons that you can apply to future deployments. These deployment lessons may not be obvious in the moment, but when your loved one is home and you look back, they start to make themselves known.
I sent my first small flat rate care package this deployment and absolutely love them! They’re super easy to decorate and cheaper to fill and ship, making them a much faster care package across the board.
2. Deployment routines are hard to break.
I mentioned this briefly on Tuesday, but there’s always a bit of an adjustment period when deployment ends. I get pretty attached to my deployment routine and it’s hard to switch it up when a second person gets added in. I probably should have learned this deployment lesson earlier, but it’s been far more apparent this time around.
3. Busy days go by faster, even if you’re exhausted at the end.
Between my day job, the dogs, house and Countdowns and Cupcakes, I’m not sure I’ve ever been busier than I was during this deployment. And honestly? It was really helpful. I know that people always say “stay busy and time will go by faster” and most military spouses scoff because it’s not true. But perhaps there is a kernel of truth to it after all. The days still take 24 hours to go by, but your mind is occupied elsewhere.
4. Dove milk chocolate candies are pretty much the best thing ever.
Every day during the deployment ended with a Dove chocolate. Talk about the tastiest countdown ever!
Many of the deployment lessons I learned this year had to do with getting through the holiday season without A. While I would prefer to never have him deployed during the holidays again, I feel pretty good knowing that I can survive that separation.
6. Starting a car a few times over the course of a deployment will not keep the battery alive.
Poor A. This is twice now he’s come home to a dead battery after deployment. I am just not good at keeping his car in good condition when he’s gone. I have to do better next time which means I may be learning a non-deployment lesson called “learning how to drive a manual transmission.”
7. When you have a Ruger, you actually end up with less room in the bed during deployment.
You’d think that 1 bed + 1 wiener dog + 1 Ruger – 1 husband would equal more room for Rachel, but you’d think wrong. Ruger (while an excellent snuggler) is a very aggressive snuggler and doesn’t understand the staying on his own side of the bed concept.
Deployments don’t necessarily get any easier, but military spouses do get smarter. Learning valuable deployment lessons each time help you get better at future deployments. What deployment lessons have you learned?