Here is why I think it has gone so well...
1. Everyone I know is praying for us. :)
2. We've done this before and have added to our arsenal of tricks every time
Disclaimer: I'm not saying the goodbye was cake and that it didn't hurt. It did. I'm not saying that tears have disappeared from the house. I'm just saying that we are all doing really, really, well on the home front. At this moment....it can flip all crazy in a split second.
Deployments are like kids -
Your first child has you terrified out of your mind.
You don't know what to do. You are lost in Babies R Us. The plethora of books, magazines, advice, opinions, and products is ridiculously overwhelming. The thought of Labor and Delivery scares you to your core. You are overwhelmed with all the things you can think of to be overwhelmed about.
And then you have a baby.
And you realize - the stuff you stressed about is not at all what you should have spent your time freaking out over! It is all these OTHER things that you had no clue about. You are learning how you parent. You are learning a new human. You are figuring out how to heal.
It is just a lot of new.
Your second child - has you scared in a new way.
You know what is coming - the exhaustion, the difficulty, the decisions that only you can make.
You still have no idea what is coming - it's a new HUMAN. And while you learned a lot with #1, #2 is whole different ball game. Thankfully, you are a little more sure of yourself this time around. You learned a bit of your groove with #1. You identified things you'd do differently, or repeat. You have an arsenal of tools for handling teething and colic and sleep difficulties and eating challenges and all that jazz.
After your second child, your entire defense changes.
You are no longer able to field man-to-man.
From now on, you are always on Zone.
And that is an entirely different bag of tricks.
Deployments are exactly the same.
The first one is petrifying.
Will we be able to handle all the time apart?
Will we grow apart?
Will they still love me when they return?
What will I do in the lonely time?
The military acronyms are overwhelming.
The fluctuating schedule is enough to drive you out of your mind.
Leaving them on the pier, or at the squadron, or at the airport - is a deep ache that you can never prepare yourself for.
The shock of an empty closet - chair - bed - it is just a bit awful.
Especially that first time.
But it gets easier.
Not because you love them less - but because you learn your tools.
Each time they go, you discover more of who you are and what you are made of.
Just like labor and delivery is never comfortable...you just learn how to handle it better.
We learned what was worth fighting over.
We were trained to not waste our moments on the phone.
We were forced to focus on what we love about the other person - instead of what drives us crazy.
I think deployments have been a huge gift in my life.
Not because I like being apart - but because I have found out I have more in me than I ever knew.
Here are some of the tools in my arsenal for handling deployments...
1. Know Thyself - thyself is not an Island.
Assess who you are and what you need. You will be pushed waaaaaay beyond your comfort zone - get ready. I know I am an extreme off-the-charts extrovert...which means I'm gonna handle the separations differently than someone a little more on the line of normal. (And I have absolutely no clue how a shy person should handle deployment. I won't even guess on that one.)
Even back on our first time apart, I knew that nights and weekends all by myself for months on end were not a recipe for a happy chick. Back then, I worked full-time at a job I loved. I lived in the town I grew up in...just minutes from my family. So I helped with my family as much as I could...I babysat for friends...I saw movies by myself...I did fun stuff with my brother (he's 13 years younger than I am)...I helped in AWANA at our church...I joined a gym. I did NOT learn to cook, clean, or sew. Which is unfortunate. I really should have tried to learn one of those back when I had all that free time!
The next separation had My Love leaving just 5 weeks after moving to a new state where I only knew 2 people within 7 hours. It was a little different than the first one. I still knew that I would need to be around people so I wouldn't be enveloped in a great dark cloud...so I threw myself into our new church and got to know the people I worked with at Geico (selling motorcycle insurance. seriously) I am immensely thankful for that difficult time of knowing no one and having to put myself out there and create my support. It was hard. It was lonely. But I learned I am not going to fall to pieces just because I'm alone.
So this time around (there have been a couple other separations in between those two and now!), I'm thankful. I've learned that I am not able to do it all on my own from our previous times apart. We are surrounded by amazing friends whom I affectionately call my support team.
Part of my team has happened organically...we met, we clicked, and angels sang. Some of it has happened very deliberately. I'm not gonna lie - some relationships I've developed because I knew we would need each other once My Love left. Or the other person has a special bond with one of the beans. Or they've been where I've been and can help me find my way.
Part of knowing yourself is knowing you are not super human.
You will need help at some point.
If you get in the habit of helping others and accepting their help -
deployment will be much smoother sailing.
Actually, life will go much better in general....but that is for another day.
2. Don't look at your life as "on hold" while some one you love is away
If I had waited for My Love to be around to do anything fun...entire years of my life would have been serious bummers. Truly - while he is still my favorite person to hang out with, fun can still occur without him present. Plan adventures - explore new places - learn a new skill - take a class - read a book - watch a movie.
Do NOT sit on your couch having a pity party every night.
A) it will age you to always be crying and sad.
B) a deployment is not the hardest thing in the world - not by a long shot.
3. Get over yourself
Feel like nobody would care if you died?
(Yes, I felt that way. I wasn't suicidal - I was too tired to put forth the effort - it was more of a over-dramatic mental conversation.)
Push yourself. Take the kids to a soup kitchen. Volunteer with an organization that helps those with less. Commit to others.
There is no better way to get over your dark cloud than by investing in others.
I've been in some dark places where I thought the loneliness would swallow me whole. Cry out for help if you are there. Give help to others to keep it at bay.
4. Choose to be thankful
Some days everything in the house explodes or cries or whines or is utterly awful to be around. Those are hard days. I'm not really calm on those days. I want to be - I try to be - but sometimes the nutcase overwhelms me and I just cry. On those days - those hours - those moments - where all I can see is the crazy-insane-chaos that is my life....I stop, and start thanking.
Actually, we all do.
When everyone is at each other's throats - I set a timer, and we go around and only say what we are thankful for until the time is up. Granted, we often start out with material things because the people are driving us loony. But the crazy thing is - after we start saying
thank you God, for this house
thank you God, for our food
thank you for our clothes
- our attitudes start changing.
Then, instead of griping about not getting to face time Daddy or call Daddy, we can say
Thank you God, for keeping Daddy safe
Thank you that we can email Daddy
Thank you that I can get hugs and kisses every day
Realizing the gifts before us.
That is the biggest challenge - and the greatest reward - of deployment.
Do you have any tips for how YOU get through deployment? (As the grown-up...the kids one is coming later this week. Don't go stealing my thunder!)