It was hour 2 of sitting in the classroom, surrounded by other military spouses, and it was safe to say I was a bit lost. Looking around the room, I could see the same desperate expression on everyone’s face. We had just been given a fire hose of information, and I was now lugging around a tote bag of packets and folders that were supposed to tell me how to transition into this next year. “How to deal with deployment”. The information was practical, helpful in some cases, and rather obvious in others. But nonetheless, I clung to it like the last life raft on a sinking ship.
Since the moment we found out that Kyle would be deploying, I found myself surrounded by resources that offered advice, guidance, and tools to make this process easier. As we got closer, the classes and ceremonies took up every weekend, and I started to get to know the people he would be deploying with. I met their spouses, and we started to form this inner circle of trust and support that I never thought I needed. We were all determined to follow the advice of the veteran spouses; the ones who have been through multiple deployments. And the most common advice of all: stay busy.
With Kyle being gone, it’s safe to say I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I work 8-5 every weekday, with a 45-minute commute. I have a 10-month old German Shepherd puppy who I love beyond measure, but she’s wild and demands my attention. I have a new house that we’ve only been in since December, and the list of things to complete just gets longer each month. There are bills to pay, a lawn that needs to be mowed, dishes to be put away.. and at the end of the day, there’s just me.
In the first few weeks of this deployment, I used “staying busy” as a crutch to not think about what was happening. I didn’t want to think about the distance, or where he was. Because every time I did, I got that flutter in my heart that made me want to cry again. I didn’t want to be weak and sad all the time. Staying busy was the easy thing to do, because I was tired of feeling so much all at once.
I censored myself because I was tired of all the emotions. I just kept thinking, if I stay busy than eventually, this won’t hurt so much. But staying busy is not a challenge for any of us who’s spouse is deployed. Being busy is our new normal. There’s always something that needs to be cleaned or fixed, and it doesn’t get done unless we do it. That’s our reality. But by staying busy constantly, I didn’t truly evade any of the emotions or the pain of missing him. I avoided it for a while, but it only made it more overwhelming when I let it back in.
Now, I want nothing more than to slow down. To sit for a moment and just hear myself think. Amid all the chaos, I crave a day where I can just lay in bed and do nothing. And honestly, we all need that. We all need to have our moment to take it all in, and staying busy only avoids the inevitable. If we’re going to grow through this journey, we have to take the time to understand it, and ultimately make peace with the way we feel about it. We have to feel all of those difficult emotions, and in doing so, we stay in check with ourselves.
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that we all experience this differently. Sometimes the strongest people are the ones who fall apart, and sometimes the more introverted people offer the best guidance when you need it most. It’s okay to be busy, but don’t feel like you have to stay busy. Take it all in, and use those quiet moments to reflect on how strong you are how far you’ve come.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received about deployment?