It’s a scenario we all know too well. Deployment is on the horizon and you want to know, what should I do? How will I make it through the 3, 6, 9, 12 months that my significant other will be gone?
You turn to friends, Facebook groups, blogs and over and over again you’ll see:
Except me. I’m here to tell you NOT to do everything.
Because you’ll burn yourself out.
“But Jessica,” you say, “you don’t know me. I won’t get burned out. I can totally do all the things. How do you know this will happen?
Because I’ve been there.
Flashback to our first deployment as a couple. We were newly married and I decided that it was the perfect time to kick my career into high gear. I was accepted into a master’s program an hour away from our home that was my dream program. I found a new part-time job that was my passion.
But that wasn’t all.
Nope, I wanted to be involved on base so I volunteered with my FRG as a key caller and served as the newsletter chair for our Spouses Club.
I filled every single second of every single day with commuting, working, studying, volunteering and making lifelong friends.
I was so busy that I wouldn’t miss my spouse right? Wrong.
He wasn’t there to experience our first full year in Washington state. He missed the gloriousness that is summer in a state that is cloudy 9 months of the year. There were certain things that I avoided because I knew that I wanted to do it with him when he returned. I slept terribly at night because he wasn’t there to warm the bed or remind me to go to bed at a decent hour.
Staying super busy didn’t magically make those feelings disappear.
Then I hit the wall. Not just the deployment wall but the you-overbooked-yourself wall.
That’s when I realized that I wasn’t taking care of me. I was too busy making perfect care packages, throwing myself into work and school, and helping everyone around me that I didn’t see that I was suffering.
I was eating poorly and not just because eating for one is hard. I wasn’t eating enough some days, too much others, and eating junk food a lot of the time.
I wasn’t sleeping well, partly because I was staying up too late getting everything done and waking up early to start all over. I didn’t take days off to relax and do me. Get that haircut. Work out. Go to the grocery store and buy food for the entire week, not just for the FRG potluck the next day.
It was time to reevaluate.
I cancelled plans. I took time for me. I thought about a better schedule to get everything done. And while I wasn’t in a position to back out of my duties, I could say no to other extra things, like the potluck on the same day a school project was due. Or yo-yoing between base, work, school and base so that I could attend all the things. I dedicated specific days for specific tasks – work in the office Tuesday and Thursday (the same days I had class). And then work on school the other days.
As much as I wanted to fill my time surrounded by people, I didn’t need to have plans every single day with friends. They understood that I was busy and we could see each other another night that worked for both of us.
I needed to make time for me. And so do you.
Because while yes, you have extra time to work on that deployment project, it’s OK to say that you have too much on your plate. It’s OK to take thing off of your plate. It’s OK to not finish everything. It’s OK to start off deployment with nothing on your plate.
Yep, I said it.
You don’t have to make deployment plans. You can just do you, and take every day as it comes.
To be honest, I wish that I had done this for our second deployment. I thought that I’d be able to focus on work again but with a kid to take care of on top of that, it was hard. It took me until the very end to be OK with not meeting all of my personal goals for the year. Because I had dealt with a lot (aka the vengeance of Murphy’s Law).
When I look back at this most recent deployment, I was glad that I said no a lot. Because for me, I needed those nights at home on my couch watching TV. Or the lazy weekend. Or just quality time with my daughter.
Here’s my deployment advice to you: Do you. And know that it’s OK if that means adding nothing to your life, because deployment is stressful and you should focus on taking care of you, whatever that looks like.