Ryan was gone for 9 of the 12 months last year, which is hard by any stretch of the imagination. Add two little ones who were, at the time, under 3 and under a year, and it’s even harder. The crazy thing is that we’re coming up on another separation in the next month or so. No, he’s not deploying again, thankfully, but he will be TDY for 6 weeks. That’s another 6 weeks without daddy, and it’s another 6 weeks that we have to count the days and wait for his return.
I was so blindsided by how hard a deployment would be last year. Look, I knew it would be hard, but I literally had no idea. Especially during the cold winter months, I really struggled. Little by little though, we found a pattern, and we made it work. Heck, we actually had fun! So, as we approach another 6 weeks without our soldier, I wanted to offer up 5 foolproof ways to make any deployment or TDY go by faster.
1 // Stay busy. This is, perhaps, by far the most important of all the tips I can offer up. The worst thing that you can do during a deployment or TDY is to sit on your butt and just wait. Separations are hard. They’re a thousand times harder though if you simply sit and wait for hours to tick by. We worked hard to always have something to do. Now, I’ve mentioned a few times that Fort Drum’s events are slim pickin’. However, there is always something to do…you just have to find it. I scoured local events on Facebook, and I checked out the MWR on post to see what was coming up. Step outside of your comfort zone, and just get out there. You’ll thank me later!
2 // Set goals. This one will look different for every person. For me, however, setting goals meant setting goals for races. I planned several big running races last year. I ran the NJ Half Marathon in May, the Lake Placid Half Marathon in June, the 18.12 Challenge in August, and then I ran the Chicago Marathon in October, about a month prior to Ryan’s return. These were little milestones that helped the days tick by faster. And, I found that having something to train for really made me focus on something other than missing Ryan. It seems like a no-brainer, and it is, but it’s hard to remember these things once you’re thrown for a loop. Find your own passion, and set some real goals along the way.
3 // Focus on the good. This seems so obvious, but it’s actually one of the hardest things for any military spouse (or any spouse for that matter) while their loved one is downrange. Ryan was in a combat zone last year, alternating between Iraq and Kuwait. That’s scary. Add in the fact that I felt super alone with two little kids, and it was even harder. We faced a lot of challenges. Both boys were hospitalized. Danny was hit by a car just 6 days into the deployment. I worked hard to blog and journal every night. Consider writing a gratitude journal. Writing everything down will help you get it off your chest keep you sane. Don’t settle for constant sadness and grief-filled statuses on social media. They’re not bad every now and again to vent, but if that’s all you have, it’ll drag you down.
4 // Ask for help. I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest flaws is the sin of pride. I absolutely hate asking for help. Logically, I know it doesn’t imply weakness, but there’s something so innately difficult about letting people in. I had to suck up my pride, accept the kind offers of friends, and ask for help when I needed it. Those people who choose to serve you and provide acts of kindness are doing so for a reason! Let them help you! Branch out! Make friends, and step outside of your comfort zone. It’ll go a long way, and it’ll make those days tick by.
5 // Cultivate friendships. This goes hand-in-hand with the last one. One of the best things you can do for yourself during a spouses’ tour is to spend quality time with friends. While Ryan was downrange, my good friend, Mareike, and I got very close. She has two little girls, and I have two little boys. Both our husbands were overseas, and we’d been together at Fort Huachuca, too. We set a standing weekly dinner night on Sunday. It wasn’t anything special. We rotated who cooked and who visited. It was something to look forward to each week. We enjoyed adult conversation and let the kiddos burn off steam. Her little family recently PCSd, but I know that’s a friendship that will stand the test of time because we went through one of the hardest seasons of life together.
Everyone goes through deployments or TDYs differently, and there is no right or wrong way to deal with them. You can, however, make them go by faster – which makes life more fun and more enjoyable. What are some of your favorite tips/tricks to make time and distance fly by?