I like to think there are three kinds of deployment days; fast days, slow days, and bad days.
Fast days are days when I think, “Deployment isn’t so bad!” They are days when I’m busy from morning til night, and it doesn’t occur to me until I’m tucked in bed that I crossed another day off painlessly and enjoyably. They are usually days spent with family or friends, days when I relish my alone time, days when the weather is gorgeous and the birds are singing and the squirrels and deer come help me get dressed in the morning. Those are the days when people say, “How is everything?” and I respond with, “Good! This deployment is actually going by so fast!” Because on those days it feels like it. I love those days. I’m happy to report I’ve had lots and lots of those days. But not every day is a fast day.
Sometimes, every once in a while, I have a bad day, though. The kind of day that make me hate the Navy and everything that comes with being separated and generally ends in tears, a good friend’s sympathetic ear, and several glasses of wine. I had a bad day when the dog chewed the carpet down to the concrete. I had a bad day the first time R told me to expect a call and I missed both of his attempts. The bad days are less frequent now that I’m in the swing of things, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have them at all. Now they’re just more like bad afternoons instead of whole days.
Most days are slow days. Managable, monotonous, day in and day out kind of days. Slow days aren’t bad days, they are just…incomplete. Slow days are the toughest thing about deployment in my opinion because they are really hard to explain. (I’ve deleted and rewritten this paragraph like four times in my attempt.) The thing about cruise is that there is always this awareness that a part of me is missing. If I have something need to vent about, I have to suck it up and figure it out, (a very tough thing for me to do as I cope with my stress and anxiety by talking it out, or yelling, as the case may sometimes be). If I have a great day, I have to somehow convey that excitement in an email and then wait X amount of hours for a response. (Next time you’re bursting at the seams to tell someone something, go ahead and give that a try. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails faster than having to email good news to someone who is 8 time zones away.) It’s like a twilight zone where I’m married, but I’m not really married. I haven’t had a real conversation with R in months. I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve laughed together since June. By the end of this year, I will only have spent 96 days all year with my husband. You know, that guy I married because I liked him so much I wanted to spend every day with him? I get the sense on slow days that my life is in pause while everyone else goes on living, having babies and buying houses and moving forward, while I check days off a calendar until my life gets back to normal.
I think I anticipated the bad days. And the good days are the best part. But no one really warned me about the slow days, about the limbo and the disconnect.
What I wasn’t prepared for though was how much I would need my friends and family and how awesome they’ve been in return. My military friends and family are always ready to listen and nod in agreement, immediately soothing that nagging feeling that I’m all alone in this. They are always ready with a glass of wine and a story about how they went through the same thing and encouragement about how it gets better. A lot of the difficulties of deployment are pretty universal and the advice and comfort that other spouses who have been there, done that have to offer has been priceless to me.
My non-military friends and family have been even more wonderful, considering they have no idea what deployment is like. They let me vent, check up on me, send sweet texts and emails, and generally remind me that my life isn’t really on pause, it only feels that way sometimes. They are there to pick up the slack for R since he can’t be my sounding board; they listen to me vent about work and school and Virginia drivers and long lines at the checkout in Target, (you’d be surprised how angry these makes me).
Deployment is a weird thing. It’s tough to describe and I think I finally get it when people thank military families for their sacrifices. I have sacrificed a lot. But I think I’ve gained a lot more; a lot of perspective, some invaluable soul searching time, deeper and more meaningful relationships, and a really good list of cheap wines that I’m happy to pass on!
If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people that has let me unwind or cry it out on a bad day, or you’re one of the people who has made those fast days so wonderful, or you’re there with me in the monotony of the slow days, thank you so much. You know who you are. If you’re reading this and you know a military spouse or significant other who is getting ready for deployment, get ready to use those night and weekend minutes. And if you’re reading this and you’re sitting on a big grey ship halfway around the world hoping your little blogging wife is doing okay, then you owe a few people a big thank you upon your return for taking such good care of me.
This are just my thoughts. Stay tuned for R's deployment musings.