Preparing for a deployment is like wearing a wet blanket. I often find myself daydreaming about how I will do during deployment. It’s usually not very pretty, and in fact, I’m pretty certain that an epic fail is imminent.
– Will I be able to drive anywhere if I can’t stop crying?
– Will Elle get lost in the backyard because I forgot to mow the lawn?
– I’m not as strong as I think I am.
I worry because deployment is something I want to handle well, with grace. I don’t just want to survive it, I want to defeat it. Most seasoned military spouses would tell me that the wondering and worry leading up to a deployment is a good thing. I know this because I Googled “how to survive a deployment.”
I came across a study done by Armed Forces & Society in 2009 which concluded that coping with deployment was best predicted by:
- The number of problems experienced during deployment.
- How informed the spouse is about the Air Force and the particular demands.
- Whether the spouse has someone present to listen to him/her.
Okay. What can I control?
Definitely not the demands of the Viper Pilot’s squadron and Mama Air Force. I don’t get a say in when and where they go or who is going to be the bad guy of the week. I don’t get to decide what problems I’m going to experience — I have minimal control over problems that arise in my day-to-day and zero control over what goes on halfway around the world where my family and loved ones are. Most of these are the things that define the deployment, but they don’t predict the experience.
It isn’t that simple. So it turns out scientific research isn’t going to get me out of this one.
The good news is, I’m otherwise prepared. I have my woe-is-me shirt (it basically says “deployments suck” but in different words…) to wear on my “whine nights” on the couch with a good movie and I have a wine glass, several of them actually. I have the other spouses who will all be in a boat very similar to mine and I know I can count on them for anything. I have an “Emily’s Deployment Survival Guide” that the Viper Pilot wrote with instructions on everything from paying bills to how to change a tire. Though I won’t have a whole lot of time to travel, take classes, or try my hand at the crafts and projects on my Pinterest board, I do have a job that will keep me busy so time can fly by. Plus, money in the bank.
The bad news is, preparing mentally for deployment is serious business. Both on the military front and the home front. While I sit here pondering what my experience is going to be like, I am also wondering about his experience. What does he need from me? As the Viper Pilot goes to work everyday to focus on operational readiness, I’m working toward emotional readiness. Then there is everything in between: POAs, writing our wills, what I am supposed to do with the two cars, his cell phone, bank accounts, discussions about the God-forbidding what ifs that most 20-something-year-old newlyweds don’t have to think about…
This is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s exhausting.
In the course of time, I will be ready for him to leave. I’ll say to him, “Babe, I love you, I will miss you, but leave already!!” Why? Because as soon as his wheels are off the ground, the exhale of emotion is released and the countdown to homecoming can begin. The anticipation is heavy, but once he’s gone I can start doing all the things I have been planning on. It’s very much a “hurry up and wait” mentality.
After going through my list of all the possible epic failures that could ensue during deployment, it helps to envision his homecoming. I’m standing at the bottom of the ladder with his favorite beer ice cold in hand, wearing my best dress, hair, make-up, and a big ass smile (sorry for the word choice, but I can’t find better words to accurately describe that smile) as he climbs out of his jet. I’m the first one he sees when his boots hit the ground. And that long awaited hug and kiss, or tackle…whatever you want to call it…is going to be so amazing that time will stop just so we can hold onto that moment. We made it. We survived. He’s okay. I’m okay. We’ll pack our bags and escape to the coast of Greece or Italy for some much needed time together.
Folks, in case you’re wondering, the honeymoon never ends in the military lifestyle.
I wasn’t going to write about deployment until I could speak from experience. I still think of the Viper Pilot and I as newbies in the real-world Air Force. I realized that preparing myself for deployment is part of the experience. Fearing the unknown is happening now and I’m ready to talk about it. This fear is multiplied over 6,000 plus families every day and while I can’t speak for everyone, I can speak for myself about pre-deployment woes. Maybe it will help non-military friends understand a bit better. Maybe it will reassure another military spouse that they’re not alone in their worry. I just hope it helps someone. 🙂