How long until homecoming? This is the question every Military Spouse looks forward to, dreads, and can answer with 100% accuracy during deployments…
“3 months, 2 weeks, 1 sleep and a wakeup”
Honestly. We’re obsessed. We create calendars, download apps, and even redecorate entire walls of our homes to track the time that has to pass before our spouse is home from their deployment. Who can blame us? When you feel like you have a limb missing because your person is nowhere near you it can feel completely impossible to focus on anything else. But here’s the flaw with this system- deployments are usually a really freaking long time.
Whether you’re waiting 4 months, or 6, or 12, or 24- deployments feel like an eternity. Often, for me, the countdown to homecoming (or even the countdown to R&R) felt more torturous than exciting. Focusing solely on the homecoming WILL make you crazy.
We can’t stop thinking about it- and thinking about it makes us crazy- so… what’s the solution?
There are going to be a million tiny moments of joy between “day zero” of deployment and homecoming. Big things are going to happen in your life, and if you can’t take your eye off the “homecoming ball” you’re going to miss them.
So- the number one strategy that has worked for me in creating a joyful and healthy deployment season has been curating and planning moments of joy, and then counting down to them. On a calendar- on paper. And guess what? 20, or 30, or 40 mini-countdowns to amazing moments in your life eventually add up to that big “homecoming countdown” that you were originally focused on. The benefit? You got there without making yourself crazy- instead you’ve had 20, or 30, or 40 amazing moments.
Here are a few of my favorite things I like to countdown to during deployment:
Whether I’m at home or traveling to see family, I make a big messy deal out of all the holidays. If not for me, than for those around me. I bake cookies for friends and family at Christmas, send cards to all of my gal-entines, and have a Thanksgiving dinner party with all of the extras. This takes time and effort to plan for, and the days between holidays are not endless- so time moves quickly and I walk away with beautiful memories of these celebrations.
I like to plan a few getaways during deployment, and spend the weeks leading up to them really excited about where I’m going. Sometimes they’re day trips, just an hour or so away, and sometimes they’re big adventures out of town. Either way, I always look forward to seeing a new place, and am even happier to do it with a friend.
CARE PACKAGE DAYS
Yes- this is a thing at my house. Before my husband leaves for deployment, I decide how often I’d like to send him a care package, and I add “care package days” to the calendar. I like to spend time thinking about what to put in them, and dreaming about the big smile he’ll have on his face once he receives it. It's even more fun if you ask your spouse to open their care package while you’re skyping with them- you’ll be counting down to THAT moment of joy every time!
Set a deadline, and stick to it. What are you hoping to accomplish physically during deployment? Whatever it is, give yourself a deadline and make it happen. Focus each week on taking one step closer to your goal, and celebrate yourself when you hit it.
What do you do each week that you love? If nothing, it’s time to institute a weekly gathering in your life, at least during deployment. For some it’s being with their friends for a weekly girl’s night. For others, a book club or yoga class. Wherever you need to be to feel excited
When is the last time you sent a birthday card to a friend? Not a Facebook message or email, but a real, live birthday card? Make a list of 20 people who you love, get their birthdays and addresses, and spend one morning each month sending your cards. Even if they get there super early, your loved ones will feel all the love- and nothing combats loneliness like showing love to others.
Find a rhythm of treating yourself monthly or bi-monthly with a special gift that comes for you in the mail. Of course- my favorite option for this during deployment is Brave Crate- our monthly deployment care package for military spouses. It’s filled with tools and tips to help you crush goals during deployment, and creates a mini-countdown every month as you wait for your next box and the next challenge inside it!
So- what are your mini countdowns during deployment?