Every deployment presents a choice for military spouses: either be consumed with the loneliness and isolation a long-term separation often brings, or use the time apart as an opportunity to grow. I know both choices first hand. During my husband’s first post-marriage deployment four years ago, I found myself isolated and depressed. I chronicled that separation and how I tackled it in this post. When my husband’s most recent deployment was announced —then cancelled, and then announced again, in typical Army fashion —I swore what happened during the last deployment would not happen this time around. Although our current deployment is only one-quarter of the way through, my decision early on to use this year as a time for growth has helped shaped what has so far been a great period of learning.
One decision I made early on was to not dwell on my spouse being gone, especially during the holidays. These times of the year can be rough during a deployment, especially a holiday like Valentine’s Day that is so “significant other” focused. Instead of spending the holiday drowning in my sorrows —or bottles of wine and chocolate —because my husband was thousands of miles away, I decided to reach out to other spouses I knew going through a similar situation. When your spouse is not deployed with a unit, you sometimes can lack a supportive military spouse group such as an FRG.
InDependent has provided me the support group I would have been lacking otherwise, and has kept me close to friends made at former duty stations. I reached out to my friend Meg, whose spouse deployed around the same time as my husband. I simply asked her a question: “Do you want to help me with a home decor project?” The crafty turn-tin-ceiling-tiles-into-a-headboard project I found on Pinterest was right up her alley, and without hesitation she said yes. We made a Valentine’s Day weekend out of it, with her driving up to North Carolina from Georgia. We set to work, and with few trips to various hardware stores, a lot of laughs, some fantastic food, and a few minor mishaps, by Sunday morning we had a completed project, and some great memories. This get together showed the importance of planning meet-ups with friends in an effort to lift each other up.
I have also made it a point to dedicate the year to working toward personal and family goals. We were spoiled with a garden full of well-established fruit trees and herbs when we lived in Germany, and it ignited a desire in both my husband and me to eventually grow most or all of our own food.
I have set a goal that by the time my husband returns and we move to our new duty station, I want to at least have begun to learn some practical homesteading tricks and tips in a effort to be more self-sufficient. While having a full-scale garden is practically impossible in an short-term urban rental, I haven’t let that deter me from learning. I’ve started growing herbs in hanging planters on my front porch, lining my walkways with edible rosemary and lavender bushes, and planting a large container bed with produce. I’ve recently discovered that I am excellent at growing purple kale, while I have successfully killed both chard and cabbage. I’ve also begun making my own kombucha, and flavoring it with herbs grown in my tiny container garden. Perhaps the one thing I am most proud of is that I have learned to compost, making beautiful, nutrient-dense soil while creating close to zero waste from our kitchen.
Next up on the list is that I will begin interning at a small, local goat farm near my house so I can learn the ins and outs of caring for the animals I’ve been dying to raise for years, and hopefully support my borderline unhealthy goat cheese addiction as a happy side effect. These small efforts are far cries from being a completely self-sustainable homesteaders, but in this military life you have to take what you can get.
As I look back over the past three months, I can’t believe they’ve gone by so quickly. I think a large part of my success is learning to continue to set goals, stay busy, maintain relationships, and move forward. It could be really easy to spend the year tucked away in the comfort of my home, having a pity party on my couch, wearing pajamas, eating ice cream with Grey’s Anatomy reruns as my only companion. That would not only be unhealthy for me, but it wouldn’t be good for my future or my family. Every day you wake up and you have a choice. I’ve made a choice to grow.
What did you choose to do today? In what ways have you chosen to grow during long-term separations?