It’s hard to believe that this time last year A and I were preparing for our first deployment as a couple. The five months he was gone were my first real taste of military life and to be honest, they were some of the hardest months of my entire life. Even looking back on them, I recognize that I struggled through parts, but also that I learned a lot of lessons along the way.
- It’s ok to cry: I am (and have always been) a pretty easy cry (thanks Hallmark ads!), but I have always felt bad about doing it, especially when it’s a “woe is me” kind of sob fest. During the first part of A’s deployment, I felt that every time I cried I was giving in or admitting that military life was too hard for me. In reality, I really just need to let it go. Loneliness, worry, frustration, resentment…I needed an outlet for all these feelings and tears worked wonders for that! Did I cry every day? No. But I learned that a good hard cry sometimes makes the next day easier.
- I need A, but I don’t need A: A makes my life fuller, happier and far more fun. There is no doubt about that. I need him for lazy Sundays, Netflix marathons and snuggles on the sofa. But I am also very independent, self sufficient and capable of holding things together on my own. Is day-to-day life more fun with a partner? Of course it is, but I needed to learn that even though it’s more fun with him, I am still capable of putting on my big girl panties and doing it myself.
- My life does not (and should not) end just because he’s away. This is kind of an offshoot of lesson #2 and one that I will probably work on each time! I made a lot of excuses to avoid fun activities while A was gone-I’ve got to much to do, I’m exhausted, life is too hard. And while all were true to some extent, at the end of the day, I know that I missed out on things. I am still allowed to have fun, experience new things and live life!
- It’s ok to ask for help. As much able to hold it all togetherness as I may have, every once in a while, I just cannot do it. That’s when I should ask for help, from my parents, from friends, from A’s co-workers. I have a huge resource of people who I know would be more than happy to help me, but I just need to swallow my pride enough to ask. I learned this as the months went on and my work schedule exploded, but I can’t help but think how much angst it would have saved me to learn this earlier on.
- Sharing isn’t complaining. I don’t know why, but I had this deep held belief that sharing anything other than rainbows and kittens with A would be the worst thing I could possibly do. As if somehow, he’d be so affected by me having a crappy day that he would take it personally or decide I wasn’t cut out for this life. Hey guess what Rachel from a year ago? That’s completely untrue. He can focus on his job and still know that the sink is leaking and the dog is sick and the tire pressure light is on again. In fact, odds are he’ll view this information as a nice change of pace from his daily life.
Bonus: Bad days happen. There were days (and will be in the future) that all these lessons got thrown out the window and all I was focused on doing was making it until bedtime. That’s ok. As long as they don’t start to outnumber the good, bad days happen and it is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being human.