Survival mode. It’s something all military spouses know well: when this life gets crazy, we hunker down, focus on making it until the end and don’t worry about the extra stuff. When desperate times call for desperate measures, survival mode works. It gets the job done.
I have nothing against survival mode. I’ve used it myself, especially when I was brand new to the military spouse lifestyle. But at some point, after months and months of survival mode, I took a look at my life and was decidedly unhappy. I loved my husband, I loved my job, I loved our life. But I couldn’t shake the feeling of being unhappy.
Because all I was doing was surviving. Day to day, week to week, and so on. I wasn’t making big plans or dreaming big dreams. I was just existing. Largely because of a lot of deployments, but mainly because it was just easier. You see, with my husband gone, I had an excuse to put things on hold temporarily, waiting for him to be there with me to run the half marathon or try the new restaurant or make some changes in the house.
That temporary waiting eventually turned into longterm waiting and nothing happened except the day-to-day necessities. And it was making me unhappy.
So I stopped being unhappy and started DOING things, whether my husband was home or not. Yes, I still wanted to do stuff with him and I did hold off on some things (big trips for example) until we could do it together. But I didn’t let him being gone stop me from living life.
I focused on thriving during deployment, rather than just surviving it.
What does that even mean?
For me, thriving during deployment is going that one step beyond survival mode. You stop waiting for your loved one to be home to do things. Your life is no longer on hold and you’re taking a little time to focus on you.
Thriving means different things to different people and each one is just as valid as the next.
Is it a perfectly clean house, organically-fed children, a super high profile career and an excellent workout regime, every single day?
But is it also a house with toys and dog hair everywhere, children who are tired and maybe a little dirty from a day at the park, a side hustle you’re passionate about and the odd yoga class?
Yes it is.
Thriving during deployment isn’t always neat and perfect and that’s ok. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying “I will try again tomorrow” and not letting the hard deployment days take over your life. Sometimes it’s running that half-marathon solo just to prove you can do it. Whatever your version of thriving is, I hope you work to live it, not just during deployment, but every day.
How can I thrive during deployment?
Pick something that gives you joy and do it every day.
During the early days, I stopped doing what I loved because my husband was deployed and that meant I should be miserable all the time. WRONG. We all need to do things we love regularly. I started going back to yoga class, reading for pleasure and spending time with friends. I was instantly happier and felt like I was handling deployment so much better.
Choose one thing you enjoy doing, even if it’s as simple as having a cup of coffee in silence every morning, and make it happen! One small thing each day is doable.
Set a few goals for yourself.
Having personal goals for myself during a deployment helps me continue moving forward in life. As long as you set good goals, you will have a similar experience. Make sure they’re attainable and you actually want to accomplish them. Take small steps each day and you’re on your way to thriving.
Give yourself grace.
Thriving during deployment does not mean beating yourself up every time your life doesn’t live up to Instagram standards or even your standards. Not every day will be look exactly like your idea of thriving and that’s ok. It’s so important to cut yourself some slack during those days so that you don’t tear yourself down. That defeats the whole purpose!
We all want to survive deployment, but we can do so much more. By working towards thriving during deployment instead, we’re living our best lives. That means the best versions of us greet our loved ones at homecoming, take care of our kids every day and interact with the world.
What does thriving during deployment (or whatever season of military life you’re in) look like to you?