5 Ways to Readjust Expectations During Deployment

It’s 10:37 p.m. on a Thursday night.

I’m sitting here unshowered with one hand stuck in a large bag of chocolate chips, writing, erasing, writing, erasing some more, desperate to pull some magic from thin air for an overdue article. Two of my three girls are locked in their room finally tucked into their beds after countless glasses of water and several empty threats about what will happen if they DO come upstairs again. My other darling, a generally sweet babe, is teething and wailing and spitting up and, apparently, hell-bent on destruction. My destruction, in case you were wondering.

I’m in survival mode.

Between the dirty dishes, the runs to soccer and swim practice, the soon-to-be literal runs after hurriedly purchased kids’ meals, and my general home, occupational, and personal upkeep, I’m barely doggy-paddling these waters, baby.

Oh, and my husband’s deployed.

With three deployments under my belt, I thought I’d be smooth sailing. I unwisely lauded myself months ago for the ability to skate through this deployment gracefully. But it seems that there is an unwritten law for gale-force winds of disasters to beat down on the spouses of deployed soldiers, who, instead of putting up sandbags to keep out the proverbial rain, are huddled under umbrellas in the fetal position, frantic for the storm to pass. (Me. I’m huddled in the fetal position.) Because we’re not talking about everyday circumstances here, no. Murphy and his Mean Law of Crap sends his best with fractured arms, fingers popping off (that one will make you cringe), mice chewing through car wires, water pipes draining into basements, infestations, hospitalizations, and deaths. We may do our best to plan for the storm, but often the tornado of the unseen and the unpreventable whips around and punctures our best-laid plans with disaster and a torrential bill.

And we’re in survival mode already because deployments breed uncertainty and, often, discontent: harried emotions lead decision-making; our spouses react to being surrounded by new people and new situations; our children struggle to grasp the enormity of the immense change; and WE change. I’m sure you’ve felt the strange duality: The only constant in a deployment (besides my never-budging numbers on the scale) is the constant change.

How does one plan for change? Adjusting to the idea of, well, readjusting expectations is as easy as trying to find a foothold in a slippery cascade. The flexibility needed to maneuver in a state of continual change requires gymnastic-like skill, resiliency, and a wholelottawork, but the reward is magnificent.

Find your support team

I’m a solo kind of gal. I run alone, I write alone, I binge-eat Reese’s Pieces alone. I spend a lot of my free time, you guessed it, alone (mostly so I can ugly cry while I listen to Jim Dale recite the Harry Potter series on audiobook). But in order to effectively manage a deployment, I needed a team. A team with one focus: Me. I’m the focus. Selfish? I don’t think so.

Brad Sugars, contributor for Entrepreneur magazine, described accurately the importance of a support team: “Your own ‘safety net’ of trusted individuals whom you can count on to advise you, teach you and assist you–and to catch you before you fall.” In other words, your team is all about you: They are your biggest support. Your A-Team. Your cheerleaders, pom-poms and all.

And here’s the thing about your own personal dream team: They don’t all have to know each other or all be your “besties.” Your team can consist of a spouse/significant other, close confidants, family members, exercise partners, coworkers, and even trustworthy acquaintances. The purpose, though, is to allow those who you trust to be your pick-me-ups on your down days (and you will have them). Be cautious in choosing these individuals, and choose wisely those who will not exploit your feelings and emotions for their gain or for unhealthy purposes. Choose those with kind words, service-oriented actions, hearty senses of humor, and a mean Texas sheet cake who will be warm blankets of comfort and peace when the turmoil of change douses you in a flash flood of havoc.

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