A daydream, as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary is “a dreamlike musing or fantasy while awake, especially of the fulfillment of wishes or hopes.” Daydreams are those little moments we spend in our head, a million miles away from where we currently, physically are. We may be sitting at a desk, on the couch, shotgun in a car, or waiting in a very long line at the commissary on a payday. In many ways daydreaming has gotten a bad rap. Many view it as a waste of time, of non-doing, and only a lost in productivity. These days everything is about seizing the moment, no-time to waste and making the most of it through effective time-management. After all, time is money. The thing is, the reality is, there are many benefits to daydreaming: boosting productivity, relieving tension, conflict resolution and innumerable others. So let me tell you how, as a military spouse, it can specifically help you.
1) Practice Makes Perfect: I don’t know how many times I have had imaginary conversations in my head while in the shower or waiting in a line somewhere. The thing is, when there is an important conversation I know is impending I find myself running through the scenario preemptively to try and get it right. It could be having that conversation with the kids that dad is deploying. Or maybe in a volunteer group and approaching others with an idea that will be greeted with resistance. In some more dire situations it may be approaching a neighbor after the news has spread of an injury or even death of that neighbor’s military member. There are times in life when words can escape us and maybe practicing or trying different ways to start that conversation will find for us the best approach. Consider it as visualization to outcomes you are hoping to achieve. It doesn’t have to be for just serious situations either. It can even be as simple as being the new one and preparing yourself for all those introductions you will go through when you PCS. Affective daydreaming can help with conflict resolution and a myriad difficult to not-so-difficult conversations military spouses may experience.
2) Fun and Relaxation: Well who out there would not want more of this…even if it is imaginary? These are those daydreams that may give the rest of them a bad rap. As a part of the military life there is no doubt that our lives can be, well, harsh. War weighs heavy on our minds and hearts, danger for our loved ones is a reality and everyday stress is amplified by our unique situations. I get it, imagining that you will be the next millionaire, winner of America’s Got Talent or that you are vacationing at your favorite spot isn’t going to save the world…but who cares. When life is hard a small break, or mini-vaca is just what we need to get through the day and keep us going. It can release tension and refresh us both physically and mentally. I heard a spouse at a Yellow Ribbon event a while back who had a great pointer from her military member when she was having a difficult day during a deployment. It went something like this, “think of this day a year from now, when I will be home, and imagine what we will be doing, how we will be enjoying the day and each other.” Uh, yeah! I will take that daydream any day during a deployment or separation from my military member. So let the mind wander and take a break from reality, just remember to come back. Last thing your spouse needs is a call from the MP’s that you are sun-bathing…naked… in the front yard.
3) Productivity Booster (NOT waster): Civilian or military, man or woman, single or spouse, life is tasking! Personally, I have a long to-do list every single day, as I am sure you do as well. For us military spouses we have our everyday tasks mounted in with things like an upcoming PCS, a deployment farewell or homecoming, or military related events that we may not only be participants in but planners of as well…and we know there are a lot of such events. For example, my list yesterday on a Saturday morning with a deployment homecoming just a few days away: a hair/nail appointment, stuffing and addressing of bridal shower invites, a nephews 1st birthday party, sign-making with the kids and finally writing this piece. That there is just proof that our monumental military moments, like a homecoming, do not happen in a bubble. Everyone else’s lives are going on and as important as our event is there are still others that are just as significant, other have-to-happens and not maybes.
So what does daydreaming have to do with these tasking lives of ours? A good daydream can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, a way to reinforce and visualize goal achieving. Bottom line, aim high, daydreaming is limitless and the possibilities can be strategically planned out in your head to get done what you have to, even if it seems impossible. Granted, daydreaming that we are Superman or Superwoman flying around in a cape as we check everything off our to-do list may not make it a reality but it is a great warm-up. As it is Sunday morning and I am here writing this piece you can see I did not quite finish everything on my to-do list yesterday. Maybe I should have started my day with a good daydream instead of downing some coffee and jumping in the car to start my day.
Speaking of the car, I do want to point out that you should only daydream safely. Daydreaming while you’re driving, operating large machinery, cooking or caring for little ones can be potentially dangerous. Burning dinner will definitely damper the rest of your evening, but causing a car accident is at least ten times worst. Apparently, according to new research by the Erie Insurance Group, you are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash because being “lost in thought” rather than if you were distracted by the use of some electronic device. So, daydream safely, at appropriate times. Let your guard down and let the biases on daydreaming fly out the fictitious window. Remember, daydreaming is completely natural and some psychologists estimate we spend about 1/3 to 1/2 of our waking hours doing so. I know that sounds like a lot but just recount all the times someone has “sneaked up” on you, even though you have been in a standing conversation with them for more than five minutes. Daydreams are our whimsical breaks from a sometimes cold reality, an avenue to address that conversation we are absolutely dreading or the mode to envision a means to achieve the seemingly impossible.
I want to leave you with a glimpse into my current daydream on replay in my mind, and why I actually had the idea to write this piece. It’s a beautiful, sunshine filled day, with a slight breeze blowing so it’s not too hot. We are probably waiting at the tarmac for that plane. There is conversation, laughter, smiles, flags and homemade signs abound. We have been waiting here for what seems forever, and in some ways it has been.
And then it arrives, that plane…for others it may be a bus or even a ship. It is just a while now before they start filing out, one by one, gear in hand. I scan each until I find the one that is mine. And then, because I have spotted mine, I breathe, as if I had been holding my breath the whole time he was gone. Because, even though I already knew it logically, I now have the proof right in front of me, and it’s only about to get more real. Maybe a quick, small formation and then that word, “dismissed.” They are now walking right to us, and there is nothing stopping him now. Because I have children they will probably be first. The first to experience that hug, that long awaited touch, that abundant joy. My husband will see how tall the older two have gotten, and laugh as he stands next to them. The baby will be shy, but he knows that’s his daddy and he will smile as he recalls that face and that voice all over. When it is my turn, I reach for him but first our eyes meet, and without a word spoken we both affirm we have made it. We hug, we kiss, we hold on tight.
It is quick though, because the kids want him back, and I gladly oblige. But before I let go, in that quick moment, it all comes flooding back all at once and it is even more amazing than I could have ever imagined…or daydreamed. The smell, the touch, the feeling I have when he is physically back in my arms and I know we are okay. I cannot wait for this daydream to become my reality!