We were staring down the barrel of a one-year deployment. At least 365 days. 365. It sounded insurmountable.
And, truth be told, I had literally no idea what to expect. I just knew that a year of worries, communications issues, and distance could be a really, really, really long one.
Time is so weird during deployment.
Deployment has a way of not only messing with your emotions but your sense of time, too. I barely remember the first few days after John left. I was sluggish, doing just the bare minimum to get by, and slept way more than I normally did. Things got better once John’s travel was finished, he was in-country, and we were able to figure out what life would be like for the forseeable future. No matter how much I logically knew that the next year mattered, I couldn’t help but feel like the time that stretched from one June to the next was barren and desolate. I mean, did that year really matter? Did anything really matter without my best friend and love of my life by my side?
I’ve heard that same sentiment from many military spouses over the years. No one wants to feel like they’re “leaving” their loved one behind. But it can feel that way if you want to do more than just maintaining the status quo in your own life. It can feel like you’re leaving your spouse behind when you think about the things that you’ll do alone. It can feel like you’re leaving your boyfriend or girlfriend behind when you’re making plans for things they won’t experience. It’s a hard, lonely feeling.
But one thing I knew was that I did not want to waste an entire, precious year of life feeling the way I did those first few days when the deployment was so new. I needed something that kept me going. That gave me something to look forward to other than phone calls, Skype dates, and R&R.
I needed something that made the year feel like a win, not a loss.
So I started writing a list of things I wanted to do before John came home. From fitness goals to crafting ones, recipes I wanted to try to skills I wanted to learn, books I wanted to read to events I wanted to attend, I wrote down everything into bite-sized pieces. (Because crossing things off to-do lists is fun!) And, because I’m extra, I decided that I would come up with a list of 100 things.
And you know what?
Once I finished writing the list, I was actually excited about the days and weeks to come. I was energized to be able to start working on the things that I wanted to do. And I was thrilled that I’d have something to tell John about when we talked.
It was invigorating. Elating. I started working on some of the items that day.
Here’s the truth.
Like everything in life, deployment is what you make of it. Don’t get it twisted: I’m not telling you to pull up your big girl panties. (I hate that advice!) Things will happen during deployment that are out of your control and can be difficult (to say the least). There are so many reasons why it can be hard. But a deployment list can help you look at life with joy during a time you might not otherwise feel so cheery. It can help give you purpose and focus when you might be struggling to feel those things. And it can be a way to give yourself permission to really live, even when the love of your life is far from home.
Want to learn more about deployment bucket lists?
Try these articles:
- How to Write a Deployment Bucket List That Doesn’t Suck
- How to Thrive During Deployment
- The Rock Deployment Checklist