Happy New Year ! Here’s to all the hopes and dreams of a fresh start. And thankfully so. Honestly, despite generally being a glass-half-full person, the back end of last year got me down. I avoided any major disasters and the dreaded COVID, but a handful of other things including restrictions on seeing people, issues with our house and a deployed husband got me into a slump.
I’ve no idea of the official MoD definition of deployment. I’d describe it as my soldier leaving for an extended period ( generally 4-7 months) to serve away from home. It happens every few years or so. Mr THL went into pre-departure isolation in August and I’ll see him again in Spring although no date yet. He’s based in Estonia but is dotting about the Baltic doing, erm, all the army things. There’s the first truth; I’m not entirely sure what he does when he’s not with me.
I do know that life is completely reshaped when he deploys, for him and for the family. It’s hard, brilliant, emotional and a learning curve…it’s all the things, all at the same time. I also know that people outside the military world don’t always quite understand how it goes to be left behind. In my experience, it goes a little something like this.
It Begins Before They Leave…
I’m on notice of deployment when Mr THL comes home and starts telling me what his work is scheduled to do in the coming months and years. Then he’ll tell me he might possibly be going here or there, then he definitely is, then it might get cancelled, be reinstated. Later comes the date, said date changes a few times before settling into a confirmed plan that will still be subject to change. And after all of that, he might leave on time only to end up stuck at Brize Norton for days on end.
Just getting onto the roller coaster, is a roller coaster.
It Gets Emotional…
And some of those emotions are ugly. In the days before my husband left, I clearly remember wishing he’d just go already. When he packed his ski gear I thought ‘ nice for you, what about me?’ and disliked myself for it. You withdraw a little to cope, but at the same time try to embrace every second. The really bizarre thing is when they actually leave, it feels like a big deal but all it comes down to is the door gently clicking shut. And then life rolls on.
You Master the Brave Face…
But wonder why you aren’t that truly brave, resilient, warrior woman who can smash every day and do it all. I’ll tell you why- she doesn’t exist. She’s a myth cobbled together from stereotypes and unrealistic expectations. The truth: there’ll be good days and bad days, moments of chaos and moments where you feel like Superwoman. I give myself a whole lot of grace when my soldier is away and I appreciate when others do too. Even on the days when I look like its all easy.
Remember, just because it is carried well doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.
It’s Not All Doom & Gloom…
There are good days, friendships forged, belly laughs and opportunities that arise that you might never have considered normally. My son and I are learning Estonian, inspired by this deployment. It was when he deployed to Afghanistan I decided to start writing and spent my evenings working through an OU course. The kids have enjoyed day trips and adventure holidays laid on for them when Dad is away. It’s a happy day when we receive a postcard or parcel from wherever Mr THL is, and we enjoy sending him parcels. Letting the kids pick the contents definitely keeps things interesting for him…although I picked the last one and it involved sheepskin boot liners and hand warmers. Can’t always be exciting.
You’re Not Alone.
There’s always a welfare team who stand behind the families and they don’t get enough recognition. Covid slowed the pace but 2020 saw online social events, afternoon tea delivered by the regiment and a hamper of Christmas goodies to bring a little Christmas cheer. From morale boosting to supporting families in crisis, there is a support system in place. Although you can’t be rescued from every rough day, it is nice to feel someone has your back. And don’t underestimate the value of the informal support from other wives. Peer support is golden.
And of course, the lovely blogging community I have connected with over the last few years. There’d be something missing without it and I value each and every one of you.
It’s Not Forever
There comes a point where deployment doesn’t feel quite so strange anymore. Congratulations, you have found your new normal. This is the point where I have to remind myself it’s not forever. He will be home, things will change, there are things to enjoy as we roll through deployment days but also things to look forward to after. Unfortunately for me, this time round its taken half the flipping deployment for me to feel like I’m finally sailing calmer waters. After struggling hugely with missing him and then falling into a slump at the end of 2020, I’m finally enjoying where I am and starting to look forward. To better days, to Spring, to Mr THL being home to annoy me.
And that brings me to today, a few days into 2021 and looking forward. If you’re following me on Instagram you might already know I’ve challenged myself to post daily in January an image that represents happiness to me. I’m calling it #Januaryjoy. People, places, other accounts, definitely some vintage clothes and dog pictures at some point. If you’d like you’ll find me @thingshelenloves . I’d love to have you. If your sharing any January joy posts, please leave me a link in the comments. Chatting with you all makes my day and in these tricky times, we need all the joy we can muster.
Stay safe and Happy New Year