Every time my husband deploys, I catch myself lingering in front of the local news. The TV reporters always interview those few folks who gather at the pier to watch the ship depart.
I am fascinated. Not by what those people have to say. I am fascinated to know what those people are doing there hanging around in the first place. It ain't a party. Unlike a departure by plane or bus, a ship’s departure takes hours. Don’t those people have something else to do?
I do. I mean, I don’t really. But I tell myself that there are these ten things I gotta do to get my own deployment party started:
1.Drive away without getting in an accident. I mean to use my turn signal. I try not to get distracted by bright, shiny objects—like the drive thru sign for McDonalds. But somehow if I make it home from kissing my husband goodbye without a trip to the body shop, that is a major accomplishment.
2.Act like a tenth grader. My friend Sarah says that there is only one thing to do the first week of deployment: you gotta act like a tenth grader whose boyfriend just broke up with her. According to Sarah, it doesn't matter that your husband or boyfriend did not actually break up with you or that deployment is his job. Nothing is better the first day of deployment than wallowing in all your own pain.
3. Cue up the tune-age. Clearly, it is time to play your favorite break up songs. Sarah likes particularly recommends Phil Collins "Against All Odds." I personally prefer Sinead O'Connor "Nothing Compares To You." Or Three Doors Down "Here Without You." What's your poison?
4. Jammie time. Some spouses go for sweats on the first day. I am all about the pajammies. They gotta be flannel. They gotta be soft to the point of fiber weakness. They gotta be designed to cry in. Does this actually make me feel better? Feeling better is not the point. Getting it all out is the point.
5. Move on, dammit. Wailing is good. Getting it out is good. Getting on with it is so much better.
6. Strip your sheets. After you have rocked out the crying jag, strip the sheets off your bed and into the washer. Some folks love the scent of their servicemember’s pillowcase or sweatshirt or robe. But I always feel a little stronger when I make that symbolic effort to get on with it. There is something about having every appliance in my house hard at work that makes me feel capable.
7. Tell your friends what you need. The month BEFORE deployment is hardest for me. Something about that time makes me feel like I could still stop the deployment from coming. So I am desperate for messages of pity then. The day after the deployment starts, I don’t want any pity. So I asked my friends for messages of motivation and strength and orders to “get out of those jammies already!!!”
8. Carry dog treats. My dog loves me already. Liver treats make him love me to distraction the day after deployment. Somewhat evil, I know. But it does elevate the mood.
9. Make a pros/cons list. I like to make a list of all the cons of having my husband gone (cuz he is actually worth crying over). Then I make a list of pros. I add a lot of treats to the pros list to make it even out.
10. Write a love letter before you sleep. I always crawl between my fresh sheets and write a love letter the first day of deployment. It is the first day of our time apart, a fresh beginning, I want him to know he is worth it.
The Deployment Party might not be an event that you actually want to attend. But once you are there, you're there. And taking charge of the thing is your first best step.