Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Little Goes A Long Way

We're now a week into deployment, so I've been spending time going through the Deployment chapters in Blue Star Family's Everyone Serves book. The chapter covers relationships and communication during deployment for all aspects of family--spouses, kids, parents, siblings, friends. It also has good information about remote conflict resolution (read: fighting when you're too far apart to kiss and make up), and practical tips about how to take care of home (and yourself) while your soldier is away.

There are a lot of good tips in the book for handling what deployment throws at you, but a few of them stood out to me:

It's the little things. We are actually both pretty good at little gestures, and it helps that we are always apart, so we already have to come up with creative ways to accomplish the "little things." Some of them are tangible (extra special touches in care packages), while others are simpler (often sillier), like sending each other songs or GIFs or YouTube videos that mean something special to us. Like, for instance, the one where our son chastises himself for saying the word "stupid."

The pen is mightier. This is another one that we are good at. In the almost seven years we've been together (as a couple, not geographically), Jake and I have regularly written each other letters. There's just something special about receiving something that someone took the time to hand write and mail. And what I love about letters is that we can keep them for our children. Our son will still be very small when Jake retires, and I want him to have a frame of reference for the way that we lived as a military family when he gets older.

Okay, so these first two were kind of a personal pat on the back. But you know what? Sometimes it can be really encouraging to read through the information about how to handle these situations and find out that you're actually doing something right. It's affirming, but it's also a reminder to continue doing those things, and even more so now.

And also, while I'm no deployment expert, I know that these work. They have kept us close over seven years of living hundreds (and now thousands) of miles apart as a remote family.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. One time our preacher told us that, in order to remember to pray regularly, he basically just spends the entire day praying every time something to pray about comes to mind, then wrapping things up when his head hits the pillow. The advice in Everyone Serves is similar: be consistent in communicating with your soldier. I think sometimes we wait until we have something we consider meaningful to send in an email before we send anything. But, following on the "little things" and "constant prayer" philosophies, I should shoot Jake a message whenever I'm thinking about him. Even if they're silly one-liners. Even if they contain information that is insignificant. It doesn't matter. The reality is, those little snippets are all of home that Jake gets right now, and he needs home.

When Jake is here, we text dozens of times a day. We DO send each other silly insignificant things, just when we think of them. So really I just need to take those thoughts, and send them over email instead.

Be okay with the uneven. On the flip side, there is absolutely no way that Jake will be able to communicate with me as much as I communicate with him. There's no quid pro quo in deployment. My fellow blogger Jacey Eckert at SpouseBUZZ really nailed this one in a post she did a couple of weeks ago. We send MUCH more than we get back. It can be a little disheartening. A little lonely. And, OK I admit it, a little infuriating sometimes.

On the other hand, I also have a lot more of home than Jake does. That's uneven too, and if given the choice I would not want to trade places with him. So maybe this is another of those times I should count my blessings. I miss my best friend. I miss my partner. But I have everything else. And everyone else. For him, right now, I'm the only life-line he has.

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