Recently, we were waiting for details on whether Phil’s unit would be activated or not to help with hurricane relief. Oh, the unknown! I’m fine once he’s on the road, but the in-between is hard for me.
In fact, this is not a new concept. The waiting is a test of endurance and will. As I’ve said before, one of our favorite hobbies is listening to Jocko Podcast and he covers this topic time after time. In battle, in life, it’s in the waiting that people struggle. Not always the battle itself.
I think the same is true for me. In the anticipation, I think through possibility after possibility. I mull over the situation. Sometimes, I even let it get me down. I’ve been working on developing patience since the day I was born. (Working on this area too? Here are two articles that have helped me!)
If my nine years of military marriage have taught me anything, it’s how to hurry up and wait. Here are a few ways that I cope with the while-we-wait times around our home.
I’m not suggesting going on a shopping spree here! Just get down to business and figure out what your soldier might need. Consider how much space he has available and shop wisely!
Before the hurricane mission, I knew that they were driving and had a significant amount of space. I also knew that during Katrina clean-up, the soldiers didn’t have decent lodging accommodations or great access to food.
I hopped to Costco and purchased shelf-stable, nutrient dense foods. I tried to get things that were individually wrapped like protein bars and trail mix. I also purchased beef jerky and some other non-essential things that can brighten Phil’s day. (The answer for Phil is always cookies!)
I also had a quick discussion on what hygiene items he was in need of.
I purchased razors, shaving cream, shampoo/body wash, toothpaste, toothbrush, Listerine strips, baby wipes, gum, and similar items. We received the notification in the afternoon and he had to report the next day so I saved this for a Walgreen’s run while he tucked our son into bed.
2. Do Work
Living anywhere means there is always some sort of upkeep. Even if you’re renting, you might have holiday items tucked away that you’ll need help getting at. Think ahead to the things your soldier normally takes the lead on and get after it!
With the hurricane clean-up mission, we knew that Phil could be gone when the snow started to fly. We bumped up housing maintenance that we generally do later in fall.
He cleaned gutters, we organized the garage so our vehicles fit for winter, we wrapped up loose ends of summer projects. Although not fun, it was an important step in helping me to be prepared while he was gone.
3. Have Fun
I learned this lesson six months into our marriage. We were on the first morning of a week-long vacation. We had gotten in late and went straight to bed. We woke up to a very unexpected notice that Phil would be deploying in…30 days.
At that moment I had the chance to let it ruin our vacation, or make the most of our time together. I chose the latter.
Sometimes it’s more difficult to choose the “enjoy life” option when you feel like sobbing, but I have never regretted making that choice.
When there is an unknown looming over us, we schedule in some fun activities as a family. It’s one of the perks of living military life. We live. We enjoy the days we have been given together because we never know when that might end.
4. Do All The Laundry
This might be unique to me.
I pull out every last sock, shirt, uniform, underwear, anything I can find of Phil’s and wash it. I have it folded and ready so he can pack what he needs. This is the only time that that happens. I tell him not to expect this special treatment all the time!
When we’re really getting down to it, I also wash all of the rest of our laundry, fold it, and put it away. This also rarely happens. It’s a form of coping with the hurry-up-and-wait anxiety.
5. Write Notes
Letter writing has a long military history. Not sure where to start? There are many resources online; I like this list from Operation We are Here. Remember, letters don’t have to be long!
In fact, I’ve been known to tuck tiny notes in Phil’s backpack, suitcase, ruck sack, and uniform pockets (although you have to be careful they don’t go through the wash!). I don’t do it often, but during those times when I can’t hold still, rather than worry, I write.
This last round I didn’t have the time to do tiny notes in person, but before the team left, I knew they had a full day of prepping. I wrote him a letter and emailed it. Not quite as personal, but still something to quiet my mind and let him know that I was thinking about him.
Just like laundry, this might be unique to me.
I. Clean. All. The. Things. This is always the time that I find that cabinet drawer in my pantry that has been a mess for nine months. It suddenly needs to be scrubbed and reorganized…right now.
It cannot wait.
It’s a method of managing my anxiety. I also do this within the 48 hours before I travel. I haven’t found a solution to this madness!
7. Get Out and Exercise
Exercise has been proven to help with managing stress and anxiety, among many other benefits.
Okay. Honestly, this is my last resort. But sometimes the best thing I can do, when I can’t do anything, is hop on my bike or take the dog for a long brisk walk.
Getting my nervous energy out, whether cleaning, shopping, writing, or exercising, is better than trapping myself into the holds of the Army. The Army may control a lot of my life, but it doesn’t control it all!
How do you handle the waiting and the unknown?