Six weeks ago today, my husband departed for a 6-8 month deployment. Deployments can sometimes make for a dangerously uneasy mindset. Somehow I’ve found ways to be strong and keep my chin up, and so has he.
Robert and I have been through a few deployments, but this is his first lengthy sail and the furthest away from home he’s been. No matter what, they’re never easy — and they don’t get easier.
Here’s what I do to stay sane while my darlin’ is away:
1. Drink tea and write.
If you become involved with tea, you’ll find yourself spending hours reading about different types and blends. If you're really motivated, you can try to mix your own blends. I send tea to my husband in his care packages. It helps him, too. He really appreciates having something healthy and tasty to remind him of home.
I believe that writing can be medicine for anybody. I encourage Robert to keep a journal while he’s at sea, and even though he doesn’t really have time to do that, his nightly emails to me seem to serve the same purpose. You don’t need to be good at it; you’ll never be required to publish it. If you don’t know what to write about, find some writing prompts or write letters (whether or not you intend to send them).
2. Cycle… and do other forms of exercise.
Exercise is a great medicine. I practice yoga and I do Pilates daily. Cycling is my main squeeze, and it’s something Robert and I do together when he’s home. On the ship, he lifts weights and runs on a treadmill. He and I are realizing the benefits of exercise as it keeps our bodies healthy, our minds stable, and our spirits elevated. Plus, we’re pretty excited about being extra-fit when we see each other again!
3. Spend time with nature, spend time with the sea.
Spending time with the sea is something I’m grateful to be able to do — it clears my mind like nothing else. When I cycle, I cycle to the sea. Not only is it refreshing, breathtaking and lovely, it helps me feel closer to Robert, who is on a ship somewhere on some sea that is connected to this one.
Sometimes the trials of a military family life can become overwhelming, and when we lived in the city among concrete sidewalks and buildings, I found myself in therapy for depression and anxiety. Because I didn’t want to rely on drugs, I opted to take doses of the other prescriptions: yoga, meditation, writing, and spending time with nature. Every day, I make an effort to put my feet on the grass or sand, and I surround myself with trees, beach, wildflowers, ocean — anything and everything within reach. It works.
4. Soak up some music.
Music may be the cure for anything. I once wrote in a journal, "I wouldn’t be human if music didn’t move me." This is another shared love between my husband and me. We talk about music in every email. Music keeps us going. No matter what I’m feeling, music is there for me — and I know it’s the same for Robert. I’ve learned that when my heart feels heavy, the surest cure is to sing it out!
5. Hug my dogs, observe their goofy behavior, and give them playtime.
Pets are wonderful companions all the time, but they are especially special when you’re missing somebody and you’re lonely. Our goofy greyhounds provide me with daily giggles and undying love. I can share stories about them with Robert and know that he’s had at least one good belly laugh for the day — and what's better than laughter and love?
These are only a few of the things I do to keep my sanity, to stay happy while he’s away. I also indulge in several idiosyncratic pleasures I don’t expect could help just anybody. We all have our unique passions, things that make us tick. Life isn’t easy for anybody, so hopefully my short list (tea, writing, exercise, nature, music, pets, laughter and love) will inspire others to give these things a try, whatever their situation might be!