Deployment mode. It is a state of being that transcends all other abilities and enables me to successfully emotionally detach from my deploying spouse and handle all the things. This mode takes over approximately a week to ten days before my spouse leaves. One by one all other faculties shut down and I become completely consumed by deployment mode. My ability to love and feel loved is limited, but my ability to simultaneously cook, clean, work, shuttle kids, redecorate the house, plan events, and take on extra volunteer positions increases exponentially. In short, it’s a defense mechanism, and it works every time.
I lived the greater parts of 2010 through 2013 in deployment mode. My husband was either deployed, preparing to be deployed, or in school learning how to be deployed for most of those years. I became so accustomed to doing it all that I simply forgot what it was like to not live that way.
My husband returned from his last deployment in the summer of 2013. Within 25 days of his arrival back on American soil my family packed up all of our belongings and moved 7 hours north.
Deployment mode. I didn’t have time to come out of it. We transitioned from one of life’s greatest stressors to another. The ability to reconnect and work as a team was not a luxury we had. I was operating in get it done mode, focused on the all the decisions I had made alone: our new residence, our pack out date, what to pack in our personal vehicles; he was operating in adjustment mode: living on Eastern Standard Time, being in close proximity to me and our toddlers, being able to step outside without a full kit strapped to his chest. Essentially our two paths, which had converged for a mere 11 months post wedding, were now separating rapidly and spreading in the shape of a “V.” While we had done what we could to maintain connection and intimacy during the years of training and deployments, having to actually do that in person was much more difficult than I realized.
I had grown very accustomed to doing things alone. I had grown very accustomed to having and sticking to a schedule. I had grown very accustomed to anticipating the needs of our children and being able to meet them with swift efficiency.
I was not in the business of asking for help. I was not in the business of letting others in. I was most certainly not in the business of relinquishing control over the way our days went and how things were accomplished.
Deployment mode: such a good and helpful way to live; until it isn’t.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that this automatic mechanism that was triggered to protect me during deployments was not going to serve me well in the long run. I didn’t know that turning off feelings and handling all the things was not something to be lauded and praised. I mean, it is for awhile, but in the long run shutting people out and doing everything myself damaged relationships and killed any joy that may have presented it itself.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in one of my favorite Sunday morning meetings, reading step six that I realized I was still living in deployment mode despite the fact that my husband had been home for 18 months and wasn’t deploying anytime in the near future. We were on shore duty, in a non-military area. Nothing but my husband’s frequency of donning dress blues spoke of our lives as a military family. So why was I still operating as if he wasn’t around?
While I can pinpoint a few reasons for continuing to live in deployment mode, most of my daily life did not reflect the need to keep myself shuttered away from my spouse clinging to all the schedules and processes that had made me feel safe during his deployments.
Safety and security are the two largest drivers of why I do the things I do, and after 3 straight years of constant upheaval I was unwilling to drop the security blanket deployment mode provided me.
Deployment mode. Defense mechanism.
I am grateful to be a part of a program that both adamantly and gently urges me to look at the ways I operate in this life. This program offers me the opportunity to peel back the layers of life and look at the things that may not be serving me well currently. This is not to say that certain things never served me well, only they may not be serving me well anymore.
Deployment mode is one of those things. It has its place. It just doesn’t have a place for forever. At some point running completely on adrenaline wanes and I am left empty and listless, unable to handle any of the things. That is a really awful place to be. It’s not only that those feelings are uncomfortable it’s also that my pride is crushed. In deployment mode I can bench press a Cadillac. When deployment mode comes to a crashing halt, I can barely push a shopping cart. And I have lost the ability to let anyone know I am no longer able to bench press Cadillacs.
I‘ve recently revisited the wisdom I learned that Sunday morning about letting things go that no longer serve you. In my current season that is fraught with busy and uncertainty I am grateful for the gut check. When I took a look at the uncomfortable vibe I was feeling, I realized that during every work trip, work up, or change to routine my tendency to slide into deployment mode is quick and easy. It is far easier for me to start bench-pressing a Cadillac than it is to let things be as they are.
Learning to let things be as they are is perhaps the most difficult life lesson for this type A, security driven, planner, yet it’s also proving little by little to be the best gift.