When I played basketball back in high school, my coach always stressed being “mentally tough,” and if we could have mental toughness, we would be ready to take on the competition.
Half of conditioning is mental, she would say, as we did countless timed sprints up and down the court.
And in the military, we have to be mentally prepared.
My husband came home yesterday and told me his squadron was asking for volunteers to deploy to Saudi Arabia for six months next year.
Of the three people they asked, they needed two to go. The others were unmarried and excited to deploy to a new place, and my husband told his lieutenant that he could not volunteer to go to the middle east without consulting his wife first.
Nevertheless, within the next three years, he most likely will deploy.
It’s part of military life.
He told me that I need to be “mentally prepared” for when they do send him overseas, and to be ready for it.
I gulped, and said, “Yeah, sure… I’ll figure out how to be prepared.”
How does one prepare for that? To say goodbye to your spouse for half of a year?
His training took about a year with basic, tech school, and COVID-19 slowing everything down. So, we do have “long-distance experience” on our marital resume.
But another six months? And this time I won’t be still in College, living with my family. I’ll most likely be residing in an empty house with a dog for company and work to do.
This is “military life”. This should be an expected part of it – and I SHOULD be prepared for when it’s his time to serve his country abroad.
I suppose, in the end, this life is about sacrifice and putting something over yourself – a country, a career or a person.
However, how will I mentally prepare myself for that time? Here are a couple of my strategies that are tested and true for other difficult times in life:
1. Keep God first.
God doesn’t ever leave us out to dry. He provides, strengthens us and will always be there to give us courage. When we are separated from loved ones, it’s even more important to keep studying God’s word and being enriched by the community and fellowship of the church. Don’t stop – and don’t give up on yourself or God.
2. Fill the void with friends and family. See it as an opportunity to spend time with those we normally can’t if we live states away and on a tight “leave schedule”.
When my husband was in training for a year, I was able to develop rich and long-lasting friendships. Where I’d used to spend time with my spouse, I now had those hours to spend with friends and family.
Always have a friend or family member you can open up to and talk about anything with – even when you are hurting. Sorrow and heartache can be crushing when we are alone.
3. Learn something new – spend this time to become a better person.
I took extra classes the semester my husband (fiancé at the time) was in basic. I re-learned piano and got caught up in modern history! Having a project, a class, anything that kept me busy helped to distract my mind from the fact that I barely had any communication with the love of my life. When Tyler deploys, I intend to start on a master’s degree.
4. Be intentional with the time you do have – before, after and the in-between.
Time can be easily taken for granted. But in the end, life is short, and our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12).
There is wisdom in understanding every minute is precious. And when you are separated from a loved one, time is a golden commodity. Within the five love languages, it might be difficult to express love to one another apart. Words and phone calls are all you got – or sending gifts or letters via snail mail. Awareness of this fact is important, so “make up” for lost time before and after and be extra intentional when that loved one is away.
5. Know that to everything there is a season.
Deployments are not forever – whether you are the one abroad or the one at home. This time, too, shall pass (Ecclesiastes 3).
In the end, we have to be prepared.
Copyright Melody Turner 2020. This blog was first published on The Gospel For Military Life’s website (https://thegospelformilitarylife.org/2020/10/07/mental-toughness/)