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I remember the first time my husband went TDY (on a military “business trip”) after we were married. Just 4 months into marriage, he went to Fort Bragg for Air Assault school for 3 weeks. It was a disaster– an experience with bedbugs, teenage punks smearing dog poop under my car handles, and more loneliness that I can recount. At the time, I was unemployed, and still adjusting to newlywed life. Holy moly, I was so depressed. I sat on the couch for days; I only left my house a small handful of times during those 21 days.
I didn’t mention it on the blog or social media for my safety, but Andy just recently returned from 2 months away at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was at the Advanced Leadership Course to learn how to be an Engineering squad leader. ALC was the final requirement Andy needed to promote to Staff Sergeant; now we’re just waiting for his name to appear on the promotion list. (Fingers crossed for a January promotion!) Andy enjoyed the opportunity to be back in his (real) job as an Army Engineer and a chance for me to learn to be on my own and thrive in such a situation.
I was a bit nervous that this time alone would be as depressing and lonely as it was a few years ago, but thankfully, it was the complete opposite! There have been some positive changes in my life that were key in helping these past 2 months be a success: I am working full-time again, which provides me with a mental challenge, socializing with people (and not just my pets!), and a productive way to spend my time. I’m taking part-time college classes so I can pursue my dream job. Inspired by the Goals lists that I share every month here on the blog, I created a “TDY Bucket List” full of things that I wanted or needed to accomplish while Andy was gone. Even though this TDY was twice as long as our previous one, it was 200 times better even though we still had a few visits from the infamous Murphy.
TDYs are a good reminder that I can, in fact, live without my husband. Do I want to live without him? Heck no! Life is always better when we’re together. But sometimes I don’t have a choice. (Ahem, military life!) In discussing this with a coworker, I mentioned since I don’t always have a say in what the Army hands us as far as TDYs, I might as well find the silver linings in them!
Some examples of those silver linings: going to bed as early as I want (like 7 pm!), reading in bed for an hour, waking up early without disturbing Andy, studying for my classes more without feeling like I’m ignoring my husband, getting a professional massage (that was my big splurge of this TDY!), my TDY Bucket List aka getting some much-needed things done (like scrapbooks!), saving money by not eating out all the time and being able to turn the heat down, and spending time in Des Moines with my sister-in-law and nieces.
One of the biggest things I learned was to ask for help. Instead of keeping it quiet when Andrew would be gone, I told my coworkers (obviously keeping OPSEC in mind.) Since I don’t have family nearby, they knew that if I didn’t show up to work and no one had heard from me that someone should check on me to make sure I’m okay. The day that Andrew left, multiple coworkers stopped by my desk to ask how I was doing. It was really sweet, and I learned to open up to coworkers and Bible study friends more and deepen my friendships with them.
In preparing to be on my own, I outsourced what I could. Fall in north Iowa means snow is on the horizon. Since I hate snow and all things winter, we hired someone to shovel our driveway and sidewalk so that I had one less thing to worry about. I was very thankful we had arranged this when we had a freak snow/ice storm the weekend before Andy returned! I’m slowly accepting the idea that I can’t do it all, and that for my own sanity I shouldn’t even try because it just leads to stress. Surprisingly, I found that my stress levels were lower while Andy was gone because I had stopped obsessing over things like dirty dishes in the sink overnight. Now that Andy is back, I hope to keep this mindset for both of our sakes. We can’t do it all, and we are both incredibly busy with jobs and college classes. It’s okay to have someone continue to shovel our driveway if we need to because it allows us to focus on more important things.
As my husband said, “I want you to enjoy life when we are together and ‘need me’ when I’m home, but I also need to know that you are totally okay when I’m away.” Now that I’ve conquered this TDY, I know that I can handle any future “business trips” that the Army sends our way.