My latest Blue Star Families post…

I always wear a watch. And I have an annoying habit of repeatedly consulting it, regardless of whether or not I even need to know what time it is. Sadly, two weeks ago my favorite watch died, and because running errands with my rambunctious 2-year-old is restricted to only those essential to the upkeep of our household, I have yet to replace the battery. Since the death of my Casio, I have not known the time, the day of the week, or the date. But it’s actually quite befitting because I have spent my husband’s deployment purposely losing track of time.
During my husband’s first deployment, time was constantly on my mind. The date of his departure was tattooed in my memory, right next to his homecoming date. On any given day, I could enumerate precisely how long he’d been gone, almost down to the hour. I thought the calculations would be comforting, that my loneliness would be alleviated by each tally mark that was simultaneously added to my count of days passed and subtracted from my count of days remaining. But it wasn’t comforting. It only made my awareness of the calendar so acute that time stagnated. When my husband finally returned home, it seemed like he had been gone an eternity.
At the start of his current deployment, I adopted the opposite approach to time. I decided to disregard it altogether. I know what month he left, but I don’t recall the exact date. When someone asks how long he’s been gone, I have to pause to do the math. For awhile I drew X’s on my calendar to tick off the days, but I did it for the kids’ benefit, not my own. However, my son quickly lost interest, and my daughter can’t count past 14, so I stopped making the effort. Call me unconventional, but this method of ignoring the deployment clock seems to be working for me.
Despite the overall success of my strategy, I do occasionally wish I had a better perception of time. I read other military spouses’ blogs as they display deployment countdown gadgets and celebrate milestones like that glorious halfway point, and I ask myself if I should be observing deployment duration as well. There’s a sense of accomplishment and optimism associated with surpassing the uphill battle of the first half of deployment, and a sense of relief in riding that downhill momentum of the second half. Somewhere along the way in my deployment marathon, I missed that momentous halfway triumph. I look back and wonder if celebrating milestones would have reaffirmed my stamina and offered me a second wind.

I’m happy for these women who find solace in tracking time, but I remind myself why I chose not to fixate on a deployment clock. I spent a large portion of my husband’s first deployment wishing time away. I exerted so much energy envisioning our future that I wasn’t existing in the present. My primary focus was trudging through it instead of enduring despite it. Now that I don’t have a firm grasp of time in relation to the deployment, I’m living in the here and now. It doesn’t matter if he’s been gone 6 days or 106. All that matters is that I don’t let life pass me by while I wait for him to come home.

Sometimes it feels like my husband has been gone for years instead of months. But sometimes it feels like mere days since we kissed good-bye. My watch battery dying only confirmed my theory that I don’t need to be perpetually cognizant of time. In fact, by allowing time to pass naturally without the interference of incessant scrutiny, I’m pleasantly surprised by how rapidly the deployment is flying by. I’m reassured by the knowledge that one day, whether it’s next week, next month, or next year, my husband will be coming home. In the meantime, I’ll let the deployment clock silently tick away while I continue to live in a timeless state of blissful ignorance.

Do you keep a deployment countdown?

14 Comments on Tick Tock: Ignoring the Deployment Clock

  1. I kept a deployment countdown during the first tour. But this second tour was different, it was constantly changing due to training (he was IRR) and on account of him being sent home early. The clock would have been meaningless. I knew he left in July and would be home the following July. As it turned out, he arrived stateside when I was in Disneyland. Those two things – were what made me happiest! I'm glad I didn't know he was coming home, when he was coming home. Made it even sweeter!

  2. This past deployment I kept time by my daughter's age. It was hard to forget the time since she was born on Monday and they deployed that Friday 4 days later. She was our countdown/up ticker so to speak. The previous deployment we did a count up and down chain. They added a ring each day until the midway point. Then took one away every day until the end of deployment. I prefer to ignore time but it helps the girls and they like it.

  3. That is soooo funny that you wrote this….because the SAME EXACT thing happened to me! I always wore a watch, I felt naked without it on my wrist. But right before my hubs left for his deployment, it died, and I decided to not replace the battery either. I figured why?!? It doesn't matter what time I need to be home, because I don't have to have dinner ready at a certain time anymore. I loved NOT having my watch on. Sure there were times that I really needed to know what time it was, but time was of no matter any longer!

    Another great post my dear!!!!

  4. I used to wear watches all the time. I even bought a new one while The Hubble was deployed this last time…but I rarely wear them now. I think our perception and the amount we notice time changes during deployments.

    I agree with you though. I don't want to fixate on the time past and left…I was to focus on now.

    Great post!

  5. I kept a countdown for this deployment—it was our first as a married couple and I just wanted it to be over! I will say, though, that this one went by much faster than the first one we had while we were dating.

  6. Great post!! I do the same thing and try to focus not on the fact that he's gone but on what I'm doing while he's gone and taking the time to focus on developing myself and accomplishing those things I've been putting off. It makes the time go by much faster for me too if I don't focus on how many days he's been gone or how many days until he comes home.

  7. I wear a watch all the time and mark dates on the calendar, and I nearly went insane when Chris deployed for the first time in May because I didn't have a homecoming date! I didn't know when he would be home for sure until he called two days before. Good lesson for me in learning to go with the flow though.

  8. Can't agree more! In the beginning of my husbands deployment i counted every day, week, and month. Once I hit the half way mark, i felt very accomplished but I also still knew we had a ways to go. Since then I try not to keep track and mark off every single day on my calendar. I like to wait a week or two before I look at it again and see how long we have left, which makes the time seem to pass that much faster! 🙂 Now we're in the home stretch and I am telling myself not to count the days but I will admit its getting harder! 🙂

  9. Same for me – first deployment I "ex-ed" off each day on the calendar, never going more than a week or two without updating…and it dragged. This deployment, I started to do the same, but usually go a month or so before I realize I haven't updated it in a while. I miss my husband terribly, but there is something to be said for not wishing your life away!

  10. Not really a countdown… they're too painful since they never get home when they say they'll get home. You get to the end of the countdown and just have to start it again. I am aware of general milestones… I know we're more than a month into this deployment withe about 3 to go. I look forward to the halfway mark because then it'll feel like a "downhill coast", but that's about the extent of it. Just easier that way.

  11. The more I see of how you give a place for MIL wives to go, the more I am humbled at what you are doing for others.

    You are helping so many people, more than you know.

  12. Love it! I know our first deployment will be hell, especially since I don't have kids to distract me but I don't want to "survive" it I want to kick its butt! For me its a toss up, I know I'll try to ignore time but my mind will probably be a little pesky and keep track all on its own subconsciously.

  13. What a poignant post. It must be so hard to be separated for so long and I completely understand wanting to lose track of time so that you don't even have to live inside of that particular reality. And I feel like such a shmuck because I spend my days counting down the hours and minutes until my husband arrives home, feeling sorry for myself. Thank you to you and all the other military families out there making this tremendous sacrafice.

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