Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mentally Making Basic Bearable

While FM was at BCT, and virtually incommunicado, I was sporadically asked a question, something like “how are you doing, and how do you stay sane through all of this?” It was not until I was faced with giving an intelligent response that I actually took a step back and thought about how I was managing to keep the bats from invading the belfry.  The straightforward solution to keeping clear of the creepy cobwebs was not allowing myself time to wallow or otherwise whine (although I did allow myself to otherwise wine).

One of the greatest suggestions I could possibly make to anyone that is about to embark on their rocky military road with BCT is to stay busy in the fast lane and keep your emotional “check engine” light off.  Sure, there will be times when you simply want to veer off onto a rest stop and let out one of those great, big, as I call them, ugly cries.  By all means, go for it! Bottling up what is naturally trying to explode will not improve psychological sanity. But keep it short and sweet, and then get back on the road.  
Before FM left I promised myself only one mental breakdown per diem. That’s it. And I stuck to it. If I got upset at something and I had already reached my ocular discharge quota for the day, I mentally walloped myself in the tuchus, and forced myself to get involved in something else to distract me. 

Instead of trying to hide from the world or put your life on hold for ten weeks, embrace the time to cook up something you have had simmering on your back burner.  If you have always wanted to learn how to crochet or knit, go get some needles and yarn, sign up for a class at your local Michael’s or JoAnn craft store and start stitching some splendid scarves.  If you have always wanted to go back to college/graduate school, use this time to do some quality research into financial aid, course schedules, and job opportunities, and apply to Harvard and Yale if you dare dream so large. If you have always wanted to learn how to drive a motorcycle, go pick up a copy of Motorcycles for Dummies, join a driver’s education course, and start studying for that road test (and do be careful!).  This is the time to really become immersed in whatever that thing you have been telling yourself that you are too busy for is. 

Personally, I knocked a good twenty books off of my Goodreads “to-read shelf” when FM left, which had been gaining quite a bit of internet dust in the months before his departure due to my commitment to graduate school and his necessary preparedness.  It felt, and feels, great to be able to get back into the swing of something I truly love doing, and getting lost in the lands of memoirs and fiction helps repel those pesky belfry critters from taking up a nest in my attic.

Of course you shouldn’t attempt to forget about your solider, but try not to dangerously dwell on their absence.  In fact, to make it feel like you are not you are not moving on with your individual activities without them, write letters about what plans you are making, and how much you are personally achieving while they are training.  Ask what color they want their new winter scarf to be, if they prefer Boston or New Haven, or if you should buy a Harley Davidson or a Ducati.  They will be happy to know that you are not huddled in a ball staring at your wall calendar waiting for graduation day to come, and glad to be, at least somewhat, a part of the process. 

On the topic of calendars… One of the best purchases you can make for yourself to help get through BCT is a decent sized calendar.  (Or you may not even be required to purchase it if you live in a household that hoards more free calendars than those kiosks at the mall during the holidays. Yup, we are one of those houses.) It sounds so incredibly commonplace, but this simple set of twelve papers stuck together with boxes and numbers upon it will become your new best friend in a very short period of time.  
When you know your soldier’s graduation date, mark it down.  Now you have a clear date to look forward to for seeing your soldier’s face again.  Count three weeks from the date they arrived at the barracks of their permanent battery, mark it down with a question mark.  If they have been good boys and girls, mommy and daddy Drill Sergeant may allow the platoon to phase over from “Red” to “White” thereby granting them a Sunday phone call.   If it does not happen, mark it down for the next Sunday.  The goal is to keep allowing yourself something to look forward to.  If you are looking forward to something great, you are not thinking about the negatives, and when you break it down to “just one more week” before you receive a phone call, time does not seem to pass so slowly and it is easier to deal with your soldier’s absence.  

Due to my self-diagnosed OCD and need for precise order, I marked down all of the above and even added the dates that I sent letters out, and dates I received letters.  When a pattern started to form and I realized I usually received letters from FM on Mondays and Thursdays, I started to relax a bit that it was not so long in between our communications. Do what works for you, but creating mental peace is the name of the game. 

If I take nothing else away from this military experience, I will forever remember the cerebral fortitude it required not to be able to speak to my boyfriend, significant other, partner, and best friend for extended intervals. It will be a challenge, but as Gustave Flaubert remarked “the most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.”  Rise to the challenge, look toward the future, and conquer it valiantly. 

Stay sane my friends. It’ll all work out.

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