This story starts with me, sitting alone on the floor, crying uncontrollably. I’m in the living room of my not-yet-unpacked home- my first home with my husband. We’ve been married for about three months, and instead of helping me unpack boxes and pick out curtains he’s on an airplane heading to the other side of the planet.
In my former life, my life before becoming a military spouse, I would have known exactly what to do. I’d call my best friend and head to our favorite coffee shop to talk about how much this “deployment” situation sucked. But, making the 12 hour drive home for a latte at “Dale’s” wasn’t actually an option. That’s the funny thing about this military life- it pulls you away from your support system and then puts you in some of the most challenging situations you’ve ever encountered.
At that moment I knew that there was no way I could suffer through the season of deployment alone. I was going to need more than just a friend- I was going to need a community- and fast. Just a few weeks later I found myself surrounded by beautiful, honest women who would walk through this season with me. It’s not impossible, and here’s how I did it.
My idea of a good time has nothing to do with walking into a room filled with strangers. But, the reality is that everyone’s a stranger until they’re a friend- so I forced myself to be a little bit uncomfortable.
I decided to change my focus. No longer would I just be grocery shopping, or taking a yoga class – I was friend hunting!! I shifted my mindset, and began to see every person as a potential connection. Most importantly, I took on the very uncomfortable discipline of introducing myself. I was terrified to open myself up, but the amazing thing that I learned is that most people WANT to introduce themselves to you too! My being bold enough to make the first move was not only welcomed- it was appreciated!
HOW TO DO IT: Make an introduction, and then ask one open-ended question about the person you’re meeting. You’ll be shocked how much you have in common!
Does this conversation sound familiar?
New acquaintance: “We should get coffee sometime!”
Three months later: still no coffee date!
I am the queen of staying home. There’s absolutely nothing I love more than a quiet night with my puppies, Thai food and Meredith Grey. It can be a hard sell to get me to leave the house. So, in my quest for community during deployment I decided to eliminate the question of whether or not to stay home- I would always say yes to social invitations when they were offered, as long as they fit in my schedule. This new “say yes!” attitude meant that I wouldn’t be tempted to skip out on time with a new friend just because my PJ’s and couch were so comfy!
HOW TO DO IT: If a new friend suggests a hang-out, ask when they’re available and put it on the calendar before leaving!
Ask For Help
In this difficult season I knew that I would need deep, meaningful friendships- not just casual acquaintances. What I found was that the best way to forge a deeper connection with new friends is by asking for help. Notice that I didn’t say offering help. I know what you’re thinking… HOW RUDE!!
I get it. This seems backwards. But, asking my new friends for help opened up my whole world to them. It let them know that I was willing to be vulnerable, honest and imperfect. It can take months or even years to get to that level of depth with a new friend, but in this one simple act of vulnerability I opened the door for them to be honest and imperfect too. This kind of comfort is something many of us only find with life long friends or family. When we’re willing to sacrifice our pride, we’re rewarded with depth and connection.
HOW TO DO IT: Don’t go crazy here! You want to invite your new found community into your life- not inconvenience them! Ask for help that is simple for them to say “yes” to.
What’s beautiful is that my deployment story ends many years later- long after my husband’s homecoming. Again, I’m sitting on the floor of an empty house, crying. This time, though, I’m crying, because I’m PCS’ing away from my people, my sisters, the exact same community that I had found during his first deployment. The difference now is that my tears are fueled not by loneliness, but by years of memories made- and they’re tempered by the confidence that I can, and will, create community at our new home.
This is a guest post from Becky Hoy of Brave Crate. I invited her to share her deployment story as part of the #ThisisDeployment series. For more deployment support and encouragement, check out my Ultimate Deployment Guide and my Deployment Masterclass.