Monday, August 30, 2010

The Best Investment You’ll Ever Make

Today's guest blogger, Jillian Lemons, has learned some tough lessons through repeated deployments.  But the best lesson she's learned has helped her be a better -- and happier! -- person.  Read how this National Guard spouse decided to be proactive, take a postive view of life, and invest in herself!  You can follow Jillian on Twitter:

As always, feel free to comment on this post and share your ideas, too!

Being a military spouse and a stay-at-home mom are two very challenging roles to play. I’m an Army National Guard spouse, so I don’t live on post or near a base like the typical military spouse does. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that when your spouse is deployed, all the responsibilities end up on your plate.

I’ve taken a different approach to being separated from my Soldier this time around. Instead of being negative, feeling sorry for myself and sadly looking at the calendar and how much further we have to go until he comes home, I decided that this time around is going to be better. I decided that I’m not going to let my negativity infect my whole world and make everything harder and worse for myself.

Not only have I taken this new way of thinking and applied it to my military life, I’ve applied it to my everyday life as well. My new mantra is: Invest in yourself.

When I say, “Invest in yourself,” I mean exactly that. Take the time to make sure you’re at your absolute best. It’s like a going on a long road trip. You wouldn’t just get in the car and get going, would you? No, you would make sure the car was prepared for the journey; oil change, tires, engine, etc. Same goes for you when it comes to deployments. In order for you to take on the responsibilities necessary for you and your Family to make it, it’s smart to fine tune yourself as well; physically and mentally. It’s like the old saying goes, “you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.” It’s also true for caring for your Family. How can you expect to take care of your Family and do the best job you can, if you’re not taking proper care of yourself?

Most mothers will admit that they put their spouse and children’s needs before their own. And while I agree with that to a point, I’m a firm believer in making yourself just as high on the priority list as they are. It takes a lot to care for a Family. It takes even more to care for a Family while you’re spouse is deployed. You’re running the whole show! Just like your husband is on the job 24/7, so are you. And why should you get moved to the bottom of the list, just because you’re solo? If anything, that’s the reason you should move to the top of the list! If you’re not at your 100% best, it will ultimately affect your ability to care for your Family, which will then make it harder on everyone else, too.

We knew ahead of time that we had a deployment coming up. This meant that I had many responsibilities that were going to be served up to me, ready or not. And I decided to be ready! I started by going through the usual “checklists” for military spouses when preparing for a deployment. But I also made a self checklist too.

I decided to find psychologist/therapist to see and talk to throughout the deployment. I figured, it couldn’t hurt and would most definitely help. It’s a great way to just talk about whatever is in the forefront of your mind at that point in time and the best part, the therapist will listen objectively! No friend/family input or opinions or unwanted advice. Therapy is definitely an indulgence for me. My therapist isn’t there to try and “fix me.” That’s not what it’s about. It’s just a good way to get the “stuff” floating around in my head, released. I look forward to those appointments and end up leaving happier than when I arrived. I lucked out and found a great person that I really meshed with. Therapy and mental health get a bad rap in general, but believe me, it’s definitely a great thing to check out and see if you benefit from it or not.

The other things I did to put myself first is to be at my healthiest. I started exercising 4-5 days a week. I designated a specific time to workout and was consistent with it. It was MY TIME. Yes, I have to take my 1 year old with me, in her stroller, but I still count it as “me time.” I could make excuses that I’m too tired, or I have a baby and two other kids and can’t go or a million other reasons as to why I can’t find time to workout. However, I’ve found that exercise is yet other key to being at your 100% best. I’ll be the first one to admit, its hard work, but having the dedication and commitment is crucial to becoming successful. I found a quote by Ralph Marston that goes, “Success often comes from doing ordinary things with extraordinary commitment.” I think this is an awesome quote and a great way to look at the things in your life.

The biggest and most challenging thing I’ve done to grow through this deployment instead of getting through this deployment is being positive. I know that may sound cheesy and but it’s a lot easier said than done. By getting rid of all the negative things that surround the word “deployment” and turning it into a great thing, I saw it as an opportunity for me to set goals for myself, find new hobbies, discover and learn things about myself, and to be proud of myself and the things I do. I take pride even in the smallest accomplishments. All of those small accomplishments will add up to one big one when the deployment is done.

Like I said before, it’s not easy to have a positive attitude and outlook all the time. Sometimes you just have to learn to laugh at the situation or let it go, no matter how bad you think it is. Life isn’t always smiles and fun. But being able to see the brighter side of things instead of the darker side is the best thing that you can do for yourself and your Family.

I’ve even been able to help turn my husband’s attitude around by giving him positive advice about whatever is going on in that particular moment in time. Everyone needs to vent at one point or another. Get it out and then move on. There’s always going to be something good that comes out of something not-so good. Not only is negativity a waste of time and energy, it’s contagious. It infects everyone around you. Same rings true for a positive attitude and a smile … whether its real or not.

There have been many times that I haven’t wanted to smile or be a “positive Polly.” It’s easier to join in on the negativity and stew in it, instead of rising above it and choosing a different outlook. Now, I don’t have to fake the smiles or “pep talks” so-to-speak. They’re real. It’s become my persona. Quite a few friends have taken notice of this change as well. It’s funny because in the past when I had the negative outlook, no one said a thing. But now that I’ve changed all of that, people are speaking up and complimenting me on how well I seem to be doing. And there’s no “seem to be” about it. I’m doing well. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that I’m doing great! I’m a stay-at-home mom of three kids, my husband is deployed, and I can still smile and have a wonderful day.

Surprisingly enough, these past almost four months have flown by. I haven’t once looked at the calendar and thought to myself, “Ugh … time is going by so slow! When will this be over?” To this day, it still shocks me at how fast the days, weeks, and months are coming and going. I’m most definitely giving the majority of the credit for the way things are going to the fact that I decided to invest in myself, prepare myself ahead of time, and no matter what, always look at the brighter side of things. All of this has reflected from me to my Family and even all the way across the world to my husband.

For more information, visit Army Well-Being: Deployment Cycle Support.


Army Well-Being said...

Jillian, this is such good information for anyone going through a deployment. So much of Army life is all about what YOU make it. Thank you for sharing this inspirational post with us!

JLem. said...

Thank you! I really enjoyed writing this!

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this article. At the FRG Leader forum, we focus a lot on positive leadership. Your attitude is what we strive for all Families to attain. Thanks for sharing this!

Mama Nicole said...

I was already a fan, but this just brought my respect for you to a whole new level. You have a great gift, and it is good that you are sharing it :)

MyArmyLife said...

This is all good stuff to remember! Thanks for sharing it!

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