This article originally appeared here on the National Military Family Association’s blog.
Over the past few years, military life has afforded our family many changes and calamities. We have survived a deployment, a reintegration, and we moved across the country (again). We have closed up shop at one duty station and set up our lives again in a new town. We have spoken countless goodbyes, unpacked all of our worldly possessions, and felt the sting of loneliness being new in an unfamiliar town.
After one full year at our current assignment we have nested, settled, and established our lives in our professional, educational, religious, and social communities. After one full year, here we are now at what I call, The Lull.
A lull as defined by Merriam Webster is a “temporary calm, quiet, or stillness.” In military life, The Lull is a phase of time that can feel hard-fought and hard-won. Much of the time, life in the military demands that we live in fight-or-flight mode. For many of us, we almost forget how to live during the downtime; life without furious activity is unfamiliar and awkward.
For the past handful of years, military life has conditioned my husband and me to function on little time together, a “B.L.U.F.” (Bottom Line Up Front) style of communication, and to be honest, a tendency toward a frenzied and often frazzled atmosphere in our home.
At our current assignment there are no deployments, few TDYs, and for once, my soldier has some pretty regular and predictable hours. Thankfully there have been no late nights, no middle-of-the-night crises, no separations, no time in grueling training or study for school, and we have nothing else to unpack or organize.
I am finding myself at a loss with how to behave with all of this sacred family time. Instead of becoming hyper-vigilant about the next hard thing on the horizon, I’m choosing to focus this season on savoring The Lull. This rare period in our family’s op-tempo is a perfect time to refocus and refresh a few areas our lives.
Here are 5 suggestions for savoring The Lull.
1. Make your marriage your mission.
Just like any military mission, our marriages need a clear focus and goal. If having a dynamic relationship with your spouse has taken a hit during times of stress, now is the time to address it. During this respite, recalibrate what matters in your marriage relationship. Spend some intentional time together. Set aside time to really connect. For you maybe that looks like a regular date night, going to a marriage conference or retreat, seeking professional counseling, or maybe incorporating a nightly practice of sitting together and reflecting on the day’s blessings. However big or small, the investment in your relationship as a couple will help to establish patterns for defining your priorities.
2. Let your home be a place of rest.
As a typically Type-A person, I can easily tend to focus on making our home run on efficiency. With cleaning schedules, chore-charts for the kids, meal plans and regular family budget-meetings, I can turn our home into a process-driven, tightly-run ship. As military spouses, there are times when that level of competence is a necessity. At times, resolute organization is the only way that I stay mission ready. During The Lull some of that compulsivity should be traded for rest. Structure is good, but so is taking a breather. I want our home to be a haven of refreshment for my soldier, myself, and our children. Savor meals around the table, have family game nights, and enjoy quiet when you can find it.
3. Let this be your time.
During a deployment or PCS, you may not have the flexibility to focus on your own needs. It seems that often the needs of the military, your spouse or family comes first. During The Lull, it is the perfect time to find your groove. Take up knitting or photography, learn a musical instrument, practice yoga, join a book club, get a part-time job, enroll in a college course. If you find yourself in a situation where there’s a bit of a reprieve from the demands of the typical military hustle, use the time to fill up your own tank. None of us can run on fumes! As human beings, we aren’t built for long periods of physical, emotional or mental stress. Take this time to make sure you are finding the stillness, rest, recreation, or relief you need.
4. Find community.
John Donne once said, “No man is an island unto himself.” This adage is certainly true in military life. Were it not for unit wives, auxiliary ministry groups, social media and friends I don’t know that I’d survive the madness of what our military calling asks of me. This is true during times of tension and strife, but this is also true during The Lull. It’s vital to our marriages and families to find connection with others. Invite the neighbors over for a barbecue, join a church, connect with others in your town who share hobbies or interests. It may feel natural to hunker down at home during a time of reprieve, but we all need a network of camaraderie.
5. Remember your whys.
Those of us in military service have dozens of varying reasons for our affiliations. To some it’s a steady paycheck, a strict sense of patriotism and pride in our great nations, and to others it may even be a calling to protect and defend. There’s no better time than The Lull for you and your spouse to recall your motivations for serving. Call to mind why you got started, recollect your high times and victories, revive that sense of purpose, and determine your strengths for going forward with intentionality. It will be this sense of significance that will anchor and sustain you, your marriage, and your family when the going gets tough. Being principled in your convictions goes a long way in maintaining positivity and resolve.
The Lull doesn’t seem to come around often. But if, like me, you find yourself in the midst of some downtime and don’t quite know how to respond, savor it!