By Joan Price
To be honest, I’m not really sure how I manage to keep our two girls alive while owning a small business and leading our squadron’s spouses’ group – all while my husband is deployed and COVID-19 sweeps over the world.
Maybe it’s all thanks to the masked barista in the drive-thru who crafts my Americano with one pump toffee nut and extra heavy cream. Maybe it’s because of the weekly meal delivery service I signed up for as soon as my husband waved goodbye. Maybe it’s due to the endless Disney+ streaming in the background while I hammer out work emails and respond to text messages and phone calls between making an endless array of snacks.
Whatever it is, it’s taken a village; Really, a network of villages.
From my local inner circle of friends, neighbors, employees and fellow military spouses to my video-calling family members, every little interaction has made a difference. Even those who aren’t “close” to my family have helped us get through this trying time. From the pizza delivery man to the online fitness gurus to the YouTubers who give free art lessons to my kids, these members of my extended community, with the help of technology, have become essential to our daily survival alone at home.
Yes, you read that right, technology, in a way, has also become a member of my community. And I’m okay with that because these small moments, created with the help of technology, have helped my family survive this deployment – let alone a pandemic in the middle of a deployment.
You see, I’m an extrovert. That is, an extreme-Myers-Briggs-extrovert, who feeds on the energy I gain from my involvement in planning and participating in events and activities. I love being around other people.
In fact, I love being around others so much that I opened a small business that is based entirely around the concept of gathering people together in a creative workshop. As such a personality, this pandemic has forced me to slow down, take a breath and find myself at home in a new normal.
In the last two months, I have found that perhaps, maybe, I have actually become even more of an extrovert in this new normal of ours. Is that even possible while remaining socially distant from one another? Yes, yes it is.
Throughout this deployment-during-a-pandemic scenario, I find I am constantly attached to my phone, our iPad, the computer or the television on social apps like GroupMe, Facebook and YouTube. These virtual methods of connection are now the lifelines keeping my business afloat, but more importantly, they are how my family stays connected now that I can no longer explore the real world with our girls.
For example, now, instead of going to the local zoo, we are learning about Fiona the hippo through daily home safari adventures on the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Facebook page. Instead of waiting until we can visit Grandma for story time, our six-year-old video-calls three different family members just to listen to them read chapter books while she’s on the swing out in the yard.
Meanwhile, our three-year-old enjoys stretching and dancing with Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube.
I, too, am interacting virtually with clients instead of hosting workshops in my studio and spending more time connecting with my local community online.
Oftentimes during a deployment, spouse groups can drift apart, as everyone falls into their routine with kids or careers – only gathering once a month for events or meetings to discuss deployment updates. If anything, the forced physical distance during this pandemic has closed that gap between military spouses and instead has created a tight-knit club.
We are all craving interaction.
One of my favorite ways to stay connected with other military spouses has been to create little challenges for our group over a group messaging app. Together, we’ve tackled everything from the Getty Museum Challenge, where participants must recreate their favorite pieces of art using only three objects lying around their homes, to binge-watching the latest popular television show alone, but together, in only three nights. We have ongoing battleship tournaments via a free downloadable app, haiku-writing challenges about life during a pandemic, video calls and even virtual trivia nights to celebrate reaching the halfway point of deployment.
I have never been more active on my electronic devices as I have during this deployment, and they have been a life-saver.
I recently overheard our six-year-old talking to a neighbor the other day (from a respective distance, of course):
“I wish we didn’t have the coronavirus because I miss school and my friends … but, I kind of like the virus around because now I have more people reading to me on video calls, and I think that’s kinda cool.”
We can all step back and learn from this little kindergartener. Deployments are hard. Living through a pandemic – in addition to a deployment – is even harder. But if you lean on your community, you will survive.
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