Deployment Lesson for COVID #11: Planning ahead

May 19, 2020

Someone recently asked me what deployment-lesson-for-COVID there is when we need a big event to look forward to, but there isn’t a “safe” date on the calendar, even far into the future. How can we look forward to something big and fun when we don’t know when this ends?

This is where deployment lessons fall apart.

Because even with the uncertainty, there is a date that deployment eventually ends – however joyous or tragic that ending is. It isn’t gradual over a period of months; it isn’t in waves. One day, it’s over.

So we turn to military life in general. We never ever know how to plan a couple years out. Even when deployment ends, they might leave for a few weeks for training, but we don’t always know when that will be. I am not certain where my kids will go to high school – and they’re in middle school now.

I remember several years ago, a family member wanted to get a family reunion on the calendar two years out, to be sure that the date was set aside for everyone… but at that time, we didn’t know where we would be living or what the school schedule would be or how much of Jonathan’s leave schedule was in his control. We can’t put dates on the calendar for two years out – or even one year out – with definite confidence. Planning far into the future has been nigh impossible for my entire adult life.

We all find ourselves in a similar situation now. This summer aside, planning for fall and all of 2021 is like this big cloud. When will the second wave come? How bad will it be? Can we get out and have some fun before it hits? Will we be able to get out but with restrictions? What will those restrictions be? Will fall be safe? Or Christmas? Or next spring?
When can we travel? Go on vacation? Attend a concert or a full Easter service or packed stadium? What about big conferences and weddings and events?

We just don’t know.

So, we keep writing everything in pencil. We make plans, but only refundable ones. We don’t stop thinking ahead (that’s key!)… but we do so knowing that things could change. Planning even with a cloud is an act of hope, an act of resurrection, an act of resistance. Sure, things might need to change, but we look ahead anyway. How can we not?

But here’s the honest and difficult reality about uncertainty in planning for the future: It’s true for everyone, all the time… we’re just extra aware of it right now. We never know when a diagnosis or an accident or a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity will change everything.

None of us ever knows what will happen a season from now, a year from now, five years from now. Military families live with this awareness, but we all live with the reality.

You’ve got this. You’ve always had this. Keep making the plans. Just keep writing in pencil.

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