Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hearts Wide Open

The military lifestyle can be a whirlwind. We move a lot. My husband has to shift gears a lot. I have to change jobs more than I would like. My kids will eventually have to change schools and homes. It is a lot of change. So some days when I am not feeling the greatest about things I wonder "why". Why do people (or more specifically, *we*) choose this lifestyle? What about it keeps us going? What is recharging our batteries day after day, month after month? Today I was reminded of one answer. PEOPLE (and no, not the magazine, though I am a sucker for celeb gossip, too).

When someone asks me my favorite thing about the military I usually say "my friends". I have noticed a lot of articles written that expose what the writer perceives as a toxic community of catty women. Gossip and back stabbing; with descriptions of weak, dependant, and ambitiousless young girls who follow their husbands around with a tail between their legs. Women in waiting. Waiting for the next thing because, to these writers, military wives have nothing going on that is really for THEM. Waiting for deployment to end. Waiting to PCS. "Hurry up and wait" ad nauseum. Well, quite frankly, I couldn't disagree more.

Yesterday I invited a friend over who I hadn't seen in probably 4 or 5 years. Her husband is currently on a 12 month deployment. We met back in 2003 when our husbands started the final stage of flight school together. Neither of us had kids, we were both newlyweds, and we were both starting this crazy journey together. When our husbands got their wings they were sent to different squadrons and we parted ways. Seeing her today brought back some amazing memories, but it also strengthened my belief in the military spouse bond. We haven't spoken in years, but I was so overjoyed to see her face.

While our daughters played we chatted about deployments. Instead of saying "wow, I don't know how you do it" she simply said "you can do it". Instead of saying "wow, 7 months is such a long time" she said, "time apart is hard, but the last 5 months that my husband has been away has flown by". Without knowing it, and in about 30 seconds of conversation, she made me feel 20 pounds lighter.

Obviously my friends from home mean NO harm when they say things like "I can't believe how you can do xyz" (deployments, moves, take care of my kids "alone", be married to someone with a dangerous job). They are complimenting me most of the time. And most of the time I can take those comments for what they are worth at face value and move forward. But it can be hard to feel like everyone around you is looking at you with 60% pity and 40% admiration. Even my own mom, who is truly one of my best friends and someone that I love more than I can put into words, says things like "yikes, I couldn't do what you do everyday" (which isn't true). Yesterday with my old friend, there was no pity. Just pure understanding and support.

So in the sea of negativity, I wanted to describe some of the wonderful things about military wives.

* Our hearts are wide open. Every time I have PCSed somewhere I have made a handful of GOOD friends. Friends who I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. Being thrust into a new area without anyone familiar is hard - but because of that, we open ourselves up more to new people. I am so thankful for that. Just ask my friend M, who after only knowing me for a few months found herself at the hospital, holding my hand, and staring hopefully at an ultrasound screen because I was having a scare during my pregnancy and my husband was out of the country. I remember her busting into that u/s room, holding my hand, kissing my forehead and telling me it was going to be okay. Priceless.

* We take care of each other. After my son was born in November I didn't cook for over 6 weeks! Every other night for 6 WEEKS I had a homemade meal on my doorstep. Usually with dessert. And most of the time with a sweet note and a hug. Sometimes I had never even met the woman who took a few hours out of her busy schedule to cook for my family. I also have found myself cooking for strangers who need a break. I don't need to be your BFF to cook you a lasagna, if you need me - I'll do it.

* We are independent. I often say that I am a stronger person when J is gone. It isn't meant to be an insult to him, more just self observation. When he is home, if something breaks I wait for him to get home from work and ask him to fix it. When he's gone - I fix it. Right then. I make decisions with more assertiveness and am less wishy washy. I know I am *it*, so if something needs to be done, it gets done.

* We are innovative. The stereotype that military wives aren't educated or professionals is completely untrue. I personally have a master's degree and very much enjoy my career. But unlike many professionals who do law school, med school, or any other professional program and secure a job that they can grow with, we have to change our approach at each new location. Some of the creative and brilliant ways my friends have made their careers work in the military are absolutely stunning.

* We know how to party. My little segment of the military (Naval Aviation) knows how to celebrate. We make sure to celebrate milestones during deployment with BBQs, monthly get togethers, half-way parties, and homecoming celebrations. I have learned over the years how to whip up a party for 15 friends in less than a day. We schedule these parties at intervals during deployments so that we always always have something to look forward to.

As you can see from this long winded post, I feel very lucky to be a part of such an amazing group of women. I feel lucky to have the friends I have. I feel lucky and blessed to get have the opportunity to be part of the military community.

It is so easy to perseverate on the drama. To point out the catty (read: unhappy) people who can make some events turn sour. Do they exist? Absolutely. Do they exist in every facet of society? Uh, duh. It isn't the military and it isn't military wives. It is just *people*. So if you are a new military spouse and are facing down a new PCS or a deployment (or are just stuck in a rut where you are) my advice would be to approach everything with your heart wide open. Be open to new friendships and I have a feeling that you will attract others who want the same thing. This lifestyle is hard, but it is truly wonderful in a unique way. I plan on making the most of it.


Lori said...

Awww...sweet, sweet, sweet.

You are so true. There are a lot of things that if given the choice, I'd TOTALLY change...but there are some things I'd never give up for a million bucks!

You're one of them! xoxoxoxo

mygoalissimple.com said...

I agree 100%. Some of my closest friends are fellow Army wives. We may not see each other often but our bonds are indestructible. We have laughed and cried together, attended military funerals together, and celebrated homecomings together. Military friendships are very special. Extremely special.


Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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