Friday, May 12, 2017

101 Reasons I am a Terrible Military Spouse

There aren’t really 101 reasons I am not a very good military wife, but a recent blog optimization article said that titles of articles with numbers in them are more likely to be read.  I wanted you to read what I have to say, ergo, 101 reasons (or whatever the real number is) reasons I’m a terrible military wife. :)

I don’t write that to put myself down, but a recent YouTube parody called “I have a Mom Crush” got me thinking about all the things we assume about our fellow friends, family, colleagues, and social circles that probably aren’t all that right. Sometimes, we need to be willing to let it all hang out there honestly, so that people in your same situation, with your same fears and anxieties can relate.  When people relate, they don’t feel alone.  When people are not alone, they are a lot less likely to make destructive or harmful decisions.  This is why the Army (or military or community) family is so vital to the success of our society. Finding connections between people isn’t just the hallmark of success amongst the military.  When we can find connections between people anywhere, in any situation, it’s good for communities.  When we are together, we ARE stronger—no matter how cliche that sounds. It’s just that social media is set up to show the best sides of ourselves, so we tend to assume that other people don’t have problems that could relate to our own struggles.  We don’t share the pictures of ugly cries, or the snot bubbles of frustration, anxiety, and anger experienced by everyone.  It’s easy to capture of a profile picture of joy.  It’s a lot more difficult to capture one that expresses us when we are really at our lowest...and then post it so others know they aren’t alone.  Plus, ugly pictures make people uncomfortable.  Trying to empathize in 140 characters can sometimes push people out of their comfort zones.  Others feel that sort of reality is private and others think there is just too much TMI on the internet anyway.  The problem is that more and more people are seeking to use social media as their communities, and yet it's very difficult to be authentic in the online world.

Professional Head Shots make everyone look perfect.
Thanks to my secret life as a writer (it’s probably not so secret, but I like to pretend that it’s my alter ego), I have the opportunity to come into contact with a lot of people that can take a look at my gorgeous head shot and bio and sum me up in five minutes. People have said to me: “I don’t know how you do all you do” (I don’t really do either, I just do it); “You have it all together” (I don’t really, it’s just a controlled level of crazy that makes you think it’s normal); “You’ve done so much” (I’ve done stuff where I’ve applied my passion, there are other parts of my life that I’m terrible at: kids crafts for example); “You are so beautiful, I don’t know how you could possibly understand” (What you see in the mirror and what I see in the mirror are probably two different things); “You make moving look so easy” (That’s because I kill myself trying to control everything and I fail all the time); and a bunch of other stuff that just turns into a long list of platitudes, but rarely captures the nitty gritty of truth. My head shot and me are two different things.  It’s just one glimpse of me.  Same thing with my profile pictures, or what you see about me from the outside.

The truth is:  I’m just like you.  A mom, wife, woman, just trying to do her best.  I also happen to be a military wife, military brat, and military-grandbrat (the military runs deep in my family).  I love military life, but let’s face it, it has its moments where we are called to embrace the suck.  My friend Sara tells me at my whiney moments to “Ruck Up.”  The rucksack is the military backpack soldiers carry their gear.  To “Ruck up” is to put your back pack on and keep moving.  In the civilian world it equates to “put on your big girl panties and get on with it.”  Much of life is rucking it up.  While it’s all good and well to have a boo-hoo, sometimes you need a friend that listens and then says “Ruck Up.”  Let’s move on, part of life is embracing the chaos and crazy as your own.  I can whine through it all, but it’s a lot more doable  when I acknowledge the uncontrollability in my life and choose to make it my own, instead of letting it make me.  I am pretty good at rucking it up in the middle of the chaos.  It’s the moments before the backpack goes on my back and the moments before I get to take it off that trip me up. I call these the bookend moments.

Living out of boxes.
I can excel at a deployment; a transatlantic or transpacific move; the regular change in my life; getting to know people and hosting things; but I suck at either end of it.  I loathe the bookends.  I am a mess waiting for assignments.  The anticipation kills me.  In fact, anticipation in general kills me.  I’ve been known to read the end of a book just to make sure that everything turns out okay.  I loathe the time leading up to a deployment and waiting for the last good bye.  I loathe the last couple of weeks waiting for my soldier to come home. I stress when I am planning a party and worrying about making sure everything is okay. I want everyone to be happy. Packing up my house, or waiting for my precious stuff to arrive make me hum with stress. I’ll confess, my soldier has come home more than once to walk through the door and I bust out in tears, throwing my hands in the air, and dramatically proclaiming, “I just can’t do this anymore!”  True story.  Luckily, we’ve done this for awhile now that that my dude knows to give me a hug, pour me a glass of wine, and take my to-do list out of my hands for awhile.
Take the "to-do" list and pass me a glass of wine, and no one gets hurt.

We’re heading into a big move right now and the truth is that it’s hard.  I am running around with my house half packed in boxes and storage bins, trying to mitigate the damage that my movers look at as junk, but are precious memories to me.  I am trying to figure out how to feed my family healthy food and not eat out all the time, when my kitchen will be packed up for somewhere between 6-12 weeks. You think the Freshman 15 is bad?  Try the PCS 20.  I’m trying to figure out how to work through it all.  I’m worried about where my kids will go to school and if they’ll be happy. I feel guilt when they are pulled from their friends, although I know their passport and adventures rival many of their peers.  I both want to see my friends, and am loathe that each time we get together is yet another good bye.  I worry about our families when we travel far away, and I often pray that no one dies while we are overseas.  I often wish I was strong like that other military spouse I just saw post about her PCS binder or her teacher gifts worthy of Pinterest or the one that is weathering her 6th deployment. We all have things we wish we could do like someone else, but you know, you’ve got qualities too that someone else wishes they have.  The diversity of our abilities is what makes the world pretty awesome.

Polish Pottery will get broken.
As my mom tells me, no matter how many broken pieces of furniture I try to prevent, no matter how many lost boxes I try to label, and no matter how many ducks I try to put in a row, something will happen.  And whether I worry myself to death (which I probably will continue to do—Type A here), the move will happen, the party will be thrown, the deployment will end at some point, the teacher will be thanked, and we’ll do it all again because military life is nothing if it’s not cyclical. You can’t control everything.  You can’t be everything.  You have things that you are good at, just like me.  And you have things you could work on, just like me.  And you’ll have things you never achieve, just like me.  It doesn’t mean you are a bad person, or a bad military wife, or a bad any-type-of-spouse.  You are you, and I am me.

So, if you look at another spouse, military or not, and think you’ve got that “Mom Crush” or that she (or he) have it all together, remember that the way you see another person isn’t always the way they see themselves.  I’ve got 101 ideas why I think I’m bad at what I do and 101 wishes I could do our life like someone else, but I’ve also got 101 reasons why I love our life and the way we do it is just right.  Be yourself and find someone willing to be authentic with you too and you’ll succeed at anything, even when you think you aren’t.

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