Sometimes the reality of our lives as a military family resembles a not so fun rollercoaster ride. Emotionally I feel like I’m a teenager in the midst of puberty, and physically I can’t plan anything beyond today because things keep changing. Ahhh but such is the life of this Army wife. And I know I’m not the only one. This week I watched (and helped) my neighbor prepare for her soldiers homecoming. The highs and lows that the week before they come home is like riding the Corkscrew at Cedar Point. Tower of Terror is the feeling that our old unit and closest friends are experiencing as they prepare for another trip to the sandbox. And for us, Demon Drop is the only ride that describes the stomach dropping feeling I get when I find out my soldier isn’t deploying in February quickly followed by the words “but I will be going somewhere else this summer”. It’s like this good news bad news thing and we are all just along for the ride. I hear so many military spouses complain that there isn’t much we can do, and to some extent that’s true. We can’t change how things happen, or the fact that the military has so much control over our lives, but we can decide which rides we will get on. We can choose to know what rides have bigger highs and lows, and we can prepare ourselves, even if it’s to be sure to carry the military spouse equivalent to a barf bag along with us :). But seriously, I have found that despite a lifestyle filled with so many twists, turns and bumps, with a little preparation we can for the most part enjoy it.
Tips for Making The Most Of Your Military Life:
- Learn to expect change so it doesn’t throw you. The fact is that being in the military means that life will change and it will change often. The sooner you admit that, the easier every “change” will become. Early on, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got from a “seasoned Army Wife” was that no date, no homecoming, no mission, no training, no duty was ever “a go” until it happened. Expect it to change and plan accordingly. I have kept this mindset, and while sometimes I am scrambling because they are early, I rarely am disappointed that something was ruined because it was pushed back. It’s all about accepting that I’m not in control, and finding coping strategies to be ok with that :).
- Reach out and find a true Battle Buddy. Someone who doesn’t judge, calls you on your crap, understands what you are going through and makes you laugh. This isn’t someone to “bitch” with, this is someone who will hold your hand as you slowly make your way up that big hill, will scream with you as you rush down the other side and then laugh with you for almost peeing your pants and then suggest that you do it all over again!
- Take care of you. Without exception the emotional challenges we face as military spouses will “shut us down for repair” if we don’t find ways to de-stress, take care of our health and adjust to new situations. We often begin to “squeak, hiss and slow down”, and eventually like any rollercoaster we will be forced to “shut down” if we don’t take the time to do regular maintenance and make sure we are running at maximum efficiently.
- Recharge your battery. No one can run on empty. As a military spouse you must find ways to recharge. Maybe it’s exercises like yoga or running, perhaps it’s crafts or coffee with a friend on a regular basis. Heck it may even be just taking a nap. No matter what it is, making sure you make time for it on a regular basis will give you the energy and the stamina to “handle” the many ups and downs this life brings.
- Let your emotions fly. No one can hold it together all the time, and that’s a fact. I know that as military spouses, our “mission” is to hold down the fort, but sometimes you just gotta cry. And acknowledging that you aren’t “super(wo)man” makes it a whole lot better. I know that sometimes I just have to acknowledge that this life isn’t easy and that makes me feel so much better.
- Stop “reacting” and “dramatizing”. If you find yourself getting frustrated over the same “issues” maybe it’s time to check in with yourself. Are your expectations unrealistic? Are you spending time “arguing with the reality” rather than accepting what you can’t change. Do you “set yourself (or your family) up” for disappointment? A little shift in your expectations can make all the difference!
- Shake things up a bit and learn to be flexible. I get that routine is our friend, but I also know that it can also keep us stuck in a rut and cause us to lose our ability to handle things as they come up and trust in the “big plan”. Routine helps us feel “in control”, but it also prevents us from living in the moment. Being flexible is key to enjoying the changes military life brings and it allows you to maximize every experience.