I think the hardest part of being a military spouse is the moving…
Not the constant separation. Not the fear of things you can’t control on the other side of the world. Yes, those things are incredibly hard. But I don’t think they are the hardest. Somehow, in the wake of those moments, this fighter you never knew you were emerges and you scrap your way through those obstacles. You survive the broken toilets, the single parenting, and the sleepless nights. You form solid friendships that anchor you in your craziest moments, and you build confidence and acceptance in who you are and what you are capable of achieving. When you are reunited after a deployment, you can actually hear the “happily ever after” music playing in your head…
And then he gets reassignment orders.
The funny thing about moving is that, as stressful as it is, it is always exciting at first. I grew up my whole life in the same city and a large chunk of it in the same house. When I went to college, I was only a few hours’ drive away from home. The prospect of moving all around seemed like an adventure to me. And even though our orders have never been to places that people consider “highly desirable,” I am always happy to move forward into something new. It must be the overly optimistic part of me that does that. I should really give that part of me a stern talking-to.
It’s not that I consider it a bad thing to be overly optimistic. It’s actually a wonderful thing to be genuinely happy most all of the time. But I do need to remember not to let that part of me daydream a place into something so impossibly perfect that all it does is disappoint me when I come back down to reality.
I remember the first time we moved on assignment orders, I had this really naïve notion that I was going to walk right into about six lifelong friendships. I guess I was watching too many episodes of Army Wives or something, I don’t know. (By the way, that show is SO NOT real.) In reality, it took a solid five months before I had even one person reach out. I also thought that I would be able to come into a new city and walk right into a job. That didn’t happen either. I also didn’t live in the house of my dreams. My husband was never home for dinner. And I didn’t know of anyone who could babysit my children so I could go to Roxy’s bar. I literally hated that place for like a year. And then… I bloomed.
The Army uses the expression “bloom where you’re planted.” I think it’s just a nicer way to say “suck it up and make it better.” One of my friends simply refers to it as “embracing the suck.” However nicely or literally you phrase it, it is still hard to do.
I am no gardener. (In fact, I think I am more like the gardener you should seek out if you want a plant to die.) But I do know that a plant needs three things to bloom: good soil, sunshine, and time.
The first trick to blooming is to pick the right soil to establish your roots in. I am finding that just as soil varies from state to state, so do activities. I can’t “root” myself in the same activities in different places and always expect the same results. Every day I spend in my “new soil” seems to further prove this fact. Groups that I used to find fulfilling in my old home are not creating the same fuzzy feelings for me here. I haven’t changed, but my environment has. The good news is that every state has its own hardy state flower. And though they are different from one another, they are all equally beautiful. (And I just know that whatever springs from the soil here will make me equally happy…I just gotta find it!)
Once the roots are established in good soil, the plant needs sunshine to feed it. Just as different plants grow better in different soil, they also require different amounts of sunshine. I like to think sunshine is happiness you get from your outside sources—the people, the scenery, the weather, the local attractions, the food, the shopping, your church, your career (or lack thereof,) the amount of available family time, and on and on and on. Sometimes, I need all of these things to feel well fed. Others, I need just a few. If I am being honest, I could use some more sunshine here in the Midwest to keep me going. Lucky for me, spring is just around the corner—and hopefully a bunch of sunny days are too.
All good things take time. A seed doesn’t bloom overnight. And despite my very best efforts, a home isn’t built in a day. Trust me—it isn’t built in four months either. Unfortunately for me, time isn’t exactly on my side in this duty station. But I do intend to make the most of the time I’ve been given. As much as the over-achiever in me hates to admit it, I will not have it all here. I will not make a chain of lifelong friendships here. That doesn’t mean that I will be a hermit, but it does mean that I will not beat myself up if month five rolls around and no one has reached out. I will not reach the level of community involvement that I had in my last home. That does not mean that I will force myself to remain unattached, but it does mean that I will take advantage of the opportunity to focus on my family first and foremost. In fact, the signs are indicating that I will not actually like this place as much as I loved the one I came from. But I refuse to waste what little time I have wallowing in what I’m missing and wind up missing my chance to bloom. And I really do believe I can bloom here. (I just might need a sprinkling or two of Miracle Grow to help me out a little.)
When I do bloom here, I hope it’s as a bluebonnet…just so people never question where my true roots are found. :)