On sadness, change, and grief…

I took a break from blogging last week, because my husband was home all week and because I’ve been going through a rough time.  Let’s just say an event brought up a lot of feelings to my surface, and my cup runneth over.  I’ve had some sleepless nights, some good cries, and some real talk with my husband.  The reality of this move is still settling with me, but yet it does not feel settled at all.  I’ve realized I’m mourning the life we left behind – the one I didn’t think I’d have to leave – and I’m not ready to let that go yet.  They say that the depression stage is the final one before acceptance, so maybe I can hope this is progress?

In all my wallowing, I’ve realized just how much I’ve taken my husband for granted.  And so today, I sat down and this letter to him just poured out of me.  I’ll post it here as a mode of self expression.  Perhaps I will say all of this to him in not so many words.  The military lifestyle is not for the faint of heart.

Dear husband,

I know I haven’t been the most pleasant thing to be around lately.  I have been quiet, and sad, and a little selfish by wallowing in my feelings.  I have been short with you, maybe a little too reliant on you for help with the baby, maybe even a little mean at times.  And at other times, I have required you to be up late with me because I can’t sleep, or hold me while I cry and pray that you can figure out what to say to me to snap me out of the funk I’m in.

I know you have feelings, too.  You work so, so hard.  Long hours, short nights.  You never stop when you get home, either: take the baby on a walk so I can cook dinner in peace, take her outside and push her in the swing, feed her the dinner I cooked.  Every other night it’s your turn to give her a bath, read her a story and then we both put her to bed.  And then you do the dishes from the meal I cooked (although usually we do this one thing together).  After the kitchen is cleaned, either you or I (lately it’s often you) have to make your lunch for the next day, set the coffee, wipe down the countertops.  Maybe we have an hour to veg on the couch, but then it’s time to get ready for bed.  Lock up the house, check on the baby, brush teeth, get all of your clothes out for work the next day.  Sometimes lately I don’t let you sleep as much as you need, because I am lost and need help.  And then it’s morning, and you are gone before I am awake, and everything starts all over again.

And then I am home all day with our daughter, with mostly my thoughts for company (toddlers aren’t very good at empathy).  And I feel sad.  Because I don’t have any friends really, in this new place.  Because I’m lonely all day, and I don’t like this new town we moved to, and I miss my home and my family so incredibly much that sometimes I feel a small hole in my heart.  And I’m sad because I don’t want to wish away this time, when our daughter is so small and snuggly and sweet.  When I feel the last years of being truly young playing out to true adulthood.

My mom says I am grieving for that life we had but chose to leave behind.  It was a risk, we said, and risks can have big payoffs.  A big promotion, a big bonus, new opportunities.  But the only opportunity I want open to us is the one we left behind.  I want to go back.  I would still go back.  I’m not sure my mind will change on that.

But I know we can’t go back.  We can only go forward, and I still don’t know how to do that yet.  This is not the town for me, the people, the lifestyle.  I am lonely and not confident anymore, like I was where we used to live, where everything made sense.  Where made sense.

What will become of me now?

I am sorry for my selfish sadness right now.  I hope it won’t last long, but the truth is I just need to be selfish at the moment.  I need you to be there for me, even if I can’t be there for you in the same way.  I need you to tell me over and over and over again that it will be okay, that this time is a blip on the radar of our life together, that life will go on and I will find happiness.  That you will lose sleep with me sometimes, and let me cry, and help me through this.

Life isn’t always supposed to be easy, and I get that.  This is a difficult time in my life, in our lives, but I don’t want it to be wasted.  Maybe I can embrace the difficulty, pray about it, and let it build me up even stronger.  Maybe.  But I don’t feel my strongest these days.  I feel sensitive and sad.  And I need you to see me through to happiness again.  And I promise that if you can do that for me, I will one day do it for you, too.

This is where I’m meant to be, because this is where I am

Happy Monday!  I’ve been cooking up some great things in the kitchen this week that I plan to share once I get all my images loaded, but in the meantime I thought I would share this post I wrote a while back, as I continue to deal with accepting my lot in life these days.  I know many, many military spouses or anyone who has had a huge life change can identify.  I’d love for you to share your thoughts…

On Friday I received some perspective from the most unlikeliest of sources.  Seriously, I never would have expected this person to offer me some food for thought that would actually leave a lasting impression on me, and that I’ve been thinking about ever since.  It led me to some pretty profound conclusions I am making about my life, namely the acceptance of what my life is, despite my willful denial.

My husband had this boss back in Washington who was always a bit of a challenge for him.  They had a constant personality clash and while they got on and worked together fine, Sean was never quite sure how to read his boss.  I was friends with his wife, as we had babies about 5 months apart, and several things in common such as a graduate education and professional jobs/goals.  Still, I was never able to feel close to his wife for much the same reason that my husband was never in his boss’s club of favorites.

Anyway.  This former boss of my husband’s was in town for work, and we were chatting at a social function.  I think Sean had informed him that I was having a hard time settling in here, because one of the first things he said to me was “So you know, there are a ton of fun things to do here in Florida.”  I sarcastically replied, “Oh really?  Are you sure?” (I’m snarky like that).  And then he went into all the fun things he and his wife used to do when they lived here a while back.  I appreciated the input and really do plan to make the most of this place, when I’m ready, but I also told him I just really belong in Washington and I hope we can go back there soon.

To which he replied with the aforementioned profound perspective that I was not expecting.  He said to me, “The way I see it, you guys moved back ‘home’ to Washington after being in Hawaii for five years, and that really pressed ‘reset’ on your life as a military family.  You got all settled in close to your family and everything familiar, and moving to Florida was like ripping you out of your comfort zone again and reminding you that you actually are a military family.  It will just take time to realize that.”

Mic drop.

Jaw drop.

I played it cool and acknowledged that that was indeed true, all of it, and that I was sure I’d get used to it in time.  But as we left that evening, I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said.  This guy had maybe said three sentences TOTAL to me in the past 3.5 years, and here he was giving me some advice I had never heard from anyone, and which had directed my thinking in a completely different direction.  I like to say I am so much more than a military wife, and I am, but I have to acknowledge that being a military wife is part of me too, and I am who I am today in large part because of the last eight years of my life.

sunny-person-woman-sitting

It was easy to acknowledge being a military wife in Hawaii: I was a newlywed, living in paradise, and therefore excited and proud to be living that lifestyle.  But I also had just graduated college, and had goals that had nothing to do with being a military spouse.  And I met a lot of spouses who seemed like their only goal in life was to be, well, a military spouse.  I was married to the man I love who also happened to be in the military, I wasn’t in love with a military man.  If that makes sense.  Then when we moved to Washington, I was back home.  Everything was familiar and comfortable, and though Sean traveled constantly, my life felt like it went back to normal and it was easy to forget that I was even a military spouse at all.  Heck, all my family lived three hours or less away.

And then we moved to Florida.  And all I do is complain about my life.  And everything is an adjustment again, this time with a small toddler in tow.  And my goals have changed a lot since then, many of which can not be achieved while we live this lifestyle.  And all my family is 3,000 miles away.

And so I struggle.

So I’m having a long and hard think on all this.  I appreciate the perspective and admit it was deeply profound, but it also doesn’t make the transition any easier.  My stepmom, who is a mindfulness coach, explained to me a few weeks ago that this is where I am meant to be, because this is where I am.  Sounds pretty zen, doesn’t it?  But maybe that’s the simple truth of it: despite my wishing I wasn’t here, it is indeed where I am.  I am here with my husband who doesn’t have to travel for the next 2.5 years, my sweet daughter, and sunshine.

So much sunshine.

Maybe that will have to be enough for a while.

Doctor! Doctor!

Think about, for a moment, all of the things or people in your life that you rely on for services.  Do you have a regular person you go to for a haircut?  One who knows just how you like it cut?  Do you have a great doctor who knows your medical history?  How about maybe a chiropractor, who knows why your neck is literally bent the wrong way, and also knows just how to adjust you to relieve that chronic ache you get?

Back home, I had a gal who knew never to cut my hair too short, because if I asked for it short she knew I’d end up crying and feeling like I looked like a boy.  I had an OB who delivered my daughter, and who knew exactly how much damage that wreaked “down there” (she should, she stitched me up after all); she also knew the ins and outs of my pregnancy experience, and brought my daughter into this world (one day I’ll tell you her birth story, and why I think my doctor is literally an angel).  And yes, I had a chiropractor because of my bent neck and he knew just where to adjust me that gave me instant relief.  I also had a dental hygienist who knew why I have gum issues (its genetic) and who did an AMAZING job cleaning my teeth.  I trusted her endlessly.  Really, she was my bff because she basically saved my teeth.  That sounds like I don’t brush or floss my teeth, but I promise you I take better care of my teeth than anyone I know, even you!

dentist

I have been in Florida for almost four months (which I can NOT believe), and am just now starting to feel like I almost have all my ducks in a row.  I never gave much thought to how much a person relies on various services to keep them running healthfully… But I guess now that I’m 31 and actually need to see doctors every now and then, and have to pay extra attention to my teeth, etc., I am painfully (pun intended) aware of how hard it is to find people you can trust for all of these things when you are in a new city, all the way across the freakin’ country.  Here’s a little checklist of all the services I’ve had to locate since moving, just to give you an idea:

  • General practice doctor
  • Gynecologist
  • Chiropractor
  • Dentist
  • Hair stylist
  • Pediatrician
  • Pediatric dentist
  • Gym/yoga studio

Not to mention a great place for a pedicure, which I have yet to find.  Or an eye doctor if you’re most people (I still have great vision but I’m sure that’ll be an issue one day too).  Or the perfect coffee shop or favorite restaurant.  We have found a Chinese takeout place that is better than anything in our little town in Washington, so I guess that’s a plus.

Anyway, up until this week, when I finally got an appointment with a general practice doctor, I felt like I was flying blind, listless in the wind because I didn’t know who to see to clean my teeth, or where to go for a pap smear, and so on.  I have slowly been finding all of these services since we moved, but only recently found an OB/GYN whom I LOVE (without any recommendation, too!  Score.), a good dentist (though I’m not yet convinced they are as good as my previous one) and a doctor for Claire.  And because you probably never thought much about all of the doctors and services you need in your life, you probably have never considered what it feels like to not know who to go see if you’re sick, or have a tooth ache, if your baby is sick, etc.  I know I never did.

(I know, I know: first world problems.  I promise I am not complaining- I am very aware that my family is so very lucky to have these services available to us through insurance and Sean’s job.  I would never complain about having these options or even paying for them.  I believe it is everyone’s right to have these types of services but that is a different discussion altogether.  I’m just trying to express that it’s difficult to constantly change everything every three years, just when you start to feel good about your choices.)

I can tell you, it makes you anxious.  Unrooted.  Like you have no support system, and you don’t know where to go if an emergency occurs, God forbid.  And it’s hard to find all of these people and trust them at the same time.  You’re new in a city, you don’t know a lot of people, how do you know you can trust all these doctors?  It takes a lot of work finding ones who seem to actually listen to you.

Luckily, I knew one gal from our time living in Hawaii, who lives here now with her husband and baby.  She has been a life saver- she pointed me in the direction of my chiropractor, Claire’s pediatrician, and told me about a great yoga studio.  She also connected me to some other Navy wives who have told me of other good places to go for various things.  I discovered a great park only ten minutes from our house thanks to her, and Claire absolutely LOVES it there.

As much as I like to call myself the anti-military wife, I have sure relied on her for help adjusting to this place… Hey, just admitting that is progress for someone like me, who thinks they can do everything themselves (and tries to).  Have you tried finding a doctor based solely off of a list on your insurance company’s website?  How are you supposed to choose from a random list of names??

So I guess my advice to you, the military spouse moving somewhere new and far away, is to think of anyone you might know from your past who might live in your new duty station.  And if you can’t think of anyone, search Facebook for a military spouse’s group in your new city (I guarantee you there is one).  Maybe you do know someone based off of that group’s members… And if you don’t, post on that page and ask for any recommendation for anything you need: daycare, groceries, the best fro-yo in town, whatever.  Even someone like me, who is fiercely independent and likes the challenge of figuring everything out on my won, reads every post on my local mil spouse groups, and has asked for numerous recommendations for things.  It can also go a long way in making you feel less isolated and alone.  Seeing new people join the groups, and others moving away reminds you that it is a constant cycle and there are many many other wives out there feeling everything you are feeling.

You might even make new friends that way- this gal I’m speaking of was only really an acquaintance in Hawaii, but now we’ve gotten together for several play dates with our little ones, have done a girls’ night and have another one coming up next week.  Without her I’d still be so lonely!  One friend is better than none!

In all my lamenting and indulging in loneliness, I will say I am thankful for the way in which military spouses are so willing to help each other out.  The more I live this life, the more I realize how important it is to lean on each other when you can.  And that folks, is hard for me to admit, but there you have it.

Now that I have a doctor, I can check all those things off my list.  I even found a hair stylist a month ago who gave me one of the BEST haircuts I’ve ever had!  I am feeling much more at ease, knowing I know who to take my daughter to if she gets sick, knowing I have a trustworthy chiropractor to help with my chronic neck pain, and where to get my annual physicals at a fantastic OB clinic.

I’m not ready to admit to liking it here yet (I’d still move home at the drop of a hat), but finding all these services definitely has me feeling more settled.

Progress.