Crunch, crunch, crunch: the wheels of my stroller are pushing through the beautiful fall foliage. My daughter is tucked under a blanket, admiring the trees with me. I’m lost in thought, my feet pounding the pavement of my parent’s back roads in Arkansas. Ear muffs are holding my pink earbuds firmly in place.
My playlist is filled with the resonating voices of specialists and the comforting tones of milspouse Corie Weathers as they guide me through brilliant new ideas on relationships and embracing this military spouse path. It’s all part of the Military Spouse Wellness Summit by InDependent.org. Now, in case you’re worried this is going to turn into a long running advert: it’s NOT.
Listening to the Military Spouse Wellness Summit and participating in the online VIP group in October 2016 changed my story. It helped me find the freedom to be present. It changed how I viewed a very tricky chapter, and I believe it could do the same for you.
I have been married to my Marine for nine years now. Nine years of the greatest highs, lowest lows, all mixed in with hugs goodbye for long deployments, moving those heavy boots from in the door and back out. Seeing gear fill the living room floor, and smiling when it’s crammed into a closet, knowing we’re getting a breather. I’ve watched boxes get taped, labels slapped on, and my fingers have crossed hoping things will arrive in-tact.
My airport wings are long, feathered, and my soul tethered to no-where but wherever we currently call home. The resume has been dusted off, adjusted, and volunteer work put in place of “real jobs.”
My experiences are a string of places, faces and skills spinning onto the page like Rumplestiltskin. The string becomes gold depending how you look at it. Gold this mil-life has given me.
I know the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I still have much to learn. I am still learning and evolving.
In 2016, on those crunchy-leaf-laden roads I found myself sitting in a firm place of military spouse denial. Even though we had talked about the fact I wanted to be a stay at home mom, it was not real until a full year passed, and then another that it sunk in. I was (and am) officially dependent on my husband’s salary and our lifestyle. We were also entering our current chapter: overseas, and a hiring freeze with government jobs. I would be moving, and knowingly accepting another three years of no traditional work.
Before this, I had always found a way. I was a master at finding an exit strategy. One that kept me just in touch enough with military life, but not too close that I had to live it fully.
My dependent spouse denial finally caught up with me. It was time to face it or continue to brood in anxiety, depression, and a lack of control over anything. Thankfully I received the right words to guide me, and start making better choices for myself and my family.
During the 2016 Summit I won a coaching call with Dr. Patrice Carter. I had never tried life-coaching, and felt tremendously skeptical of the process. However I was willing to give it a shot, and HEY! I won something, so I might as well try. I was also incredibly moved by each guest speaker during the summit. Each had a new perspective to add to my life. Each voice brought me a new challenge, a reminder to stay open, to embrace self-care, build new relationships, and grow in a loving marriage.
I was reminded military spouses are not ordinary. We are extraordinary. Our acquired badges of courage and roads less traveled are strings that can be spun into gold. But we have to make the choice to see it that way. To take heartache and make it heart-strong.
Patrice called me, and in my parents’ living room I paced and threw every idea I had up on the imaginary wall between us, telling her every doubt I had. Revealing all parts of me that longed to work, longed for roots, but yet the tiny voice that also screamed I knew what the next three years could be: a season of the three of us TOGETHER.
In military life we often are faced with the choice to make the best of it, to squeeze lemons until they become lemonade. This was our next defining moment as a family: move far, far away again, embark on this adventure, but do it all together. During that time, Patrice reminded me I could still do a number of things. I had skills, resilience, and a good attitude at finding ways to make anything work. She also told me the most important message I’ve carried with me on this next chapter of ours:
What if you’re okay right where you are?
She could feel me reaching for answers that could not be resolved until we moved. There was so much freedom in her words. In knowing that every worry, every nervous doubt I had was real but also making my head spin.
Instead of seeing a large insurmountable obstacle: I could see a gift. The freedom in three years of togetherness. Of a family forged in time together.
All military families know what a precious gift time is. It is a non-renewable resource, and I was about to walk into this great adventure, wasting it. From that day forward I have worked to honor our conversation. I have worked to seek purpose and peace in this time together.
That has not meant throwing all my goals on a fire and watching them go up in smoke- but it has meant getting out of a “me” mentality, and leaning into “us”. I’m not just a military spouse; I’m part of a military family. That family is being able to fill up our cup right now, so that when the next separation or challenge comes our way, we will not only be ready, but we will be able.
I’ve grown up and become more adaptable. Yes I have frustration, and I have days where I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, but the fact remains that I have a choice to be okay where I am right now. I have a choice to change my mentality. I have a choice to take care of myself and search out the peace in being present.
Although there were many beautiful gifts given to me by the last Independent Military Spouse Wellness Summit, that one little sentence made the biggest impact on me in my journey as a spouse. What if it took just one small moment to change your future and how you view this life?
I hope you will join me this year for the summit, sign up here.