Semper Waiting

A military wife knows more than anyone what it feels like to wait and wait and wait. We wait for deployments, we wait for homecomings, we wait on official word, we wait on getting leave, we wait for orders, we wait on emails, we wait on phone calls, well  (you get what I mean) we are simply – Semper Waiting Spouses.

Since my last blog post, I finally got an official homecoming date for the husband (woohoo!) after waiting over 2 long gruesome and lonesome months. But even with a visible date in the near future I still find myself waiting! Waiting for it to hit me that this is not just another rumor, waiting to hear more details, waiting for the ACTUAL day to come, and waiting to hear what’s next!

All in all, it makes for a good recipe for ANXIETY. Have you ever been at the commissary or Target and gone to the checkout lane and thought to yourself you chose the ‘wrong-slower’ lane or got that ‘the other line always moves faster’ feeling? As you stand there and ponder these thoughts in your mind your anxiety begins to rise and thus the ‘wait’ becomes intolerable. Well, for me – I feel like at times living to military life I’m doing nothing more than waiting on-line – the wrong , slow line.

Anxiety is simply the way we react to stress. Some handle it better than others and some can’t handle it at all. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, apprehension, worry, and nervousness. Most times anxiety is justified with a cause (such as the anticipation of our spouse going or coming home from deployment), but even with a reason it may come from creating out of proportion expectations to what normally may happen in the real situation. (Please read more at the National Institute of Mental Health)

Anxiety is part of life (even toddlers experience it) and it’s a very common denominator in military spouses. Explained waiting under any circumstance (at the airport, doctor’s office, and a restaurant) can be anxiety-inducing so you have to expect that waiting for your life to move forward is even double the anxiety!

Even though I am a Licensed Psychotherapist, I am no way immune to falling under the spell of anxiety over waiting. I have found myself blowing into brown paper bags and clenching my blouse as though pulling forward would allow my lungs to take a deep breath. I find myself exhausted but then can’t allow myself to sleep because of my mind is continuously thinking about all the possibilities. There are days my emotions (good and bad) are high – where I cry uncontrollably, laugh like I never have before, have lonesome bottomless-pit feelings, and have wonderful happy proud independent moments. Then there are days that I am completely emotion-less. I turn into a robotic zombie going through out my daily to-do with minimal conversations, facial expressions, and (clearly) emotion. Of course the latter is of more concern and when I recognize I am walking down hill a dark path I quickly attempt to do some damage control.

 Anxiety already runs in my family and having my husband in the military only intensifies my likelihood of being anxiety-laden. Having my background in clinical social work does, however, provide me with the ability to identify red flags even within myself (at least to a certain degree). What helps me the most to get through my anxiety-driven moments about waiting is mainly changing my thought process about the situation. Basically, confronting my fears – and as a military spouse that fear for me is: Phobia of the unknown.

Although I like change – its ‘good or exciting’ change I prefer! It is the fear of what may happen that leads to worrying, loneliness, and nervousness. I find myself at times laying alone in bed and thinking of all the negative possibilities but neither of them with an actual reason to put my mind into this whirlwind of thought. I will spend countless hours crying about what may happen, about the unfortunate stories I read or hear about, and weighing out how likely it can happen to us. But having anxiety about the unknown becomes simply redundant once I take a step back and reflect on the dent I am creating within my emotional stability because it is simply what it is – unknown!

Why should I allow my anxiety to take over about ‘possibilities’? There is a chance of the outcome being great and wonderful just as much as sad and frightening. Telling myself this when I feel choked by anxiety helps me get over the unnecessary fret. Now, I’m not saying it is easy – there are many days I just want to sulk in my worry and find optimism nauseating. But its good practice to take care of my emotional health – not only for me, but for my family too.

For many (including myself at times), eliminating anxiety of waiting completely can be an unattainable task (and depending on the severity – professional help may be required). And so, what I make as my weekly emotional health goal is to maintain a Manageable Waiting Level by creating an environment that promotes positive outlets and support to get through the difficult and challenging times of living the military life.

Here are some of my personal guidelines to conquer Semper Waiting:

 

1 – Eliminate all the Debbie-Downers in your life!

Or at least minimize the amount of involvement they have when it comes to you coping with your situation. Negativity is contagious – if that’s all you hear at some point it will be ALL you think and that is far from being emotionally healthy.

 

2 – Join a support group.

Even if it’s a virtual one! I have found my greatest support from a group of wives that created a group on FB, not knowing one another, to get through this deployment – I truly don’t know what I would have done without them on my most ‘down’ days.

 

3 – Keep busy by starting something new.

There are so many things I have on my bucket list and what a great time to start while the husband is away. During our first deployment I finally got going on ‘writing’ – it has truly been refreshing. I know of some other wives who started working out too – I say that’s two times more beneficial!

 

4 – Believing in something spiritually greater than you to help you.

For me, it is turning to God. This is probably the tool I use the most. In my most challenging moments I find it so soothing to know that  my Lord will always provide and will give me the strength I need to get through everything and in the end – no matter what happens – all things happen to bring me closer to Him.

 

5 –Communicate as frequently as possible with your spouse.

Although this may vary when our spouses are on deployment or out training – I find it important to still have a conversation about what I am feeling or felt even if the moment has passed. Just hearing my husband tell me everything will be okay or (specifically) reassure me that the military provides him with the knowledge and training he needs to survive in most situations is very comforting and reassuring.

 

6 – Talk, talk, and talk.

 Moving from place to place and leaving friends behind can make it very easy for military spouses to become introverts. For me, talking to family, friends, and other military spouses feels like the boulder that’s been on my chest has been lifted. The power of speak is often underestimated but when given a try to results are usually very uplifting.

 

7 – Have a routine.

Although most of my days are repetitive – that very structure allows my day to flow at a faster rate. I know what to expect, what’s coming next, and when it’s over. Also, having a schedule just for the purpose of nixing it is also very revitalizing!

 

8 – Laughter is the best medicine.

There is loads of research out there that describe how laughing does your body good. Some nights I keep myself up by watching comedians, like Mollie Gross and George Lopez (My two favorites!), on Youtube and now (thanks to my good friend and military spouse) looking at Jenny the Military Spouse comics. In the end I always find myself asking – why don’t I do this more often?

 

9 – Me time!

There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a break every now and then. Our mind, body, and emotions need breaks too. At first I felt guilty putting my toddler in hourly care just because I needed a moment (or two) for me. Most of the time I do nothing more than sit at the library, have a coffee (one I can truly enjoy), or run an errand alone. Not so grand for most people but it gives me the opportunity to take a deep breath before getting back into reality. Burning out can not only be devastating for a single person but it can also affect a family entirely and so, I don’t only do it for me but for my family too.

 

10 – Look in the mirror.

When I feel like my anxiety in waiting is getting beneath my skin I turn to the mirror to ask myself what I am worrying about —- > the unknown?!?! Doing this allows me to recognize that in my worrying and possibly giving anxiety an opportunity to take over will do nothing to change the outcome, be it good or bad. All I can do is trust God’s plan, trust my husband is equipped to be ‘safe’ and trust that no matter what happens….this too shall pass.

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight. 

~Benjamin Franklin

If you are suffering from anxiety, please see DISCLAIMER tab on the top of the page.

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Wordless Wednesday…A Little Pink in a World of Camo

Today a very young Military wife along with her newborn baby girl will be putting to rest the man who was is her everything.

I have followed Mrs. P’s blog, A Little Pink in a World of Camo, for some time now. I love her honesty, humor, and cuteness –> her posts are always great to read. Last Wednesday, however, I found myself crying and my heart breaking for someone I never met but felt I knew. Mrs. P wrote about how her life turned upside down in a matter of seconds. On Sunday, March 14th, 2010, her husband, a USMC Cpl, died while on operations in Afghanistan. Her strength to come back to her blog and write about it already makes her a thousand times stronger than I.

As Military wives, this is our greatest fear: That our beloved doesn’t come home ‘safe’  – but when I come across something like this it becomes such a reality that it scares me even more. My heart and prayers go out to Mrs. P and her family. I pray that she continue to find strength and comfort in her wonderful memories that will live on with her forever.

This is just another reminder to truly embrace life and never take it for granted. Cherish every moment because we ultimately will never know God’s plan (nor understand it). I know I for sure took for granted the little bit of days I had my husband home before he re-deployed with no warning. We could have shared more emotions, exchanged more hugs and kisses, and just stared at each other –> but instead we chose to go back into our familial ‘roles’, chaotically setup house, and independently do our own thing only because I fell into thinking I was in a safety net of my husband being home. Now, although my situation is completely incomparable to what Mrs. P has experienced and is experiencing, it’s just that it has made me take a step back to reflect my life – our life.

Mrs. P, you are an amazing woman and yes! you will ALWAYS be a Marine Wife. God’s love and ((hugs)) to you.

Rest in Peace Cpl Jonathan Daniel Porto

 

YOU KNOW YOU’RE ON DEPLOYMENT WHEN…

I know there have been many postings like this, but with my desire to get out of my emotional deep end with this surprise and still indefinite deployment I decided to try and bring some humor to get through it all.

So here is my version of “You Know You’re On Deployment When…”

 And please….feel free to add you’re humorous moments as well

1 – Since the beginning I have never been more aware of time then now. I don’t know which is worse -> Mondays because it starts so early or Fridays because it seems like it will never end.

2 – It’s amazing how I can feel so empty inside yet when I get on my scale in the mornings the numbers just keep going up!

3 – My face has been chosen as the official sign for “PROCEED WITH CAUTION”.

4 – I hope the Husband is home soon: There more time that passes the more I am starting to look like an inside-out Ugg boot.

5 – I am as holy and pure as Mother Teresa (need I say more?)

6 – Finally learned to stop praying for ‘patience’. I figured out that the only way God gives it to you is through experience! (I think I am good for two lifetimes now)

7 – Meal times have changed (and change daily with no warning) Times currently are as followed: Breakfast 10:37am, Lunch 2:49pm, Dinner 4:03pm.

8 – Self-medicating from a wide variety of snacks is mandated between each meal (even if only one marshmallow or chip -> but normalcy is considered four to six).

9 – (Going with food) Breakfast must be finished off with a piece of chocolate, so I can smile all day.

10 – Since no one is watching…cooking dinner now includes pretending to be on a cooking show with a wannabe British accent.

11 – With the hubby not around to help: A clean house is only 5 feet tall….I hope to not have any tall visitors soon because I have no idea what’s above me!

12 – Getting out of bed is more difficult than ever. At times I hear voices telling me to get out of bed and go lay on the couch. (This must be how Joan of Arc felt)

13 – I have perfected playing the Invisible Violin -> I mostly play it when I hear how people ‘miss’ their significant others while they are at work (You know, those 9-5 work places I keep hearing exist).

14 – The best part about ‘drinking’ alone is winking at myself across the breakfast bar…depending on my mood I will sometimes even give me a ‘shimmy’ back (It’s only the polite thing to do).

15 – If you say “HI” be prepared to engage in conversation for a minimum of 20 minutes. (I’ve got a lot to say and my usual audience is under the age of 7 and have the attention span of goldfish)

16 – Cyber-stalking can now be officially added to my Resume. Not only does it make time go by faster but it helps me feel better about myself and situation because there are seriously some way more disturbed and stranger people out there. Photo-editor and online scrapbook-er can also be added.  (My deepest apologies to all my friends who have to look at all my glittery/framed/sepia/soft focused/ and overall Picnik-ed out versions of my photos)

17 – A perfect vacation while the hubby is on deployment for me is going into a coma, waking up with the husband home, the house clean, the kids bathed, and it’s my birthday.

18 – A pregnant woman with the blues has nothing on me. I bet you $5 I will end up crying first before the entire “Full House” theme song can finish.

19 – I’ve become such an insomniac that when I fall asleep, I dream I am awake.

20 – In addition to the million things on my ‘To-Do List’, the husband has been added. (Yea, I said that)

21 – Money well spent is paying for hourly care for my toddler so I can sit at the library. When dealing with deployment and single parenting – silence has no price!

22 – I constantly imagine what I would tell our President and his wife about military families and concerns if ever face to face….I sometimes even practice in the mirror.

23 – Rainy/gloomy days on the weekend no longer bother me. It feels good to know that thousands of others now feel just as crabby (and maybe lonely) as I do. I say: Equality = Success!

24 – A hot date is now down the aisles of the grocery store. It’s the only place I go with a reason to ‘get ready’ and use ‘mascara’ – and yea, the butter and cheese totally melt as I walk by.

25 – I have attained the pain threshold of Super Woman. Since the hubby is the only one that can sympathize and baby a grown woman crying over stitches – you kinda learn to just say, “Of course this would happen now” and smile. 🙂

~ Hope I at least made you smile ~

🙂

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. 

 ~Kurt Vonnegut

Calling all Military Spouses, Girlfriends, Fiancés, Children, Friends and Families: NEED YOUR INPUT!!

Hello Everyone!!

I haven’t been able to ‘post’ anything lately because I have been preoccupied with a couple of projects and ideas I’ve put on the back burner. Now with the hubby re-deployed and with being in a new location (still quite unfamiliar with) I decided to attempt to use my time wisely and take advantage of solidarity and make it as productive as possible!

One of those projects is putting as many creative ideas and activities families and friends (specifically children) can do independently and together during times of deployment. Now, I know – we military wives are very creative during these times 😉 I have come up with quite a few of my own and others I have searched for as well. But I would love more!!

So here is my question to you:

What is your favorite activity, creative idea, gift, surprise, care package theme, and/or homemade letter/card that you sent or did while experiencing deployment on the homefront??

It can be ANYTHING! Please email me your idea at: Homefront_wife@yahoo.com

I am truly so excited to get this project going and out there to the public!

Thank you all for your support and suggestions!!!

An Open Letter to the Military: Regarding the Recent Deployment to Haiti, Rumors, and the Homefront

Dear Military,

As you know, it has been about 20 days since my husband deployed to Haiti. I am almost 100% certain that the inbox of our FRO (Family Readiness Officer) has been inundated with inquiries regarding our service men’s and women’s return date. I, as a spouse and a mother of two little girls, am not immune to the desire to know either but have moved away from asking since I can already predict the answer is not yet known. However, this does not eliminate the frustration and anxiety that I and other spouses are currently experiencing. 

It is obvious to those involved that our stress and overwhelming dissatisfaction about this deployment is more so in relation to the fact that our men and women just got home from their recent 7 month deployment. It is a constant fear of mine, as well as voiced in other spouses, that our ‘family time’ will be cut short or worse non-existence upon their return due to the realization that they must start ‘work-ups’ to deploy again in the near future.

With the rumors looming around us like a plague it is easier said than done to not grab a hold of one and hold on to it until it is shot down. At times, for me, it can make a huge difference in my day to follow a rumor for a couple of hours instead of looking into an endless tunnel with an indefinite end. Occasionally, I even welcome them – even more so to get me through the ‘rough days’. Currently, the rumor that has grabbed my attention is that some spouses have been given a return date. It would truly be infuriating to know that a selection of spouses is receiving more information regarding homecoming while other spouses are counting up days instead of having the opportunity to count down. Although my logic comforts my emotions in the belief that this too is nothing more than a rumor – it still is very challenging to overlook.

I am aware that representatives of the unit are not authorized to provide specific dates and/or information until they are given permission to do so. Reflecting on the circumstances and the barriers around the deployment, I began to contemplate ideas or ways we as spouses can be alleviated from the stressors of this current situation. I understand with a full heart of compassion that Haiti needs the help of the International community to assist them in returning to, at minimum, what their world was like seconds before the earthquake. I am proud to be part of a nation that can assist in this mass effort providing extraordinary and grand humanitarian relief. I am aware, via the news and updates from the CO (Commanding Officer), that our service men and women are consistently and productively providing this assistance where needed as well as supporting NGOs. What would be reassuring at this time for us spouses on the homefront, and to say the least – encouraging, maybe to tell us what the determining factors are in regards to the length of this deployment? Is there a list of areas/towns in Haiti that need to be visited first? Is there a group of NGOs that must be assisted? Is there a goal of how many people of Haiti need to receive direct assistance from us? At this point – anything is truly better than hearing nothing. Speaking for myself, I feel that if I received an update more often, even to say that ‘nothing new is known’, would be more consoling than passing another day with silence amid incessant rumors.

Nevertheless, I appreciate and applaud the rapid planning and organization of the upcoming “Family Appreciation Day”. My daughters and I are truly looking forward to having a delightful time as well as the given opportunity to meet other spouses and families in which empathy can be utilized at its best. This being the first event I am attending, since recently moving into the area, I am unaware if there will be Chaplains and/or counselors at hand to casually introduce themselves and “check-in” on us spouses and children and possibly go as far as extending their therapeutic services. With the present unexpected back-to-back deployment along with the added strain of it being ‘indefinite’ it should almost be anticipated that risks of anxiety, depression, and even alcohol and drug abuse may be high amongst family members. I say this not only as a  licensed professional in the field of mental health but also as someone who is facing these circumstances and know what a difference it  would make to hear someone come to me and say they understand how difficult this can be and simply ask me how I am doing.

I hope that my letter does not find you bothered by my spoken standpoint for my desire to know something that may very well be unattainable, but with that, I hope you can also understand the position I speak from. It would be more than a blessing to just have my husband home already, but as I mentioned – at this point knowing anything is better than knowing nothing.

Until then, my prayers are with him, the entire military, the people of Haiti, and the families of those here on the homefront. I not only pray for strength but that we may also continue and strive to be optimistic during this fractious time.

Sincerely,

A Military Spouse

PS: Missing You On My Birthday (A Poem)

A candle is lit as I’m surrounded by love

Each one singing the traditional song

To wish me happiness and wealth

in the new year to come

 

I tearfully think of the year that has passed

And remember every moment that was oh so sad

The memories escape me of happiness and cheer

As I fear the older I get the more anguish I may feel

 

My heart skips a beat as they call out my name

It startles my mind pondering about the pain

I lift up my eyes and quickly realize

I have nothing to fear

For God has made my life heavenly and divine

 

It’s time to make a wish and blow out my candles

You can see in my eyes my desires are clear

All I want for my birthday is my husband to be here

Ridiculous and unattainable I know

But there is no way to discourage what the heart implores

 

A gush of wind comes from within

Grazing my lips to extinguish the flames

To end this year’s celebration overflowing with dismay

 

I yearn for my husband and I to embrace

Allowing the passion that has been temporarily displaced

Due to the distance that lies in between

But never allowing our love to cease

Continuously feeling like a riveting machine

 

I look forward to being with family and friends

Although I desire this day coming to an end

It’s not that I mind wrinkles or aging

I just not having my husband home

Can sometimes be enraging

 

Thank you all for the birthday wishes

And making my day special

I hope you understand

My whole day is not depressing

It’s only that even more so today

It hurts me further

That my other half is not present

Forever Young

As my birthday approaches all I have been thinking about is what another year means for me. Am I any wiser? Am I more experienced? Am I more wrinkled or saggy? Do I appear older? Should I feel old? Am I more mature or should I be more mature? Is time flying past me?

As a child all the way to teenage years I looked forward to my birthday as nothing more than presents, cake, and more privileges. It was a day I had the ‘license’ to do whatever I wanted! Birthday parties and outings were planned – every year out-doing the last. I especially remember my Sweet 16. I had an extravagant (Spanish-family type) party that resembled a wedding. I wore a big poofy white dress and had my cotillion in red flamenco-style dresses and the boys in black suits. My husband, then boyfriend, was also there is in his rank-less military uniform straight from boot-camp. I remember thinking that day I had became a real woman – 16 was the age of true maturity and independence – yea right! As the years past on, 18 was the last birthday I celebrated with the same enthusiasm I had as a child. After that, it was just another reason to go out and get together. 

Then 25 came and went.

That was the year that ‘age’ had a new definition. I wondered if now is when I could no longer be considered young or at least mid-20’s? Was it time to be called a late twenties woman and to accept that I was aging and had to start taking life seriously (or more so than before)? Yet, at the same time, I fell into the trap of anti-aging and began to ponder ways and ideas to manipulate my body’s normal transitions.

Women for years have been manipulating their bodies and appearances to come across as beautiful and young within their culture. Women succumb to many cultural traditions, from Chinese foot-binding, Burmese neck rings, African Lip Rings, Victorian corsets, to today’s anti-aging creams, plastic and cosmetic surgery, extreme dieting, and constant beautification of hair, nails, and make-up. All aiming to be the youngest, most beautiful, and sought-out woman in their community. 

You see, I come from a family of straight-forward ANTI-aging women. As a child I knew very well to never ask a woman their age. I watched my Mamita (my maternal grandmother) buy expensive creams until she found the perfect one, immediately dye her hair at the site of anything gray, constantly use lotions, and would hear her pass down secrets to my mother. The women in my family are always in constant worry about finding a wrinkle or gray strand of hair. Some more than others have facials on schedule, have nightly cream regimens, get their nails done weekly, never miss a hair dye appointment, get cellulite reducer massages, and even have had plastic and cosmetic surgery.

Basically, the older my sister and I get, the younger the older women in our family get.

My Mamita today is in the late stages of Alzheimers (bless her heart) but even with the disease her mind never ceases from asking for her lipstick – how is her hair – wanting her nails painted – and quickly snapping if you mention aloud she is ‘old’. I laugh with a heart full of love in her presence and I wonder if this is the future that awaits me – wrinkly, gray, saggy, soft, and in denial.

My Mamita at 81 years old

My Mamita, today at 81 years old!

I myself am in no way resistant to this anti-aging mentality the women of my family are infected with. I do wear make-up daily (cover-up, blush, and lip gloss at minimum), I do own a ‘pick me up’ bra, I dye my hair when I get bored of the color (which, actually, within the past year I have only done once), and I don’t normally mention my age. But – I don’t get my nails done, I have never had a facial, my lotion of choice is plain ‘ole Jergens, I only get a massage if my body hurts, and I have never done any extreme forms of beautification (such as purchasing expensive mascara).

My fears of aging are more in the lines of health and time passing me by too quickly and not completing my bucket list. We all know the saying, “they grow up so fast”, when looking at children. But I remember as a child, the days felt long, a month felt like forever, and a year felt like an eternity and now, within the past two years – days fly by, a month is quickly gone, and last year felt like yesterday. The older I get – the more I appreciate a second, a minute, an hour, a day – because if you’re not paying attention – it will pass you by.

I welcome my birthday as I did any other. Looking back into the past year I can’t believe where life has taken me. Last year, celebrating my birthday in Virginia, it never even crossed my mind that I would be back home with family and my husband would be deployed. I never knew I would spend a birthday without my husband. I never knew I had the courage and strength to raise my two girls alone – all while keeping my deployed husband active in their hearts, minds, and lives. I never knew that I would finally start sharing my writing and be out of the professional workforce. I never knew what it meant to truly lose a loved one. I never knew what it meant to see others around you begin to get sick. I never knew what it meant to be alone. I never really knew how much I took for granted. I never knew I would be feeling this way on my birthday.

Our birthdays are not about aging and appearance, it is about our life, our wisdom, our experience and that is why to the people who love us we will always be beautiful – even at 81! I look forward to growing old – because it will mean another year God has blessed me, another year I have my children, another year filled with experiences, and another year with my love.

I will embrace every wrinkle and every gray hair with open arms because they are symbols (or scars) of my life. Just this past year I have learned so much more about myself, my marriage, and my family – I can’t wait to see what I will know in the years to come.

I may never really aim to be forever young, even though I am partially anti-aging. All I know is that I will always aspire to be healthy and young at heart – and will greet life and its experiences as they come.

Tomorrow I will welcome an extra candle on my cake. It will represent my new wisdom, my new knowledge, and my new life (and possibly a wrinkle or two). And of course, you all know what my wish will be.

(Miss you beh, even more so on my Birthday)

To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent –

that is to triumph over old age.


— Thomas Bailey Aldrich