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

 

Do You Really Want to Know?

A friend of mine recently found herself in a bit of a rut due to circumstances relating to her career path. Although she now feels comfortable with her decisions – she is experiencing a sense of emptiness. As though internally her hope is dwindling from being unaware of what may happen next and what the future holds – saying to herself: “I wish I knew what life had in store for me”.

I shared a little story with her about my daughter.

My daughter gets school lunch almost every day (almost – because I obviously omit the days I know she won’t eat what’s available). When I first got the weekly menu I began to read off her meals for each day of the week and she stopped me. She said to me that she doesn’t want to know until that morning on the way to school (my daughter is always very ‘clear’ in what she wants). When I asked her why – she basically said to me because it would make it ‘boring’ and she wouldn’t be ‘as excited’.

I explained to my friend that – well, to a 6 year old, the world is limited to life seen in bliss and with no responsibilities and to her excitement is vivid in little things like her lunch menu. To us, obviously our lunch menu is more of a minute issue compared to what life truly encompasses – but even so, as much as we think ‘if only we knew what life has in store for us” is beneficial, it would take away the journey, the rollercoaster, the highs, the lows, the laughter, the tears, the excitement! All this which makes us grow, learn about ourselves – and (most significant) make us who we are.

To a military wife knowing ‘what’s in store’ sounds very appealing to the listening ear. The thought of knowing every ‘next’ duty station, every ‘next’ new job, every ‘next’ new school for my daughters, every ‘next’ home, every ‘next’ deployment, and well – every ‘next’ everything – all gleams at me like sun rays on a fall-like day. What an attractive idea – to know! Or is it really?

As much as I like to plan ahead – I don’t feel ‘knowing’ would be as charming as the tempting thought. Even though my perpetual desire to be organized is alive and well within me – I also find myself unable to make decisions as small as chocolate or vanilla so thus – not knowing, more often than not, works for me.

My husband’s return home from deployment is getting nearer and nearer. I am oblivious to the precise date and I want it to stay that way until it’s so close I can touch it. For me, knowing my husband’s exact return date would, of course fill me with joy and load me with exuberance – but alongside – hand in hand would be eagerness, can’t breathe type anxiety, irrepressible tears, and an overall overwhelming feeling. I would prefer to just continue upon my journey of deployment passing each second, minute, hour, day, week, and month as it approaches.

Not knowing has so far made and persistently molds me into who I am. I never imagined publicly posted my writings in the form of a blog – let alone its birth being from being my experiencing deployment on the home front. So here I am – exposing a fragment of my existence not knowing what may or may not await me in the end, but it’s a chance I am willing to take because (not only does my faith carry me far) but no matter what I do, things will happen as it has already been written (I have never been a fan of – “things happen for a reason”).

That luring idea of ‘knowing what’s next’ echoes in our society like the plague. But the grass is not always greener on the other side. Culture pounds us with fortune tellers, horoscopes, palm readers, and other forms of divination – all in the effort to know about the future. However, even when we turn to those uncanny sources – most individuals take it upon themselves to convert the experience into a future’s buffet, picking and hearing only the pleasant and the cheerful – eliminating the frightening and the worrisome.

It’s not uncommon to ‘want to know’. It’s an old-age desire that can be tracked back millions of years ago and I am in no way immune to it. We lustfully want to know the outcomes of our future – if it will end up as we planned. Some at times may find themselves satisfied with their present that they may disregard the thoughts of the future or for moments decelerate the thinking – but then there are moments when one may obsessively search for answers about the future. But even if you accomplish your desire to know and obtain your future – then what? Do you want to just assemble yourself onto a life on a conveyor belt? Life where the pleasure of climbing, falling, and getting back up is of no meaning because the end result is already known? Don’t get me wrong – I do like seeing at least the light at the end of the tunnel – but I’m okay with waiting until I get there to see what awaits me.

Therefore I say to my friend and others who find themselves in a similar situation – don’t worry about what’s coming up or what’s in store for your future – not only would it be futile but because (more importantly), like my daughter says, – it would be boring and not as exciting 

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of.  You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.  ~Albert Camus

“Stillness” post Re-posted :)

I was recenly contacted by Jocelyn Green, military wife and author of “Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives”. She asked if she could re-post my blog entry “Stillness” on her site – of course, I said yes.

So not only do I recommend you make a visit to her site to see my entry – but her site is LOADED with great articles and personal stories written by military wives and authors about spirtual encouragement.

Enjoy 🙂

Stillness…

Psalm 46:10 ‘Be still and know that I am God…’ 

Just when I needed it the most, a very good friend of mine sent me a little reminder today that I am not alone. Of course, she is here for me too – but she was referring to a greater being than her – God. I constantly speak of how we have no control of what happens around us, but often I forget the important part is that with that we have to trust God – I have to trust God. It’s so easy for me to wake up every morning and scream at my reflection in the mirror asking, “Why me?” or “Why not me?” Instead I realize that the questions I should be asking myself is, ‘Is it even about me?’ I realize I am still young as God’s child and that I must seek direction in understanding more that my life is about Him, His plans, and His purpose.

I was raised in a Christian home, my mother has always been very close to God, and as children she would teach my sister and I the importance of praying to God and trusting Him. One would assume that being pounded with such a mantra from childhood that it would be second nature to allow God to lead my life. However, being simply human creates a barrier to my beliefs especially when society’s motto is, ‘We want what we want and we want it – NOW!”

Many of us are plagued with the title ‘control freaks,’ and the majority of us remain completely in denial. We never want to surrender any power of any situation unto another even more so if we don’t receive an explanation or reasoning behind why things are going the way they are. We want to make sense of things that occur. I know I myself prefer to plan ahead in all events and situations and, if possible, even be prepared for anything unexpected. However, I know I do not merit any explanation from God. My trusting in God means accepting what comes my way – be it happy, sad, and/or terrifying – all I can do is lean on God and ask for peace, unconditional love, and patience.

In Proverbs 3:5, the Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”. Moreover it states in Proverbs 28:26, “he who trusts in himself is a fool…” I can’t count how many times I went against what my heart was saying only to respond to what my body wanted and the result always being hurt and/or failure. It’s amazing how a simple saying of to ‘trust God’ can calm me in so many levels and make everything feel ‘right’. Just as my friend explained to me, “When you’re feeling tired or lonely or something is missing, turn to Him. He will never leave you nor forsake you, He promises!! Learn to look to and lean on Him again and he will supply all your needs.” 

God never asks us to be perfect, all he asks is that we trust him and the rest will fall into place. My will, my desires, my dreams, my goals, my ideas, my future – all need to be placed in God’s hand and allow him to have complete control. Of course I don’t intend on sitting at home until some unexplainable force comes to physically move me to where I need to go – but my prayers will transform from asking God for the things I want to thanking him for what I have and to provide me with what He thinks I need as I go through life – a life that is about Him, His plans, and His purpose.

Who am I to question what God has placed on my path? God has never left me and He has never gone back on His promises. I am blessed everyday with the necessities of life and more love than I can handle in one day. Daily blessing that I simply forget because I find myself preoccupied with the things I don’t have. A good number of us have the propensity to claim that we trust in God – but it goes beyond just a statement. When we find ourselves in a difficult situation or trial that is when we begin to question God, His love, and His plan. I will admit that I too am guilty of this. God tests our trust through trials so we can go back and lean and depend on Him only. I have come to finally comprehend that all things that have occurred in my life – be it good or bad – have happened to bring me closer to God. The Lord ‘gives and takes away’ but His love always remains.

Going through my husband’s deployment has made me realize more than before how much my family and I need faith. The first few months I moved away from God – angry at His plan. I had great friends in the state we were living, I had my dream job, and my daughters were in great schools. I couldn’t understand why God was ripping me away from my happiness – I still don’t. But I’m okay with not knowing. I questioned His existence and stored my Bible in a drawer. I was upset God could not give me what I wanted even though I knew what I want may not be what I need. I am not, and never will exclaim to be, the perfect Christian. I am a child of God and with that I will make mistakes, sin, and live in flesh but what will not change is my faith.

God has chosen my husband to be away from our family. God has chosen for my youngest daughter to only know her father as a picture and a voice. God has chosen my patience to be tested as a single mother. God has chosen that I become ‘the educated housewife’. God has chosen that I abandon my goals and dreams. God has chosen that my oldest daughter will cry for her father when she misses him. God has chosen that I cry myself to sleep because I desire my husband to be home every night.

But because God loves me…

God has also chosen that my husband and I learn the true meaning of trust. God has also chosen that my youngest daughter, at her tender age, can recognize who her father is no matter where we are and can express that she loves him by hugging and kissing his photos. God has also chosen that the patience I have accrued will help me in all days to come. God has also chosen that while I have abandoned my career, dreams, and goals, that I have the pleasure of enjoying my children – watching them grow up. God has also chosen that my oldest daughter is learning to appreciate family and life daily. And God has also chosen that I fall in love with my husband again and again every night and appreciate the little things more than I ever have before.

God’s promises are beyond my understanding and His choices may make no sense to me but I will continue to walk blindly with Him. Even through the trials and tribulations, I know God has a plan for my family and me. I trust that God loves me unconditionally, has my best interest, and desires the best for my family and I. There are countless benefits in trusting God – the protection plan is unlimited. Anything else we place our trust in can disappoint us but God will never disappoint us.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. . .” (1 Chronicles 28:20).