- I was a military wife for 21 years, and I learned a lot in that time.
- Nothing in life is guaranteed, which has helped me let go of control.
- When I was unhappy, I had to remind myself that nothing is forever.
"You knew what you were signing up for."
I heard this often during my 21 years as a military wife. But I disagree. Like anything in life, you don't know what you don't know.
Sure, I knew some things to prepare for when I married my military husband. But even those things didn't always go as expected. For example, I knew we'd move a lot. I thought we'd settle in each location for four years. Instead, we uprooted every one to three years, starting over every time.
This lifestyle also brought angst I couldn't have possibly foreseen: gnawing anxiety as I worried whether anyone would hire me or be open to friendship if they found out we could be leaving in a year; the gut-wrenching agony of waiting weeks for a five-second phone call just to know my sweetheart was safe; the heartbreak of our children's despair when their dad couldn't come home on the date we'd long been anticipating.
You don't know until you're living it, and by then you're in quicksand. There's no turning back.
The ups and downs over the years taught me that nothing is guaranteed
In the military, even when something was "set in stone," there was always the possibility of last-second changes.
Then COVID-19 happened, and I realized that life's sudden upheavals aren't necessarily unique to military life. It's just life. It's messy and awful and wonderful all at once, and we have two choices: We can fall victim to the stress of uncertainty, or we can decide to develop solid resilience skills so it can't consume us.
Nothing's for sure, even when we think — or we're told — that it is. It can be hard to accept change when we had our hearts and minds set on things going a certain way, but letting go of our need for control allows for endless possibilities. In fact, life's twists often yield positive outcomes I could have never designed or executed myself.
Remember everything is temporary
A lack of options creates a sense of helplessness, which can overwhelm a person, so military life taught me to always think ahead. I anticipate what elements of the plan could go haywire and prepare at least one alternative. It's an exercise in agility that's repeatedly helped me — and my family — bounce back from adversity.
I always try to find the message in the mess. What seems like a disaster on the surface is often life's way of getting our attention. It shakes things out of the shadows and forces us to face the deeper issues we've been too busy or afraid to address. Approaching these "messes" with curiosity helps me to see such inconveniences as true blessings in my life.
In the military, your location and house are dictated to you. Sometimes we were relocated to places we had no desire to go: places where we thought we might never survive the unwelcoming community, cramped living space, dreary climate, or creepy wildlife ambushing us inside our home — such as scorpions (true story).
I witnessed others who were overcome by their misery over circumstances outside their control. I didn't want that for us. I quickly learned to remind myself that nothing is forever. This helped me endure the seasons of life that felt unpleasantly not how I wanted them to be.
Overall, I learned there's something to be grateful for in every unexpected situation if we're open to it. When we stop letting the roller coaster of life rule our mental and emotional well-being, everything changes for the better.