Gratitude, Always

There is tired, and then there’s tired. The kind of tired you feel when you have done way more than there is time for, more than you’d planned, and are sleep deprived on top of it all. It’s the kind of tired you feel when you have to tuck your chin down, keep your feet moving and focus only on the task in front of you.

“Just one more thing. Just get through this,” I told myself as I daydreamed of sleep, looking forward to when this was all over. The truck was getting packed, little by little. The ultimate adult Tetris game being playing by my master-packer husband as oddly shaped belongings filled tiny niches here and there. I wondered as we do every move about the necessity of so much stuff.

For a person who really doesn’t like moving (and the associated stress), it’s ironic that we are a military family. There are aspects about it that I do enjoy; the setting up of a new house, arranging things, and the adventure of it . The part I detest? The packing and the cleaning of the old house. All the nitty gritty cleaning – baseboards, windows, blinds, and ovens. Not my favorite at all.

This move is hitting our little deep-feeler daughter hard. She is very melancholy, expressing her desire to go back to Texas as that is the only home she really remembers. I comfort her the best I can and remind her that it’s okay to feel yucky and whatever which way she feels about all of this. That feelings are what they are and the best way to get through these patches is to just wade right into them and feel them. You can’t avoid the bitter-sweetness, the frustration, and the sadness. The only way is to go through.

Our last night in the mostly-empty house, we did what we usually do. We read a bit of our book, currently book 3 of The Chronicles of Narnia. As I finished, nestled between 2 kids and 3 dogs in our king bed, both kiddos wanted to chat instead of the usual pleading of ‘just one more chapter!’

“What do you want to talk about?” I asked.

“The move,” my daughter quietly replied. The volume of her voice inversely proportionate to the weight of what’s on her heart and mind.

Ever putting the positive spin on hard things, I reminded myself of what I’d explained to her earlier, that the only way through hard things, is to go through them.

“Okay, how about this,” I prompted, “What if we start by each saying 3 things that really suck about moving?”

“YES!!!” they both giggled and begged to be the first to rattle off their yuck list. Hannah asked to swear out loud once. Why not? If that’s how you feel, get it out!

Their frustrations and heartaches vented, as well as mine, we moved on to our gratitude list, things we are thankful for or that give us comfort. All of us agreed the dogs are at the top of that list. Jacob was thankful for his computer and Minecraft, as always. Hannah snuggled in close and ticked off her list.

Exhausting their lists, it was my turn. My over-tired mind contemplated the things I was grateful for. There were so many things. “I’m thankful for the way homeschooling has opened up our schedule to more flexibility,” I began. “I love that no matter what four walls surround us, be it a hotel room, a new house in a different state, home is where the 7 of us are.” They nodded their agreement.

As they drifted off to the last sleep in our house, I was thinking of the tiny little rambler that fit us so well. The morning sun I’d marveled at as it streamed in across the floor each morning, the proximity to the beach, walking paths lined with jacaranda trees and birds of paradise, and a large back yard for the dogs flooded my sleepy brain. A hardworking husband that continued packing well into the wee hours of the night, the ability to see that we were making progress, and the knowledge that this phase doesn’t last forever all came to mind.

“Thank you,” I whispered to the quiet house. “Thank you.”

My Job

It has been nearly 2.5 years since I made the decision to no longer eat anything with a face. I’ll gladly offer resources and information when requested, but am not out to convert others to become vegetarian or vegan. (I will never be accepted in the vegan camp becuase I still have a leather couch, etc. and will not throw it out, but I no longer seek leather goods or items made from animals.) This is what works for me. The whole thing is fascinating, honestly. I tend to geek out about things, diving into stuff headfirst then figure out the details, if needed, later. The benefits of eating whole-food, plant-based were just too compelling to ignore. That, coupled with the experience of doing it and seeing my how my own health markers were positively affected made it a no-brainer.

To some that know me in real life, it may come as a surprise, but I find it very hard to swim against the grain and do my own thing. Highly Sensitive INFJ personality types tend toward perfectionism. (You can determine your personality type here! ) In real life that might look like, “I’m only a good mom if everyone eats a nutritionally balanced meal and no one argues at the table.” (I’ll wait while you stop laughing and collect yourself.) The reality in our family is that the 4 of us are very food-incompatible; a daughter who eats and will try most anything, a son on the autism spectrum who has a very narrow window of foods, a husband who shies away from new tastes, but bravely tries to accommodate, and then me who lives on fruit, nuts and seeds, veggies, rice, beans and pasta. Going veggie was a natural progression for me, but it creates a bit more work to accommodate our family’s preferences. Good thing I love cooking!

I saw a quote recently that “our job is not to convince others to our way of thinking, but to find our own path so that others may find theirs”. This hit me harder than I expected. Is it in our nature (or perhaps just mine) to convince others – of anything and everything? If mellowing with age has taught me anything, it’s that none of my “stuff” really matters in the big scheme of things. Not my circus – not my monkey has become a common mantra. My job is simply to love those around me well, and do what I know is right for me.

Like eating meat, the decision to abstain from alcohol is not only against the grain, but at times isolating. Among military spouses, it’s the norm. It’s how you get through rough depoloyment seasons. It’s how you get through the parenthood olympics, or so we are messaged to believe. Its the one thing that to opt out of immediately begs the quesiton, “Why?!” To not drink is to be dieting, detoxing, Whole30ing, or pregnant.

A blog I read regularly, the author had a recent post entitled, The World Doesn’t Stop Drinking Just becuase I Did.” Always with the impeccable timing you crazy universe! Yet again I’m told to sit down, be quiet and work my program. In my enthusiastic, straight-into-the-deep-end-head-first-ness, I forget that my journey is just that – mine. If it helps others, great, but it’s not my job to do the convincing. My only job is to do the journeying.

Transitions

When people ask, “How do you do it?!” while shaking their heads in wonder, I typically answer something to the effect of “We do what we have to do,” or “Home is where the military sends us, so we make the best of it,” or something along those lines. It’s heartwarming to have lived in many parts of the country and to have friends in nearly every state – even around the world. Overall, it makes for a global mindset having lived in many places.

While all of that is true, what is also true is that I’m really tired. I’m tired of moving. I’m tired of making friends just to have to pick up and leave when it’s getting past the initial getting-to-know-you phase. I’m tired of knowing that when I set up the next house, I will silently sigh and think to myself as I do every move, “Seems silly to hang these pictures only to take them down again in what will feel like the blink of an eye.” Or “Why bother painting when we will have to paint it all back to off-white when we leave?” I want to plant a garden and harvest for more than 2 seasons. I want to be the one to stay.

I’ve had dreams where I’ve been drinking – and enjoying it. Upon waking, I’m relieved and grateful that it was only my subconsious and that my 2.5 years are still very much intact. The handful of times where I drink in dreamland is where there is extra stress….and moving? Yup. No question.

The move here was overshadowed by the homecoming phase of Eric’s return. This time is a little different in that it’s harder on the kids. They don’t remember a lot of Washington so to them it feels like another new place. There’s an edge of unease, despite reassurances. We’ll get there, but for now we are in the transitional uncomfortable.

This time we will be moving back. Back to where we met, back to my home state. My family will be there. I already know the layout of the commissary and where the good off-base groceries are. I know how to navigate the town, and surrounding areas. I envision hiking with the dogs in my favorite locations and cannot wait to show the kiddos all the places they used to roam but were too young to remember specifics. I cannot wait to see our friends and family. Despite the rain of the pacific northwest, or rather because of it, there is incredible beauty in that part of the country. The air will be crisp, and we will arrive just in time for the holidays. After 1-season-year-round California, the change will be welcomed.

As I look around at the curtainless windows, the sea of boxes and familiar red tape gun securing our earthly possessions for another move, it feels like it’s number 359 although it’s actually our 12th in 18 years. “We are almost to the end,” I remind myself, resolutely. This phase of active duty will come to a close in a few more years and the moving will cease to be our normal. We will plant that garden, we’ll buy a home and the kids will finish school in one location. “Just a little further,” my mind tells me, borrowing the oft-used mental methods of running long distances.

Just a little further.

Resilience

We always say it’s not going to happen. We’ll be there for each other, even after they move. Or we move. Or we both are flung to opposite sides of the world.

And we swear, “This time. This time will be different. This time we’ll really stay in touch.”

Military friends are a special breed.

Ever so slowly, life happens. New friends slip in to our lives, boots on the ground, in the current duty station, in your every day life friends. While they open our hearts again, it becomes more challenging to keep up with kids and day-to-day stuff and maintain all those long distance friendships. They seem to get lost somewhere in the everydayness of our new home, among new friends. And we get lost in the memories of their new place.

The calls are replaced with texts. Texts start out frequent, but slowly fade to weekly occurrences, check-ins. More and more of the detail of their daily lives are missed and so it goes. Then it’s merely pictures on social media. Those pictures of their new life without you in it, those are so bittersweet.

They sting just a little. And once again you remind yourself that it’s all part of the process. This breaking of hearts. Sometimes it’s a wonder that we do this not only once, but many times over and over, risking, grieving, and being open again.

As we got up this morning from air mattresses on the empty floor, the moving truck having left the day prior, Hannah quietly asked, “Mom, can we do the ‘Why I love moving, by Hannah’ thing?”

We do this ritual in our family where I say, ‘I love Hannah because, by Mommy’ and then list out all the reasons and things I love about her. Eric and I even did this practice before the kids were born. Items on the list include big things, but also very specific things, and current milestones etc. It’s a tangible way to say “I love you. I see you. Just as you are.”

As she asked to do this and apply it to moving, I was struck by how resilient and strong she really is. This has been a tough week for the little emotional heartbeat of our family. She loves fiercely, and her heart breaks with the same passion. She listed her positives of moving – we all did. Hannah reminded us that while the sky may be overcast – the sun still shines, regardless of whether we can see it or not.

Kids are so dang resilient.

Hearts are resilient.

Tender hearts that are open enough to get broken, repeatedly, are among the strongest ones.

Fair winds and following seas, Corpus Christi!

Paradox

You know what I love about life? I love the part where the lessons have been gleaned, and the lightbulb moments have happened. I love the victory, the happy ending. I suppose it’s human nature. We love the finish line celebration, but cringe thinking of the work of the actual race. Slogging through the rough parts to get to the good stuff – and it’s what’s necessary for the good stuff to actually BE good stuff. 

It’s ironic really, how time works.

I want him to leave. I want the uncomfortable and the ugly-cry and the yuckiness of farewell to just be OVER. I want the heart-hurt for my kids to be eased. I hate this part. I’m not a fan of transitions, never have been. Messy equals uncomfortable and learning and growing. I am looking forward to being through the yuck to get through to the good stuff of self-reliance, pride, and looking forward to homecoming. And yet, I am hating the constant ticking by of the clock reminding us that our time together is limited. I think that’s what sucks about crap week in general – it’s the constant push-pull of wanting them to stay and needing them to leave – to get over the bridge of yuck into the land of hopeful anticipation.

If this process has taught me anything, it’s that there is no escape from the yuck. It just has to be sat in and gone through. Any attempt to numb, ignore, push down or stuff will only lead to more pain. Just gotta ride the crap wave; cringing, clawing, and refusing to let go of the flaming surfboard as it returns to shore. That’s essentially what deployments feel like, in a nutshell. Adulting and managing life while everything is on fire.

Here I shall sit, in the crap. Thank you God for coffee, and dogs, and amazing kids.

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Cringe

Crap Week

Grit is something we military spouses have in spades, whether we want it or not.

Facing another deployment, I’m finding that they never get easier. It’s so easy to talk about deployments in abstract terms when living shore duty life. We make plans and assure ourselves that the kids will be fine, we’ll get through it, no biggie. We’ve done it before.  Then promptly push the thought immediately out of our minds because we know the time will come and it’s just too damn hard to think about, so we put the thought in the “later” box.

Later is now and the box is being ripped open.

The platitudes of “you just get stronger” sound hollow and tinny. I’ve written about the positives of deployment and the first time experience with kids, but I am smack dab in the middle of crap week (the week right before they leave where life just sucks because you know the painful “fair winds” and “see you soons” are merely days away and you keep trying not to think about it, but you can’t and did I mention it sucks?) and I don’t feel very positive.

So I’m riding the crap wave. It looks like this:

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I will get back to the pulling up my big girl britches, but right now they are scratchy and chafing.

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In an effort to feel the feels and just get through it, (as opposed to stuffing feelings and numbing out, neither of which are helpful in the long term) I made a sappy playlist. Music is therapy in many ways and why not just wallow in the awfulness for just a bit? Then I get sick of my sad self and move on with said big girl britches firmly in place. Here’s what I got:

  • Tonight I Wanna Cry – Keith Urban
  • Come Home Soon – SheDaisy
  • I Have Nothing – Whitney Houston
  • Never Tear Us Apart – INXS
  • Stay – Sugarland
  • Stay With Me – Sam Smith
  • Hurts – Emile Sande
  • Everybody Hurts – REM
  • Hearts a Mess – Goyte
  • Ship to Wreck – Florence + the Machine
  • I Can’t Stop Thinking About You – Sting
  • Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
  • As Long As You Love Me – Justin Bieber
  • All I Want to Do – Sugarland
  • Can I Be With You – Todd Agnew
  • I Try – Macy Gray
  • A Little More – Machine Gun Kelly
  • Lose Yourself – Eminem
  • Shatter Me – Lindsey Stirling
  • Praying – Ke$ha
  • Take U There – Skrillex & Diplo
  • Shake it Out – Florence + the Machine
  • Rise Up – Imagine Dragons
  • Rise – Eddie Vedder
  • Faith – George Michael
  • You are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne
  • Circles – I see MONSTAS
  • Bird Set Free – Sia
  • Alive – Sia
  • Help Me Run Away – St. Lucia
  • Whatever It Takes – Imagine Dragons
  • (I like it When You) Smile – Harry Connick, Jr.
  • It’s a Great Day to Be Alive – Travis Tritt
  • Lay Down and Dance – Garth Brooks
  • Unstoppable – The Score

Yeah, there are some gems and guilty pleasures in there. What songs would you add to a sad therapy playlist? What helps you get through deployments and the crappy transitions weeks just before departure?

Deployments ARE Marathons!

Having a few races under my belt including a marathon, as well as a few deployments – I couldn’t help to note some striking similarities.

During shore duty, the duty stations where deployments are not a factor, my mind goes to what I call the “shore duty mental bubble”. These are the tours where deployments do not exist. This is where we emulate as close as possible to civilian life. Spouse goes to work, comes home. Rinse, Recycle, Repeat, much like a 9-5 job most of the time.

Then the PCS season rolls around and, like little pin pricks in a balloon, reality starts to pop my shore duty bubble. We have the “where to next?” conversations and things are up in the air for a while. It’s the moment when you realize that like life, none of this is really in your control. You have to just go with it.

What the heck does this have to do with running marathons?

When running distances, it is imperative to have your mental game on point. You cannot run a marathon and at some point not ever have deal with your brain. Thoughts you haven’t ever dreamed you’d be thinking – you’ll have them while running. Like gearing up for a PCS move and/or deployments, you take it day by day, or mile by mile, as they come. To be at peace with being uncomfortable, being in transition, or being smack dab in the trenches of a long run, it comes with going with the flow instead of resisting what is.

Marathons and deployments both require preparation. You wouldn’t go out and run 26.2 miles without training for it in some fashion. (If you do, you’ll likely pay for it.) Likewise, deployments require preparation and planning. As the cliche goes, fail to plan – plan to fail. 

On the heels of planning and preparation, there is only so much you can prepare for. Then you have to just let go. Running a marathon forces you to let go of what if. What if you get injured at mile 18? What if I’m dehydrated and there isn’t an aid station? What if my knees give me trouble? What if I need a bathroom? (If you are runner, you know strategy is everything in this department!) Anyone having gone through a deployment knows that the deployment gremlins always appear within the first month! It’s military murphy’s law. The washer will break down or the car will have trouble. The garage door will not open. The gremlins never seem to jack with your life with as much enthusiasm as the beginning of the deployment. Like running, we have to accept that this crap may happen. You may get injured at mile 18. That washer may break down. But what good is it going to do worrying about either before it has even happened? Worrying is like the front porch rocking chair: gives you something to do, but gets you no where.

There will be good deployment days and bad. Some of them are so awesome that the only thing that is not perfect is that your spouse isn’t there to share it with you. The kids had a great day, you had a great day. You got done what you wanted to do, or you just played all day. Some miles are like that. Free and easy, those miles remind us runners why we love to run. The distance ticks by and you barely notice it. It’s those miles that we chase, running all the other ho-hum miles, just to experience a few of the really incredible ones. Savoring the good days and good miles carries you through the not-so good ones. 

Deployments force you to be independent whether you think you are ready or not. Standing on the start line feels the same way. Ready or not, it’s go time! 3 months into a deployment or 8 miles into a marathon – it’s you. You put one foot in front of the other and go. There is support along the way, but ultimately it’s you, being independent. Day after day, mile after mile. 

Deployments and marathons will grow you in places you didn’t know existed. You’ll do things you never thought capable. It goes without saying that pride is a big factor in both. There is no experience like laying out a plan, setting goals, and achieving. Pride in your ability to endure and cope will astound you. 

Deployments and marathons have many things in common. It’s too bad they can’t both be over in one day!

My Fit Friend Joy!

One of the mamas in the neighborhood joined our little workout group at the beginning of the year and has been working out consistently since. She joined our group, not knowing anyone – but knowing she wanted in.

She embodies brave. She gets it done. I often saw her running on the treadmills at the community center AFTER our brutal workouts. She was usually the first one there, and often one of the last to leave.

Although she ran track in high school, she signed up and ran her very first 5k race with others from our group. Not only did she lose 30 pounds, but she did it while her spouse was deployed! Fitness is more than just a smaller jean size. It’s taking back your power. It’s learning that you are more than just the role you happen to fill as mother, wife, daughter, or any job title.

Joy and her hubby are getting fit together. She was getting fit here, while he was working out on deployment. And in a strange twist, he attended classes taught by my friend in Japan, while his wife and I workout out with our neighborhood group. It is such a small navy community!

Deployments are never easy – but you have never let that stop you! Beyond thrilled for you Joy!

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Happy Handstand!

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Joy holding the amount of weight she has lost in medicine balls!

“Real” Friends

Not only was the subject of friendship a WordPress Daily Prompt today, but it’s something that I’ve been mulling over the past few weeks. Last weekend I had the pleasure of running a 5-miler with a dear friend who I haven’t seen outside of cyberspace in 6 months – entirely too long! Catching up with her was such a gift and 5 miles never flew by so fast! We chatted about all things parenting and motherhood; how the house is never as clean as we’d like, the differences between racing pre-kids and post-kids, lack of time, how it takes longer than one might expect to find your ‘new normal’ as a mother, breastfeeding woes, and how everyone else seems to be doing it better. I mentioned that if someone cares more about how your place looks when they come to visit, perhaps they should be shown the door.  She looked at me as we were running and said, “Thank you for being a REAL friend. I don’t have to pretend with you.”

That sentiment was probably one of the most touching compliments I have ever received in my life.

Honestly, I just don’t have time to be anything but real. What you see is what you get. Most days, I don’t wear make up. I love yoga pants and workout clothes. I love to laugh, really laugh – guffaw and bend over and let ‘er rip!  When I cry – it’s usually of the full-on ugly, soul cleansing variety. My hair is in a pony/bun conglomeration more often than not. I love all things touchy-feely, emotional, self-improvement, empowering and fist-pumping. The real stuff of life.

I have been blessed by wonderful friendships, mostly due to our military life. The friends you make while moving every few years aren’t like any other friendships. No one in your life, try as they might, can truly understand it’s like, what is required, and what kind of support is needed, than a fellow milspouse.

It’s hard, to be sure. If you’re leaving in two to three years, why be real? Why let your guard down? Why get invested when you know it’s only temporary? We hate the inevitable “fair winds, following seas/goodbyes/see you laters”. We all hope to stay connected, but in the back of our mind we understand that some relationships are for a specific time, even if that’s not by choice or how we’d like it to go down, sometimes it just does. It’s hard to maintain true intimacy over the miles. The web makes it easier – but we kid ourselves to believe it’s the same. We miss the day-to-day details of life. Instead we have to be content with the highlight reels until we meet again.  If making friends as an adult is like dating, saying goodbye is the worst kind of breakup.

Why risk being real?

Because it’s worth it. Even though your heart breaks, it’s always worth it. To the degree that saying goodbye sucks, it is to the same degree that being authentic and truly yourself is a breathtakingly beautiful experience.  I would not be the person I am today were it not for the real and honest friendships made along the way.

Reach out. Take the risk. Show up. Be kind. Be real.

It’s always worth it.