We live in a society that teaches us not to have regrets. We are told to go all-in, all the time; pour your heart and soul into everything you’re doing.
For the most part, I subscribe to this mentality, but given the chance, there are a few things I’d gladly jump in a time machine to correct. Like the day I got my flip flop caught in a revolving door at my brand new job after changing out of my heels: could have done without that.
More aching on my heartstrings is the first time I received an email from a fellow military spouse, inviting me to have coffee.
A month before my husband and I were married, he took orders to San Diego. Determined to keep my job in Washington D.C., I commuted the first six months after our wedding. We were newly married, but I was living out of a suitcase. Somewhere in there a woman emailed me, introducing herself and inviting me to get together. We were going to be in Guam at the same time, and she had previously lived there. I thanked her, but ultimately blew it off. I didn’t consider myself a “typical” military spouse – whatever I thought that was. I had a good job, no kids, my own identity and a big ‘ole chip on my shoulder. I didn’t have time for coffee.
A few months later, I had to quit that good job when we moved to Guam. About three weeks after landing on island, my husband deployed. I had no family, no job, no friends, no identity, and that chip on my shoulder quickly turned into a giant piece of humble pie. I hungered for coffee dates like never before.
The more I got to know the other spouses on base, the more I realized that actually none of them fit my mold of a ‘typical’ military spouse. They weren’t dependent on their spouses. They were adventurous, engaging, and above all, they were welcoming.
And that woman who emailed me in San Diego? She happened to be my next door neighbor. Thankfully, she didn’t dismiss me as quickly as I had her months before, and we went on to be the very best of friends. In her graciousness, I learned so much, not only about military spouses, but also about love and life.
4 Lessons Military Spouses Taught Me
There really is no such thing as a typical military spouse.
We come in all different sizes, ages, genders and ethnicities. There are military spouses who haven’t finished college and a plethora with doctorates. There are spouses that speak fluent military acronym and some that have no idea what time 1800 is. We practice different religions, vote for various candidates and come from different countries. Some of us have children, others don’t. Some stay at home, some work, some can’t find a job. A lot of us have given up positions we love – some entire careers – because of a move. Military spouses are a diverse group, and my neighbor was friends with all of them. She introduced me to so many people, from the enlisted wives she worked out with to the general’s wife who played in her bunko group. The only thing typical about my neighbor was that she treated each person with respect.
Military spouses share a common bond.
The military dictates where we live, when we see our spouses and how we shape our future. In that uncertainty, we are adaptable, flexible and creative. Where others see four white walls, a military spouse sees potential. Through fifteen years of war, we might not like that the mission always comes first, but we understand it.
With the high tempo of operations comes our own resilience. We are the ones left behind to hold everything and everyone together, even when we’d rather fall apart. We don’t often come undone, but when we do, there’s another spouse out there who’s been through it. Try as they might, no one truly understands a deployment farewell (or hello) like a fellow military spouse. I spent many a night on my neighbor’s couch with a glass of wine, and we shared countless laughs and definitely a few tears. The bonds of military spousehood are as impenetrable as those concrete walls in base housing.
Look for the Good.
Had I kept my ‘’better than thou” attitude on Guam, it would have been a miserable three years. When I asked my neighbor why she liked the island, she told me, “If you want to love it here, you will. If you want to be miserable, that’s your choice, too.” She looked for the good in every situation and in every person. And when the remoteness of a tiny island in the Pacific got to be too much, we’d find the good. Usually at a beach.
Be a Good Friend
More than anything, my neighbor taught me what it was like to be a supportive, genuine friend.
Oprah once said, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” My neighbor definitely rode the bus with me, and more than once. When I flew to visit my husband in port in Australia, their ship pulled out several days early, leaving me alone in the land down under, the evening before my birthday. My neighbor cashed in some miles, booked a ticket and was there the next day. What could have been a little bit of a pity party turned into bungie-jumping, scuba-diving, and dancing the remaining nights away with my bestie. She flew to a different continent so that I wouldn’t have to spend my birthday alone during deployment. Who does that? A really good friend.
I learned so much from my neighbor that I almost missed out on because of my own pride. This month, take a chance on your fellow military spouses. Take a meal to a lonely one, and instead of dropping it off, stay and eat. Encourage the one who hasn’t found a job yet. Babysit for the one who needs a break. Be good to each other; I know you won’t regret it.