The Roadblocks, Detours, and Dead Ends are All Part of the Journey
Picture this…it’s 1992, my then boyfriend and I would jump in the car, fill up with $1.09 gas, pull out the map, and hit the road! Where were we headed? First, someplace WAY cooler than where we would travel after 25 years of marriage, and second, it didn’t matter, it was all about the journey. So, when my husband decided to join the military, I knew I needed a map if I was going to successfully reach my destination. My journey towards the goal of a truly resilient military spouse has been filled with all sorts of wise input from people who were farther down the road. I watched the seasoned spouses with awe when I first began. I knew I had to pay attention when it became clear they knew the best roads, shortcuts, dead ends, and the most direct route home. They were my map and here are a few of the tips I’ve pulled from their legend.
You are HERE:
Have you ever stood in front of the map at the mall, thankful for the little star marking your location, searching for that one store you had to find before you could leave? We all need a little help sometimes determining our exact location. Before my husband’s first deployment, TDY, Air Force Ball, Dining Out, or First Friday, I had no idea what to expect, and these seasoned spouses helped chart the course. I learned how to plan a move, get a new ID, and most importantly how to understand I was and how to make it to my intended destination. They helped me accept and understand the reality of military life. Most of all, they made me grateful to be part of the amazing community of spouses that is uniquely ours.
Learn to use the map:
The list of things I now wish I had understood as a young military spouse is long, but I knew even, in the beginning, my learning curve needed to be steep. The road seemed confusing and complicated at first before I began to understand why embracing military life would benefit our whole family and not just me. There is a wealth of resources online to learn how Tricare works, the meaning of acronyms, why work schedules are the way they are, or why you tip the bagger at the commissary. These resources are far better than they were all those years ago, so make use of them. The map might just help you find that one landmark you are looking for.
Find a guide who is familiar with the directions:
Most of us have talked to at least one spouse who vehemently resisted or still resists getting involved with a spouse group. They may have been warned by other spouses that they will only encounter drama, or that the groups offer no real support or assistance. If you only believe the negative, the negative is what you will find. Maps are drawn by humans and humans are imperfect. Most spouse volunteers leading these groups have a heart for service. Give these groups a chance before you decide they aren’t for you. Don’t allow one bad interaction keep you from benefitting from a group of fellow spouses you can lean on and learn from. Eventually, the free spirit who heads out on a trip without a map has to find a road marker or get directions if they want to make it safely home.
If there is no good map for your location, create one:
If you simply can’t find a good support network where you are, create one. No change comes from complaints with no action. This does not mean you have to become the caretaker for everyone around you. It means that you too can create a group where spouses can offer and find support. Social media can be an amazing resource and most units and bases have support pages for spouses to ask questions about the base and local area. Just remember that the same negativity that drives some spouses away from formal groups in the first place can be even more prevalent online. Steer clear from making this your place to complain and avoid the drama. When social media is used for good, the amount of information that can be passed very quickly can move mountains. You may even be the person leaving the breadcrumbs for the travelers who follow you.
The great benefit of hitting a dead end or taking the wrong highway is that you will never mistakenly go that way again! A wise friend of mine would say, “We can do hard things.” This is her way of saying she believes we all have the ability to navigate the course to our destination successfully. So, pull out your map and hit the road!
***Check out MilSpouseIntheKnow.wordpress.com for a one-stop-shop of spouse information. Remember, just because a general guide was made for one base, doesn’t mean it can’t apply universally. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. firstname.lastname@example.org.