We Must Embrace What is Constant


The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, “The only constant in life is change,” and military life provides that in abundance. Your military member faces changes in work schedules and duty stations, as well as unexpected deployments and TDYs (temporary duty assignments). As the spouse, you are often left to handle these changes by picking up the pieces, which might even include actual pieces of furniture off of a moving truck, and raising children like a single parent, while also navigating emergencies or major life events solo. The military spouse who learns to tackle change head-on is far more likely to make it to the end of a military career appreciative of the unique experiences and rewards of military life.

Not all change is created equal, but you tackle it the same way: Something as minor as a New Year’s resolution, or as major as starting a new career, are both changes but are most often change by choice. A military move or unexpected deployment are changes thrown in your path. We react completely differently to a change we seek out versus one that feels forced upon us.  The challenge is to bridge the emotional divide between those two types of events by using the same resilience to run towards unexpected or unwelcome changes, as we do the changes we are excited about. The only thing we can control is what we do with the circumstances we are in. Do not allow fear of the unknown overcome your ability to adapt.  

Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect: Our youngest daughter hated moving.  You might assume it would get easier for her to make friends at each new duty station with so much practice, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Every move was just as difficult for her emotionally. We knew it would take her several months to adapt and when it was time for the next move we would repeat the process.  While it did not get easier emotionally, she did learn skills that helped her walk into sports tryouts or the lunchroom at a new school, with realistic expectations and the confidence to begin to assimilate. Today, as a college student who will never move with us again, she can appreciate what she’s learned as an introverted kid who still cringes at the thought of starting over every two to three years.  

Find your one thing: You may not be able to set a daily schedule during a period of transition, but you should find a few minutes for yourself. Give yourself a sense of self-control by identifying daily activities that are truly important to you and make those happen. My favorite is a daily run.  No matter what else is going on, even if I have to get up very early as we make a cross-country move, I run, knowing I will feel like I accomplished something personally meaningful for the rest of my day. Whether it is a daily workout, a devotional, your morning coffee, or 30 minutes of reading, finishing that one thing is worth setting aside the time. In addition, remember that an unexpected change may solve a conundrum.  During our first operational assignment I overcommitted myself as a volunteer. A last-minute move allowed me to gracefully back out without feeling guilty for leaving an organization in the lurch, and allowed me to better assess how to commit my time at our next location.

Change can be great character builder:  Change does not have to be a dirty word. While change may seem overwhelming, imagine a life without it. My husband and I reminisce fondly about our lives as newlyweds 25 years ago, but we definitely don’t want to go back to the beginning.  We welcome the lessons that accompany the life we have lived, and all of those lessons involved some sort of change. Military spouses get to experience things many can only imagine, and if we learn from those experiences we will be stronger for it. It always goes back to the basic premise for living a positive life.  Wherever you go, be it a place or a phase of life, there you are!

Feel free to email me with your questions or suggestions to cdickens@milspouseadvocacynetwork.org.