Finding Joy in the (Military Spouse) Journey
For those of us who are military spouses, over time, we’ve come to learn
to expect the unexpected,
to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,
or that the only constant in this life is change.
Military life has a way of making you become comfortable with uncertainty. And, while we may become accustomed to the certain, uncertain challenges military life will inevitably throw our way, many of us may find ourselves taking time to reflect on the challenges that 2018 brought us through.
For many, like myself, taking the time to reflect on the unique challenges the military life throws our way is an opportunity to discover what these challenges mean, what we can learn from them and just maybe, how we might be able to discover a little bit of joy in the challenges on our military spouse journey.
As a military spouse of 14 years, I’ve become accustomed to the challenges of military life. But, just how does one find joy in these all-too familiar challenges:
frequent moves, separation from our spouse, wiping the tears from our children’s cheeks as they leave behind friends, reinventing our careers with each move, creating a new social support system at every duty station and continually adapting to new surroundings, cultures, and ways of life?
Finding the joy in these challenges is more than just simply focusing on the positive.
Finding the joy, I believe, involves being open to the lessons that these challenges can teach us. Focusing on the joy provides us with reminders that all the sacrifices we make as a military spouse and family are worth it. Following are some of the lessons that have helped me find the joy in my own military spouse journey:
Being a military spouse has made me more empathic and understanding to the experience of others. Perhaps this is something that comes with age. But, I believe my military spouse journey has made me a more understanding human being. Everyone has their own unique story and challenges outside of the typical challenges military life presents. That parent you see struggling with a toddler throwing a fit at the commissary or the less-than pleasant person you encounter at the BX---approach them with understanding. Perhaps they just sent their service member off on a deployment, perhaps this is their first time being overseas around the holidays and they are struggling with being away from family, perhaps they have an ill family member back home and they cannot be there with them. The point is, being a military spouse has taught me there is always so much more than meets the eye.
What do we really have to lose by approaching everyone we meet with kindness and understanding?
Being a military spouse has broadened my perspective, and that of my children’s, in many ways. I can say without a doubt I would not have experienced so much of the world if my husband was not in the military. My family and I have been fortunate enough to experience different cultures and visit many amazing places. I treasure these experiences and feel so grateful that my children can have such culturally enriching experiences at young ages, experiences I know will make them open-minded and well-rounded adults. Our lives have been so enriched by these experiences and have opened our eyes and hearts in many ways.
Being a military spouse has given me invaluable professional skills. Even though I have been fortunate enough to find some type of employment wherever we have lived, it hasn’t always been my “dream job.” Despite this, I have approached every job that I have had with an open mind and I always search for connections between jobs that I have had and how those connections work to my advantage as a counselor. These varied experiences have made me well-rounded professionally.
Being a military spouse has allowed me to meet and form relationships with people from all over the world. I have met some of the most amazing people along my military spouse journey. Some I still talk to regularly, others occasionally. People come into our lives for a reason, even if it is due in large part to military circumstances. However, when it comes time so say the difficult “see you later” to those special people, you now have a bigger “circle” that likely spans continents.
Without the military life experience, it is highly unlikely that I would have people in my corner, in all corners of the world.
The military spouse experience really does provide us with an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We may not wear a uniform, but we sacrifice without a second thought. We give up our ideal careers, leave behind friends and family, continually have family time interrupted even when our service member isn’t deployed, and are constantly pushed to the brink in dealing with uncertainty.
Yet we wouldn’t change a thing.
As corny as it may sound, this sentiment was reiterated to me at my son’s recent football practice. As I was sitting there at his practice, watching the planes rumbling overhead through the sunset, it struck me that all of us military spouses and family members are indeed part of the larger mission at hand, in our own unique ways.
These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way of my military spouse journey that I hold near and dear to my heart. It can certainly be easy to get caught up in the hardships and the challenges that military life inevitably throws our way. I challenge myself often, and I challenge you as well, to always search for the “why” and the “what” as you make your way on your own military spouse journey. The challenges presented to us along the way are not without purpose, that is, if we allow ourselves to be open to learning the lessons.
Finding the lesson within the challenges is where the joy lies.
Amber Noone, MA earned a Counseling Psychology degree from Bowie State. She is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor and Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor and has worked as a Military Family Life Counselor for 3 ½ years. Her husband is serving in the USAF, and she and her family are currently stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England. When time allows, she and her family enjoy exploring their surroundings and discovering what the world has to offer.