Military life is especially tough for someone who likes traditions and family time. I’m not saying that condescendingly; I’m saying it as a truth. If you’re someone who likes things as they’ve always been with the people you’ve always been with, military life can be really, really tough.
It can be hard to be in a new place without the security of Mom or Dad or your best friend near by.
It can be hard when you realize that your wedding vase–which always presides over holiday dinners– has been broken by movers or lost somewhere between Norfolk and Japan.
It can be hard when a deployment is on the horizon and you can’t help but feel sad and a little doom-and-gloomy about it.
It can be hard when your kids have never spent a holiday with their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.
It can be hard when your home doesn’t feel like a home yet, or when that one special ingredient you need for your signature recipe simply isn’t sold in any grocery store around you.
It can be hard when you see picture after picture posted on Facebook of friends and family enjoying the festivities without you and yours.
Or when you see your friends’ pictures and postings of being together with their families–having something that you desperately want.
It can be hard when deployment is happening and the kids don’t know what to do without Dad or Mom. Or when you don’t know what to do without your spouse.
Holidays can be wonderful, and they are… mostly. But sometimes they can be full of a lot of emotions that you could really do without. And holidays seem to have a way of soaking up all of the emotions that are surrounding them, amplifying them, and making everything–well–worse.
No matter how you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year, make it one to remember. The truth is, you will only have so many Thanksgivings in your life; only so many days with the people you’re with right now; only so many moments at the place you’re currently at. And then–with everything in life and in the military–you’ll move on to something else.
Today, try to enjoy the day for what it is: An imperfect day that will have some ups and downs but has the potential to have some wonderful memories. It doesn’t have to be perfect because–let’s face it– even during a year where everything was in it’s place, there is no perfect holiday.
Remember that the quirks of this year’s holiday will become next year’s treasured memory: “Remember when Mom let us stay in PJs all day?” “Last year we had sushi for Thanksgiving!” “When Mom was deployed, Dad threw us into the car and we roadtripped to Grandma and Grandpa’s without planning it!” “I had a chance to read a whole book on Thanksgiving; I never get to do that!”
Acknowledge that you’re missing something. It’s okay to feel– you don’t have to be strong and silent. But don’t let those feelings steal your joy, either, if you can help it.
And remember to pause and be thankful for what you do have: The friends and family who are so hard to be away from, traditions that are meaningful and keep you grounded, memories that make you laugh, delicious food, a warm home, a safe place to live… Often gratitude is exactly the antidote you need when you’re feeling frustrated and down.
You can do this. It’s going to be okay.