I will never forget the Christmas John was deployed to Afghanistan.
On Christmas Day, we video chatted and I watched the blocky picture of him jump around on the screen as his internet cut in and out. Suddenly, there was an announcement and John got up and left abruptly. I watched the empty screen, waiting for him to return and for my heart to stop pounding out of my chest.
When he got back he just said, “Our base was hit by mortars. I had to let them know I wasn’t dead.”
Merry Christmas, huh?
I know it’s not a traumatizing story. And I know that many other military spouses and significant others have other much more harrowing, scary stories than that one.
But every time I think of it, I remember that awful sense of uncertainty, the gnawing feeling of impermanence. The knowledge that I was 7,000 miles away from the man I loved. And there as nothing I could do to help him.
That’s a feeling you never forget.
Maybe you’re feeling that way this Christmas. Maybe it’s more dramatic, with more obstacles and more worry. Or maybe it’s less dramatic, the tugging feeling just that–a feeling, nothing else substantiated just yet. And maybe the uncertainty has nothing to do with a the military… or everything to do with it. Maybe it’s a PCS or a transition to a new job. Or maybe you just don’t know what’s coming in the next few months.
That’s a hard place to be.
And there’s no one bullet to make it okay or to change it. But here are a few things I’ve learned that just may help:
Accepting uncertainty is hard, but if you can get yourself to that point, you may save yourself a lot of anxiety and frustration. Instead of wishing that things are different, accepting them for the way they are now is actually very freeing.
Give yourself grace
Whatever those moving parts are in your life, cut yourself a break. Love yourself enough to do the things you need to do to make sure you’re okay. Maybe that means getting a manicure when you should be cleaning the house. Maybe it’s staying up fifteen minutes later to read so you feel sane. Maybe it’s taking the kids to your place of worship in jeans — it’ll be okay, everyone will survive– even though you usually dress them up. Whatever it is, give yourself the chance to breathe during a difficult time.
Lean on someone
Especially if your spouse is deployed or away, find someone that you can talk to or ask help from. Maybe you just need another adult in the house for dinner or maybe you need a phone call to talk through the frustration that uncertainty brings. That person doesn’t have to be a military spouse. They don’t have to understand exactly what you’re going through. They just need to be there and love you.
Know that this isn’t it
Dealing with the rough parts in life is exhausting. But things are going to get better. Remind yourself of that when it feels like everything is absolutely the worst and the most chaotic and uncertain. This is not how it’s going to be forever. And it’s going to be okay.