Monday, April 16, 2012

Thoughts from a Navy Wife

I'm not sure what a typical Navy wife is, but I'm pretty sure I'm doing it wrong. I've never played bunco. I've never been a board member of a wives' club. I've never lived on the base (as a wife). I can't swear I've never benefitted from my husband's rank, but I know he never gave me one of those shiny gold flight wing necklaces when we were dating despite having met in a bar in "The Cradle of Naval Aviation."

Here is what has sustained me during my eighteen years as a Navy wife.

You need your own identity

Military life can strip away your identity. You will move away from good jobs, great friends, and all connections. Nurture your interests, your passions, and keep connections open to what has consistently been part of your life. If you change who you are, you loose yourself. Some part of your life has to be about you. Someone else out there probably likes weird French movies, beer, and sewing bags, just maybe not all in the same person in the same location.

Do not be afraid

New paths await, but not if you are busy following the herd or too fearful to explore them. Sometimes the herd leads you to new vistas and sometimes the herd tramples you to death. Don't be afraid to be alone. Be there because you want to go, not because you think you should. Life is too short to waste it on other people's furniture.

Friendships form fast in the military

You may not love the Navy, but you will love the friends you make in the Navy. Military spouses often work long hours and go away for long periods of time. Expecting the bureaucracy to support you emotionally is futile. Your friends will be in the same boat. Your spouse will not be home when life hits the fan. You can do it because there is no alternative and because you will have a friend that will keep you afloat. People will help you in the most amazing ways. Amen to my Japanese friends who have stepped up again and again. Your guest room will be in perpetual motion with a friend traveling through to a new duty station, a friend undergoing medical treatment, a friend in town for business. You will love these people like your family that is three thousand miles away.

Wallow in love

If you are not having an adventure or getting more education, you should get out of the military. There is a trail of love behind every move, but it gets spread thin. Sometimes you just need to wallow in love to be whole. If you are whole in spirit, you can go on to do other things. If you let yourself be eaten up, there will be only crumbs to support your family. Sometimes you need to stay put, sometimes you need to pass on an opportunity; sometimes your family has to come first.

Be humble

The military promotes and divides by rank, salutes, and titles, offering power and influence to the service member and their family. In the military, importance comes from a uniform worn or a title held, "we salute the rank not the man." Though the chain of command may be essential on the battlefield, at home each family member needs to be able to speak, to be heard. If you think you have no value outside of that uniform or that title, you have lost all. Practice humility or you will forget that people matter not the medals and metrics.

Life is not all about the military

I've never played bunco because I have no one to watch my children and because I so rarely see my husband that when he is home in the evening, I want to be with him. I've never been a board member of a wive's club because I've never been called to do it. It's an organization that I'm glad exists. I've never lived on the base because adventures in immersion called us.

My husband never gave me a pair of gold wings to wear around my neck because he said, "they aren't about you." My life is about my husband, my children, the Navy, my lost career, my latest adventures, my current passions, and so much more. He was right to tell me in essence to celebrate my own achievements. We are each so much more than one thing.

We are each so much more than one thing.

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