I’ve been paying attention to my reactions to this reverse ripple effect of Coronavirus as the rings get closer and closer in, as we feel it impact our own lives and our own loved ones. I’ve been paying attention to my anxiety and fear as it ebbs and flows, the decisions we’ve had to make as a human and as a country. I’m feeling the ache of worry, the disappointment of plans being canceled, the uncertainty of the indefinite.
At the same time, as a military wife, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt anxiety, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt the ache of worry, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to adjust to disappointment.
I think it’s helping me right now in the new Coronavirus normal.
I think we military wives know a thing or two about aches, worry, and disappointment and could serve as kind guides right now, loving our neighbors through this all.
Here’s what I mean.
We’re walking out of church one Sunday, Lane passes a soldier he knows, they both get big grins.
“What was that about? Are you close with him?”
“Oh, well, maybe? I climbed a mountain in Kabul with him.”
“Not what I was expecting you to say”
“Yeah, babe. We do a lot of crazy things over there. Climbing mountains in Afghanistan will bond you.”
We must look like any other normal husband and wife as we pass other people- I’m holding onto his arm as we leave the building but they wouldn’t know it’s because I need him to hold me up because this all just feels too weird.
There was one time, back before he was a Chaplain, when it was the height of the war and he was a typical soldier doing all of the typical soldier things. We’re in a home improvement store and he walks by a shelf display of gloves and says “Oh- see those gloves? They are exactly like the ones I wear when I guide terrorists off the target.”
He said it just like he was talking about the weather.
This day walking out of church felt a little like that- a little like you never know what’s coming next, so you need to just always be ready.
These military husbands of ours are just like any other husband- they go to work and play in adult soccer leagues and try to fix the bike tire when it goes flat again.
Our husbands go on business trips too, only these business trips are for longer, farther away, and we kiss them goodbye not knowing if they’ll make it back home.
Half of our life: Totally normal.
The other half?
Well, I wonder if telling stories about coming under fire while exiting a helicopter is conversation at the average dinner table in America?
And it all blurs together and my soul can’t really figure out how to hold it all together- sometimes I don’t know what to say to the kids and this military life requires more grit than I have and I don’t know how to live with an ache- but we must- so I figure it out.
Lane gets home from his most recent deployment, our sixth, and it surprises me how hard it is for me to have him back home.
A bomb goes off when he leaves, I pick up the pieces. A bomb goes off when he comes home again, do I still have to be the one to pick up all the pieces?
Reintegration is hard, I’m tense; he’s unaware, just glad to be home.
I’m telling all of this to a friend- older, wiser- tears are forming in my eyes, I’m mad that I’m crying. C’mon Sarah. You’re stronger than this.
She notices and smiles, shame be gone. Tears don’t mean you’re weak, after all. They mean you’re paying attention to your life.
“Sarah, what you’re going through is big and hard and valid.”
I feel myself exhale and I didn’t even know I was holding my breath.
Then she says this next thing and everything turns: “This life is hard and so what you’re feeling is valid. It’s also normal.”
“What? What did you say?”
“I said what you’re going through is normal. I said you’re normal.”
Well, then. This military life feels hard because it actually is hard.
I keep thinking about our conversation and her using the world normal and I think this is why: Normal means there’s others who have done this, too. There’s others that have had to figure out a way through, too.
If they can do it, we can do it, too.
We military wives marry these military guys and begin a military life.
Is that so different from an average love story?
In ways, yes, but also in ways, no, but this is where I see the bridge between it all.
It’s hard for anyone outside of the military to understand the level of stress and the level of worry and the level of not knowing what the next day could hold that we hold every day.
But maybe that sounds familiar to more than those in the military right now?
The military: Worrying about the wellbeing of those I love most, the ache of family gatherings we’ve missed, the vacations that have had to be rearranged, the disappointment I’ve had to reconcile when yet another thing didn’t go the way I thought it was going to go.
And now, our country: Worrying about the wellbeing of those you love most, the ache of canceling family gatherings, the vacations that have to be rearranged, the disappointment to reconcile when things aren’t going the way we thought they were going to go.
But now, how we come together: We’ve done this before, we can show you the way.
As military life and all of our lives right now might feel like it requires more grit than we have, we simply keep going because there’s no other way through something than one day at a time. We learn we’re in this together after all, because we look around and see others doing it and know if she can do it then I can do it, too.
As I see our military people live with an ache, live with unknown, move forward in uncertainty, I see how fear doesn’t get the last word. I see how hard times have the capability to bring out the best in us and I think it can happen again.
It makes us better at noticing the hurting, because we have hurt too; it makes us better at reaching out to the scared, because we have been scared too; it makes us be good to one another because we have needed others to be good to us, too.
In hard times especially, let’s let empathy and courage be the loudest voice in the room rather than fear. Let’s lead in love, creativity, and hope- what we all so desperately need to get to the other side of Coronavirus, and as it turns out, what military wives are experts in.
With all of the uncertain and weird we’re walking through right now, we all could use some kind guides to let each other know we’re gonna make it.
If there’s ever been a group that understands the ache of adjustment, the fear in a news headline, the searching for the right words to tell a child, the absolute necessity of hope to keep going- find a military wife, watch how she does it, she knows a thing or two about grit and hope.
My military people will show you exactly what courage in love during hard times can look like.
And, ultimately, how we get through this: Together (at a socially acceptable distance)
If we can do it, you can do it too.
Struggling with the demands and depletion of military life? Maybe this will help: 5 Ways I Stay Sane in This Military Life. Click here and I will send it quietly to your inbox.
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