Community Pool: Friendships, the Milspouse and the Military
It’s normal to desire to “belong”.
Transparent moment, here – when I’m having a bad day, it’s easy to convince myself that most of my pre-military “friendships” were superficial, with my “friends” having forgotten about me as soon as I was out of sight (aka uprooted in a PCS move).
A little background: I was a fairly introverted child/teen/young adult, even though I was heavily involved in various activities like cheerleading, Student Council, and even the yearbook staff. As a result, during my school years, I experienced occasional bouts of loneliness, often initiated when I compared my social life to [my perception of] other people’s. This, by the way, this is a big no-no. NEVER compare your life to the facade someone else is proffering as reality.
As a single adult, I attributed my bouts of loneliness to the fact that I was busy with work, and then, to fact that I purchased a house outside of the perimeter area in Atlanta, Georgia, where the bulk of my friends resided, and no one wanted to visit me (because, duh, better price for a brand new home! Who could pass that up??). Yet, somehow I still managed to meet up with friends often enough that I still felt connected.
My husband’s career with the Air Force sometimes amplifies this feeling of “loneliness”. In my darker (like, light grey dark is as dark as I get) moments, I convince myself that I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve been contacted by my friends to see how I’m faring. I convince myself that my text message feelers are being met with short, disinterested replies because my friends are no longer interested in my life or with sharing theirs. Of course, I reason with myself, we’re all adults and life gets in the way, but then again…we make time for what matters – right?
I think about social media and the part it plays in this weird “how do I maintain these friendships” dance. Even with family, I find that because they can essentially “check in” via Facebook or Instagram, phone calls are deemed unnecessary and texts are few and far between. My phone rarely rings these days, I think, when my husband’s phone rings. Acknowledging the part I play in this – yes, I also find myself picking up the phone less and less on my end, but that knowledge doesn’t do much to diminish the hurt that creeps up if I let it.
Worst of all – how, I wonder, will my husband and I ever properly celebrate the most important milestones – birthdays, the birth of our first child, etc. – without community?
The answer, I realize, isn’t a difficult one. 1. We have each other. 2. We take advantage of the season in which we have been planted and we build it.
As I write this on my hour-long commute to work (I know, I know), I realize that while this military life has made my “lack of friends” more evident, it’s also made it clear that the frequent moves and ever-evolving growth required by milspouse life might suit me just fine.
I’m no longer a full-blown introvert, but a blooming ambivert (Check out this Forbes article: 9 Signs You’re an Ambivert) who enjoys moments of solitude, while simultaneously caring immensely for the people I encounter. (As an aside: in light of the admission of my introvert/ambivert status, isn’t it interesting that I found myself thriving in two fields that extroverts are more readily attracted to (attorney and public relations and dance studio owner)? I see you, God!)
I’m learning to lean more on God and to relish the moments solitude. I’m also learning to be eternally grateful for the friends I do have – the ones I can count on no matter how much time passes. And, the prospect of travel aside, one of the biggest excitements I had about the military stemmed from the large community pool that results from military life and the 2-3 year uprooting that accompanies it. The pool will change over the years, the characters in it will change, repeat, change, repeat…and I must navigate it with courage and to the best of my ability.
I know there are other military spouses who share these sentiments. That’s why, for me, “More than a Mrs.” is more than a blog. It’s a way of connection. It’s a tool to build up others and, soon, I’ll be partnering with some phenomenal people to host a variety of in-person and online community events for that very purpose. Make sure to subscribe for updates. You don’t want to miss the evolution of “More than a Mrs.”
Finally, as a chaplain’s wife, I feel compelled to throw in a plug for YOUR local base chapel. Servicemembers and their spouses often fail to realize what great resources at your disposal – in the form of your chaplains. They’re great listeners and counselors and, even more importantly, information shared with them is 100 percent confidential. If you or your spouse struggles with pervasive thoughts of loneliness or depression, make your base chapel one of your first stops. In addition to offering a listening ear, they also host a variety of free events for families of the deployed. Check your home base for more information.
Anyone else out there experience feelings similar to mine? If so, I want you to think about the strategies you use to cope and then strategize how you can do more than cope. How can you FLOURISH? 🌸🌼
Until next time!