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I remember perching myself on the edge of a hunter green chair in my college advisor’s office, the comforting musty smell of theological texts permeating the space between my face and hers.  My visits all had the same purpose: discerning a career path that would feel purposeful to me while meshing with the contractual obligations necessitated by my beloved’s future commissioning oath.

spouse-dogtagsShe gazed at me steadily, pointedly, but with patience (how young I must have seemed to her!) and said, “Shannon, are you sure you want to do this?  When you marry a man in uniform, you’re not just marrying the man, you’re marrying into the military.  You will become part of it, too.  And you need to decide if that’s something you can live with.”

Looking back now, these many reflective conversations were the first inklings I’d have of the drawbacks to Navy Wife Life.  The modern-day difficulties surrounding career choices while attached to my military spouse.  The unpredictability of orders and timing.  The inevitable parting.  What it sometimes feels like I gave up just so that I could have a life with him. Yes, I could spend hours in this space – the true listing of the sacrifices and what I wish everyone would know.  Or really get about this life.

But, as with everything, too, there exist pockets of perfection.  And sometimes, as in the case of the military spouse, those pockets are so engulfing that all the suffering is simply swallowed up.

It was true that by choosing Kyle, I was marrying the military.  However, it turns out that I wasn’t alone.  By marrying into the military, I was also joining a community of like-minded people – those who’d married for love of their mates and who’d make that choice over and over again no matter the difficulty.  This community of military spouses are my friends because they’ve stood in the trenches with me.  Because I don’t have to explain anything.  They just…understand.

I’ve found their understanding as a college freshman, not yet knowing what my theater buddy and I would grow up to become, giggling over stories of how we met our boyfriends.  In her voice over the phone now that we each have two daughters, trading tips on how to help them miss their daddies less when they’re gone.  The way we sometimes get teary because it’s just such a relief to hear from someone with whom we don’t even have to talk – shared silence is enough to convey compassion.

I’ve found their understanding on the day I joined my college church.  A fellow Navy wife was joining on the same day while her husband was deployed.  She took me out to lunch and then offered her home to me for laundry, comfort, a respite from the riggers of college life.

I’ve found their understanding when Kyle had to move ahead of me while I finished my school semester.  A friend and her husband gave me their guest bedroom for three weeks while I took finals and never made me feel like the third wheel.

comfort foodI’ve found their understanding in a group of friends that moved out to Oklahoma with us after flight school in Pensacola.  We’d meet on Sunday evenings when the guys were deployed just to have a taste of family.  They brought me comfort food in my first trimester and stayed over just to clean my kitchen, wrecked by a combination of my first pregnancy and graduate school.  They’ve listened to my fears and given me honest opinions.  Their hands were some of the first to hold our babies because in many ways they were closer to us than family.

I’ve found their understanding in the middle of the night when Kyle’s gone and my fire alarm starts blaring for no reason, when I need recommendations for schools or neighborhoods, when I just can’t do bedtime by myself anymore, and when I need to drop my children off for an emergency doctor’s appointment.

I’ve found their understanding in an “I’ve got your back” mentality, an open door policy, a camaraderie that overrides any differences in background because for now we’re all doing the same thing – existing to the best of our abilities alone and apart from our mates or more traditional support systems.  It’s there in an echoing sigh, a whispered word of encouragement, a hand on a shoulder, homecooked meal, a genuine interest in the nitty-gritty of my life, a laugh over the bunco table.  It’s the understanding of acceptance no matter what because what we’re doing is hard stuff and we need each other desperately.

I don’t always love being a military spouse, but I do always love being a military spouse.  Being united to such a force through my decision almost seven years ago – that, YES! I could live with a man in uniform – is where I’ve found some of my deepest belonging.  And for all of that, I thank you.

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Shannon is a Navy wife of six years, mama to two daughters three-and-under with a third baby girl on the way, blogger, and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling. She’s a lover of simple things like farmer’s markets, barefeet, and bluegrass music. When she’s not tickling sweet toes or chasing toddlers, you can find her reading a good book and sipping sweet tea. For more, follow her at: www.thisfoxtaillily.com

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