Each time we see family back home or have friends visit from the U.S., I’m reminded of two things: 1) How blessed I am to have such great friends and family in my life, and 2) How much I miss the sense of community that exists when you live in one place for more than a year or two at a time.
I’m so thankful for our time with family when we get it. We’re lucky to have family that loves us, invests their time and money in seeing us, and cares for us however they know how; whether through laughter, gifts, or simply showing up when we need them.
Travel always has a way of changing our perspectives, and I think that traveling to see family that you live halfway across the world from makes that shift in perspective even more pronounced. Our most recent trip to the U.S., in particular, reminded me of just how much I miss having a permanent home and community.
Community reinforces who you are and what value you bring to the world around you. Community holds you accountable for being who you say you are and living by the moral code you say you believe in. Community backs you up when you need a hand, and it offers an opportunity to give back when you have a little extra love to give. I miss that.
We have ten more years until Nick retires from the Army and we can settle down into a home we own and a community where we can lay our roots. Until then, our trip to the States made me realize that a lack of community puts strain on Army marriages. It also made me realize that I’m the only one who can change my attitude about that.
When you let it, the Army lifestyle can drain you. By the fourth house in four years, you can lose the inspiration to make your house feel like home. By the third community in three years, you start to wonder whether it’s worth investing in new friendships — even when you know you need friends other than your spouse.
As mothers and wives, our children and husbands need us to make our house, home. They need us to offer our love, affection, and laughter as unlimited resources. They need to know that when they come home to us, they come home to joyful wives and mommas — even when we don’t feel so joyful. They need us not to lean on them as heavily as we sometimes do.
Oftentimes, we have to find a way to give these things to our families whether or not we think we have them to offer. Somehow, we have to find a way to be the fuel that feeds our families hearts and souls when our own fuel tanks are empty. Perhaps all of this comes more easiy to some miltary wives than to others, but this charge doesn’t come easily to me all of the time.
It’s the charge of bringing joy into my home even when I feel joyless. It’s the charge of standing by my husband’s side at a ceremony or event when I really need to be at my desk managing my own work responsibilities. It’s the charge of recharging him when he comes home tired and still distracted by work issues when it’s time to focus on family.
Finally, it’s the charge not to ask him to fill all the roles that would be filled in my heart if we had the community I long for.
Our servicemember might be our best friend, but he can’t be our girl friend. He might be our rock, but he can’t be our church. He might be our whole world, but he can’t be our everything. It’s not healthy for him, it’s not healthy for us, and it’s not healthy for our Army marriages.
We are charged, as Army spouses, to bring joy; to stand by their sides; to recharge him when he’s tired; and to take care of the kids and pets when he’s gone. We’re charged to make our government-leased or on-post housing (or yet another rental house) feel like a home for our kids, and we’re charged to make the most of whatever this moment in time; this duty station; this place has to offer.
We’re charged to do all of this whether or not we have a community that reinforces the value we bring, holds us accountable for our moral codes, or backs us up when we need support. We’re charged to do this whether or not we have extended family close by for support. We’re charged to do this whether our husbands are home or “away”; whether they’re in an easy job or a demanding one; whether we miss having a local community to weave ourselves into or not.
That last trip we took to the States made me realize that no one can fill the gaps — specifically, the lack of a permanent, geographic community — that Army families experience except for us. The Army might force our hand on location, and timing, and whether we’re together with our families. But the Army cannot rob us of the things that matter most; bringing joy and energy and love to our Army families. We just can’t let it.
It’s up to me to find my joy, and it’s up to you to find yours. It’s up to me to me to break my isolation. It’s up to me to be who I say I am and live the way I want to live — with or without the community that I hurt for so much some days.
Even if the Army tells me where I have to find that joy, break that isolation, or live that life I want to live, it’s up to me to make the most of wherever the Army sends us. That’s my charge as an Army spouse. That’s my mission.