Usually when you hear the term resilience in relation to spouses, it is in conjunction with conversations about deployments/TDYs and the tools to survive when your spouse is geographically separated. Resilience is actually tools that military spouses need daily just to survive this lifestyle. Today, let’s talk about that new assignment – that location that you didn’t choose, don’t know anyone, and is difficult from day one. We have all been there, but not all of us persevere well.
First and foremost, I believe in mind over matter, you have to enter each PCS with an open mind. Not everyone views every place the same. My husband’s first assignment is where he met me. Everyone I met was trying so hard to get orders out of there and I remember being so sad when they would talk about how much they hated that place because to me, it was home. So, always remember that there are people who choose to live wherever you are being sent, so there are people who like the area and maybe – just maybe – you will too.
My next must is … you MUST leave your house. You cannot successfully adapt to your new surroundings within the confines of the four walls you have been assigned. Meeting people will increase your chance of success. You don’t have to go outside your comfort zone, just do what you like to do. Go to the gym, and you may meet the person who always seems to be on the treadmill next to you. Volunteer with local organizations and meet people with common interests. If you are a bookworm, join a book club. If you have little ones, find a play group. If you homeschool, join a co-op of other homeschoolers. Join a spouse club either base wide or within your squadron (or both!) You can’t say you’re lonely and have no friends if you don’t get out there and meet people. This life is not an episode of Army Wives. It is not likely that someone is going to show up at your door with a basket of muffins and become your lifelong friend. Put yourself out there and it could surprise you.
In conjunction with that, attend events on the installation whether installation wide or for your squadron. I know, I have heard it a million times, “My spouse doesn’t want to go because they see those people all day at work.” This is when you have to tell your spouse that, while they may see those people, you don’t. You wouldn’t know their co-workers if you saw them at the Commissary or walking down the street. Being a part of the military is like being in a big family, and like a big family there are the wonderful aunts you just can’t wait to see during the holidays and then there are the ones you literally hide from when you see them in Walmart because you don’t want anyone to know you are related. And that’s okay. It will take time but it is better to weed out the good and bad than to hide away because you are afraid to try. Sometimes that crazy aunt that you want to hide from is the one who is first through the door when you are in need.
Also remember to leave the installation. Some installations are wonderful and have much of what you need to survive physically, but for your emotional and mental well-being – get out and explore the area. The most wonderful thing about military life is being able to live and experience areas you would not have otherwise chosen. Every area is unique. Instead of complaining about what a town doesn’t have, check out what it does have. Browse the little local shops. Attend the local festivals and fairs. Try that little dive restaurant that may have the best food you ever put in your mouth (because most towns have at least one of those places). Don’t dwell on where you can’t shop or eat or go, enjoy what you can and you may find yourself looking back in 10 or 20 years and find that burger in that café with 4 tables has yet to be rivaled.
We all make a choice with every move to either embrace it for what it is, or to wither away and mourn our situation. Ever since I was a little girl, if I complained about my situation, my mother always told me that I had to bloom where I was planted. The military has taught me that even a Mississippi magnolia can still bloom in the desert with the right amount of TLC. So stop hiding in the darkness and go soak up the sunshine and bloom.