By Sunshine Burgess
“If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.” – Lou Holtz
Do you know one characteristic that most resilient people share? They all feel like they have a purpose. Regardless of what that purpose is, they find a reason to wake up each morning and attack the day. To start your road of resilience, think about your goals, make a list and get to working on it.
Goals don’t have to be lofty, and let’s face it, sometimes when your spouse is deployed, you don’t have the time or energy to set a goal to change the world. Starting small is starting smart. I heard a friend say once that her daily goal was just getting the kids up, ready for school and out the door without losing her temper. Maybe your goal on a random Friday is just to complete all the laundry before the weekend sets in. Small goals like getting the house cleaned can lead to bigger things because a clean house lessens the stress of your environment, makes you feel accomplished and gives you time to do other things that make you happy. I know that a clean house makes me breathe a sigh of relief and feel less overwhelmed.
Once you get the small things going, maybe accomplishing something small each day, you may feel more prepared and have time for something bigger, so expand those goals. Something that I always get behind on is photo albums. Every few years, I set the goal to get photos organized. Whether it is just to get them organized into photo boxes or taking the time to make scrapbooks, I always seem to find more time for that when my husband isn’t home to see the mess I make while working toward my goal. Perhaps you have been meaning to organize your pantry or clean out your closets. Sometimes the best time to do those things is when no one else is around to tell you how to do it or judge how long it is taking you. When you set goals, set a timeline, but it is your timeline and not someone else’s.
Education is always a great goal and many spouses make this their priority. Education is a broader goal. It doesn’t necessarily mean getting a degree because that isn’t the path everyone wants or needs to take. However, learning new things can increase your value as much personally as it can professionally. Many bases or even the towns offer things like cooking classes or art classes, things you may have wanted to learn your whole life and never got around to. Maybe you know you are PCSing to a foreign country soon and you want to learn the language. That is the thing, whatever you do, it needs to be for you and not someone else. To feel purpose and happiness, you have to pursue your own goals, not what your spouse or parents or friends think you should pursue. I am pretty sure my husband wishes I would take a sewing class since I do good to sew on a button, but I resist. Not sure it would make me happy and I don’t want to add stress. Setting goals is not always about going outside your comfort zone. You have to decide what you are willing to do and for me, I am willing to pay someone who is talented at sewing to do those things for me, but I love cooking and am comfortable trying new techniques, so signing up for something like a “Foods of India” class would be easy for me and still foster the growth I desire.
A common big goal that spouses set, especially during deployments, is weight loss or personal health. This is a great broad goal and you just have to break it into smaller, achievable goals to get to the “big picture”. The base offers many things that can assist with your goal. You have access to a full gym and most of those gyms even offer specialized exercise classes either for free or a small fee. So, if you have been wanting to try out Zumba or Spin, this is a great time to do that and simply checking out the first class can be a goal for the day. Maybe attending a yoga class is just what you need to deal with the stress of being alone and even single parenting. Many gyms have family rooms where you can bring your children when childcare is an issue, but let’s face it, if personal health is your goal, you can’t fall into the trap of using children as a roadblock. Put those kids in the stroller and take a walk. It will be good for you and the fresh air will be great for them too. My kids always slept much better after being out in the fresh air. The gyms also offer a health center that usually have trainers and nutritionists on staff. Take advantage of these services to help you get to that overall goal.
As great as the idea of your spouse returning to a new, thin, healthy wife can be, this doesn’t have to just be a goal for when they are gone. Our most recent PCS wasn’t the easiest for me. It wasn’t my first PCS and that just goes to show that no matter how many times you change locations, each one can cause its own adjustment issues. I recognized this and I said, “What can I do to make this a positive experience for me?” My answer was to pick a project that would make me happy and that project for this move was ME! I wasn’t happy with where I was health wise and I made a plan. I set some short term goals (5lbs at a time) and set out to achieve them. It didn’t happen overnight, but 13 month later I am 54lbs lighter, my blood pressure is lower (not where it needs to be, but I am getting there) and all my lab tests look much better than where I was before. I wasn’t happy with myself and that made it harder to be happy where I was location wise. My location still isn’t ideal, but I am mentally in a better place and emotionally more equipped to deal with the adversity.
So what are your goals? What is going to be your next project? The next time someone asks what you do while your spouse is gone, what will be your answer? Whatever it is, no matter how small, go for it with determination. Make sure at the end of every day, you can look back and say “I did it” instead of “woulda, coulda, shoulda”. One of my mother’s favorite things to say was “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, so make the choice to not “give the devil his due”