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In 2009, I married the love of my life! He is charming, funny, a great listener, and the best friend I've ever had in life. We still get each other, even after eleven years of wedded bliss. It hasn't always been easy, but somehow, we made it work. When we married that fall day, I had no idea what I was signing on for. I married my husband, but his mistress is the military. My husband has served this great country of ours for 31 years... and counting! He loves serving his country and he loves his troops.
Needless to say, his passion has taken him on multiple deployments throughout our marriage. Now deployments are much easier on me but I must admit, those earlier separations were like having a year long root canal for me. It was during these deployments that I realized I needed to create a plan if I was going to survive as a military spouse. I had to learn that his dream of serving takes him away from the monumental moments in our marriage! I used to be so miserable during the holidays, my birthday, or our wedding anniversary because I'd be pining for him.
During my husband's first 18-month deployment to Iraq in our first year of marriage, I had to access what truly brings me joy. Although my husband was the apple of my eye, I had to realize that I needed more in my life than just waiting for the cell phone to ring. I had to plan a life of my own if I were going to survive as a military wife.
The first thing I decided to do is think about what truly brought me joy! I was so busy obsessing over what, when, and how soon I'd hear from my husband that I started to feel I was losing my own identity. I was slipping into a mild depression actually and sometimes, yes I even wondered if marrying a career soldier was the best choice for me. Sigh!
So one of the first things I decided to do was find a way to serve others. I went to the local nursing home in our neighborhood and guess what!? They were looking for volunteers! I decided the best way to pass the time until he came home was to do what he does... serve. I helped with transporting residents to the day room on Saturday mornings, I sang to them, read scripture, played music from their era, and most important I listened to their stories of what life was like for them in their younger days. I learned so much and made some lasting friendships with them. Even their family members came to know me and I felt like in my own way, I was making a difference by nurturing a generation that now needed support.
The next thing I did was create my bucket list, not that I thought I was going to expire anytime soon but I wanted to write a list of all the things I wanted to do. Each item on my list required time to accomplish and with my husband away on yet another deployment, I had the time to work on each of them. While my husband was away, I wrote a book, perfected my photography skills, started a business, and became a radio host, actor, and a motivational speaker. I also became a local voice for women who needed to find recovery in the aftermath of sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. In addition, I served for a brief time as my husband's FRG (Family Readiness Group) leader for his unit. After all of the things I became involved with, I learned that I can love my husband with all of my being, yet find purpose in my own life separate from him.
Lastly, I connected with other military spouses who were in the same boat as I was. Some were from my husband's unit and others I met through interaction with other military personnel. I thought my primary role I needed to play for my husband was that of a "military wife." What I learned is that for any relationship to survive, each participant has to grow and mature. I needed to grow. I needed to push out from my comfortable place and reach beyond my comfort zone to find satisfaction in the the things that inspired me; that was my "aha" moment. I don't have to live vicariously through my husband anymore. I cultivated myself during his many deployments. I grew emotionally, became even more self sufficient, and realized that because I sought to better myself, I can relate to my spouse on a whole new level. Our marriage is so much better for the decisions I made while he was deployed. Now, he actually admires me for deciding to keep myself occupied and productive. He no longer worries about me, because he knows I can take care of myself. My husband tells me often how proud he is of me that I decided to re-brand myself and make the time we're often separated count.
I wouldn't exchange the life I have now for anything! The military career my husband pursued was a blessing in disguise for me. I could have despised the military and my husband because of the huge time commitment it requires; however we both now see it as the adventure it is because it offers us a continual opportunity to flourish together, even while we're miles apart.