This Too Shall Pass

 

The other day, I thought to myself, “This too shall pass.” But not for the reasons you might be thinking. At that precise moment, I was walking with two coworkers and we were laughing after a terrific day of teamwork and humor. We had been swamped with clients but we all pitched in and the day ended up on a wonderful high note.

We remind ourselves that hard times are temporary –

Bad day at work?
Deployment?
Hangnail?

This too shall pass.

There’s a flip side to it, however, that we sometimes lose in the day to day. Good times will pass also.

Great day with your kids?
Relationship hitting all the right notes?
Hair looks amazing?

This too shall pass.

We are told in the book of Peter that we shouldn’t “think it strange” when we are in fiery troubles, and there is great peace in remembering that the fire shall pass. But we are also told, in James, not to boast about tomorrow because the plans are not ours, but God’s.

When things are good, sometimes we forget to be thankful. We forget to take a moment and soak in the moments of joy, focusing on the well-being. We forget, until the hard times come and we have to shore up against them.

This was made abundantly clear to me over the last month or so. At work, things had been really rocky. There were some relationship issues and some other factors that made daily work very difficult. During that time, I relied on God to change things – I knew something had to give, and the difficulties wouldn’t last forever. As I told a coworker, “Something has to give.”

Something changed. Our team realigned and the difficulties were resolved. There is a lot of laughter in our group again, and we are able to provide much better service to our clients. At the same time this changed at work, things at home were really positive and happy as well.

This too shall pass, right?

Fast forward to today – work is still amazing. Home life is in a happy rhythm only slightly broken by the welcome visit by The Folks.

But my mom is in the hospital. A thousand miles from here. I believe she is getting terrific care, and I will go to her when she is ready for my help, but she is sick and I worry for her. I find myself distracted and somewhat exhausted, wondering when I should go, how I can help, and dealing with logistical details so she doesn’t have to worry about them.
And then a quiet voice reminds me, as it did during the happy laughter last week –

This too shall pass.

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(P.S.) – This did pass.  My mom is back at her house, with appropriate meds and home health care available.  And all I can do is smile.

 

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Signing Out

Signing out

Yeah, that’s it.  The little thing he signed before they gave him his DD214.  The DD214 is the form that tells the entire story of his military career – and shows that the career has come to an end.

25 years and 12 days, it says.  It says he was out of the country for more than 4 years total, but it doesn’t count up all of the NTC trips, or gunneries, school, or TDY (temporary duty).  I’d say it was a good career, and certainly longer than most, and I am so, so incredibly proud of him.

Next to our marriage license and our babies’ birth certificates, this is the most momentous signature I’ve ever seen him make.  And it made me smile. And pause.

No longer a soldier, and now a vet, he takes off the uniform and puts it away today. The boots will be relegated to yard work, and I know at least one pair of the uniform pants will become a set of yard shorts.  But that’s just a costume. What happens inside when the identity of a job is changed?

No longer a military spouse, now I’m the wife of a vet.  And I started thinking a moment about the first step I made towards being a military dependent, at the ID card center at Fort Riley.  He was so serious, so proper as we waited.  There were other families with infants and small children, and there we were.  I already had some idea what I was in for, since he’d had to go to the field so soon after we got married that it took 2 months for us to live together once we said “I do”.  But waiting there, I had no idea we’d eventually be sitting in similarly uncomfortable chairs, making nervous jokes and then having to explain them to the lady helping us.  I’d never have envisioned so many years between office visits, or that we’d end up where we did after our start.

There is so much I didn’t know then, and I wonder now at what lies before us.  There is so much possibility ahead of us – so much choice.

I tell the soldiers I see at work that there is a big shift when they leave this life behind. I tell them to prepare for the psychological change.  And today, I halfway hope we’ve both been listening.

 

Rules for Parenting the Half-Grown

I have a group of Mom friends who all have children my Little G’s age. We met online when we were all pregnant with these kids, and 16 years later we are still “together”.  Many of us have met in “real life” but our “pretend friendship” is strong even among those of us we’ve not met in person.

From these Moms I have learned to be a better parent.  As I began writing some rules for parenting these half-grown kids, I turned to Shannon and then to the rest of our group.  The rules that follow are an amalgamation of what we came up with.

Rules

Remember these things –

The fact that you will miss her desperately is not her responsibility nor her burden to bear.  It is yours alone. Learn to live with this.  This is where adults have to adult and kids still get to be kids, even for just a little while longer.

The fact that you are realizing that your time with her is passing faster and faster is also not anything she should be worried about.  Cry and mourn away from her, don’t add parental guilt to her already drama filled life of teenage angst and agony.

If she asks to do something with you, say yes.  She most likely won’t ask again.

This will be your loss, but her gain – remember this is a time that should be filled with joy for her as she looks forward to being on her own.

Don’t cling.

Do let her cling occasionally, but know it won’t last long. She may want to bounce things off of you; are you OK listening and NOT always giving advice? Learn how.

Go ahead and schedule time with her, and set up activities with her, but realize she has her own activities and interests.  You will regret not doing so.  Time is at a premium now.  She has friends and ‘important’ life things going on and you will have to fit into her schedule, so book time NOW.

The number one thing she needs from you right now is the security to spread those wings and the privacy and independence in order to do so.

But, she may falter at the edge of the nest.  She may change her mind 80 times.  Listen to her and believe in her decisions every time, even though it is hard each and every one of those times. It’s the 81st time you get to celebrate her, when she flies. (Remember to add a little mental kudo for yourself, since it is because you reinforced her independence that she flew!)

Add the assurance that you will be there when she falls to the ground – because she will.  These are fledgling wings, and not yet as strong as she thinks they are.  It’s OK.  (Remember, those same wings are also not as weak as you may be afraid they are.)

Be her soft place to fall.  You aren’t her parachute or her helicopter, but you are the solid person who has always been there to catch her.  She may ask for that – be willing to hear her, and if possible, occasionally, blow up the airbag for her landing.

You will doubt yourself.  You will make mistakes.  You are now realizing how many mistakes you’ve made over the years – she is not your therapist and is it not up to her to help you fix those mistakes.  Acknowledge, accept, move on. You may need a therapist, but don’t use your child as your ear or shoulder. She needs yours, but you can’t have hers.

Tomorrow is a new day, and today is one day closer to her being grown – you don’t have time for the awkward, doubting, nay-saying voice in your head.  Push it out and soak her in.

Remember hearing “the days are long but the years are short” when she was tiny?  The years are growing shorter and shorter – remember to enjoy them.  Take photos, but enjoy her live and in person more.

You never started that day journal for her.. . but it’s not really too late.  Maybe not daily but jot down those happy moments because they are things to share with her kids later (if she has them). They will remind you when you need it how wonderful it was to have her home.

Let them fail. Let them figure things out for themselves and choose their own path. We can teach, guide and support but we need to let go. It is NOT easy but it is necessary.

The irony has not escaped me that I, who did not even cry when our first went to kindergarten, am now struggling so much with the little one spreading those wings. I’ve even done this before – Little G is our second to fly from the nest.  I realize it’s a little ridiculous, but I am sometimes too overwhelmed by the sheer emotions to do anything except acknowledge, accept, and move on.

There is a big world out there, which scares and excites you for her.  Remember, that world is waiting for you to spread your wings again, too!  This time older, wiser, and with a fully grown person who you have offered to the wild. Good job!

(Many thanks to Anne, Gay, Jill, Kris, Kristin, Laura, Leanna, Linda, Melissa, Pam, Penny, Sarah, Shannon, and Trish.  And, because we will always miss her – Tabatha.)

 

 

 

Unpacking

 

From this:

Why we have separate closets

Thank you, Betsy.

 

To this:

Army unpacking

Thank you, Amy of AWW. (The beer is the best touch.)

And eventually this (tucked away):

Army packed

Thank you, Kelly of AWW. (We won’t keep this much.)

 

There has been a lot of packing and unpacking in our household over the years – packing to move across the country once we got married, packing for moves, packing for gunnery/NTC/field time…  Packing for deployments, for Korea, for extended TDY…

There is a certain emotional component to packing up the gear that I’ve learned to accept, acknowledge, and then just sort of shelve in my mind.  Set it aside – as My G puts it, “Build a bridge and get over it.”  Other spouses have echoed my dread for the days when the duffels come out and the gear vomits across the household in so much green/brown splendor.

However, how often do we acknowledge the unpacking?  How often do we look at the changes that have occurred during the “trip” (so to speak)?  Whether it’s a move across the country or a deployment across the world – or even a field exercise numbering in the days – there are things that happen during those journeys that sometimes go unregistered or unnoticed.  We put away the socks, we launder the gear, we find homes for any new stuff.  Over time, though, the unnoticed and unacknowledged emotions and events start to build up and create a cluttery mess inside our minds, where it is most difficult to resolve.

As we reach single digits in our countdown to My G’s signing that beloved (and somewhat scary) DD214, there is a lot of unpacking going on.  His gear is turned in, but our closet, shed, and garage corners all have the leftover bits and pieces that have accumulated over these 25 years.   A glove here, an extra uniform piece there – mox-nix stuff here and there of little value but that still has to be taken care of and put away.  And as we…ok, as he goes about figuring out what is worth keeping, what is trash, and what can be shared with others, we are also looking at the last 25 years and making choices about the intangible things too.

At night, his brain is unpacking memories it had long stuffed away – soldiers today have huge numbers of sleep disturbances, because eventually these things have to be dealt with.

In conversations, we are acknowledging the loss of time with his girls and together, the lack of deeper connection to extended family, and the loss of health and changes to his body that the Army has wrought.

All of it- unpacking.

Long-term Army spouses have long recognized that even joyous homecomings can usher in some mixed feelings.  There is a cost to everything the Army asks of us, and disregarding that truth doesn’t change it.  While this is a “homecoming” that is filled with just as much joy as all the others, it is also a time of great change and future-planning.  In order to make space for the new things we get to experience, it is time for us to unpack some of the old.

We are unpacking memories and frustrations and joys and sorrows that have been piling in the corners of our hearts for many years.  Heartaches and hurts and yes, even petty grievances lurk in the corners of our emotions and we have to figure out how to clean it out and start anew.  After so much time, our hearts are beginning to look like those well-worn duffels that he just recently turned in!  We’re both a little battered, a little bruised, but also reinforced by things like acceptance, joy, stolen moments, gratitude, and even duty.

This month, we unpack.  We clean, we dust, we mend and we make decisions about what to keep.  This next journey is one we choose.

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This one was by far the best and worst I’ve seen. When My G went to Korea, our garage was nearly this bad. Whew.