Thursday, August 23, 2012

Building a Better Self

Lately I've been struggling with staying positive.  The stress of the move, the frustrations when things don't go smoothly, and the unrelentless energy coming out of the kids all day has me frazzled.  But as I searched through some older writings of mine, I came across this one which reminds me of how strong I can be and how things will always get better.  It reminds me to try and appreciate the things that are good.  It reminds me that the hard times are just a bump in the road on the way to contentment.

“A happy life comes not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.”  These words from Helen Keller can be perfectly applied to the military wife’s life.  I do not believe I have mastered the hardship of deployment, but I have come a long way from where I used to be.  During the first deployment, I struggled with my fluctuating emotions.  I would be feeling so great for weeks at a time and all of a sudden something would change, causing me to be extremely sad and depressed for a few days.  Interestingly, the pattern seemed to follow the course of the months.  The first few days of each month marked my sadness, but then I would snap out of it and the rest of the month I felt strong, hopeful, and content.  Typically, a simple phone call from Randall and the sound of his voice was the thing that would lift my spirits again.  Whatever was causing anxiety and frustration would melt away.  I remember feeling that there must be some sort of voice, something in his subconscious mind, telling him it was time to call me because each time I was at my lowest point, sure enough I would receive a phone call.  Perhaps it was God’s way of answering my prayers.

I am not sure what caused my dip in emotions at the start of each month, nor do I care to remember the things that were frustrating me.  Maybe it was the raging pregnancy hormones, or maybe it was just me unable to control my wandering mind.  Whatever the reason, the emotional roller coaster I experienced has proven beneficial in the long run.  Not only did it prepare me for what to expect throughout this deployment, but it also has provided me with a foundation from which to build a stronger self.  I do not remember specifics; I just know that my anxieties during the last deployment were haunting.  My mind would race in the middle of the night causing me to lose precious sleep, I had little patience with my daughter, and I discovered that the positive person I had once known myself to be had become very negative.  I was not happy with this and knew I needed to change.  As the deployment progressed and homecoming drew near, much of the negativity subsided, but I knew I still needed to work on finding the old me. 

Shortly after Randall returned home, I began reading a book that laid the framework on the already existing foundation1.  It talked about being content, whether it is with circumstances, self, relationships, or roles.  It also brought awareness to having a faulty focus on life and the detrimental effects of worry.  Biblical references were provided throughout the book which highlighted the theme of each chapter and the importance of God in our lives.  I have always been a religious person, but never before had I known the bible to be such an incredible manual on how to live a peaceful life.  From the moment I began reading the book, I began feeling a change take place in my heart.  The first few chapters on contentment really made me reconsider what is truly important in my life and how my attitude affects everything in and around me.  On the first page of the first chapter, the author states, “What we are on the inside, what we continually think about, eventually shows in our words, actions, and even on our countenances.2  As my dad used to tell me, “We are responsible for what we think, do, and say.”  Needless to say, as I read through the book I found myself becoming more aware of myself and my life, and I began to feel my old self returning.  I would consider Randall’s impending second deployment as I read and could visualize myself getting through it with grace.  One friend even told me, after asking some questions about him going on a second deployment so soon, that I had a very positive attitude about it.  It was then that I realized that, in this type of situation, there is no other attitude to have.  It is our way of life and there is nothing that we can change about it.  Keeping a negative attitude will only make matters worse.  Times may be difficult, but no matter how far apart we are, we are in this together and, in the grand scheme of things, it is just a small segment of our life together. 

So far during this deployment, I have managed to keep the positive attitude I rediscovered in myself earlier in the year.  Sure, there are times when I am sad and really miss him, or when I get frustrated at the end of a long day taking care of two kids.  Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated with Randall for whatever reason.  But unlike the last deployment, I am learning to kick those thoughts out before they get too strong a hold on me.  There is a feeling of accomplishment when I think about how far I have come and how much stronger I am now than I used to be.  Perhaps this is why Helen Keller said happiness comes from the mastery of hardships.  Without hardships, there would be no opportunity to grow, nor would there be appreciation for the great things in life which, even in the midst of the hardship, allow the heart to find contentment.
  1. Dillow, Linda.  (2007). Calm My Anxious Heart.  Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
  2. Dillow, Linda.  (2007). Calm My Anxious Heart. p. 11 Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

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