Monday, September 30, 2013

The Human Condition's Worst Flaw

A few nights ago, I had a dream about my grandfather, a man I hadn’t seen in over twenty-one years. He was my dad’s father and he passed away when I was ten years old. But in my dream, I was all grown up, and was attending a family reunion with every expectation of seeing him. In my mind, he was still alive. Throughout the dream, I looked for him but couldn’t find him. People all around were socializing, preparing food, playing games in the yard, but he was nowhere to be found. It was then that I realized the reason I couldn’t find him was because he, in fact, wasn’t there. The reunion was being held only in remembrance of him.

What did this dream mean? Is it trying to tell me something? Is it merely a sign that I still remember my grandpa after all these years? When I awoke from my dream, I so badly wished that he really was still alive. There are so many things I would love to talk about with him. There are so many things I would love to talk about with all of my grandparents. But sadly, I didn’t discover how truly valuable their knowledge and wisdom was until after they passed away.

Why is it that the human condition fails to recognize the value of the people with whom it associates? Why are we plagued with taking these people for granted while they are still with us? And why do the words we desire to have with them only arise in our thoughts after they are gone?

Each new stage of life brings new experiences and new lessons for which we want to find answers. Now that I am a parent, I can think of a million questions I would ask my grandparents about raising children. Now that I am more educated and have more responsibilities, I desire to be part of the discussions my grandfather used to start around the kitchen table. What I wouldn’t give to have a cup of coffee with my grandma or a glass of wine with my papa while discussing the lessons of life. And as for the grandfather from my dream who passed when I was ten years old, I wish I could know him even more and discover what his own experiences taught him about life.  

I didn’t have these desires when they were still alive. I hadn’t yet lived enough. This flaw in the human condition is not that we are ignorant or ungrateful, but is that we haven’t yet discovered the things which will become truly meaningful to us. I didn’t have a reason to ask for parenting advice when my grandmother was still alive. I didn’t yet understand how to be a part of the knowledgeable conversations my papa used to have with others. And sadly, it seems that I needed to experience the loss of their presence in my life in order to fully appreciate the how truly valuable their wisdom would have been to me.

I suppose the reason this flaw in the human condition exists because we have no way of discovering the answers to our lessons until we actually live through them. But it takes us so many years to finally live them that by the time we get there, the ones who hold the answers are already gone.

What I struggle to remember is that those who have lived the longest are not the only ones who hold wisdom. We all have our own forms of wisdom which we gained from our own experiences. We all have something which could benefit someone else’s search for answers. So rather than grieving the lost wisdom of those who have gone before us, we can instead discover the wisdom of those who are still with us. Ask what needs to be asked, and say what needs to be said. There is a good chance that the one who holds your next answer is closer than you think!

Monday, September 16, 2013

When the Ordinary Life Doesn't Feel so Ordinary

I have to admit that I have felt quite unsettled lately. As many of us do at some point or another, I have been feeling a loss of identity and wondering how to prevent myself from getting stuck in the “behind the scenes” while everyone else follows their dreams and makes a difference.

It wasn’t long ago that I felt a strong sense of identity. While my husband was deployed three times over three and a half years, my purpose was to manage the homefront. During those months, I was a single mom, financial manager, house keeper, landscaper, contractor, travel agent, and traveler all in one, and all on my own. Despite the fact that I would have much rather had my husband home with us, it made me feel good to know that I was there to comfort the kids while their daddy was away and that my efforts would help save us some money by doing so much myself. In addition, the praise received from family, friends, and even strangers for all that I did helped me keep my head high and push through the tough times.

But now, over a year and a half after the last deployment ended, the feelings of satisfaction have dissipated. With my husband home, there is no need for me to do it all because he is there to help. And despite my joy that our family is together, I can’t help but feel that my identity has gotten buried somewhere deep down at the bottom of the laundry pile.

Are deployments what define us as military spouses? Do we become so distinguished by our duties while our service members are away that when they return we go back to being just the wife? Does anyone think we are still great even when our husbands are home to pick up the slack?

Perhaps the ordinary life isn’t what is ordinary for military spouses. We learn to deal with struggles, and even to expect them. We become so used to our duties during deployments that they become part of our being, our life lines. We are the ties that bind our families together, even when one member is on the other side of the world. And when the deployment ends and we are no longer needed for the same purposes, we are left feeling that this new “normal” life isn’t actually our normal at all.

I am so grateful for this new season in our lives when my husband has been home and will continue to be home for several more years. But each new season brings a new lesson. I know in my heart that I was meant to be a military wife and now I must work hard to create my own identity rather than allowing deployments to define me.  Now that my husband is around to help, I must get myself out there and put my talents to work. I must focus on my passions. I must discover what it is that will help me find my own unique and wonderfully ordinary life.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Can You Imagine?

Can you imagine being trapped on a hijacked plane, slowly realizing minute by minute that you would never get off? Can you imagine sitting calmly at your desk and suddenly have the ceiling come crashing down on you? Can you imagine fearfully racing to the stairwell to escape a 110 story building, only to find that it is jammed with hundreds of other people trying to do the same thing? Can you imagine being on the streets of a city and having debris and rubble crashing down all around you? Can you imagine not knowing if you would ever see your family again? Can you imagine lying helpless in the rubble, knowing you would never see your family again?
I can only imagine. I can only imagine from my safe little corner of the world how terrible a day that was for millions of people, people who were going about a normal day, people who had plans for the upcoming weekend, people who were going to have dinner with their husbands and wives and kids that night, people who thought that they had their whole lives ahead of them. But that fateful September day changed everything.
Our nation watched in disbelief as those stately buildings fell to the ground. We dreaded what would be next after yet another plane crashed into the Pentagon. It was a day of terror, chaos, and sadness, and it had the potential to significantly change the tone of what was a great country.
But that which is truly great cannot be undone.

Firefighters, police men, doctors, nurses and other public service figures from all over the country immediately joined forces in rescue and recovery efforts. Federal agencies, administrations, and engineers teamed up to help with clean-up operations. Several branches of the military served to provide extra security, food and shelter to relief workers, and missing family member assistance. And this is only a fraction of how our nation came together in tragedy to support each other, mourn for each other, and prove that we will not be taken down.
Today as you hold your families tight remembering September 11th, 2001, please say a prayer of thanks for being part of a nation that knows what it means to stick together. Pray for those who lost their lives to terror, and pray for those who continue to stand up to terror. Pray that our military may stay strong and capable. Pray that our leaders will have the knowledge, guidance, and tenacity to make wise choices in the war on terror. And last but not least, pray that God continue to bless our great U.S.A.

We will never forget our great loss, but we will also never forget how our nation’s heroes have helped to come out stronger in the end.   

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Few Things I Have Learned This Summer

When I wrote my last blog post, I had no idea it would be three full months before I would be able to sit and write another one. With the presence of both kids in the house all day every day, I just couldn’t get myself into the writing frame of mind. The continuous noise and demanding energy emanating from them left no room in my mind for the inspirational thoughts and random epiphanies which often lead me to write.

But despite my lack of writing in my daily frazzled state of motherhood, I have learned many things this summer. I’ve learned more about myself, more about life, more about being a military wife. And perhaps some of them will help spark my future posts:

1.       I hate schedules, at least when it deals with mothering. Schedules were great in college when I could go to a class at 9:00 and 10:00 am and then have a break until 2:00pm. But that’s not how kids work.


2.       Kids need schedules. Without them, they are wild animals. With reference to #1 above, you can understand why I was so frazzled all summer.

3.       Red wine is like medicine. Okay, that makes me sound like a lush, but it’s true. A little goes a long way to help me relax a little. Oh, and 4:00 is not too early to have a glass (see # 1 and 2 above).

4.       Having my husband away does get easier, even without a daily schedule. My husband was away during the month of June. The first day was difficult, mostly because it was a Sunday which I normally view as a family day, but as the weeks went on I found myself simply accepting his absence and moving on. I knew in advanced that he’d only be gone for four to six weeks, but it still makes me hopeful that the next deployment won’t be so bad.

5.       Sometimes it’s best to just keep my mouth shut. I realized this a long time ago among peers, but have been slower to realize it in my marriage. There are times when I am angry and just want to take it out on my husband, but in reality it’s not his fault (at least when it comes to work!) Now if I could just have his boss’s phone number!

6.       Having a lot of friends is great. Having a handful of very close friends with whom I can share almost anything is awesome. In the military we have to move away from those close friends and might not be able to see them or talk to them for long periods of time. But when we finally do, we pick up right where we left off and we don’t blame each other for the lack of communication.

7.       This whole Pinterest trend has really does have value. I have improved my strength and endurance by following several of the mini workouts and fitness challenges. I have tried many of the make-from-scratch healthy recipes and found new staples for my family. I can continue to learn more about what ingredients to avoid in the foods I buy to enhance the quality of food my family eats. The only problem is the amount of time I sit around in order to pin all this stuff! (view my Pinterest page here.)

8.       Laughing really is great medicine. Every so often my kids say something that makes me laugh until I cry. Comedies on TV are worth watching to me because the laughing relieves stress. I have trouble finding humor in the everyday, unfortunately it’s just who I am, but when something does make me laugh it feels so good!

As much as I was frustrated and overwhelmed this summer, I am happy to look back on everything we did over the past few months and know that I got something out of it. Every little bit I learn makes the next thing that life throws at me that much easier. And with more deployments and teenage years ahead of me, I’m grateful for anything that makes life a little easier!

What about you? What have you learned this summer?