Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When Independence Becomes a Bad Thing

I have always been more on the independent side, constantly wanting to figure things out on my own and having the willpower to complete necessary tasks without needing outside motivation. I’ve never had a problem with spending time with myself on a regular basis and often look forward to some alone time to decompress.

My independence has only grown as a military wife. Over the course of three deployments, there were many, many days where my husband was unavailable to assist in essential tasks pertaining to the kids, the house, the yard, the cars, the finances, and anything else that required attention. But because of my independent nature, I managed to do what needed to be done in a timely manner and even learned some new skills along the way. It was easy to think I was completely self-sufficient and didn’t need any assistance, so I seldom asked for it.

I seldom asked for it. And while I was busy accomplishing the the to-do list on my own, my kids were vying for undivided attention. They were looking for compassion and understanding during a time when they missed their daddy so much.

Could it be that my independent nature thwarted my ability to show compassion towards my children? I remember them being upset or crying about something and I would just tell them to brush it off. I couldn’t understand why they were so needy and why they didn’t learn from my independent ways. I was foolishly unaware of the fact that my independence was causing me to be a brash and insensitive mommy.

The truth is deep down I felt the same way they did: sad, frustrated, lonely, and unsettled.

Thankfully, they always forgave me. Thankfully, they still had compassion of their own and used it towards me. Thankfully, they seemed to understand that this time was tough for me too.

But they had a different way of coping than I did. Independence was my way of coping. Feeling like I could do everything on my own motivated me to keep going and I was less likely to stumble. The times during deployments when I have struggled most were the times when I allowed myself to feel dependent on my husband even though he was on the other side of the world. When I pushed those feelings aside, I felt better.  But it also left me with a hardened heart.

Being independent is a good thing. But during deployments, too much independence can cause us to withdrawal from others who are there to help. It can cause us to place too much emphasis on chores rather than on having patience, grace, and compassion. It can prevent us from being the parents we need to be to our children. It can withhold valuable emotional support from friends and loved ones.

I hope that before the next deployment, I am able to find balance between independence and compassion. The truth is I do need others. We all do. And the only way to effectively keep them a part of our lives is to treat them how we ourselves want to be treated: with kindness and compassion. This is especially necessary for our children, who need little else than to know that we care.

Friday, October 4, 2013

It Is What It Is

How many times do you find yourself exhausted from dealing with everyday life? How often do you feel like you’re in a battle with the way things actually are and the way you want them to be? How often do you become frustrated with waiting—in line at the store, in a traffic jam, for soccer practice to be over, for the kids to go to bed—only to realize that you waited the entire day away without anything remarkable to say about it? Or, have you been waiting for your next big break, whether for a job you want, for your kids to outgrow their tantrums, or for your hard work to finally get recognized, but in the mean time you feel miserably unsettled?

This week I have been reading The In-Between, by Jeff Goins. It is an inspirational book for those who feel stuck in all the waiting of life. Through the use of his own experiences and reflecting on what others have taught him, Goins emphasizes that it is waiting periods in which we learn and grow the most. In other words, the waiting is necessary in order to create the most abundant life.
At one point in the book, Goins says simply, “It is what it is.” I’ve heard this phrase many times before but never really put much thought into what it means. But this time, it made perfect sense to me. The “it” is life. Life is what it is. It happens. It is different for everybody. Some people have better luck than others, and that’s just how it is. But what truly matters is how we choose to accept the path our lives take. We can look at our lives with scorn and be forever miserable, or we can choose to learn from the twists and turns and open our hearts and minds to the waiting.
I can make a list several pages long about all the things I’ve been waiting for. I’ll admit that military life has greatly influenced the length of this list. But when I focus all my energy on what I don’t have right now, I miss out on what I do have, many of which actually come from being a military wife. As much I desire the things which aren’t available to me because we are a military family, I know that this life has already given me more than I could have ever hoped for in the nine years I have been a part of it.

It is what it is. This is life, right here, right now. I am a military wife. My kids are at a difficult age. I live in a ridiculously crowded area with too much traffic. That which I cannot change, I must simply accept. I must surrender the battle with my expectations and just let it be. If I must wait, then so be it. There is plenty of goodness in this life to fill my soul until the next big thing gets here. And when that happens, I want to know that I didn’t spend my time waiting in vain, but I accepted with gratitude each and every day as a valuable piece to the story of my life.