Dealing Hope

December 3, 2020

Strong As I Need to Be

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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In two days my husband and I celebrate our 25thanniversary- apart, with a 13 hour difference, and on two different continents. This time last year, we discussed celebrating our 25thin NYC. I wanted to see the city dressed up for Christmas. It sounded very romantic. We didn’t anticipate he would be in Japan on this day.

You see, he was planning to retire from the US Navy in June of 2020.  Then Covid hit and all plans were changed.  He ended up staying in and took what will be his last set of orders to Japan. Ok, no problem, we will celebrate our 25that Disney Tokyo and stay at the Disneyland Hotel. We even found very cheap tickets for me to fly out to meet him in Tokyo.  Of course Covid didn’t cooperate with our plans once again.  Visiting Japan right now is just not possible with quarantine restrictions. Even if they were to lift those restrictions today I haven’t even received my renewed passport yet. The passport agency is running very behind (because of Covid). I should be upset. I think most people would be. I know I’ll feel a bit sad, as I do miss him. I am disappointed we can’t be together. But it’s not the first time we have missed big milestones. We’ve missed quite a few anniversaries. In fact, on our very first anniversary he was deployed on a carrier somewhere in the Middle East.

I am not especially strong, or different than other women.  It is just something I have learned to handle from being a military spouse. We are all as strong as we need to be. I really believe that.  The military spouse faces unique challenges, if the marriage is worth it that spouse will find a way to make it through. Our military life has brought me some of the greatest sorrows and some of the greatest joys.  

That first deployment began after we moved to a new state and after I lost my best friend to a car accident.  I was only 22 and we hadn’t even been married a year at that point. I learned to lean on the companionship and community of the other spouses.  It was a sink or swim situation.  Either I could give up and move back “home” or dive in and swim harder. I decided I would swim.  I learned to “fake it until I make it” and I learned to be “Semper Gumby”- always flexible.  The separations, the missed holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, lost career opportunities, countless moves and changes of schools for the kids, were all hard.  But I have loved seeing new parts of the country and new countries.  Living overseas was an experience we will never forget.  My children have a broader world view than most of their peers who have lived in the same town their whole life.  The biggest joys of military life are homecomings.  It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  

I can’t count how many times someone has asked me how I was doing (with sympathy in their eyes), whenever hubby was deployed.  I always answered positively- doing great, keeping busy, etc.  I lived by that “fake it till you make it” creed. But I was really a duck in the water- calm at the surface and paddling like hell underneath- especially when the kids were little.  People didn’t really want to hear I was struggling at times.  They just wanted to tell me how “strong” I was. Sometimes, sometimes they even looked down on me.  One co-worker told me she made her husband get out of the military because SHE wasn’t going to put up with the deployments anymore.  It still irks me when I think about it, even though it was over 20 years ago. The good news is most people have been supportive over the years.

I saw a meme the other day that referred to military families and how they are un-phased by the changes in plans (i.e. vacations, moves etc.) that Covid has wrought upon us.  We military families are used to vacations being cancelled, missing birthday celebrations, etc.  It’s not to say we aren’t disappointed, but we are not shocked by a kink in our plans. So missing our 25thanniversary is disappointing, but I know we will make up for it. 

To tell you the truth, I never wanted to be married to someone in the military.  I grew up in San Diego, which has several Navy and Marine Corps bases.  I always swore I would never date a sailor or marine.  So when I met my husband at a country western bar and found out he was a sailor, I almost walked away.  I didn’t walk away, and we were inseparable from that day forward.  I’m so glad I stayed.  I can’t imagine a different life at this point.  This life has required me to find my strength and hone my independence skills.  It has taught me to appreciate the little things.  It has exposed me to different people, accents, cultures, and foods.  Even the hard lonely times, the times when I couldn’t find a job in the new area we moved to, or find childcare, or just have someone to talk to- have all been worth it.  

We are almost at the finish line of our military life.  My sailor has less than three years before he hits the 30 year mark, which is the maximum time he can stay in. We are now dreaming of and making plans for our future together.  One that is just about us.  We have a lot of missed time to make up for.  And we have that 30thanniversary celebration to plan for.  I can’t wait.

Fancy Y.

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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