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Balancing The Scales

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It’s that time of year when our taste buds have to choose between pumpkin spice or apple cider. …when we have to figure out whether or not we’re close enough to reasonably go home to family for the holidays or if it’s a year for Friendsgiving and the inevitable search for the dining room table leaves we’re not sure made it through that terrible PCS three moves ago. …when that slightly manic feeling starts tightening our chests every time we look at our calendars losing more and more white space to holiday events, family commitments, school closures, and frantic shopping trips for one more perfect gift.

At the same time, we’re supposed to override that mania by feeling grateful for “all the things.” This sharp incongruence between our stress-induced eye twitches and forced smiles of serenity can cause us to feel even more stressed, miserable, and inadequate.

As military spouses, life struggles are often beyond the norm of what most people have to cope with. Our heads and hearts reel as stability is taken away, change is a constant companion, and being “out of our comfort zones” loses its meaning since we can’t remember what a comfort zone even looks like. We can end up filling gratitude journals with fluff answers or just leaving them blank altogether.

This year, I want to balance the scales by embracing my eye twitches and realizing I can have gratitude in abundance, simply by changing my perspective. I can choose to be thankful for what isn’t in my life, since there’s a lot of “hard” that is. This year, I’m choosing to be grateful for the “nots.”

I am grateful that my husband is not on the other side of the world from me. I’m grateful that I am not going to make myself sick on cranberry salad because I’m the only one eating it and that I’m not going to cry looking at Christmas decorations I forced myself to still put up, (even though our pups are the only ones home to appreciate them). I am grateful that, even if my friends are far away or still brand new, being at a new duty station does not mean I am without friends entirely. I am grateful that, even if it’s not the living situation that we had envisioned, we are not homeless. I am grateful that I am not in a season of winter in my soul, even if I can’t say I’m frolicking with rainbows and butterflies. …and I can choose to love the identity I’m rebuilding and discovering, even if it’s not the one I had envisioned for myself. I’m grateful that this crazy, amazing, adventurous military life does not crush my spirit, even if it means that I have to color outside the lines to see the whole picture. If this life as a military spouse has taught me anything, it’s that, when I experience the “nots” – the opposite of what I thought life would look like – I end up with countless, unforeseen things for which to be truly grateful.

If you’re feeling anxious or stressed right now, if you’re having a really difficult time finding something meaningful to be grateful for, I would challenge you to take a moment to step back and to try to fill that empty space honestly with your “nots.” If that feels like being challenged to eat the whole dang turkey by yourself, let VSP help you find your inspiration.

VSP is a community in which you don’t have to plaster that fake, festive, pass-the-mashed-potatoes-while-my-brain-starts-smoking-out-my-ears smile on your face because, spouses, VSP is here to support you in both the stressful times and in celebrating the joy there is to be had in our holiday season. We want to connect you with your own tribe who totally gets it, who totally understands that sometimes we have years in this rollercoaster of a military life where gratitude can be so much harder to find than those forgotten dining room table leaves. …so join us, here, in this space, where your “nots,” eye twitches, and the battle between pumpkin spice or apple cider are all welcome.

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Veterans Spouse Project (VSP) is the only nonprofit arts organization in the nation working to give voice to the experiences of military spouses through theatre and expressive arts. Learn more about how to share, connect, listen and create with us in your community. 

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