For me, the week my active duty Air Force husband goes in to full-time work at his new squadron is the week I start feeling depressed. Even though I know this stage of the process is coming, it doesn’t help soften the blow. It’s an ugly, gnawing, isolating, smothering bubble of roar-in-your-ears, stick-me-on-a-kebab-skewer-and-call-me-done emptiness that I can’t ever see a clear way out of while I’m spinning in it.
What might have been a fairly smooth permanent change of station (PCS), (which, in the case of this most recent move, it totally has been), suddenly becomes a backstabbing Spartan warrior-villain, evilly laughing at me from the rim of the bottomless pit he’s just power-kicked me in to, and, though I try, I just can’t seem to get my toes to dig in properly to the footholds I told myself would be there this time.
I. AM. THE DREADED POST-PCS!!!
The mission-focused activity of prepping our previous house and our belongings before the move, the bittersweet beauty of saying goodbye to what I had come to know, to love, to possess an auto-pilot comfort in belonging to at our prior duty station – all of that is in the rearview mirror and growing ever-distant.
The thrilling, fresh excitement of our multi-day road trip, replete with shared but satisfyingly manageable challenges and of hobbit-skipping “We’re going on an adventure!” glee has been put into deep space stasis for the next three years.
That constant, silly banter between my husband and myself over our travel walkie talkies . . .
Did you see that palm reader sign?
Whooooa. I’ve only ever seen those in movies.
Do you think there’s an alligator in that ditch over there?
Please let us never get stationed here.
That old-time diner has strawberry pie for breakfast.
The pups say it’s too hot.
I think I miss Alaska.
Is it too late to admit I have cold feet about
moving to Texas?
Well, definitely not COLD feet . . .
It’s a Buc-ee’s!
Let’s do this.
. . . has been replaced by long days of silence in this paradoxically empty and chockablock new house, strained blips of only necessary conversation through weekday dinners, and too-short weekends where we catch up on our marriage and take giant gulps of each other’s company in anticipation of the relationally barren Monday to come.
The adjustment period of figuring out how “we” work in a new duty station is never a painless transition."Maybe if I bump my head against the military moving boxes, they'll ding like Super Mario mystery blocks, and out will drop our perfectly organized, unbroken belongings . . ." @iwillwaitvsp Click To Tweet
Boxes V. To-Dos
Sure, there’s plenty to explore in our new area, but the movers have come and gone, and our house is now groaning under the weight of our wobbling towers of boxes. Maybe if I bump my head against the military moving boxes, they’ll ding like Super Mario mystery blocks, and out will drop our perfectly organized, unbroken belongings before stuffing themselves — Mary Poppins-style — right into all of our empty cabinets and closets.
A trip out to start enjoying all the cool stuff around us, by myself, when my husband is hard at work in his new unit or too tired after the long work day to do anything but wolf down dinner and crawl into bed and when I haven’t even found our bath towels so we can stop having to choose which body part to fully dry with our mini travel ones? That feels like an undeserved meal with a guilty side of this-house-won’t-unpack-itself.
What to do instead? Intentionally, I could unpack a new room every day, power through, and be in the running for MSOY (Military Spouse of the Year). But the rest of my life demands can make that downright unfeasible. All of the responsibilities that were blissfully put on hold during our road trip and initial temporary living hotel days start jumping up and down on my over-heated brain for my attention. I want to unpack and turn our house back into the sanctuary I know it can be, but those tasks threaten to drive me crazy if I don’t put the box-cutter down this instant and address them:
- clawing a daily routine back for myself and our pups
- remembering that I probably should’ve called Tricare months ago to set up that new specialist medical appointment
- realizing I forgot to plan ahead for *insert everything from sending cards on loved one’s birthdays to double-checking on whether or not our previous garage belongings would fit into the new garage* (Spoiler alert: They don’t and are currently roasting in their totes in the Texas sun while I scramble to find a shed that doesn’t cost as much as my first car.)
- attempting to start cooking again because eating out every day just isn’t sustainable for our budget or cardiovascular health
- re-dedicating myself to my own career, since it has inevitably suffered while we’ve been in limbo-land
- the million and one things that inevitably accompany moving to an entirely new part of the country
Personally, these mental trampoline-bouncing responsibilities scream so loudly that I find myself wishing the packers had thought to mark which of my boxes contain magic, stress-cancelling headphones and an inflatable safe room . . . and feeling utterly, totally paralyzed.
I wish I could say that, after having had seven different addresses in the last six years, (and many more before that), that this “post-PCS blah” valley gets easier to climb out of or that, because I know it’s coming, I can somehow re-route the PCS train to head straight for the over-the-hump mountains, but I haven’t found those superpowers yet.
What I can do is to start recognizing the small victories, (hey, stuffing your backpack into a random closet so you quit tripping on it is an accomplishment), to be kind to myself, no matter how much I feel like a failure for being on Team Groundhog Day of “I’m sure this PCS will be different . . . but it’s not,” and to wipe the smirk off that post-PCS Spartan villain every time I’m able to climb another foot out of this hole.
Today, I’m counting sitting down with pen and paper as my victory. I didn’t follow my Type-A to-do list to finish setting up my office so my work space is clear, professional, and beautiful before allowing myself to write. Instead, I crashed into no fewer than five boxes, covered up an electrical outlet I was preparing to plug my laptop into, pushed aside a pile of clutter on my desk, scrambled for a notebook, and perched precariously on my half-reassembled office chair to start furiously scribbling. And that, it turns out, is just what I needed.
I know I can’t trade in my zip code of this post-PCS valley of blah for one at higher altitudes quite yet, but it feels so good to do what I love, to start finding more and more of those footholds, and to start figuring out what “me” looks like in destination “new home for now” of this military life of ours.
And that’s good enough to make me look forward to the better views up ahead.
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