I’m unsettled. Lately, this restlessness has manifested in our home with rearranging furniture, painting an accent wall, cleaning out the medicine cabinet at 10pm, and organizing the space under my sink.
I suspect most military spouses can identify what prompted these activities: It’s PCS Season. [PCS = Permanent Change of Station: A military directed move from the place you currently call ‘home.’ Caveat to the definition? It’s not permanent. It’s for a year or two, maybe three if you’re lucky.]
Except, our family isn’t moving this summer. We did in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Actually, we’ve moved 5 times since 2010, so it’s not too surprising that I’m conditioned for “spring cleaning” in the summer. But as I purged Children’s Tylenol that expired in 2016 I realized that the unsettled feeling isn’t limited to military families with orders to GO.
Whether we move or not, our world splinters every summer. From May to August, we’re either saying “see you later” because we’re moving, or because someone who has been a constant in our life is leaving, or both. Our calendars fill with one last play date, a girls night out, and last suppers. We celebrate what we’ve had, and we hope against hope we’ll find it again.
There’s a picture of my youngest holding hands with three of her preschool best friends.
Recently she pulled this picture out alongside another picture of just two of them. She wants to tape both of them to the wall by her bed. “She’s moving. I want to see her every day when she’s gone, so I’ll put it right here.”
The absence of this precious blonde ball of energy will leave a hole in this little group of friends.
But I’m sadder than she is. I know what late July will look like and I’m already missing this precious child and her mom who has been a rock for me in so many ways across many seasons of life. I’ve moved away from her twice and this time I’m the one left behind. Although I can confidently reassure my daughter that we’ll see them again, sooner than later, the absence of these friends will be a hole we feel deeply.
This gypsy life exposes the hole inside each of us. We’re lonely, and the constant revolving door of friendships reveals an ache that requires lasting relationship.
In this way, life as a military spouse has given me a precious gift.
Eventually all of us will learn not to take relationships for granted, but life in the military means you learn it quickly, and often. Frequent moves and extended separations mean we discover how strong the relationships in our life really are. We’re reminded regularly why we need to pay attention to the real priorities in our lives. We learn not to get attached to the place or the things, but to the people.
So we love our people fiercely.
We squeeze them tight as they go, thankful our lives intersected for even a brief moment. We’re better because of who we’ve become together.
We welcome them with open arms (and food) when they arrive, hopeful for the friendship that may bloom between this summer and the next moving truck. These new neighbors will be our people, too.
Although we do it every summer, it doesn’t get easier. But the more I do it, the more I remember to love my people well.
And, I’m beginning to see the light shine through the splintered summers. There’s a radiance that glows out of the space between us. Their friendship brought light into my life while we walked the same path. As our paths diverge, the light extends: evidence of relationships that survive distance and transcends time.
THIS is life as a military spouse.
So long, sweet friends. Here’s to text messages that forget time zones and to reunions in fun locations. I’m so grateful for you.
Welcome neighbor, let’s be friends. I can’t wait to do life together for this moment in time.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27