My husband and I grew up in the Philadelphia area, and one of the nice things about being back on the East Coast has been reconnecting with friends from high school and college. Some of them are surprised to hear that I ended up marrying an Air Force pilot. In the normal flow of conversation, the subjects of deployments and frequent moves inevitably come up. It seems just another part of life to me, but they shake their heads in amazement.
“How do you do it?” they ask, as if I have some kind of other-worldly strength.
They wouldn’t be the first to suggest that military spouses come with a secret set of super powers. A friend posted on Facebook recently a cartoon of a woman, hands on hips, wearing a camo cape and Wonder Woman-style outfit. The caption read, “I am a military spouse. I have super powers.” It made me smile, but then I started to wonder. Are we special?
Our spouses are in this military lifestyle because they possess traits that drew them to it: patriotism, ambition and drive, a sense of adventure. I am in this lifestyle because I married someone who wore a uniform. Perhaps the experiences that I have gone through have left me with a better understanding of sacrifice or duty. Perhaps I have become better equipped to handle the curveballs that life throws at us.
But no. There is nothing inherently special about me because I am a military spouse. I was born no stronger or braver than any other woman who walks the planet. If I am special at all, it is because I married someone who does a special job, and when I signed up, I had to either keep up or get left behind.
I remember telling a friend how I flew by myself from London to San Francisco with two pre-schoolers to attend a family funeral. I wasn’t asking for sympathy or applause. It was just life. But she shook her head in disbelief.
“How do you do it?”
I don’t know. What’s the alternative? Put my fingers in my ears, go “La la la,” and pretend I’m not married to a pilot? Curl up in a ball under the kitchen table? Throw a tantrum about the unfairness of it all? Or do I just put on my big girl pants and carry on with life?
I am proud of what I’ve accomplished as a military spouse, particularly when my husband has been gone, but I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I have wanted to curl up under the kitchen table. I’m a mere human, and despite appearances to the contrary, military spouses aren’t born with super-human abilities.
I’m consistently amazed at the way other spouses are able to lead difficult lives with courage, grace, and humor. Maybe most of us weren’t born special, but I think we become special.
I am sure there are military spouses out there who face obstacles and ordeals that would leave even the most seasoned among us asking, “How do they do it?”
The answer is simple, really. Because it’s who we are. It’s what we do.