Why is it so late? I stare at the cursor on the screen blinking numbingly at me. A metronome of impatient, punctuated pauses. Write something, it demands. My eyelids feel heavy under the betrayal of an ineffective energy drink, and stale pretzel crumbs pepper my t-shirt. A deadline looms — T-minus about 47 minutes to complete the words that feel clumsy and fractured and stuck.
Here’s my trouble:
I don’t belong here. Not in this group of spouses. Not in this magazine. Not now. Not anymore.
I guess I lost that privilege. I lost it without even knowing it was lose-able.
Perhaps a little background? A 12-year military marriage, FRG leader, writer for Military Spouse magazine (lots of articles about healthy marriages – is there an emoji face for, “well, that escalated quickly”?), and I held a year-long stint as 2014 Utah National Guard Spouse of the Year, a nomination for which I’m pretty sure lacked any competition. I planned the unit picnics, ran fundraisers, baked sheet pans of treats, bought diapers for new unit babies, organized suh-weet holiday parties. I advocated for spouses and soldiers feeling the weight of addiction and mental illnesses. I felt the burden of four deployments, two of which were complete with tender new babes born during leave. This world was fiercely and undeniably mine.
Surprise. Shock. Brutal emotions spun me around faster than those throw-up spinning rides at the state fair.
My sudden divorce catapulted me into a brand new world where I am neither military nor spouse. The rapidity of being shunted out far exceeded my expectations. Five stars for quick service on a Google review. Buh-bye. I’m not invited to the picnics that I had planned or the summer soaks at the base pool (okay, sometimes I invite myself). The old guy at the ID booth stopped remembering my name. My military ID expired, which means no 25% off discount at the local Tex-Mex place.
And now I don’t belong here in your world. A middle-school misfit, dressed in thrift store hand-me-downs and dollar store makeup, trying desperately to squeeze back into a tight-knit social circle.
I have lost the intrinsic sense of belonging that I felt with people who understood. Who bonded over absences and farewells and heartbreak. Who knew intimately the same pain and grief and joy and pride that I knew. Who felt and gave compassion and empathy. And I still crave it. I crave it with an insatiable kind of homesickness.
So I wonder: Who determines the boundaries of a community? Who decides who is allowed within the perimeter and who is left to loiter along its edges?
Was it me? Did I assume my place was outside of your circle? Yet, how long should we fight for our right to stay against apologetic “Sorry bout your misfortune love you see ya,” platitudes? Did I have to pack my bags to make room in this community for my ex-husband’s new gal? Why does that mean that I had to get the boot? 12 years sure seemed long enough to get a lifetime membership card with a free oil change, or did I need 12+?
So I ask again: Who decides who belongs?
Because here’s the thing (in all caps because I’m standing on a soapbox and shouting into a megaphone):
AREN’T WE ALL MISFITS?
Literally. Let’s lay this out, baby. We aren’t a perfectly curated community. Our community (yes, OURS) is shaped by beautifully different backgrounds, complete with an abundance of ethnicities, ages, genders, religions, and preferences, like those who order water with lemon and those who think that’s guh-ross. We are a proverbial pizza with ALL the toppings — a little messy and created from experiences and traditions and histories (but no mushrooms).
We are the misfits. There is no mononymous label that we can affix to our spousal identity. We are retired and divorced. Widowed and widowers. We are LGBTQ+. We are male and female, seasoned and inexperienced. Childless. Parents. Dog moms. Snake owners.
And frankly, my darling, who gives one damn about semantics? We are part of something richer and bigger than ourselves. We are a community built on support and compassion and outreach.
I am still here. You are still here.
WE. STILL. FIT. HERE.
Let’s misfit together.