Resiliency. Yes, I have thought about resiliency many times. The resiliency that military spouses must have and must constantly cultivate. I have spent so much time pondering that. But flexibility? No. Surprisingly I had not thought about flexibility.
But we must be flexible, “capable of bending easily without breaking.” Interesting that it’s so close to the definition of resilience: “the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched.
It takes flexibility to be resilient.
Flexibility is enduring your infant’s hospital admission while your Soldier is deployed. Twice. Flexibility is walking out of her hospital room as she screams for her mama so that you can return home to your other children–because someone has to be with them through night. It is returning the next morning, exhausted, to hold her and love her until they release her home. It’s deciding to use that as a learning experience, an opportunity to see the other sicker children, and be thankful it’s not as bad as that.
Flexibility is having a hole busted into the length of your post housing’s wall with family in town, practically relegating everyone to one bathroom. It’s being thankful your dad is retired military, so your family knows how to roll with this. Flexibility is being told to vacate the house multiple times because of that hole, even though one daughter has pneumonia and one has a kidney infection. It’s also knowing when to stand your ground and tell them to come back later. The children need rest.
Flexibility is found in the bittersweet video calls; getting frustrated with the delays, misinterpreting the frustration and then getting into an argument. Then, swallowing your pride to salvage the conversation. Flexibility is doing this everyday, receiving the calls in the most hectic moments of your day (because that’s always when they call), and trying to deal with the children while being present. It’s also knowing that you need sleep despite wanting to see his face, and asking if you can just talk tomorrow.
Flexibility is helping your neighbor, even though inside your house— chaos reigns. Helping with food for the funeral because her husband just passed away. Watching your neighbor’s kids, even though you feel like your pulling your hair out with your own. Because they would do the same for you.
Flexibility is calling on strangers to help, when asking for help is a deeply difficult for you. It’s humbling yourself to ask for food, prayers, even babysitting in the middle of the night when an ER trip turns into a hospital stay. It’s allowing others to offer their love and support, and saying yes to their offer to help while tears sting at your eyes. Because you can no longer say no. It’s calling that best friend at ten o’clock at night, knowing you can cry hard, because if you bend one more time you might just break.
Flexibility is packing up the house again, changing schools and jobs again, because it’s time. It’s learning the way around a new city, maybe for the fourth time in a year. It’s suddenly getting orders, even though the military promised you’d be rooted down for longer. It’s last-second extended TDY, missing the holidays, learning to navigate this life for the first time while your new husband is at basic.
Flexibility is thinking a four month deployment is going to be a breeze, and then barely keeping it together when it turns into constant crises. It’s saying yes to that year and then overcoming panic, even if you’ve had months to prepare. It’s stepping up and stepping into the spouse’s shoes while keeping your own on. And you are doing this for your kids, extended family, the unit. It’s remembering each day why you said “yes” to this life and “I do” to your spouse. Because you have to constantly remind yourself.
It’s turning what could be a negative journey into a positive adventure on a small or large scale. The late night trip to the grocery store because you promised a meal for the potluck, and the kids are along for the ride. Because that’s how it has to be. Instead of complaining, you turn it into a memory. It’s dropping the dishes and the dirty laundry to go upstairs and pull them all into one bed so that you can hold onto something more special than dishwater and detergent. Hang onto the time that slips by, both a blessing and a curse.
It’s learning to not care about bedtime, especially if structure is your anchor. It means packing them up for the pool at bedtime, just for fun. And being proud at how, yes, flexible, you’ve become. Because when you started out this journey, you were anything but flexible.
It’s realizing how increasingly less you’ve yelled as the deployment wore on. Because you are cultivating more flexibility.
Flexible is standing firm about what’s best for your family and your children, while your spouse is away. Saying no, rescheduling, even though they may not understand. Even if it makes them angry.
Being flexible, learning to bend easily, leads to being able to return to original form. But do we return to our original form? Not completely. We gain new strength, new confidence, new limits. We gain increased resiliency for the next time when we must be flexible again.