Stretching, Risking and Growing: Lessons Learned from a PCS

Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Music to my ears (well, the past 12 out of 20 years)!

Yes, I was a spouse that actually loved and embraced a PCS. After serving active duty for 10 years, and another 16 years as a military spouse, I’ve seen my share of changes. For the sake of this article, let’s say PCS stands for “Permanent Change of Self,” because that’s actually what happens, and we should embrace it as a privileged opportunity. Each move broadens experiences and turns on a different level of emotions. Once our minds expand from being exposed to new people, places and things, it doesn’t shrink or ever go back to its original size. We are forever changed! How cool is that?

Now don’t mistake my love of change as saying change is easy; I’m not saying that at all. Change can be painful, but it’s instant and doesn’t take much time, contrary to what most think. What takes time is the adjustment and the resetting of your mind to the new thing you’ve been introduced to.

I want to share with you some of the tools I have added to my toolbox over the past 20 years of military tours and travel. I hope they serve you well and you, too, can find the beauty in every PCS move. As you read, I ask you see these as tools to support you through not just your PCS, but also the everyday life changes we as military spouses encounter.

The Gift of Memory Loss

When I first left home in Dallas in 1997, I compared everything to “back at home.” Although this may have felt good for a hot second, it wasn’t serving me to always be in a state of “what used to be.” To adapt to my new norm I had to stop remembering what was and focus on what is. I’m not saying throw away your memories; I’m simply saying slide them over to allow room for new ones to form.

At the completion of every duty station I would take myself through this cleansing and pruning ritual. I called it a “tour in review.” I wrote down all of my experiences, resisting the urge to put them in good or bad boxes — simply experiences. I would reflect on that list to see how every one of them taught me a valuable lesson.

We experience higher consciousness and maturity when we work to avoid splitting our experiences by labeling them as good or bad. All experiences provide an opportunity for learning. It’s important for us to leave our experiences open and let them speak to us as we listen to seek knowledge, but not always understanding. Understanding certainly has its place, but I had to learn to not be so in my head all the time, needing to understand it before I was able to accept it.

We often miss the opportunity for transformation by having such a rigid grip on who we once were, and what used to be. The truth is, we were never really who we thought we were because we are always becoming. Maybe that’s why we experience memory loss as we age; it’s life’s way of saying, “Let it go. Just be with your current experience.”

The Gift of Surrendering

Now that we have started to embrace all experiences as lessons to teach us, let’s talk about “letting go,” which is different from not remembering and requires a greater level of maturity and awareness. I once held the belief that letting go meant to not care or to be unbothered by an event or person.

Being the mind fanatic I am, this didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to let it go, but I didn’t like the idea of pretending it didn’t matter when in all actuality it did matter — a lot! I’ve since learned letting go (or forgiveness) allows our hearts to expand in every area, not just toward the person or experience we are begrudging.

So you’re probably asking, “What does forgetting and forgiving have to do with growing while PCSing?” It has everything to do with it. As a military spouse, making genuine connections wasn’t always easy.

Most of the time we didn’t stay in a place long enough to weather the storms fruitful relationships experience, so I had very shallow and surface friendships. Carrying on in this manner for many years can leave a lot of dangling connections and loose affiliations, which often get carried from one place to the next. Leave each unpleasant experience in the place it happened — behind you — but not before examining it to get the lesson.

The Gift of Access and Exposure

When I think about where I grew up, which I often do since I recently returned to my childhood home, the thought that comes to my mind is gratefulness. I’m grateful to have traveled the world, experienced different cultures and befriended different races and religions all while doing work I truly loved: serving. My perspective on life, love, relationships, health, wealth and many other subjects is vastly different as a result of the exposure.

Each duty station, each career switch, each base indoc brief, each goodbye to old friends and each hello to friends brings with it the possibility for delicious experiences. Choose to forget, let go and embrace more of the things that await you at your new duty station. You’ll never be who you were yesterday, and if you allow it, today will always produce a better version resulting in a “Permanent Change of Self”!

I’d love to hear from you. Please share with us some of the valuable lessons you’ve learned during transition. As military spouses, we have a unique bond. We are able to understand each other in ways no other population can. So I believe it’s important for us to reach up, out and down as much as and as often as we can.

I’m your sister in success.

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