Military Spouse Resiliency Training–Let’s Stop Sugar Coating

I am training key spouses tomorrow on resiliency–why it matters.  I understand this walk as a military spouse on every front.  Below this is my introduction to the topic–notice there is not one word about my loss in it.  I would be the visible reminder as to what could happen to their spouses.  I am all in when it comes to resiliency and training, BUT….like everything else, it seems like the military waters this down for families again.  Why?  I say that we teach skills like counting our blessings, the importance of humor (which builds optimism), faith, physical activity, and taking care of one’s self.  I say that we talk about connections and being wingmen when our spouses are gone.  Sadly, it is a military culture that has changed.  I know because I lived it.  I hope that my words touch a chord some where tomorrow, but let’s stop condensing and sugar coating.  Military spouses are stronger than any people I know.  Don’t they deserve to have the training and the affirmation that what they are doing does matter in the lives of their children and their spouses?  Below is my introduction.  Maybe it isn’t the canned version, but it is why I hope they will listen:

 

The Military Spouse

      When I began my journey as a military spouse, little did I know what was in store for me.  I had stars in my eyes as I considered all of the fun romantic places we were going to see.  If only I knew what kind of journey I would be on.  Ten moves in 26 years, too many deployments to remember, and a life time of saying hello and goodbye to people, places, homes, and jobs.  Oh, yes, I traveled and saw the romantic places–usually alone with five fighting children in tow.

      While my Phil got to be the Disneyland parent because he was always coming and going, my job was to create the home base, and to be the positive spin master when everyone was upset that Uncle Sam was moving us or taking Phil tdy ….AGAIN.  Three of my children went to three different high schools and had to move their senior year of high school.  Who bore the brunt of the children’s angst.  You got it!  The mom who was supposed to fix the injustices of the world and fix the boo boos.

     While Phil was on vacation…ahem….tdy, I was birthing children alone, moving five children alone twice, going to high school and USAFA graduations alone, dealing with appliances and cars dying, surgeries, illness, and a family member’s death alone.  Home? We lived on base in some good houses, but we also spent 4 years in stairwell living  in Germany.  Imagine carrying groceries up to the top floor (11 landings) with a 15 month old and a 3 year old. 

     Back in the dark ages, there was no Give Parents a Break, computers, internet, or even phone access sometimes.  How did I survive?  I eagerly stalked the mailbox and counted the days until my airman came home.  Was it easy?  No.  Would I do it again?  Why, yes, yes, I would.  We military wives are stronger than anyone I know.  We know how to put on our happy faces, support our airmen, and we know how to be everything for everyone.  Sometimes we get a little too good at it.  We forget and we lose ourselves in the process.  Resiliency is something that is our strength, but we all need to recognize two things.  First, we all have a breaking spot.  Nobody knows where that point of no return is.  Second, we can build our finite capacity for coping which is what this resilience training is all about.  Today is a small snap shot.

     This small snap shot will briefly introduce the skills taught in resiliency.  You may already be doing many of these skills, but as the backbone of your families, these skills and skill practice prepare us for the inevitable life slams.  These skills give people a way to positively react versus what tends to happen.  Many times we get to the point as military spouses where we feel like we have to have the perfect children and we have to have the stoicism to put on our happy faces.  I cannot be the only one like this. 

     It felt like the higher in rank that Phil got, the more insular and more curtains we put up.  It wasn’t intentional.  We felt like we were supposed to be setting the examples for the people working under Phil.  The problem is that it limited resources and isolated both of us–me most of all because he deployed.  When people get stressed out without the coping strategies, or without relief, or expression, then  self-destructive behavior occurs.  This self-destructive behavior is not only geared to self, but our children are impacted, also.  This resiliency training provides a tool box of skills that can be utilized with families not to avoid the hard times, but to survive some of the hard moments.

     In conclusion, there is a cost to this life.  Yes, I would choose it again, and four of my five children have chosen it, however let me put this into perspective.  Here at Hanscom our military spouses self-reported at risk drinking behaviors at nearly twice the reported Air force level.  When I was in Ansbach, Germany, I gave the stress test to 124 7th-8th grade health students.  Anything over 100 points is an indicator predicting illness.  I never expected the results I got.  118 of those 124 students scored between 480 and 500 points.  Why?  They had parents deploying for the 8th or 9th time, parents coming home looking normal but bearing the invisible scars of having seen too much and lost even more, neighbors not coming home, friends moving in and out of their lives, normal teen drama, family not living close, and I could go on.  Resiliency matters.  Practicing many different resiliency skills better equips and prepares  us for the incoming body slams that are inevitable in this life.

     This is a normal eight hour training.  You will be getting a very brief overview.  I am willing to come and speak to spousal groups, chapel groups, etc.  I know the strength you have as military spouses.  I salute you and I stand with you.

 

Linda K. Ambard

 

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