The Decision

The last 38 months has been the greatest period of growth in my life, but it has also been the most difficult trek undertaken. This track isn’t over a physically demanding rocky crag, and most of it is hidden from probing glances, but I would have chosen to crawl on bloodied knees up the unending mountain over the journey I am on. There are no roadmaps or formulas for grief. People assume they know from their own experiences, but the internal battles are all mine. Fear often consumes me as I consider my options, my journey, and my tomorrows. This week, I made a decision that has caused me the most distress since Phil died because I know that I am giving up on something I love doing, leaving the best boss I have ever had, and I am opting to establish roots for the long term somewhere I have never even been.

One of the difficult components of a military widows journey is that after years of being married, home is a person versus a place. In the immediate aftermath of the traumatic unexpected death, comes the realization that decisions must be made quickly. I was told that I had one year to decide where to move. If we had been on base, and we always had been until Colorado, I would have been forced out of base housing. If I had children in school, they would have lost a parent, athletic and activity eligibility, their social network, and other important adult connections. I only had myself to think about. I was too old to want to go home to my parents In Boise, ID where I hadn’t lived since the 80’s when I went to Boise State, and I was too young to go live with my children living all over the world with the military. I loved Colorado, but I could not deal with my own grief, let alone everyone else’s at the time. I fled to Germany where I bought myself some time to think about where I wanted to live. I knew that Germany wasn’t forever; it was a stopping ground to catch my breath.

It was in Germany that the growth started to emerge into a passion and into a voice. I wrote as a way to process my journey. My writing was never about a book or to impress anyone. I just felt so alone. I felt that nobody understood what I was going through except other military widows. I no longer fit any where. I was too young to have buried a husband the way I buried mine. I had seen my husband’s body broken to the point that it couldn’t be fixed enough for an open casket and so that it hurts to think about even now. I had to deal with the media from minute one never realizing that I would get a voice and find purpose by speaking about military loss and my military brothers and sisters who carried me then and who carry me now. I never realized that I would change and that my passion and life work would change so dramatically—that I would change to the point that I can barely recognize the girl peering back in the mirror.

I have always been a simple girl who didn’t need or want for much outside of faith, my Phil, my children, and running. I thought I knew what my future looked like and I wanted for nothing more. Something shifted when Phil died. I spent so much time terrified and alone. As time has slowly inched forward, I have become more confident in my decisions and I have developed dreams apart from Phil. A year ago, I went to a course with the military that ignited a fire in me. I had applied for another master’s degree prior to that course, but I was stuck in a state of inertia and pity parties. When the course reignited that flame to speak on recovery, resiliency, and to coordinate resources and to educate on unique military stressors to the member and to the families, I took a step of action. I started school while I was still in the course.

For one year, I have worked full time, gone to school full time, and run. It left little time for anything else, yet I realized that when school was done that I would want the job in the area and that I would want a life outside of work. I never expected to be given the opportunity to do my job on base, but miracles happen and I have been doing the job since December. It is the job I have been called to do the past 38 months. I love teaching PE and English, and I think I am pretty good at both, but never have I felt the need for me to do something as much as I feel compelled to the Community Support Coordinator job. Part of me yearns to run away and to teach so that I can have my summers and holidays off, but I know where my biggest reach is—I see firsthand the impact of deployments, moves, draw downs, etc on families and on the military member. I am in a unique position because I have lived this first as a spouse of an enlisted man with five young children, then as a officer’s wife, now as a mother of military children, civilian worker, and as a Gold Star wife….I know this walk because it is who I am and what I have lived. I have unique qualifications that people gravitate towards because our circles overlap on some front.

I live in MA right now. I have never felt like I fit here. Some of it were the events of last spring, but more than that, I just haven’t found people to hang out with. When I had to spend the night in the hospital in November, I realized how alone I was here. It scared me. It made me wonder how long it would be before someone missed me if I didn’t show up to work. My children live flung all over the world. I do not expect people to include me or to want to be my friend, but I need something more. I have been content because I was detailed (temporarily given) the job I am being called to do. I work for an amazing boss who is patient and genuinely nice. He teaches me and never makes me feel like I have failed. He has been supportive on every front and he took an interest in me enough that when he asks if I am doing okay, I know he means it. Many of you know how rare this is. It is also what makes the decision to leave harder.

I finished school and the job is what this fire is about. I have been watching the job vacancies for a year. There haven’t been any in this position until now. I was told that I didn’t qualify at my level here, thus I applied for the job in South Carolina which at the time was the only job like this open. When my name was referred to the selecting officials, I was up front about it here. The job finally opened here. Meantime, the job in South Carolina closed and my references were checked. I never had an interview. I was offered the job last week with two days to decide. I had prayed that God would give me the job he wanted first never expecting to be hired without an interview. I had to decide based on a concrete job offer versus a “hope to get and hope that nobody bumps me in the priority system” here. When I called the boss in SC, he said the one thing that essentially swayed my decision, “We need you here. We need your story and the way you speak about it.” I never interviewed,thus the information must have come from the internet.

I have never been to Charleston and by taking this job, I am walking away from my dream of teaching PE in CO, a boss that I love, and a condo that I love. As someone wryly pointed out, there is nothing about family or friends or a life outside of work. I want that and have prayed three years for connections. This person knows me from an online group. It was then that my heart knew. it is time to close my eyes and cannonball into the unknown unchartered waters. I am afraid, but I am ready for the challenge. The tears are for what I leave behind and for the closing of the last doors of the remnants of my old life.

Comments

  1. Tracy P says:

    Love you! Excited for your next chapters – thanks for letting us walk with you and hold your hand!

  2. Denise and Matt says:

    So very excited for you and proud of you Linda! Keeping you in our thoughts! 🙂

  3. Maybe I have a little southeast in me?

  4. Becky Bibler (Small) says:

    Awesome Linda! Big hugs from Utah!

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