So many times I hear military spouses say that they have lost all of their civilians friends. That their non-military friends just can't understand the life they are living. That the only friends they have - that the only friends they need - are their fellow military spouses.
I know that this life is difficult to understand. I know that this life can be "inconvenient" to many. I know that friendships don't always continue over a lifetime.
I know that we are strengthened by the women surrounding us. I know that we are motivated to push through by witnessing those before us thriving. I know that the friend we will call when we just have that "feeling" will be one who will know what we are battling without asking for an explanation.
There is a unbreakable bond between military spouses. There is a beauty and a goodness and a strength in the sisterhood.
Whenever I hear of a newer spouse struggling with holding onto or letting go of civilian friendships my whole heart hurts. I understand that we often "think" they just can't get it. And, yes, sometimes there are some people who just cannot understand. I think very often military spouses think they can only share this journey with the military wives that walk it with them. I find that so often spouses see their pre-military-life friendships as stalled or irrelevant when they marry an military man.
These friendships matter.
I have said before that I am richly blessed in my friendships. I cherish those around me and those who carry little pieces of who I am in different parts of the world. I am so grateful for my dear, Army wife friend who called today and put a little of the big, big world into perspective today. I am grateful for my "army mom" currently at Fort Drum who has given me so many of the tools I cling to on the hardest of days. I am grateful for my Fort Campbell Core who has scattered to every corner of the US and Europe. These women showed me so much of who I am, so many parts of me that I didn't know were gifts. They planted my Army roots and then gave me my wings.
Texas, Alaska, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Kansas, California, Washington, Ohio, Indiana, Germany, Italy and so many places in between there are pieces of me in the friendships I hold with the Army wives who are passing through these posts along their journeys.
The people who have been placed along our path have everything to do with how we fight through the harder days, how we love through the rough spots. They teach us and mold us and strengthen us.
I am grateful for the friendships this military life has afforded me.
So much of this journey, so much of this blogging journey, has strengthened my civilian friendships. So many times in the beginning I didn't think the friends that were there first would understand the life I led now. I had heard people talk about how these friendships wouldn't last. So much of me believed that from the get-go. I had heard little of civilian friendships continuing to strengthen as the lifestyle continued. It wasn't put into my head that these precious friendships would be successful.
So much of why I started this blog (and I know you have heard this from me over and over) was to begin a dialogue - to extend-a-hand. To give insight. To offer a share in this very special journey.
So much of why I write is for you - for the Army wives, for the military spouses - who need to know that you are not alone in the battle. But so much more of why I started was for the many of you who were just like me - before I met C, before I lived through my first combat deployment, before I heard my husband dictate his funeral, before I watched a friend deliver her first child with her husband six-thousand-miles-away, before I knew what it meant to truly love your country, to be willing to sacrifice and fight for something. I began to write for the me that couldn't understand.
The dialogue this created is - beyond words - one of my greatest blessings. The awareness, the understanding, the outpouring of empathy in place of sympathy is something I consider a victory.
You cannot understand when example and explanation is not offered. You cannot demand of a friend to "get-it" when you most likely didn't "get-it" either.
Give your friends a chance, and another, and another, and another. Extend your hand. Share the journey, invite them to be part of it.
The armor you build comes from every corner of your life. Not just the side that has lived through the battle. The military sector is not the only part that has shaped who you are, it is not the only part that will offer repair and polish and replacement.
I have been blessed by the windows this has opened in the civilian sector. I have been blessed by the smart questions civilian friends and acquaintances have come to me with. I have been humbled by the work that has been done, by the minds that have been stretched, by the hearts that have been opened.
I didn't scream from a rooftop that this life is better, that his life is more meaningful. I didn't demean those who do not live it. I didn't ridicule or shut out the people who built my character. Every comment I have heard from struggling spouse, every friendship cast aside, every chance that was left untaken to extend a hand, to offer a glimpse, breaks my heart.
We owe it to those who were there first to help them to understand.
Some friendships do not last forever. Some people do not want to learn. Some minds do not want to be open.
I have been blessed to learn, again and again, that so many do.