Being a military wife for so long, I learned a few hard truths about my world and the way things work in it. One of the most important of those things being friendships. When you have to cut your roots short and replant yourself every few years, it makes for a pretty disjointed garden. People come and go in it with regularity. Some are like weeds, some are fair-weather flowers, and some are like creeping vines which surround you and never let you go, even from afar.
I’ve almost always successfully eliminated the weeds in my world, I’m acquainted with some of the fair-weather flowers who come and go, but I have found with MarshFox retiring that I have fewer vines in my life than anything else. I’ve also come to realize, that’s okay. It’s as it should be. There is a total of less than a half-dozen of these vines who reach out and touch me from miles and miles away. We didn’t retire anywhere near any of the places we’ve lived in our travels. In fact, we chose somewhere that was about as far away as we could get, needing the quiet for a while so as to help with our adjustment into the “real” world. My vines are about the only people who have full access to all of me right now. We communicate regularly and we never fail to say I love you before every phone call ends. And I do love these vines. I just hope I’ve been as good a vine to them over the years as they’ve been to me.
One of the vines who knows me the most completely, has seen me at my best and at my worst, has had just as rough a transitional year as I have. Even though she’s one of my friends from the “real” world, the military way isn’t lost on her and we’ve always hashed out whatever was happening over coffee if only virtually. She’s the vine in my life that hangs back when she knows I need space and creeps in when she senses I need wrapped up. We each had a pretty rough summer with a lot of changes going on in our spaces. While I’ve just settled, she was on the move for the first time in nearly twenty years, leaving everything behind to include her child who’s a college freshman. My child is another story unto itself, but let’s just say our relationship is rocky at best right now. Both our mothers’ hearts have been beaten to a pulp the last five months. We were both pretty quiet over the summer months, each of us licking our wounds and eating far, far, far too many cakes and cookies and quarts of ice cream. Some wine and bourbon may have been involved. And now fall has set in and the holidays are upon us, leaving us further in a lurch. Right now, she’s the only other person on the planet who gets what I’m going through, and I may not be the only person who gets what’s she’s going through on some levels, I do totally get it. As moms we just need to heal. As humans, though, part of the rest of the race, we need to find ways to implement that healing in a healthier way than eating all the cakes and cookies and ice creams.
This is my second year of going through the holidays as a retired wife. It’s been really hard for me. My reality and what I perceived my reality would be are two totally different things and I’m having trouble reconciling the two. You see, even after my child flew the nest, my table at the holidays was always full. I was the Surrogate Mom Host Queen Supreme when it came to hospitality. At any given holiday, there was always anywhere between twenty and fifty people at my table. Last season, for Thanksgiving, there were three. At Christmas, it was just the two of us. My head and heart had a very difficult time digesting what was happening and while my head said cook for two, my heart said cook for thirty. Cooking for thirty didn’t make the table magically fill with people, however, and let me tell you ham was never so boring and old as it was for so many days I wanted to never see ham again.
This season, after a rough year and even rougher summer, my thoughts have turned to redefining my space and learning to live with what my reality is, even though it’s not as I always envisioned it would be once we retired from the annals of the military. The old adage, you can’t go home, rings true for us. Because we have no perception of what that actually looks like. For us, home has always been where we hung MarshFox’s cover. We’re very different people after thirty years of travel and growth. Where we were raised no longer feels like home much as our families want it to. That perception is blurry for us because we’ve lived outside that perimeter for so long. We now own a house, but for some reason, that doesn’t feel like home, either. And I’ve begun to wonder if I’d recognize what home feels like if it slapped me in the face. Maybe home isn’t a feeling or a place, maybe it’s what we create. Maybe it’s how we define our space and accept our reality.
I’d always had visions of grand holidays at this stage in my life. Grand holidays with the perfect decorations, the perfect tablescapes, the perfect meal. And all this would be embellished with all my perfect grandchildren squealing in delight at being able to bake my grandma’s famous sugar cookies with me. None of that is my reality. My reality is an empty table and a child who’s estranged from me for something I had absolutely no control over, something that hurt me deeply and left me in a lurch all summer long eating myself into a stupor. But if there is one thing I’ve learned from my closest vine it’s that I can’t keep setting myself on fire to keep everyone else warm. All I get is burned.
I realized the other day, I’m no longer angry over my reality. I’m not sure I’m totally one-hundred percent happy with it, but anger is no longer my most frequently felt emotion and I’ve recognized I have a life most only dream of. I am appreciative of the life, not just fully happy with my realities within that life. I don’t think I’m alone here. I’m pretty sure no one is totally happy with the realities embedded within their life.
When all that fell away, I felt the tug and pull of the vine who knows me best and the reach of my own vine stretching out to wrap her up in her own pain. And through our mutual tug and pull, I began to understand that I have to redefine my space and learn to live with my reality the way it is, not as I envisioned it.
The holidays will probably always be difficult for me, but I’ve decided to redefine them to fit my reality. There are two of us, not twenty, not fifty. Traditions are flexible and ours need updated. And it is what we make it.
Thursday, instead of cooking, I’ll be relaxing. In the midst of my revelations about my space and reality, I decided to order dinner and pick it up Wednesday, reheat on Thursday and instead of brooding all day because I don’t have all the chicks to mother hen over, I will be curled up on the couch with MarshFox eating smoked turkey breast from a local smokehouse and watching all the Hallmark movies and holiday cartoons we can stand. Then mid-December, MarshFox and I are meeting the vine who knows me best and her spouse half-way between our new homes and as two empty-nested couples we’re going to spend a weekend together making new traditions and some great memories. We’re going to redefine our spaces together.
We will get through this. I’m glad I’m not alone. I’m embracing the current suck and learning that perception is everything and it’s okay to redefine my space in order to accept a new reality. And I have my vines to wrap me up and keep me company while I figure out what that new reality is. And I’m appreciative of that.
However you celebrate this week, whatever your current reality is, enjoy. Many blessings to you and your house.