One of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker, has a podcast called, “For the Love”, where one of the last questions she asks her guests is, “What is saving your life right now?” I’ve thought a lot about what my answer would be if someone asked me that question. As I think about it, there have been a lot of different things that have saved my life over the years. But today if someone were to ask me, my answer would be Taekwondo. I started Taekwondo about a year ago, and it has been something that, especially over the last few months, has been saving my life. As an added a bonus I get to enjoy Taekwondo with my daughter, who absolutely loves it and excels at it. For three hours every week I get to forget about everything going on in my life, in my house, in my marriage while Master Maye and Master Jobin put me, and the entire class, through an intense workout. During those hour and a half workouts I get to work out, not only my body, but many of my frustrations. My frustrations about the PTSD that started chipping away at my marriage thirteen years ago, first in very subtle ways I did not see, and then in not so subtle ways over the last four years since Jim retired. My anger that Jim choose a career that took him away from our family so much and brought constant change whether it was deployments, TDYs, or PCSing. For an hour and a half I get to tire out my body doing intense drills, and then I get to kick and punch pads or bags, and even spar other people venting all my anger, frustration, and resentment. I’m not very good at Taekwondo, but it doesn’t matter Master Maye and Master Jobin continue to encourage me as well as everyone in the class. For three hours every week I have an escape.
Taekwondo is currently saving my life, but as I said before, along the way there has always been something to help me. Six months after Jim and I got married we were stationed in Hawaii where I found solace in surfing. With a newborn and a toddler, stationed near Ft. Lewis from 2008-2009, it was my neighbor and fellow military wife, Jamie, who helped save my life. During the week days we hung out almost everyday, having playdates with our kids or taking them on outings. Through a connection with small children and a shared understanding of military life, she helped me feel not so alone. In 2010, when Jim deployed to Afghanistan for six months, it was my neighbor and close friend Brooke who helped save me. She was a listening ear, a work out buddy, and I could always count on her to help with the kids when I needed it. (She also brought over Starbucks often, which let’s face it, could save anyone.)
Each step along the way there was something that was saving my life. As military wives we need this, especially as the deployments mount. As my friend Anna once wrote, “Deployments suck, I’m sure there’s a more eloquent way to describe them, but that’s the word that comes to mind. As a spouse you merely survive the best you can, you never thrive, you feed your kids cereal for dinner and pray that no government car shows up that day.” I agree with Anna, that deployments do suck. So much of them is just about surviving. They are like the longest, most difficult endurance race you can imagine. As you start the race you have to believe, I can do this, but along the way things get tough, you can’t breathe, you have no idea how you will finish, but you have to. There is no giving up, because your spouse, your children, all depend on you surviving and finishing. So you do, you suck it up, and you survive. But I believe you have to find moments to thrive. It is those moments when you thrive that make you feel alive and keep you going. For me, right now it is Taekwondo. At other times it has been coffee and conversation with a friend, at times hiking or surfing, and at other times consistent workouts, for you it might be quiet time reading, time with friends, being active, but whatever it is you must carve out time for it. As a whole military wives are the most selfless people I know, who rarely take time for themselves always putting others and their family ahead of their own needs. That was me for many years, and I still continue to be that way. But we all must find that thing saving our lives and make it part of our routine. It just might be the thing that helps you survive and ultimately find moments where you thrive.