(This piece was later published on Military Spouse’s web site. Click here to read.)
“My life is but a weaving…” – Corrie ten Boom
Ah, the end of PCS season, when the exhaustion and stress of packing and moving and unpacking snicker under their breath as we realize the real work is just about to begin. Military spouses definitely have a big challenge upon arrival at a new assignment: start over. FROM SCRATCH.
Last night I was making dinner for a family who just moved into our neighborhood. Having recently moved in myself, I was excited another mom was closeby with a baby about my daughter’s age. As I cooked, I was thinking about the other ladies I’d met in the park or at my son’s school during the last few weeks, quietly laughing at how we sometimes pounce on each other. “You’re a mom? Your kid is about my kid’s age? Here’s my number; let’s get together sometime… let’s get together tomorrow.”
But that’s when it occurred to me: while my husband’s job is with the Air Force, building community is my job.
Reaching out and forming relationships; being kind to others and appreciating the kindness they show me; gathering people together for a barbeque – frequently; knocking on a neighbor’s door and opening my door to a neighbor; welcoming new people and accepting others’ welcome… it’s all an effort to build a community, to weave together a network of friendships, of support, of laughter, which will be the Godsend we need when a crisis hits, which will form the memories we’ll look back on nostalgically five, ten, twenty years from now.
Am I a master at this? No. But I keep trying.
At our last assignment in Texas, it took almost a year before I felt like I had formed just a few friendships. I think a large part of that was because I was a new mom and new to forming friendships with a baby on my hip. I chose to stay at home, which also meant choosing not to have the built-in social interaction that a job brings. I hadn’t realized that interacting with other adults as a stay-at-home mom was going to take some… skill.
Later, I saw how signing myself up for various “mommy and me” programs, planting myself at playgrounds, and unabashedly striking up conversations with other moms allowed me to fill up the contact list on my phone and the playdates on my calendar. And soon, that turned into putting others in touch, which was even better! “You want to send your kid to that school? I know someone there – here’s her number.” “You’re looking for something to do with your toddler? Try Kindermusik! The teacher is great!” “You want to buy Scentsy? My friend is a consultant. Here’s her web site.”
One thing truly does lead to another…
Sometimes it might feel like we’re staring down a bear, a bear that we absolutely must tackle and defeat. Playing dead won’t work here! But, in this case, it gets a little easier, and it feels a little more natural as time goes on. It may not always be a piece of cake, but striking up that conversation on the playground when you’re actually feeling shy, signing up for a group when you’re actually feeling uncertain, knocking on the door of a new neighbor when you’re actually getting (a little too) comfortable inside your own four walls can be – well – intoxicating, I think.
They are the first steps in building community. When I reach out and make connections, I’m weaving a new picture on the tapestry that is my military life. It’s my job and mine alone to weave each thread. And I’m confident that even on the days I have no idea what I’m doing, even on the days that require some difficult skill, I will be happy and blessed with the picture at the end.