Jul 16, 2008

How the Military (as a lifestyle for my family) Came to Be...

I was reading the post on SCL about the three main types of pastors' wives, and it got me to thinking about the fun Mrs. T. and I have discovering the similarities between being in ministry and the military. And I say that in a family sense because, even if you have the best of boundaries, these are two careers where it's quite possibly impossible to completely separate work and home.

And then it dawned on me that I don't think I've ever shared the story of how the Cat Daddy entered the military, and consequently how I came to be a military wife. So...

The Cat Daddy and I met in college my freshman year. He was an RA in the dorms. Blah blah blah, we got married just after he graduated with a degree in business management. He started a full-time job on campus working as a techie-type in the computer lab. I had a year to go, after which time I completed my degree in math and secondary education (double major--not so important for social recognition, but very important for grad school entrance committees). Then I taught for two years while he transitioned into more of a network administrator role, got hired with another company, and decided that he didn't want to be a professional computer nerd for his entire working life. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not what he wanted to do.

So we're driving along one night on the way home from dinner out, and out of nowhere the Cat Daddy said, "So, I've never told you this, but my secret dream is to join the Air Force and become a pilot."

Huh? I was thinking "What?? We've committed to be life partners and you neglected to mention your deepest dream (which sounds terrible to me, by the way)??" but I mumbled something like "OK, pray about it," and mentally dismissed the idea, since we had talked about careers & stuff before we got married. I specifically had not wanted to marry a military guy. The whole being away, and possibility of dying, and potential for stereotypical drill-sergeant personalities, and all. It was one of my criteria for a husband. And at the time, he had assured me that he would not be joining the military. Something about his mom "wouldn't let him." Which, even though he really did say it (in a lighthearded way, mind you), is not entirely accurate. Mom-in-law was in the Army for 20 years, and because of her challenges & experiences had more or less discouraged him from joining. Or something.

So it sort of went away for a few months, except it didn't really, because then he started talking about what he was finding out in researching how to actually go about becoming an Air Force pilot. And started studying for the entry exam. And taking the entry exam, passing with flying colors, and all that. Oh crap.

In all of this, I gave my passive blessing. I wasn't sure if this was a real and true dream, or some sort of macho phase, but in the event it was a real dream I didn't want to be a wife who squashed her husband's deepest desires. But I really didn't want it to work out. I wanted the AF to decline him so I could get back to doing my thing without worrying about the possibility of change. When it started looking promising, that's when I put down my terms. I would not sell the house, and we had to seek counsel from trusted friends. And the Cat Daddy said "OK," and we sought counsel from many trusted friends, and I actually said to one friend "I just don't see how God could be behind any of this," and she responded, "Actually, it's entirely possible that he is." Again, oh crap.

By then I had a really, really bad feeling that it was all going to work out. This was a hard thing, because I was more or less living my dream of being a teacher and living in our fantastic little neighborhood near our friends and our church. A complete change in course hadn't even crossed my mind, much less one that involved moving out of state...and then doing so again and again.

And I was really, really afraid of the stereotypes about military wives (and specifically, officers' wives). I didn't want to join the Officers' Wives Club and exchange pleasantries and kiss up to whomever had the highest-ranking husband. Someone (who shall remain nameless, to protect the uninformed) told me that as an officer's wife I would have to start dressing up all the time & hosting teas & whatnot. Nice. I perused the Officers Wives Handbook. Yes, it exists. I'd buy it for the sheer entertainment value and blogging potential, but I still have some hangups there.

Long story short--it worked out. I supported the Cat Daddy in a kicking-&-screaming sort of way. We moved to Ohio. I grieved the loss of my dream, spent 6 months in the depths of despair, & did some counseling. The counselor happened to be a retired major and encouraged me to join the OWC. I made sure I got better real quick.

Then I went to grad school, and God opened my mind to the vast unfathomability of his workings. Not because of grad school, per se, but because I found myself in a co-op position where my duties included flying/floating/puking on the NASA KC-135, thereby fulfilling my secret dream of being weightless, without having to go thru astronaut training and/or get shot into orbit sitting on top of a rocket. Who'da thought...

As for the Cat Daddy, he decided not to pursue pilot training for a variety of really good reasons, and has enjoyed getting to use his business degree (his current 4-year foray into the operational world notwithstanding). Even I must admit that he is totally suited for the military way of life. Me, not so much...but lots of mil-wives aren't, and we console each other frequently and secretly. Whoops, did I say that out loud?

I still don't quite have the words for it. It's not that my life has turned out differently than I expected, it's that the way my life has turned out is so mind-blowingly different than anything I could've thought up on my own (in both good & bad ways). In some ways it's been one big lesson in never saying "never," because you just don't know what can happen. I can tell you with much authority--do NOT test that theory unless you're prepared to deal with the consequences.

I think there's something to be said for the "if you don't like your life, change it" approach, and empowerment and all that, but we must remember that really it's up to God what we do. Somewhere in there I went through the One Year Bible and came across Prov 16:33. The New Living Translation puts it this way: "We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall." I like that.

Another side to it is that because/in spite of various circumstances God has done a lot of healing in me, both physically with my back stuff, and emotionally with my neuroses and anxieties. Could he have done the same things had we remained in AZ? Yes. Did he? No, but it has kind of grown on me, the way he's woven things together.

Oh, right. Military wives. That's more or less how it happened. It took me a long time to accept the whole thing, and even longer to like it...and still some days I really, really want to chuck it all. But I'm grateful. And I still wear jeans, and make snide remarks, and try to minimize the amount of kissing-up I do. And I still get frustrated at and make fun of the military life because there's a lot to get frustrated at and make fun of.

And I do not play bunco! The end.


Bludab said...

Ok, I loved the SCL comment about us and told Pastor T - I have never felt so cool in my life! Just read a great book about living your dreams "Wide Awake" by Erwin Mcmanus and it might have helped me feel a little less confined. Also, since now my husband is an official Sr. pastor and the elder council are mostly our best friends I have even more boundaries issues! Does community ever just stop!!!?

IsaacMomma said...

Hey chica - I'm glad God chose to send you the military wife route. It allowed me to enjoy your friendship while you were close by and now while your in the great west. That and I may have ended up in a loony bin (I know so PC of me) after having the little man if not for your friendship and regular dose of sanity.
Miss you!

DramaMama said...

Oh, Those military wives!

linda t said...

Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed this post Kerri!
I did not know your journey. And I sooo appreciate your honesty, your candor and humor. I love your writing Kerri. You are so real and I love that you are now affecting many that cross your path, as you move about the country.
As Billie Filleman would remind me often as struggled through a hard season... "you are right where you're suppose to be". And so are you Kerri.

The Smiths said...

So I just have to comment that I did spend a whole day with you shopping for a dress so that you could dress up! And not for tea but for some crappy wine, lots of laughs and even some tears! So screw the tea and welcome to the OSC with wine!!!