A friend nominated me for Military Spouse of the Year. I received my nomination with equal amounts honor and horror. I have not always embraced the role of military spouse, and I sort of wince when someone includes that in an introduction of me. At best, I was conflicted.
But regardless of my reservations, it always feels good to be recognized and I didn’t want to be in last place, so I shared my nomination with others, gathered some votes, and promptly lost. Which was fine. What I hadn’t anticipated, however, was how wonderful it would feel to watch my friends and family, with no prodding from me, campaign on my behalf, share the voting opportunity with their networks, and toot my horn.
It’s been a strange winter. The cold for us, like many of you, has been unrelenting due to the polar vortexing. My house has become infested with mice, a result of our property backing up to Kentucky, a state seemingly filled only with rodents. The kids passed around their winter illness for several weeks. Finally, a drunk driver rammed into our day care, rendering me without a place to put my children for one of the busiest work weeks of the year. In the midst of this, we endured the festive holiday season, and it was more difficult than I ever could have imagined.
Holidays typically present logistic issues — do we travel? Which family do we visit? Should we stay at home? My husband being deployed made one decision a little easier; the kids and I went to visit my family, complete with an eight hour drive that took 12 thanks to a cold weather front and the entire state of Arkansas being under construction.
Somewhere in the middle of the winter holidays, something clicked in my three-year-old. It was as if she suddenly realized that Daddy had been gone for four months, and was beside herself. When we got back home, Daddy’s absence was all we talked about. Temper tantrums were punctuated by bouts of crying, “I can’t do [insert task] because I am missing my Daddy!” One morning, she refused to get out of bed. After some not-so-gentle demanding from me, she burst into tears and told me she couldn’t get up because she missed Daddy too much. We’ve both ended up in tears. My three-year-old is depressed, and I have still not figured out how to deal with it.
Depression is no stranger around these parts. But to see it in your little ones, the oh so very little ones, is simply unbearable. Navigating my way through this unexpected turn of events has taught me new and imaginative ways that my heart can break. It’s hard not to feel like you have no answers when, well, you have no answers.
What helps, however, is hearing your praises sung back to you by those who matter most, your friends, family and colleagues. They are not able to see the tiny battles I wage on our deployment on a daily basis, but they know of them and appreciate them nonetheless. Unsolicited praise is something we should all make a part of our daily routine, whether we’re nominated for something or not.
And I may not be Military Spouse of the Year, but I have committed to being Military Spouse of the Nearest Karaoke Bar to celebrate my stunning and completely inevitable loss. You’re all invited.
Josie Beets is an attorney, military spouse, and mom. Follow her on Twitter @JosieBeets.