What is Normal? Pt. 3: Finding What Feels Good
This has been a lot of talk about me and my version of normal. The hope is to show you how weird my ideals are, so you don’t feel bad about your own. Here’s where we’re going to get into the exercise of removing your unrealistic expectations and giving yourself a break.
It is time to be gentle with yourself.
I don’t know what you grew up with, but I know that so many military brats lost parents to deployments, accidents, or PTSD/mental illness. I was lucky to keep both my parents, but I know what it means to have nearly lost them both and my sister, too. We have all been through traumatic experiences, whether anyone cares to acknowledge it.
When it comes to beginning your own life outside of the military, it feels like freedom. With that freedom, though, comes a pressure reduction that forces all the trauma and pain and grief that you’ve left undealt with to bubble up. You may feel lost, lonely, depressed, or anxious. These are all pretty standard for retired military brats.
You Are Not Alone, and It's Okay to Break Down
You’re not alone, and if you take anything away from this, please know that your unsettledness when you are finally set free is normal. That may not be the “normal” that you are hoping for, but it’s there. Every negative emotion you feel – the resentment, the anger, the depression – most of us feel that, too. It’s something we now get to work through.
So, my first bit of advice is to give yourself room to break down and build yourself back up. It’s okay if you have to move around a little bit to find somewhere that feels good. It’s fine if you only have one good friend that you do everything with. If your best friend is your spouse, and you just have a couple of kind-of-good friends, that’s actually really good.
Don’t worry about building the life you imagined having as a kid. Look at the life around you and find the parts that feel good to you. Take a minute and list out all the things that you appreciate about your new life outside the military. Go easy on yourself. This whole situation is hard, and it’s harder still because there are so few resources for people like us. We’re just doing the best we can, and that is normal.
Allowing Yourself to Relax and Settle In
Where are you right now? I mean this in a few ways. Where are you physically? Where are you spiritually? And where are you mentally? It’s time to talk about the hang-ups, and how you can make your life right now feel normal to you.
I don’t know about you, but there are days where I think I’m supposed to be living in Fort Collins, Colorado with a degree in Creative Writing, a solid job with benefits, a fit body from all the healthy eating and hiking I should be doing, and a perfectly clean house.
That is not my life, though. My life is yoga pants with toddler snot on them. It’s cold coffee, frizzy hair, and giggles. Life includes dog hair, leaves, dirt, and crumbs on literally every surface of my home. It’s baking, blogging, editing, momming, wifing, washing, and repeating. I feel stressed and anxious daily. Depression is always looming if not front and center, but I deal.
The best thing I can do for myself is to let go of that Fort Collins dream. I identify the things about my life that I love, the places that feel homey, and the people who make me feel safe. These are my home and my normal—your turn.
If you gave up everything about your current life to live in your ideal world, what would you miss? Think about the people you talk to every day and the way they make you feel. It’s time to settle into the love you feel for them. Look around you and find the space where you feel most comfortable. Give that space the name of “home.” Watch how calling a place your home makes you feel rooted and settled. It may take a little bit of time, but it works.
Just try to relax into the life you have now and settle into it. This is different from settling for less than you deserve. I’m just telling you to relax into the present and accept that normal is not real. There is probably room for improvement across many aspects of your life, but that too is normal. It’s okay to want to grow from here, but first, you need to get your roots into the ground.
Accept Your History and Plant Yourself
Along the same lines, it’s time to forgive your history. Yeah, I get crazy anxiety anytime someone asks me where I’m from, but I also have a good response to give. I say, “I grew up in the Air Force, so I’m not really from anywhere, but I’m from here now.” Sometimes, my husband will give this answer for me. I’m an introvert, and this is his way of saving me.
What about your history hurts you? Every military brat has their own scars. Once you’re out on your own, it’s time to address those pains and move on. Don’t let the things that hurt you in the past hold you back from settling in somewhere. If you are really struggling, don’t feel afraid to seek therapy.
We’ll get more into the stigma of therapy in a later post, but I want to encourage you to do whatever it takes to feel comfortable in your own skin, mind, home, friendships, family, and community. It’s time to accept the lives we have now and find ways to call ourselves normal, even if it hasn’t turned out as we imagined.