“You’re so flexible.” Unbelievably, the words were directed at me–spoken while standing in a shady driveway I know well. The voice, too, was familiar. A soft, comforting tone that conjured up memories of high school antics, college summer vacations long past, and cold cookies that always seemed to materialize from the freezer at just the right moment.
The words came from Connie. In high school and college her daughter was my dearest friend. In the years since, we’ve drifted apart and are no longer integral parts of each other’s lives. But there is something irreplaceably dear about people who knew you when you were young. Something intangibly sweet about those extra parents who made it clear that there was always room for you at their table, and in their home.
On the last day of a recent trip to my hometown in Indiana, I had a quick chance to swap life news with Connie, and her husband Bob.
Our week outside of Hot Dish Land had been wonderful. Maybe it has to do with the fact that this was our first trip without a stroller or diapers in tow. Maybe it was that we’re at a stage where night wakings are rare, and naps can be skipped without triggering a meltdown akin to a fire in a wax museum.
“You’re so flexible.” As soon as the words were uttered my eyes rolled so far back into my head they threatened to stick.
“Ugh,” I replied with disgust. “I hate being flexible.”
This is true. I often joke that I like adventure–but only if I can meticulously plan it first.
Among other bull-headed traits, it’s this aversion to out-of-my-control-adventure and disdain for flexibility that have made my life as a military spouse particularly challenging. In the military lifestyle the only thing you can ever truly count on is ever-changing plans. The only certainty is that there will be precious little certainty.
The plans change. The details are foggy. Someone else always seems to be in control.
I am not flexible by nature. Rather, I am flexible out of necessity.
It doesn’t matter if you are affiliated with the military or not, I think most of us would relish a little more control and fewer unforeseen circumstances. Desiring complete control is foolish. Bemoaning a lack of control will only spin the proverbial wheels until they’ve created a deep rut. But wanting a bit more control is simply human.
The most profound thing I’ve learned in my years as a military spouse is the quiet strength in maintaining control over my thoughts. No matter what is happening on the outside–whether a surprise deployment, unexpected PCS, unwanted assignment, or anything else–we always have the right to shape our inward perception. There is no need to grapple for power over things that are truly out of our control. Instead, our energy is better spent making intentional decisions with the information we have available, and living out our days with an “on purpose” mentality.
You are allowed to weave a narrative with the circumstances and facts at hand. While you cannot create a story from scratch, in which you have everything you want, you can choose your perspective. You are the boss of your own story–and I pray that you’ll write your role as that of the capable hero.
The truth is, I’m not really all that flexible. The truth is, I regularly struggle with jealousy, comparison, discontentment, and maintaining a positive perspective in the face of change.
While on vacation I found myself jealous of the homes we were welcomed into. I saw myself as less-than when compared with the work of others. When considering the multitude of attractions in such a tight radius, I felt a twinge of discontentment at our somewhat isolated NoDak lifestyle.
The truth is jealousy, comparison, discontentment and negativity don’t hold the key to changing circumstances. They only lead to a melancholy attitude and a yucky internal feeling.
The thoughts I experienced may have been true, but they were unhelpful. I replaced them with different truths that shaped a better story. Truths like:
• We love visiting Indiana and all the different things we enjoy while we’re there.
• We are deeply satisfied with our quality of life.
• Minot is unbelievably convenient.
• The military lifestyle gives us experiences we wouldn’t have otherwise.
• Minot is a great place to come home to.
• Our house meets our needs, and lots of our wants.
• There are a myriad of things to be grateful for on any given day.
“You are so flexible.”
It may seem that way, but don’t be fooled. I’m only flexible because I know there are things I can always maintain control over: the perception I choose, the actions I take, the narrative I shape, and the endless goodness I choose to see in everyday living.
To connect with me further, discover small tips for positive living, and to keep up with how I spend my days in Hot Dish Land, find me on Instagram (@amy_allender) and Facebook (@amyallenderblog).