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The Struggle to Choose Joy

Asilomar State Beach, California- Photo Credit: Captured By Christopherson

We’ve been at our new duty station for a little over seven months now, so we have passed the “adjustment period” of a typical permanent change of station. When you talk to other military spouses who have PCS’ed for the umpteenth time, they say, “just give it six months.”

Well my six months have come and gone, and meanwhile, I have been pregnant the ENTIRE time we have lived here. For me, choosing joy in a place that I don’t love proves to be a daily struggle.

While my husband attends Naval Postgraduate School, we are stationed in Monterey, California, which is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world. He is getting a Masters of Science in Systems Engineering, which basically means, school is tough, and he has a lot of homework. This duty station and tour is very different than anything we have experienced in our military career thus far. We are very grateful for this experience and for him to further his education, but it is just different.

Here, choosing joy is hard for me because I am constantly looking backward at things I loved at our last duty station instead of focusing on the present and doing things that bring me joy in my current situation. It is a daily commitment to see the good in everything around me, especially when I haven’t seen the sun for a week, and I am bundled in a winter coat in the middle of July! As a girl who has only lived in Florida and Hawaii, this Northern California weather just isn’t for me.

Here are some tips to help you find joy no matter what your circumstance or duty station may be! Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to follow my own advice!

Find your tribe. I know this is a no-brainer, but this is a hard one! Try to be active and involved with spouses’ groups, join a church or take up a new hobby to meet new people. Think quality over quantity. You don’t need ten average friends, you just need one good one!

Exercise. This has gotten harder for me as I am very pregnant now, but getting outside for a run or walk or even on a treadmill  helps me clear my mind. We also have the most beautiful outdoor trails here, which on a sunny day, is my dream come true!

Treat yourself. As moms, this is such a hard one but so important. Whether you get your nails done or go to Panera and get a hazelnut coffee (this is my favorite), it is so important to do something for yourself. If you don’t have childcare, look into hourly care at your base or child swap with a friend or neighbor!

This too shall pass. One good thing about the military life is that you won’t be there forever. I am trying not to wish away our time at this duty station, especially since it is a very sweet time of being pregnant and having our second child. The good news is that the time will pass and this season will end, and we will move somewhere else (that is hopefully warmer).

Keep a blessings journal. Or for me, a blessing note on your iPhone. Take note of things that you are especially grateful for or things that you enjoy about your new city. When you are finding yourself not choosing joy, take out your journal and read through it!

Pray. This is a big one for me. I’m constantly reminding myself to give thanks in all circumstances! You never know what life lesson or experience you will gain from your trials. 

One day we were driving down the highway, and out of the blue, my 3-year-old said to me, “Mommy, I miss Florida” (something she has probably heard me say a thousand times). In that moment, I also realized that choosing joy is so important for my family.

My family is looking to me to hold it together, and although I will still have bad days and days I wished we were somewhere else, they need stability, reassurance, love and the mindset that it is all going to work out. And it will.

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