Kids in the backyard sitting on a picnic blanket

Staying Present

There are a lot of hard things about being a military spouse. Among those things, I find one of the most challenging to master is remaining present. Especially when you’ve learned where you’ll go next, even if that’s months away. It can be tempting to step out of the world you’re in before you leave it, but I can assure you from personal experience that’s not the best approach.

I’ve always been a daydreamer. I remember back in my high school days sprawling out on the comforter of my bed. I’d lie there and think about all the things I was excited about in my future… what kind of wife and mom I’d be someday. I’d plan silly things in my head, like organizing my future husband’s clothes in rainbow order in his closet one day and making snowman pancakes for my toddlers during the Christmas season. My daily joy wasn’t a product of my daily surroundings, but rather the daily dreams I regularly let encompass my mind.

I now often find myself prone to the same temptation in my adult life: to live in the future, but in different ways. It is when I finally settle at our next home and become acquainted with our new surroundings that I get the itch to dream once again about what’s next. Although the dreams are not always as exciting as they were when I was a child. They’re filled with worries and dread at times.

In recent months, I have found myself struggling with this more than ever. We learned not too long ago that we would be moving across the country, from North Carolina to Washington state in a matter of months. It’s not where we wanted to go; in fact, it’s precisely the place we did not want to go. We are going, and that’s that. Some days, I manage the news okay, and others, it feels like my heart is breaking in half.

I have been trying some things to help myself stay in the present moment while we are still going about our lives here on the East Coast. I want to be extra mindful in savoring each minute we are here before we go to a place that is so far and foreign from everything we know. Here is how I am doing that:

  • Check off those last-minute bucket list items. One of the best ways you can live in the moment where you are is by exploring those last little nooks and crannies you haven’t gotten to yet, and by enjoying those places you want to visit before you leave. Here at Fort Bragg/Liberty, I want to explore some nearby cities like Savannah, Charleston and Asheville. We are doing beach days and getting to our favorite restaurants as much as we can. I don’t want to leave a place without knowing I took full advantage of the area and all it had to offer.
  • Find the things you enjoy doing most as a family and do them often. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. For me, it has been enjoying the family-friendly climate here in North Carolina — especially the warm fall afternoons in our backyard. Each day after getting the kids up from nap, we spread a big picnic blanket on the lawn, and I make them a snack tray. They run around and play, and we soak up the last of the sunshine for the day before going in for dinner. I always envisioned raising my babies in the South. I do wonder what our life is going to look like at this next place where it is chillier and rains so often. I know we will find simple pleasures there, but I also know they won’t be the same ones we have found here, so we are enjoying these small things while we can.
  • Satisfy the urge to plan and prep in your free time. In your downtime, make it a hobby to dream up what’s ahead. You’ll have to allow yourself some of this futuristic thinking, as it’s only natural. Create those bucket lists and dream boards of home decor. Start researching schools and housing communities in the area, searching for a good realtor. It’s never too early to start educating yourself about the area and this can be a productive way to spend your downtime and can get the daydreaming tendencies out of your system.
  • Continue your activities and your friendships. Investing in people does not need to stop just because you know you’re leaving soon. You never know when you’ll need a friend, and you never know who might be going to the same place you are. If you’re a few months away from moving, it might be time to stop actively searching for new friendships, but you can certainly grow in the ones you do have. I especially focus on the people who I know have been assigned to the same place, as I know we’ll likely end up being good friends eventually. Something I’ve learned in these few years of being a military spouse is that enjoying people is one of the best ways to enjoy a duty station, so do not walk away from the communities you’ve built until you have to!

These are just a few small ways I have been trying to remain present here lately as we anticipate our big move next spring. Trust me, I know it can feel impossible to do at times, but I promise if you can try your best to remain focused on what’s right there in front of you, you will be happier for it. You won’t ever regret living in the moment, once those moments turn into memories.

Written By Sydney Smith
Army Spouse

Sydney has been an Army wife for four years and has two children. She often writes on the raw experiences military spouses face during challenging times, striving to be a voice of encouragement and validation among the military spouse community.

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