If you read enough personal empowerment and life enrichment material, you’re likely to come to a simple but profound truth about the human condition: Happiness is not so much a mood or a feeling as it is a state of being. Happiness is alignment and harmony, when everything in your life achieves its right measure. Happiness is when all aspects of your life are attuned to one another and nothing is out of proportion.
Easier said than done.
We want to be great life partners to our service members. We want to keep the romance and joy alive in our relationships. We want to be great parents to our kids. We desire to love and educate them the best way we can. We want to lead by example, both telling and showing them what sort of person they could and should be. We also want to be active and fit, exercising regularly and fostering a household that emphasizes nutritious foods and an active lifestyle. We want to find personal gratification and a measure of additional income by pursuing a career. We want to be informed about the world and current events and keep our minds sharp. Military spouses want to be friendly neighbors. We want to keep up with all of the friendships we’ve cultivated over the years. We want our homes looking pleasant and well cared for.
Also, we’d like to sleep more than 2 hours a night.
Because doing all of that crap just sounds exhausting.
But one element of our lives that we can’t put off until tomorrow or save for the weekend is being a military spouse. It’s a part of us, it’s a feature we can’t slough off, but it’s a badge we wear with honor. It comes with certain toils, yes, but we…oh, let’s go with happily shoulder those burdens with ease and grace.
But if we’re not careful, we can overindulge in that aspect of our lives. We can let military life overwhelm our identity and allow being a milspouse to define us. We can allow it to diminish every other element of our lives. The idea that my identity exists in and though being married to a member of the military. The notion that “who I am” becomes “who I married.” The horrible feeling that you’ve allowed yourself to become so enmeshed in your spouse’s career that it casts a shadow over everything else you’ve claimed to love or aspired to be. You’ve gone so far overboard with the whole “militant, supportive or fervent milspouse” thing that you’re only able to see the world through the pixelated lenses of your spouse’s uniform. If you’re not careful, you might end up doing all of this as you watch all of the other important elements of your life become disheveled.
We’re susceptible to the temptations of bringing informed insight and the proper tone to every milspouse conversation on–post or online. Because, let’s face it, nobody knows as much about what’s going on and the right way to handle a situation as you. Nobody has just the right words or techniques to address a problem child or some wrongheaded fountain of misinformation as you do. And so you jump in with both feet, trusting that when everyone sees that it’s you and you alone who has the proper perspective, they’ll all consider the matter settled.
Except that’s never the case. And you keep going back to further your cause and pacify those uncouth and abrasive voices who deign to disagree with you. You feed off the positive comments, but mostly you become Annakin Skywalker, whose anger gave him focus and power. Your penetrating insight into just how ugly and stupid that person is being becomes all-consuming.
That’s when online MilSpouse Fatigue sets in, the sort of all-day agitation and exhaustion that sets in if you’re not careful when you open up the Pandora’s box of interaction in online spouse communities.
For years, I never really knew the wealth of support and sense of community that was available to spouses online. But when I began to peel off the layers, I began to see just what a wormhole our online spouse communities can become if we’re not careful. I know myself well enough to know that I’m a bit of an obsessive personality. So perhaps I have a harder time with moderation than many others. This often doesn’t work out so well online.
Every now and then, I’ll wade into an online discussion. But I’m cautious about returning to an earlier version of myself that would swing at every pitch and launch into a day’s worth of agitated sparring.
Because if you’re not careful, dipping your toe into the waters of online milspouse life can get you caught in a nasty rip current that pulls your day right out from under you.
I am all for healthy dialogue and vigorous debate. I am all for a multitude of voices ventilating an issue. I am a huge proponent of allowing a chorus of voices to present a full, 3-D image of a proposal or an issue.
I’m also well aware of how many of those online interactions go:
Milspouse A: “The military proposes X. It’s a good idea for service members and their families.”
Milspouse B: “That’s completely wrong. It will do untold damage to families and mission readiness.”
Milspouse A: “I disagree. You’re forgetting about the long term benefits of Proposal X, such as Y or Z.”
Milspouse B: “You’re a scheming little shrew with a brain so soaked by Military Special whiskey that you would never even notice if I kicked you in your double-wide backside and left my boot in your Yankee Doodle. Which I’m thinking about doing…”
Pretty soon, Milspouses A and B are consumed with this bickering, alternating between vague references to the initial topic and increasingly nasty personal attacks. The conversation goes nowhere, and all that results is the community’s generating an overwhelmingly negative opinion of those two. The two (or more) of them spend an entire day’s worth of time and energy cultivating nothing more than exhaustion and ill-will. Even following along with this little sparring session is draining. You keep tuning in to see how this ugly little train wreck will turn out, and pretty soon, all you have to show for it is a wasted evening and a deflated sense of your fellow milspouses.
There’s an easy fix: Push yourself away from the table. Turn off the computer. Take a breather from milspouse life. There’s an entire world out there, just like there’s an entire side of you that lies dormant as you exhaust yourself with this online bickering or idle curiosity that leads to an entire afternoon spent chasing the impossibly wide web of links related to your milspouse interest. There’s being curious and there’s being consumed. There’s fostering an interest and then there’s fueling an obsession.
Our milspouse community needs you. We need your passion and your voice. But your family needs you too. Your dreams need you. Your joys need you. You need you too. Balance and harmony and everything in its place.