I’ve been putting off this post since we left El Paso, hoping that I would not need to write it. Hoping that this move would feel different than our other moves, but I was just fooling myself. There are so many times in the lives of military families where they can easily become isolated and feel like they are alone. I know this because I have been there, I am there now. Deployments, moving, active guard families that are not in locations with others, recruiters who are sprinkled around the country, families who are attached to units like our last one – they didn’t deploy but were gone 6-8 weeks at a time, all of these can add to the feeling of being alone in a persons life, along with the normal every day chaos.
There is nothing quite like packing up your entire life, saying goodbye to great friends – many of whom you will probably never see again in person, and moving across the country. Which military families get to do every 2-5 years. Some more than others. This is our 3rd cross country move in 4.5 years. For me, this is the hardest part, when it comes to feeling alone/isolated.
It’s exciting and scary all at the same time, moving on to a new “adventure”. Adventure – right! If this really is an adventure, where is my safari tour guide, cruise director, or trip planner? Oh wait, I forgot that was me! Except I have no idea about the new place we were going to move, unless I can Google the answers and still that would not make me an expert. Ok, so no expert helping on the move, I can deal with that. There are plenty of things to keep me focused and busy for a while.
We get everything packed up, turn in the keys to the last place we lived and hope to some day get part of the security deposit back, and hit the road…..all while technically being “homeless”. Arrive at your new city, check into a hotel, and search for a new place to call home. I don’t know about all military spouses but by the time it comes to find a new place to live, I am already “over” this new adventure.
Home – keys in hand, lease signed, finally a new place to call home. Eventually the household goods catch up (a week – seven weeks later) and I can busy myself with settling in, making the new place look and feel like home. It really is a wonderful feeling of settling in, and comfort at this point in the move. About this time in our past moves was around when I started meeting people. Because by now I would NEED people to talk with other than Hubs. Neighbors, book clubs, military spouses I met online or through a friend of a friend who was stationed with them 4 years ago, etc. But this move is different, but still the same…. if that makes any sense at all.
Homesick – about the time I start meeting people is when I realize just how much I miss the people from our last home. Not just a little homesick, but this deep terrible homesick like nothing will ever be the same again. I miss knowing the streets, and how to get to the grocery store, or where items are located in the commissary at the last duty station, I miss running into people at the coffee shop that I know. I get sad, a little depressed and usually by now Hubs has gone back to work, so he is meeting people and everything in his world is back to normal. Mine….not so much! But eventually, I get to know people from spouse groups, neighbors who are looking to get to know other military spouses, and FRG functions.
People make a city a home to me. I surround myself with people, not 24 hours a day but I thrive when I have people and friendships and interaction. Hubs’ and my Mom would both say that I collect people!
What is different about this latest move is we did not go to a military town, we moved to Missoula, Montana. There is no post, no commissary, no PX, there is no built in FRG to meet spouses in Hubs’ unit. No built-in way of getting to know anyone that remotely knows what the past few years has been like, or even what its like to live thousands of miles away from family. The Montana Guard does have a few “family” things going on. In fact I was so excited that they sent me a newsletter back in December! I saw they have a couple of training classes coming up, a few I have taken but would take again just to meet people, but I emailed them asking locations and how to sign up for the classes and never heard back….
Luckily Hubs’ Grandparents live about an hour away. We spent Christmas there, and it was great. I got some much needed people time with them and the people in their church, I even had a coffee date! But now it is a month later. Another 4 weeks have gone by and I am still not meeting people. Our neighbors are nice, but they are from here, they have their people. Every book club I have emailed is either full or I hear no response back. Hubs’ is in his routine of Guard duties, and college classes and I am here… alone….no kids to distract me, or even call some common ground between myself and other parents in the neighborhood. There’s just me, myself….and nothing, and today was the “breaking point” for me.
I was going to have coffee with a blogger/website owner that is local here. I was so excited! Coffee and someone to talk to?!?!?!!! Heck yea! I needed this, and I went out to the car and it was dead! My heart sank but I got the car charger battery thingy out and tried to jump it …. wouldn’t even click! I tried leaving the battery charger on for over an hour, and trying again….nothing. I knew had to cancel my coffee date, and I broke down in tears. Not just little tears, but this uncontrollable sobbing that I could not stop.
It wasn’t just the car or the coffee date or the fact that I thought the car had just been fixed a couple weeks ago…but everything. I felt like there was some hope of getting out and meeting new people, a tiny light at the end of a 3 month long tunnel and it was stolen from me. I so badly want to feel at home here, to carve a little life for myself here in Missoula and feel at home or at least like I do belong here, because it seems like the past 3 months every part of me has been feeling like I do not belong here.
Rationally, I know that eventually I will find my place here and my own people and groups, but the rational part of my brain can’t seem to explain that to the rest of me. And until that day comes I am still here struggling with feeling sad, lonely, isolated and alone.
*Update, November 4th, 2013. So, we have been in Missoula almost a year now (well 11 months). I can tell you that the isolated feeling has gone away, but feeling like a fish out of water has not.
I have some wonderful neighbors, and a couple acquaintances and I still have a coffee buddy from time to time when she comes into town. It is not what I had expected after being here a year but it has become my new normal. It is great having Hubs’ Grandparents an hour away, I am finally getting to know them and some of the extended family that live throughout the state and in Idaho.
I still do not feel connected/grounded/rooted here in Missoula but I do not feel alone and for now that is enough. I do wish that I knew other spouses here in town, or even the state. The one family day that the National Guard unit had, I was terribly down and in pain (ended up in the ER 2 days later) and so I did not get to attend the event. That was in July. I guess they only get together once a year around here, but I suppose that makes sense. They are all from here, and have their support system built in.
Everywhere we live is different, and with that different-ness I have to adjust and find my new rhythm.