Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Inevitable

Oh, crap. Blogger has a "new look" and I am now completely lost... I'm sure this new facade is beneficial in some way; more streamlined, more user friendly, more profitable or something. Still, it makes me feel the way I imagine a 78 year old who's never touched a computer to feel about sending an e-mail.


It's so good; so healthy! Yet it's scary and annoying and frustrating as all get out.

I was going to write about something entirely different today, but having encountered this new obstacle I think that Change is an excellent topic! We all have to face it and it's quite possibly the most frequent hurdle military-related folk have to overcome. For some of us it never gets easier, no matter how often we deal with it; others embrace it like a picture of a cat on the internet. I choose to embrace change the way I would a baby that's just pooped itself: with much hesitation and a sick feeling, knowing that I have to deal with whatever horrid substance just entered that diaper and is assaulting my senses.

When I was in retail, I freaked out when my manager changed how we queued customers on Black Friday. Why on Earth change something that has worked for years? It's not broke, don't "fix" it! Keep your smelly, baby-poo ideas to yourself and let me run my business! ...I was like a five year-old who had just been told she couldn't take her teddy bear to mall. Sure it was probably a smart decision! I could see the benefit in it (when I wasn't thinking what a stupid idea it was). But like hell I wanted to go through with it!

Imagine how I felt when I found out I was going to have to lend my husband to the war effort for 12 months.

...which turned into 15 months.

I remember laying in bed a week or two before he was scheduled to leave with that sinking feeling in my stomach, trying to think of some way to get out of having to face this. There was no military or political reason I could think of that would cancel the deployment.... so maybe if I got terminally ill he could get excused! No... they send people all the time whose loved ones are sick or cancerous. Oh! What if I got hit by a car? I would get hurt, but not dis-figuratively so, and go into a year-long coma - waking up just in time for his homecoming! But what if he dies while I'm in the coma? No good. ..what if Afghanistan spontaneously imploded?!

Short of the miraculous implosion that would somehow leave all the innocents safe and unharmed, I realized I was going to have to actually do this. It was the most disheartening realization of my life. Maybe next to the realization that I had known that I actually chose this life. I'm nearly positive that there's a moment in every military spouse's life when we think back to that moment of confidence we had when we thought "S/he's probably going to get deployed... but that's ok! I can do this! :-D" and want to punch our past selves in the face. Not for choosing the person we did! Just for being so damned cocky in thinking this would somehow not be excruciatingly difficult.

You know those moments in action movies where they make the hero out to be even more of a bad ass because someone who's obviously terrified asks 'how are you not afraid?!' and the hero's always like "I am."

THAT'S a deployment. Only you don't feel like more of a BAMF when you're going through it. Your heart still races every time there's a knock at the door. You just have to keep moving forward; adapt to what you are forced to endure.

But change in military life isn't always awful. After all, there's the opportunity to live in exciting new places like Germany! See the world! But don't think that makes change any less difficult.

The difference is that first, you are elated! The dawn of this realization is slow and steady, full of beautiful and exciting colors. Each little obstacle is just a check box toward the awesomeness coming your way. The promise of a new day distracts you, lets you ignore the fact that the night is dissolving.

Then at some point it hits us all, the stress of change. The crowning moment where all the little things come to a head. Suddenly we're in full daylight, forced to confront the sun and realizing we can't snuggle up in the comfort of our own bed.

For me, it was only a few weeks after we arrived. Our cat, Clyde, was suddenly very sick and it was clear he needed a vet. Feeling confident, I called the on-post clinic to schedule an appointment. I didn't even know where the clinic was! But I'd figure it out, I told myself. Except the woman on the phone informed me that they didn't have an appointment available for another 3 months and I would have to see someone "on the economy", as they say. ['On the economy' refers to anything off-post; thus, outside the little American economy and part of actual Germany.]

Enter Amy. Thank the stars for Amy!

Amy was a fellow spouse who had contacted me as part of the 'welcoming committee'. Normally I would avoid such things like the plague - grateful for their enthusiasm and service, but weary of their potential dysfunction and gossip. Persistent and spunky, she won me over though. I was thankful for her in general, but even more so when she came to my (and Clyde's) rescue! No sooner had I posted the sick kitty dilemma to Facebook than she had called me, given me the number to a vet (that spoke English), and told me she was on her way to scoop us up. She even told me what to say!

I only noticed my hands were shaking as I was writing a note to my husband, in case he came home while we were gone. I realized things were bad when I had to will myself to pick up the phone and dial the vet. I was terrified of how this exchange would go! What if they didn't actually speak English? What if we couldn't understand each other without the context of body language?! What if the number was wrong... Oh, why did Clyde have to get sick now? Why didn't I take German in college? WHY did we have to come to Germany?! The thrill had warn off and I was outside my comfort zone. So methodically, I checked things off in my head: get Clyde into carrier, find and set out his medical record, write note to husband, write down our new phone number and address, set out proper forms to take with us. Then frantically, I left it all on the counter.

Despite the fact that we were cutting into his lunch time, the vet was amiable and took good care of us. Note: us. Not just Clyde.

I was beginning to feel the relief of having successfully overcome another obstacle of change when they asked for my phone number. ...which I didn't know. And my address. ...which I couldn't remember. And my VAT form. ...which I didn't have. And the medical records. ...that I'd left on the counter. All of these were things that Amy had specifically told me to bring and I'd forgotten them. I wanted to burst into tears on the spot! She was on very good terms with the vet and here I was setting a bad example as an American, a military spouse, and making her look bad by being completely unprepared, disorganized, and incompetent! I wanted to crawl under a rock but couldn't! So I did the next best thing: stopped talking.

If I get too uncomfortable in a situation I do one of two things: babble uncontrollably or clam up entirely, resorting exclusively to body language and generic sounds of agreement (mm-hmm!). This time I chose the latter. The race had gone on too long and my legs simply would not launch me over this last hurdle. But I was not alone. They took up the slack I left in the conversation and it all worked out happily in the end. What I saw as a mountain of frustration and inadequacy was nothing to fret over for them and they got me through, despite my lack of words.

So in the end, it isn't always about the outcome or the destination. It isn't whether something is getting better or worse. Sometimes, it is just about the change. For many of us, change is scary and difficult. The important thing to remember is that you don't have to go through it alone. There are people and tools all around us that are meant to help.

Now if only I could get Blogger to stop giving me these instructions in German...