This is How I Win


I love reading the comments here on SpouseBuzz.  MilSpouses have so many ideas and opinions, and despite the seemingly omnipresent idea that we all march in lockstep like some sort of uniformed borg unit, we are beautifully diverse in both backgrounds and opinions.  The ability to respond to and help each other is as much a gift to the giver as it is to the one getting advice or help.

Recently in the comments one new MilSpouse asked how we manage to keep our spirits up and laugh despite all the challenges that strike us in our chosen roles.

The answer, quite simply, is that I don't.

I don't always feel like laughing.  In fact, we're at a four week stretch right now where hubby has had to go in to work every weekend in addition to his regular duties.  I'm still at the territorial "Back off my man!" stage as we recover from his last deployment, and so this is beginning to irritate me to no end.  I don't want to laugh about it at all, I want to kick something.  In fact, I'd like to kick his work cell phone!  Just last night he forgot the phone in the bathroom and I had a sudden psychotic urge to "accidentally" drop it in the toilet.

And when I realized the horrible revenge I was contemplating (we have two young children who still haven't discovered that the toilet will actually put fresh water in the bowl with the mere press of a handle) I laughed.  I laughed because I had a sudden picture of the look on my husband's face as I broke the news to him he would have to go potty-fishing.  I laughed because I imagined hubby trying to explain what had happened (and who was responsible) to his boss.   I laughed because that seemed like a particularly evil revenge to take - even for me.

And once I started laughing, things suddenly felt much better.  Not perfect, by any means; I'm still frustrated and tired and I would still like to take a hammer to his work phone for interrupting our snuggling time.  But I do feel better.

That's the special thing about finding something to laugh about - once you do, the mountain you are trying to climb seems just that much smaller. 

During hubby's most recent deployment, my mother-in-law hit the critical point that required her to be put in a nursing home.  She did NOT want to go.  And I should probably tell you that my mother-in-law has never liked me.  Actually, that is an understatement - it's much worse than simple dislike.  I wouldn't be surprised if she consulted voodoo practitioners and had red-headed dolls that vaguely resemble me bristling with pins around her bed.  To compound the problem, my mother-in-law's encroaching dementia is of the very mean and nasty sort.

So, let's analyze that situation:  my husband has four months left to go in Afghanistan.  I'm single-parenting and homeschooling four children.  My mini-van's brakes went out.  My computer completely broke down.  And my mother-in-law starting losing her mind with a mean, nasty vengeance, causing me to fly cross country with four children and a dog all by myself in order to try and fix the problem.  Also, it was a particularly hot summer and fall, and I just don't DO hot. 

I didn't want to laugh.  I didn't want to be happy anymore.  I wanted people to go away and leave me alone to stew in my misery as I railed against the heavens and sent up some truly hell-worthy prayers to God Above.  Really hell-worthy prayers.  How often do you have to go to confession for your prayers?  I started a lot of conversations with, "Do you know how much this SUCKS?"

And then I received one of many, many, many horrified calls about my MIL's behavior from the nurses at the home she was staying in.  Apparently, in a fit of anger at the doctor who wouldn't release her to go home on her own, she started making fun of his name.  His name is Dr. Bright.  She began to scream down the halls (every time she saw him) in her thick Russian accent, "Oh, look there!  It's Doctor Not Bright!  Doctor Not as Bright as He Thinks!  How did Doctor Not Bright get through medical school?"

As hard as I tried to keep my angry, vengeful thoughts and countenance, I started smiling.  I couldn't help it!  The situation was too ridiculous to take seriously!  Doctor Not Bright!  What DID the people coming to look at her nursing facility think when they saw this angry, cantankerous old woman screaming that and shaking her fist down the hallways!

As soon as I started laughing about my MIL's turn-of-phrase I felt better.  The enormous knot I had stopped noticing in my stomach unclenched.  The pains in my chest ceased.  My eyes stopped watering for no reason, and I had the first night in a month without an end-of-day migraine.  All because I laughed.

I already knew about laughter, but I had allowed myself to forget.  I was not only angry, I wanted to be angry.  How DARE God, the Air Force, my MIL, and even my husband put me in this situation when all I wanted was to be normal!

Except... I don't.  Not really.  I mean, if we were a "normal" family we would live right next door to my MIL and I would have to visit her and listen to her angry Russian tirades every day!  I would have to participate in family politics.  I would not live a lifestyle above our socio-economic group because of all the travel benefits involved in PCSing.  And I would not have this enormous sense of pride in what my husband and I (yes, in my own way I serve, too!) do.

I have learned that if I don't laugh - if I don't find something funny and ridiculous in my situation, I'm going to spend all my time crying. 

So, to answer the question in full:  How do I keep my spirits up and laugh despite the challenges?

1)  I kick a pillow.

2)  I let forth a barrage of words that would shock my priest into a chain recitation of Hail Mary's.

3)  I make myself laugh.  It's best if I'm laughing at something silly in myself, but if I am too angry for that to work I watch The Incredibles.   Usually, though, I am a magnet for the ridiculous and there is an overabundance of drama in my life for my own personal comic material.

And I remember this most of all - by choosing to find a reason to laugh I am controlling my own destiny.   As long as I can find something to laugh about,  I win. 

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