We've had several poignant posts recently about Anticipatory Grief. It's a very real and serious topic. It's also something I have succombed to myself for periods of time.
As a National Guard Wife, I spend a great deal of my waking hours somewhere else. I know it's anticipatory in nature as well, but I haven't quite devised a perfect name.
So, for now, let's just call it "Sweating The Reality Every Stinking Second" (STRESS)
I'm sure you know what I'm talking about with STRESS.
For me, this means calculating and planning every decision in my life based upon what my husband's status may be at any given point in the foreseeable future. If it's still unclear if you have been suffering from Anticipatory STRESS, let me invite you into my world.
As a law student preparing to graduate next spring, I am currently in the hunt for all kinds of things--good bar exam prep, a terrific first job, and lots and lots of study time. I have the kinds of responsibilities that routinely accompany being the married mother of two young children and owner of two dogs. However, because Hubs and I are a military family, albeit not active duty at the moment, I have a little extra and that means I have to anticipate or be annihilated.
For study time on weekends when duty calls, I routinely have to line up activities or visits to Grandma for me to complete anything worthwhile. My girls, whom I affectionately refer to as The Bickersons, rowdily and regularly carry out cage matches in every room in the house. Thus, I have to anticipate those weekends, unexpected weekdays or even (gulp) months or I would risk failing out of school...reading big books and refereeing feather weight bouts do not mix!
Each job I interview for brings with it more anticipatory STRESS. Is this job right for me? Will I be able to line up appropriate childcare plans? Will childcare plans A, B, and C function even if Hubs isn't in the country? Could I do this job for over a year while not losing my sanity or being fired or committing some kind of egregious error that would land me in hot water either at home or at work? What if Hubs is gone and the kids wake up sick and I'm due in court at 8:30 a.m.? These questions swirl through my brain as I imagine horrific scenarios of charging into court with a stray curler in the back of my hair, toilet paper clinging to my high heel, and rumpled, coughing children in their footed pajamas. (I would like to point out here that should a potential employer be reading this, I would NOT allow this to happen...this is strictly for the purpose of illustration).
It's enough to make me break into a cold sweat!
And, if your military member is anything like mine, his response to my freak-outs? "Don't worry about it, babe. Just do what you have to do and the rest will fall into place."
You and I both know I'm not going to stop worrying. I'm the Mom. That's my job.
And, as far as doing what I have to do, I will continue to do that, even if it means doing EVERYTHING in advance and having a five-year plan for my five-year plan.
Flying by the seat of my pants is not one of my favorite hobbies.
The thing about visiting the land of Anticipatory STRESS is this--Your visit will time and again remind you of the very first lesson you ever learned as a military spouse (even if you fought it and resisted it for YEARS):
You do what you have to not because you want to, but because the alternative is unacceptable.
That lesson taught you that being a military spouse means you no longer have a death grip on your own life. You don't control everything--I know, I know! It stinks, right!? Anything that can go wrong will (at least twice) and you will run out of alphabet sometimes without every landing on a plan that works....and yes, for the record, Plan Z has been invoked in my household. But, again, the alternative is not being a military spouse and I have zero interest in that alternative.
My mantra that I sometimes actually believe: You only have two hands and 24 hours.
Embracing that rather than fighting it is likely the difference between enjoying the breeze and screaming into the wind.
I'm sure you have passport stickers from the land of Anticipatory Stress--some with good travel outcomes and others not so much. I would love to read in the comments how you faced STRESS, stared it down and conquered it. Maybe in sharing those moments we can encourage each other not to forego great opportunities because we are paralyzed with STRESS over what may never even be an issue.