Have you ever hit a plateau? You are working your way towards a goal, big or small, and you finally achieve it and then wonder, "What's next?"
This plateau could be anything, in your career or physical training or financial reaches, anything at all.
The other night as I burrowed under the covers in our dark bedroom my husband let out an unfamiliar but unmistakable world-weary sigh. In the dark he must have felt my questioning look because I heard him turn to look at me and ask that exact question. "What's next?"
I wasn't really sure how to answer. What is next for what? Us? Your career? A whole conversation bloomed as the clock slowly moved from late to very late.
For the past few years we worked to pay off our cars, buy a house, and build ourselves financially. My husband went back to school for his new MOS and we maintained a bi-coastal marriage for nine months to further his career. At the end of that long wait we knew a PCS was coming, we'd be out of our small apartment near D.C. and looking for our first house. Flash forward another six months and here we are. The house is furnished and painted and fixed up. Financially we have our accounts where we want and need them. My husband goes to work every day, with a deployment on the books for sometime next year but not close. With that looming year-long deployment the idea of starting a family is on hold.
We have done all that we can, and for the first time since we have known each other, we are not sure what is next. I finally understand the question.
As I listened to the ceiling fan whirl in the darkness I tried to gather my thoughts. My employment situation is still not desirable, that is fixable with time, but for everything else we have a sort of waiting game. What else is new? I finally realized what has to be next.
"We take time for us." I said into the darkness.
Slightly confused and now definitely sleepy I could practically hear my husband raise his eyebrows at me.
I continued, "We spent the last two and a half years getting here. We finally reached this mile marker and we know we have some time before the next one. So this is time for us. Time for us to watch Netflix on the couch at night and go exploring on the weekends. Nothing big, nothing fancy, but time to just spend as you and me. For us to just be married and be together."
He pondered this for a moment. My logical, analytical, numbers based husband who constantly has not just a goal in mind but the next three goals lined up ready to be achieved.
"Yes. You're right." Words every married person dreams of hearing.
We continue to talk and plan based on what ifs but this can be solid. As much as we want to start a family, it isn't the best time. He would either miss the pregnancy, the birth, the entire first year of our child's life or any combination of the above. Knowing this information we don't want to push forward. Our budget is sound, always room for more naturally, but it is functioning. Our bills are paid, we have a little to save and a little to spend on ourselves.
We have hit a plateau and lying in bed that night I realized that may not be a bad thing. As exhilarating as the upward climb is and as thrilling as it is to cross the finish line, sometimes the cool down before the next climb can be just as enjoyable. We have a year, a luxuriously long time in military life, to focus on our relationship and each other. Our marriage is the priority... and it is a blessing.
Sometimes "What's next?" is full of dread. Sometimes it is full of anticipation and excitement. Sometimes it is a gift.