Leaving SpouseBuzz: 7 Lucky Things I Learned From You

After a three-year tour as SpouseBuzz editor and Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com, I am moving on.

Gah. That kills me to say. It is as wrenching as every one of our 16 PCS moves (except without all the boxes and the staggering trip to IKEA.)

farewellThanks to all of you, I’ve had a marvelous time. I’ve written 487 posts about military life. Coached lots of new speakers. Presented at dozens of events. Edited hundreds of talented writers. Met thousands of military spouses in person. Connected online with hundreds of thousands more.

I loved that part.

Because even though I have been a Navy wife for 27 years, I have learned a lot of lucky things from military spouses.  Here is the SparkNotes version:

1.The struggle is noble, dammit.

Military spouses don’t start out as awesome. They start out as hopeful. They start out thinking they will just handle it -- what’s all the complaining about?

Then at some point, reality hits. That is a hard moment. Spouses aren’t always ready to grow into the person they need to be. Sometimes they go through a rough period first.

Don’t give up hope on a spouse just because he or she is not handling things particularly well. Look at them and cheer them on -- because nobody else will.

Only those of us who have done it realize that the struggle to make a life with a service member that is also good for the spouse and good for the kids is a noble endeavor. It takes character to do it right and sometimes character needs time to grow.

2. Done is better than perfect.

So often I work with writers who want their work to be so perfect that they don’t turn it in. I was that writer once upon a time. I learned that sometimes it is better to complete something and then get feedback and change it. Or to complete something and move on to the next thing. That’s true in writing or in any other work we are trying to do.

3. Work with your opposite type.

Our managing editor, Amy Bushatz and I knew we were opposites the minute we met. She is all reporter, all detail, all facts, all get-the-story-first. She makes her decisions based on logic.

I’m not Amy. I’m all writer, all big picture, all what-does-this-research-mean and can’t-we-get-this-in-front-of-a-live-audience?? I make decision based on how everyone will feel.

We should have been at each other’s throats every day. Instead we got awesome about dividing the work by strengths. We looked to the other person to fill in our weak places. You are going to love Amy as the new editor of SpouseBuzz.

4. Bitter commenters are sometimes hurt commenters.

We have had a lot of commenters who have said some harsh things. Some of those comments we deserved. Some of those comments really made us rethink our position. Some of them were just wrong and we ignored ‘em.

Yet when I engaged with the most virulent of these commenters, I found out they were usually coming from a world of hurt. Some of the things that have happened to our service members and their families are untenable. Of course people are angry and hurt and stuck. Maybe we just owe each other a little attention.

5. Show up in person.

I’m a big believer in social media. I think the ability to work online and connect to other people online is a major boon to military spouses.

But the best part of this job was all of our live events—Spouse X, the Spouse Summit, all the conferences we attended, the announcements, the lunches, the coffees.

Our remarkable Events Manager Rachael Hubbard and I saw spouses get jobs because they showed up in person at events. We saw the ‘aha moment’ dawn on the faces of our participants.

We saw people start friendships and continue friendships and develop the kind of connections that lead to real social support. That happens in person. Face-to-face. No substitute available.

6. Follow where the work leads you.

I’ve always thought it would be awesome to be in the military. I didn’t want to run or anything. I didn’t want to handle a weapon. I just wanted to have my own private Detailer or Monitor to send me orders. That way I would know for sure what I was supposed to do and when.

Milspouse employment ain’t like that. It’s chaos theory out here. You listen to the messages that the world sends you about you. You follow where that leads.

So I am in listening mode. Evidently I am not the only one who thinks that the sign of a failure at a live event is that moment where people take out their phones and check their Instagram. It’s exciting to talk to new clients and figure out new projects for them. I wake up in the morning with completely different ideas about what to write and I can’t wait to get to the page. That’s a good sign.

7. Goodbye is never forever in military life.

New projects are a good sign. But they are also the sign that a goodbye is in order. And I do hate goodbyes--even when I know they aren’t forever.

So goodbye, SpouseBuzz readers and fellow workers. Thank you for all your good wishes, all your ideas, all that I have gained by working for you and with you. Talk to you soon.


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