The Unknown: A military spouse’s greatest worry

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“What’s next? When will we move? Where will we go?”

Like any military spouse, these are the questions that swirl in my mind now that my Navy husband, Francis, is in the last year of his current tour of duty.

But unlike most level-headed military spouses, I’m one of those people who doesn’t deal well with unknowns.

You know the type. The ones who incessantly scribble lists entitled “Stuff I Gotta Do,” “Movies I Wanna Watch on Netflix,” “Household Projects I Never Quite Finished,” “Weight Loss Goals I’ve Been Working on Since 9th Grade,” “Meals That the Kids Won’t Hate,” and “Embarrassing Questions to Ask the Doctor.”

Yep, that’s me.

Needless to say, military moves really stress me out. In our 22 years of military marriage, I’ve often told my husband, “I don’t care if we live in a cardboard box under an overpass, just tell me where we’re going, and I’ll plan where to hang the pictures.”

All joking aside, there are legitimate worries that military families face every time they move, such as: Will my spouse have to move without us so the kids can stay in school? And if we decide to “geobach”, how will that affect our marriage? Will I be able to find work in my field? If the kids change schools, will they struggle with a new curriculum, or will they have to sit through material they’ve already learned? Will they fit in? Will we be happy?

We have several more months to go before our rotation date, but guaranteed, I’ll work myself into a tizzy over all the unknowns about Francis’ next job and our next home.

To make matters worse, we’re waiting for decisions on our daughter Anna’s college applications. At 17, she’s taking it all in stride, while I’m a veritable basket case. Where will she go? Can we afford it? Will she need a shower caddy? What if she gets a roommate with green hair and bolts in her face who boils ramen in her hot pot and sets the dorm on fire, ruining Anna’s entire freshman experience?

Our oldest, Hayden, has only two and a half years of college left. If we don’t go bankrupt first, he’ll graduate with a degree in Computer Science and get snapped up by some tech firm, and then where will he be? Halfway around the world in California? Will he learn how to iron shirts all by himself? Who is going to pair up all his mismatched socks? Will I have to fly all the way out there to disinfect his bathroom and make sure he’s eating enough fruit?

And what about our youngest Lilly? Will she even be able to get into college with that Chemistry grade? Should she forgo college altogether, considering that we’ll be flat broke by the time we pay tuition for Hayden and Anna? Could we all fit in a cardboard box under an overpass if we had to?

It’s not easy being a nut job.

I’d much rather be the type of person who drifts contentedly through life like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream, embracing spontaneity while belting out Doris Day’s best “Que, Sera Sera!” 

I’ve often wondered if, at the heart of all my obsessive planning, are deep seeded “control issues” that if left unchecked, could spiral into a psychotic episode that would leave me wandering in front of the courthouse in a dusty wool coat and a tin foil turban, muttering something about campaign finance reform, and pushing a shopping cart full of empty tuna cans.

There I go again.

My rational side knows that all the worries in the world won’t change two simple truths of military life: We’ll never know what will happen until it happens. And, just like Doris said, whatever will be will be.

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Comments: 12

  1. Marcia WIns February 7, 2016 at 1:22 am Reply

    My husband is in the Army and we are getting ready to move again. After this time, 12 yrs and 4 moves (5th coming up), you would think that I would learn not to ask for answer because they are almost always, “I don’t know yet.” I am excited for this next move though. We are currently in WA, the furthest North we have ever been, and we are moving to MO which is only 4 hours from “home.” The thing that makes moving good for me is I get a whole new house to try my DIY projects on!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 7, 2016 at 6:36 pm Reply

      I know exactly what you are talking about Marcia — it seems like the longer we are in the military, the longer it takes to get orders, so the longer our spouses say “I don’t know yet.” But I guess I wouldn’t change anything – it has been a really fun 23 year adventure!

  2. energywriter January 25, 2016 at 1:23 pm Reply

    Good job explaining the anxiety, Lisa. You have always coped and always will. This might give you a giggle: When I made my last move and bought this house 14 years ago, I sat in my living room and said to myself, “Finally, my own home for as long as I want to be here. Aaaarrrgghh! I’m going to be here until I die!!” After all the stress and complaining about moving, the thought of being in one spot for the rest of my life terrified me. But I’m still here and enjoying it. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 7, 2016 at 6:41 pm Reply

      That’s really true Sharon, we get used to moving as military spouses. It becomes a way of life, and we start to like it. However, I do love my current base house, neighbors, town, etc. I am going to be very sad to go when the time comes.

  3. suzie123 January 25, 2016 at 1:06 pm Reply

    So much like me!!! I am married to a military guy and every last few years has been a: “we could move to…”. He is currently deployed to Kuweit and I need to plan on a possible move to Montreal or to stay in Ottawa waiting for his 1 year in Montreal is over… Keeping my job and keeping the kids school and stability or being with hubby who has been deployed 6 months and who we really need to spend time with to feel like a family again… SUCH a difficult decision and I keep changing my mind, one day I say I am moving, the next one I don’t want to. I want to do the best for the boys (5 and 7), one boy wants to move but the other one really doesn’t want to… I so wish that we could all stay put for one year after this deployment… I cannot imagine another year of seeing him on weekends only. Am I the only one who feels like I am a single mom most of the time even though I have a spouse I love who’s always gone?

    • Lisa Smith Molinari February 7, 2016 at 6:44 pm Reply

      Oh no, Suzie — I have heard that from so many military spouses — they feel like single moms, especially during work ups and times when the spouse comes and goes. I don’t envy you having to make that decision whether or not to move. I have been in the same position. We are facing a possible separation because I might need to stay put to allow my youngest to finish school. Oh the things we do…

  4. Grannie now January 25, 2016 at 8:31 am Reply

    I so agree with you about stressing about the unknown. I am not a military wife, but I have the same worries. It would make life easier if I was the “laid back” type my husband is. He just takes things as they come. He is a good balance for me. However, most things work out, so I hope your next move is a smooth one to a happy place and your daughter gets into a school she is happy in and will graduate.

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 25, 2016 at 9:05 am Reply

      Grannie — my husband is like yours. He is actually excited for his next job and our next home, and he has no idea what/where they will be! Thank goodness we’re married to guys like that – can you imagine life with two worriers? The shrink bills alone would be ridiculous!

  5. AFspouse January 25, 2016 at 7:37 am Reply

    Reading this, I can tell you at the very least….. You are not alone!

    Strength in numbers. We will persevere! 🙂

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 25, 2016 at 9:08 am Reply

      It’s kind of sad that misery loves company, but it’s true. I know that milspouses everywhere understand the feeling of constant uncertainty about the future, and that’s why I wrote it. Who wants to read about my own unique individual traits? Nobody! I always try to pick some story about my life to which readers (especially military) will relate. I’m glad you connected with this one!

  6. Patrice January 25, 2016 at 6:47 am Reply

    Lisa – you have done an amazing job of making a “home” no matter where your incredibly well-adjusted kids and blissfully unaware husband land. No doubt the next one will be the same! Can’t wait to visit!

    • Lisa Smith Molinari January 25, 2016 at 9:12 am Reply

      Yes, Patrice, “blissfully unaware” is a good phrase for Francis! He definitely grounds me when I begin to tailspin into a deep abyss of stress. You guys aren’t military like us, but your family two moves in four years pretty darned well too. I guess at least moving adds some sense of adventure to life!

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