The Marine Corps slogan is Semper Fidelis, “Always Faithful.” It’s so lovely - what a sweet sentiment from the world’s greatest fighting force (yeah, I said it). Marine Corps’ spouses have another slogan, though: Semper Gumby, “Always Flexible.” To me, that one just doesn’t have the same ring to it; honestly, it just sounds like a lot of work on my part.
Being flexible has its limits. Have you ever idly played with a paperclip? Or maybe the top of a soda can? At first, the flexibility is amazing, and works exactly how it’s designed. But if you continue to work it, back and forth, back and forth, eventually it snaps. Snapping is not what I want for you, friend. Our entire country is being asked to be flexible in ways we never have before; our military community is no exception. Spouses that are traveling are not allowed to come home, deployments are being shifted around, training exercises that have been on the calendar for months are being cancelled, PCS orders are now up in the air for pretty much everyone. I know of more than one friend who sold a house expecting to move this month, only to be scrambling to find somewhere to live in this waiting time.
So how do we prevent the extreme expectations of flexibility from becoming overwhelming? For me, it comes down to doing the five following steps every day:
Clean - I like an organized and clean house. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is one of my favorite lines. But even I have those closets that I’d rather just not open the door. So everyday I am picking just one thing: a closet, a troublesome drawer, that weird cabinet over the stove that doesn’t seem like it should be able to hold as much junk as it does, and I’m cleaning it out. Take everything out, line it up on the floor or counter, and see what you really need to keep. The extra time at home means it will be easy to figure out what we actually use and what we keep around just for the heck of it.
Beyond just organizing, general cleaning is an easy way to make your home space more enjoyable. Not having any company for the foreseeable future may seem like a good excuse not to do the dishes, but trust me, you’ll feel loads better when they’re done and put away.
Create - If you don’t already have this habit, spend time every day creating something. Especially if you are staying at home from work, or have a houseful of kids. Find something you enjoy doing: baking, sewing, refinishing furniture, painting, whatever, and do it. Even if it is a small thing, 1 batch of cookies or a completed coloring page, being able to identify a completed project is extraordinarily rewarding.
Converse - Regardless of whether you are an extrovert or not, human interaction is a crucial part of our lives. Don’t disregard it completely in your attempt to self-quarantine or practice social distancing. Call up that friend you’ve been meaning to call but just haven’t had the time. Write an email to your grandma to let her know you’re thinking of her. Ask your kids how they’re coping and what you can do to ease their concerns.
Conversing also includes prayer. Spend time in the quietness of your heart processing the last few weeks, days, hours, with God. He won’t be shocked by your emotions, and time spent in prayer will never be time wasted.
Comprehend - okay, I’ll admit that this one was a bit of a stretch to find a “C” word to describe what I am talking about. But I already had 4 other “c” words, so it seemed a shame to give up now. But think of “comprehend” as learn. Find something new to learn every day, or if that is too much, at least have a goal for the time you spend in quarantine. I am learning how to grow plants indoors. Since I have a black thumb, this might be slightly dangerous for the houseplants, but I’m determined. Exercising your brain is just as important as exercising your body, and with YouTube or the internet at large, the opportunities to learn are almost overwhelming.
Cherish - it’s not every day that I am expected to stay home and read a book, or sew a quilt, or snuggle my kids under a blanket while watching the latest episode of Lego Masters. Taking this time to weed out the extraneous and focus on what really matters can be a special byproduct of these uncertain times. Have a family dinner. Even if it’s just macaroni and cheese, that counts. Spend extra time before bed reading a book together.
These are just my own coping mechanisms for these crazy times. It is also quite unintentional that “coronavirus” also starts with “c”. Oops. As the world shifts, and our needs shift, I am sure that these will change slightly. But hopefully they’re enough to get you going in the right direction and make an unprecedented situation seem a little more doable.
***I realize that for some of you, self-quarantining and social distancing can feel like an overwhelming, insurmountable request. If your home is not somewhere you feel safe, or if you have just barely been holding on as it was without deployment delays, please reach out. Reach out to your chaplain, your military family life counselor, your spouse’s command, MilitaryOneSource, any of us here at MilSpo.Co. You matter. Working together as a country to “flatten the curve” is great, but please don’t let that prevent you from seeking help if this just feels like too much.
Laura saw a guy with a cute haircut her first week of college, married him a couple years later, and has been involved in this whirlwind of a military life ever since. A Pacific Northwest native, she has spent most of her time as the spouse of an active duty Marine on the East Coast. Between homeschooling and writing, she loves to spend her lazy days working on household projects, quilting, and reading.
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