In October 2019 my family started moving from our previous station in Ecuador to Virginia. It is now spring 2020. It took six months from the time we started our moving process to get where we are today. PCSing is a long game, and each time I play, the move requires every tool in my toolbox to complete the transition. The moves do not seem to get easier, but I know through experience we will get through it.
On the brink of settling into a new station, the world has become a swirl of chaos surrounding the COVID-19 virus. As the pandemic sweeps across the globe, I am reaching into my toolbox again and implementing my recent PCS lessons to help me accept and adjust to our new normal.
Permission to Grieve
The emotions that I carry away from a duty station are often heavier than my bags. Friendships, activities, a sense of normalcy- a life chapter that I loved, are gone.
During the first few weeks of social-distancing, I tried to push forward without grieving the loss of what used to be our normal. Social distancing feels like a small pittance to pay to save lives. But if we mask our feelings and fail to grieve, we can not let go of what once was and move on to what may be. Grieve what used to be, in order to make a better present.
Expect Less of Yourself
There are days in this new normal where the energy feels sucked from my bones. Maybe you feel that way too? But I get up- and expect less of myself. This is a skill I adapted after our move to Ecuador. We came from Morocco, and it took six months for our household goods to arrive. While our apartment was furnished, there were days when I felt helpless. The unknown was excruciating.
I had to expect less of myself, which was humbling, but also a blessing in disguise. It meant I had to slow down and do only what was necessary each day. Is everyone fed? Are the people in your home clean-ish? Stick to basics until you have the strength to add more.
Tech it Up
Flat screens can not replace in-person relationships, but they can help lift loneliness. Just as you would driving cross country to your next destination or moving overseas, tech it up to take a break and connect with your people. Set phone dates in advance to give yourself something to look forward to.
Take it One Day at a Time
We all know PCSing takes time. Life feels upside down as we work to establish routines that feel right for our family. We usually have to try on new patterns before we can settle into one that works. Looking too far ahead can be overwhelming, instead take each day as it comes.
Focusing on self care can lead us astray. It falls prey to self-oriented choices like manicures, massages, drinks with friends, things we would be able to leave the house for. Right now, I’m challenging myself to re-define self-care as “self-health.” What small choices can I make each day to encourage myself physically, mentally, and emotionally? Get outside. Drink water. Move my body. Go to bed without scrolling. Walk away from the full packet of Oreos. Make a tele-health appointment to talk through this upheaval with a counselor or therapist.
These choices will look different for everyone, but we can concentrate on maintaining good health. A healthy body is a cared-for body.
Recognize Your Unique Strengths
You have unique strengths that are going to help you get through this time. Have you stopped to think of what they are? Who are you when your family does a PCS? Are you the meal manager? The one most likely to turn on music for a dance party? Lean into those small but significant talents that you have and let them guide you through. Understand you are not good at everything, and that is okay.
Choose What Works for You
There is no standard equation that determines when we will feel at home after a move. I believe that applies to our new normal too. There will be ups and downs, good days with bad. What works for someone else may not work for you. Just keep showing up and find what feels right for your crew.
Tap into Certainty
Military families are uniquely positioned to handle this unfolding situation. We are forced to greet a new normal with each PCS. We are put in uncomfortable, unwelcome scenarios from the day we say “yes” to military life. That does not mean surviving this challenge will be easier for us.
However it does mean we can recognize and utilize the strengths we have gained from our experiences to create a new normal for the time being. We can be certain that someday, we will beat this, and I can’t wait to define what normal is then.
It takes courage to start over and adjust, but we were made for a time such as this.
By Lindsay Swoboda of Uplifting Anchor