As you may know, I am a bit new to this whole military thing. What’s more, my spouse joined service in our later years of life. All that to say, in our civilian life, we didn’t recognize the value in stability and consistency until they were gone.
This military friendship thing is hard.
Its bouncy-ball effects — up and down, side to side, and every which way — are rendering me despondent. To some degree, I feel a bit like a vagabond as a military spouse — looking for a place to call home in occupation, in location, and in friendship.
It really got me thinking, military friendship can be likened to the Seven Dwarf personalities.
Doc is a swooper. He swoops in to fix everything without a proper diagnosis of the perceived ailment. Doc has gone before you. He has an education and life-experience. Doc says things like, “Bless your heart” (you silly, stupid girl). Doc knows all the things you do not and would love for you to learn proper recovery steps more quickly, so he can move on to the next patient. Doc is just trying to help, but also really hates watching patients experience pain. He chose the wrong profession and possibly practice, and you both suffer for it. You won’t heal, and he can’t fix you. Doc is frustrated, so he leaves. He can find a new practice, with new patients. No harm, no foul.
Grumpy is known for his tendency to complain. He is a bit Eeyore in his approach, “Woe is him.” Grumpy can be challenging to be around because there is always something wrong and there is always someone to blame. Grumpy lacks the ability to look inward. Outward is his focus and the outlook doesn’t look good. Grumpy lacks contentment. Really, we all struggle with contentment at times, but as I’ve constantly reiterated with my 8-year-old, sometimes, “I just want kind words to come out of your mouth.”
I call this one my Mardi Gras friend. It’s evident Happy’s hurting but it is easier to fill his life with parties, and masks, and beads and fluff. He surrounds himself with people who don’t really know him. He lives in large crowds, but can’t find an intimate space to just be known. These friends hide under masks of expectation and superficial joy. They are attracted to the “in” crowd but most assuredly live “out” of place.
Sleepy is, well he’s asleep. Sleepy is the non-pursuer. Ugh this one hits home most. Sleepy burns the candle at both ends. When the candle runs out, he just finds a new candle and starts burning strong. It’s what Sleepy knows. He is so doggone tired, but he doesn’t know how to stop, or even slow things down. EVERYTHING is soooooo important to Sleepy, but he doesn’t know how to balance it all. So, he sleeps throughout each and every friendship, not mindful of what he is missing when he wakes and unaware of the pain he may have caused.
Life is fleeting. But for a military spouse, it’s quite literally fleeting.
We go from location to location, station to station. When we aren’t moving, our friends are, and honestly, we’d almost rather get a little extra rest than to invest in another great friendship just to watch it walk away again.
God love these gentle souls. These sweet people are so painfully shy. These friends are a joy because they tend to not be overbearing or all-consuming. They are the first to offer help when you need it because unlike Sleepy, they know how to balance their time. They are painfully shy, but fiercely loyal. Every Bashful needs a Mardi Gras friend, and every Mardi Gras friend needs a Bashful.
Sneezy is all about excuses. Sneezy lives in fear. He can’t go out because he’s sick. If he’s not sick, he will be (especially if he goes out). Also, Sneezy’s dog is sick, and he needs to take care of it. The kids are sick too now. Sneezy lives in a bubble, afraid of what lies outside of his safe, protected space. Sneezy can’t get out to experience life, but deep down wants to. He just hasn’t found the push he needs to give it a go.
Dopey, my personal Seven Dwarf favorite, is oh so silly. Everything is either a joke or just plain fun to Dopey. Dopey is a blast to be around because fun drives everything. “If it’s not fun, then why do it?” Dopey’s tank is always full because he’s mindful to replenish his empty tank with more fun. Dopey makes investments into Dopey and no one else because investing in the people around him would be fatiguing, and it’s just not worth Dopey’s effort. If it ain’t fun, Dopey wants nothing to do with it. Dopey is about Dopey, no more, no less.
So, which are you?
Actually, which am I?
Truth be told, I am every… single…one…
The challenge is in our thinking. The role we think we play is that of Snow White in our make-believe fairy tale friendship stories. We’re the fairy tale princesses, escaping the evil queen; when in all actuality we are more often than not one of the seven dysfunctional dwarfs.
In this fast-paced, Facebook-comparing, Instagram-acknowledging, Pinterest-perfecting, time-intensive-Tweeting world, I am far too busy to be any kind of friend most of my friends deserve. What a sad time we live in, when a post takes preference over a person.
Shamefully, I often revert to my multiple personality, dwarf self. Valuable time gets lost in a people-pleasing vacuum because God forbid I hurt someone (which in all irony, I have a knack for doing anyway).
And while it’s true that I embody in some way each and every failed dwarf attempt at friendship, I think it’s also quite possible we expect far too much from one another. We expect perfection.
Our expectations are high, and if the return is low, we opt out. We start looking for a better deal. We lack staying power. In a world of the unfriend, why stay?
Let’s just say we are lucky enough to make three military friendships at every station. How do we maintain the relationships of the three friends who are still in our day-to-day life while also investing in the three friends from every location?
There are friends that I have loved and lost, and I am only three years into this military spouse thing. It’s painful y’all, and while I deeply desire authentic friendship, I am not sure my heart can handle another unfriend. We can all be better friends, improving our Seven-Dwarf like tendencies. I don’t have the answers to military friendship woes, but I am hopeful for answers or perhaps even some healthy conversation.
Tell me your stories. How have your fairy-tale friendships fallen? How many friendships have you loved and lost throughout your military spouse journey?