The Gift of Anticipation


January. Oh, January. The time when we envision a clean slate. The holidays have come and gone, the decorations have been tucked away and we have 10 months to wait before the anticipation of giving thanks and getting gifts comes again. What is it about the Holidays that makes so many of us, well, happier? Is it the gathering of friends and/or family? The smell of cinnamon and balsam wafting in the air? Watching football after stuffing ourselves silly? The hilarious pictures with old St. Nick that we think will look so magical, but instead are snapped with screaming, frightened children who refuse to even fist pump the white bearded man in the big red suit? Yes! It’s all of it – everything that we always look forward to every year. It’s the gift of anticipation.

Anticipation is the natural ability to get excited. It creates this feeling inside of us that forces us to look forward to something that we believe is going to be awesome! On occasion, though, anticipation causes us to inadvertently build something up in our minds that we think is going to exceed our expectations. The result of this can sometimes be disastrous! Whatever the event or moment we anticipated as being stellar could turn out to be a complete let down. Anything come to mind? We have all experienced these moments at some point in our lives. Even events themselves have had those moments. For example, one year for the 4th of July some friends invited us to join them in their town’s local fireworks display. We would feast on crab first, enjoy the sunset, head to the park and then “oohhh” and “aaahhh” as the fireworks were shot off of an old sailboat out in the middle of the Bay. For weeks, my husband and I could not wait to take the 2 ½ hour drive across the bridge to meet up with our friends and celebrate our nation’s birthday. So, when the day finally arrived, we woke up excited! We ate some breakfast and hopped in the car full of anticipation. The drive there was great. The crab was delicious and we got to the park early to ensure we had the perfect view. We tossed a ball around and chatted for a few hours before the sun finally set and the park was full of spectators. The time came for the firework spectacle to begin. We settled into our chairs as the anticipation was now overflowing. The excitement grew as the familiar voice of Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag” blared from the barge followed by Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” I am sure a tear or two was probably already streaming down my face (that song gets me every time) as I stared off into the darkness awaiting the first blast to get the party started. The moment had come! We were at the height of anticipation and then…nothing. Nothing happened. The music stopped, there was no blast and the park was dead silent. A deep voice bellowed across the sound system announcing, “Unfortunately folks, we have had a major mishap and there will be no fireworks tonight.” And that was that. My husband and I thanked our friends for a wonderful afternoon and drove 2 ½ hours home…in the dark…laughing.

Giving yourself the gift of anticipation can be rewarding – even if the event turns out to be a letdown.

We were in such disbelief that all we could do was laugh! Were we disappointed? Absolutely! Were we let down? Of course, but we also had to find a way to deal with all those feelings to prevent ourselves from thinking the day was not a complete waste of time. If we cannot find the good with the bad, the funny with the sad or the joy in the chaos, we will continuously set ourselves up to fail when things do not go as planned. And in the military lifestyle, this can legit mean the difference between being depressed and building resilience in order to overcome adversity.

This January, I want to encourage you to give yourselves something to look forward to with the foresight that things may not turn out the way that you had hoped or planned, but with the idea that the anticipation of the event is still going to provide you with excitement and hope. As we all know, it can be extremely challenging trying to plan ahead in the military. Take a minute and think about what you would do if you could plan ahead. Try not to think months down the road, but just in the next few weeks. What is something you could give yourself or your family to look forward to next weekend, maybe after school next Thursday or perhaps the Monday after next? Could you plan a hike, a dinner out, a date night (amen), a long drive to visit a new spot? Even better – what is one thing you could plan right now that would get you excited about doing tomorrow? Is it a quiet walk alone, recording a podcast that you have been planning to record for over a year (just me?), trying out a new recipe, inventing a game with the kids, calling an old friend, or taking a nice, long bath? Whatever it is schedule it and schedule it NOW!

Planning makes all the difference.

3 Tips to Planning Something to Look Forward To:

  1. Write.It.Down – putting things in writing creates a space and time specifically for that event or activity. Make a promise to yourself to prioritize things to look forward to. When you schedule something, make it non-negotiable.
  2. Start small and then work your way through the year planning things that may take more time and effort to come to fruition. For the remainder of this month, try to plan one thing each week that you can look forward to. Maybe in February, you plan something every few days (a quiet walk by yourself, a fancy cup of coffee, READING TIME, restart a favorite hobby, etc). In March, think about looking ahead to planning something fun on the weekends (a long drive packed with favorite snacks, a free community event, or planning NOTHING and just enjoying a day at home as a family). In April, possibly look at planning a summer trip or little things you can start to look forward to doing with your kids while on summer break. Again, put them on the calendar ASAP!
  3. Don’t let the buildup become a burden or too stressful. If it does, put a pin in it or consider planning something similar instead of what you had in mind. If an activity turns out to be a disappointment, find something about it that was fun (even the tiniest thing) and plan something you can look forward to immediately. This will help you move past the disappointment and provide a positive attitude when planning your next event.

Lastly, plan things that you are not afraid to do alone or as a single parent. There have been way too many missed opportunities for myself and my kids simply because my husband was not around to do the activities with us. Time is fleeting. Do things for the sake of doing them – not because of who all is there. If everything works out for the entire family to join in, think of it as a bonus! You deserve to plan ahead – even when “military law” continues to strike. Accept the challenge because, as spouses, we are great at being flexible. This year, give yourself the gift of anticipation and allow it to stick around the whole year through. Here’s to planning a healthy, hopeful and happy 2024!

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Erin Stock
Erin grew up in Widefield, a small town just south of Colorado Springs, CO. Although she was surrounded by the military, she did not meet her husband, an Air Force Pilot, until they had both graduated from college. Erin has spent almost 20 years in education working as a classroom teacher, Literacy Specialist and Coach. Although Erin holds a MA in Educational Leadership and is also a National Board Certified Teacher, the best education Erin has ever received has been the gift of teaching across the nation. She credits the military with providing her the opportunity to learn more about education than she ever could have throughout her college years. Erin is a woman of faith and a mom to two young children. She is passionate about mental health support for spouses and also raises awareness regarding the dangers of Fentanyl. Erin and her family are currently serving their 7 th assignment in New Hampshire. She enjoys reading personal growth books and researching educational topics, but ends up spending the majority of her time playing with her kids, creating systems in her household, building a supportive community for spouses and dreaming of her forever home. She is also an occasional podcaster.


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