I hold my coffee in one hand and my cell phone in the other, thumbing through Instagram. I am working on better social media practices, but I have yet to crack my five minute wake up scroll. My thumb pauses at a photograph of a baby in a moving box. The picture announces where my friends will PCS this summer, and two thoughts cross my mind.
My reflexive thought is, Ooh I wonder where we’ll go next
But immediately after I think, we’re not going anywhere.
A few nights ago, my husband Ryan came home from work and told me that our posting in Virginia is being extended by a year. We have lived at this duty station for a year already, and we thought we had one left. But now we have two more years.
“Are you sure?” I asked him.
“As sure as I can be,” he said.
“But is it in writing?” I asked.
“Yes.” he replied. We both looked at each other.
We know that written orders make it more solid, but not indestructible. Any plans in military life are as fragile as attempting to pack and move long stemmed wine glasses, which explains why my original set of twelve is now down to seven.
“I need to renew our lease,” I said.
“Yeah we need to get on that and-” he started to say, but I put up one finger.
“Let’s make a list.” I said and he nodded.
We spent the rest of the night with our pens and paper, jotting down to-dos and daring to dream about the freedom that this extra year will give us.
Now I take another sip of my coffee and flip into my email, pulling up our rental contract. It reads: Congratulations! All parties have signed. We are happy to have you for another year. The first part of staying put is done. I feel my jaw relax but my shoulders tense. Like my morning scroll habit, I look at this lease email over and over again.
We have secured our current home for the extra time here. We are staying put, for now. Stability is good right?
We spent the past three years moving three times from Hawaii to Morocco, Morocco to Ecuador, Ecuador to Virginia. Due to the overseas nature of the moves and the program my husband was with, our household goods allotment was slim. We put most of our belongings in storage and became experts at living out of our suitcases. We were dropped off in housing we did not choose and lived with the provided furniture. We shrugged our shoulders and placed blankets across worn mustard sofas, beefed up the mattress with a pillow topper, and hung our meaningful artwork and photographs.
It was a season of constant change. From language barriers to cultural adjustments to planning trips, I grew accustomed to the thrill of new landscapes. As soon as I got a house set up, it felt like it was time to purge and pack again. I got really good at the flow of moving. I even looked forward to it. I made an entire guidebook from the lessons we learned and have countless adventures waiting to be pieced together into photo books.
That pace provided the permission to sit back and soak up a place differently.
Time felt limited so we prioritized what we wanted to do and see. The relationships I made became next-level faster because we knew we needed one another to stay afloat in the foreign lands we found ourselves in. Where I once bulked at not having constant work, I was able to reframe some of our time overseas as a sabbatical, resting in our family, traveling, and dabbling with new pursuits.
I feel like I figured out how to live overseas. I was confident in those abilities. I became “a triangle” person instead of a same-culture-same-country-circle.
But living in America? Living in one place for three years? No PCS? I am not good at this yet. But I want to be.
I set my phone down and look at the room around me. These walls have held us well for a year already, but there is a lot that is not functional. I get up and stroll around the house, noting the furniture we can move. I pull aside the curtains and gaze across the backyard at the empty plant pots. There are still unpacked boxes in the garage, and our toy “system” is anything but- which is why I killed my big toe on a Lego again this morning.
I find the “stay put, no PCS” list my husband and I created, and I take stock.
Beyond the physical changes we need to make within our home, I need to make a mental shift too.
We listed many boring but necessary adulting updates, but also some things that thrill us:
- rent a cabin in the Shenandoah Mountains
- take our daughter Madelyn to the zipline park
- meet the grandparents for a beach vacation
- drive back to Ohio to see family
- perhaps about a road trip up the east coast?
It continues with items that Ryan and I discussed just for me:
- get a mother’s helper during TDYs
- work on my book
- order a stationary exercise bike
I place the list down and fill my coffee cup back up. I stand at the back door, letting the first rays of morning sun warm my cheeks.
What will we make of this gift of time? What will I make of this gift of time?
I inhale the warm steam floating above my mug as I promise myself to move forward. I know I have been scared to settle in. I have been waiting for the rug to get swept out from under me, waiting to hear “let’s go” and tear it all down to start new. But this season of no PCS demands a new rhythm. I know I can be brave enough to find it.
I find my phone back on the couch, and I leave the scrolling and email checking behind. Instead, I open two tabs. In one, I start the hunt for a vacation home in the mountains. In the other, I scan reviews for a stationary bicycle.