Staying Present During a PCS


We all wait for it – the moment those orders officially arrive telling us where to next and when. Whether it is good news or bad news, we start planning for the upcoming PCS (Permanent Change of Station) – house-hunting, schools, the job search. We spend countless hours researching homes online and asking a million questions in various Facebook groups about the best schools and neighborhoods. All of that makes it incredibly difficult to be present and live in the “here and now” especially if you like where you currently live.

I hate that this whole process forces me to start checking out long before the movers show up. 

If you’ve been counting down the days until you leave your current location, then this is all a welcome distraction. But if you’re like me and you love where you are, then we’re really short-changing ourselves.

I’ve been trying so hard to stay present and enjoy all of the things I love most about our current duty station in Belgium, knowing that I will miss all of it once I’m back in the U.S. But then the tug of the PCS “to-do” list starts pulling at our lives.  

There are most certainly things that need to be done, but my desire to have an organized move with minimal disruption is a fantasy … because what PCS ever goes according to plan?? So much is really beyond my control, and at the end of the day, our stuff will eventually get to the right place. ”

So, instead of getting sucked down the black hole of the internet and ignoring my kids, I decided that I should try and do my best to accept the chaos and enjoy our final days in this dream duty station.

Here’s what I’ve tried to do to stay present:


I’m certainly not a new age yogi, but I have been reading a lot about the benefits of meditation. What surprised me most is that I don’t have to set aside a big block of time for meditation.  Even just five minutes per day can make a difference. According to meditation instructor, Leah Kinsella, listening to a recorded meditation is helpful if you’re just getting started. She recommends sticking with the same recording for at least 30 days. There are loads of free apps to help guide you and many of them allow you to tailor the type of meditation for your specific needs as well as a timer. Personally, I’ve found the 10% Happier app to be really user-friendly because they have various meditations for specific situations (better sleep, stress reduction, pain) and there are even meditations you can listen to while you commute! If you are trying to meditate on your own without the guidance of a recording, Leah offers this very simple meditation:

“Sit quietly in a comfortable position and bring your attention to your breath. Count to 3 as you inhale and 3 as you exhale. Do it slowly. And remember, you don’t have to clear your mind. Simply focus on your breath. Your body and mind will relax on their own.”

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour. — Old Zen Adage

Minimize the “Move Talk” Around the Kids:

Kids hear and pick up every.thing.

The more we talked about the upcoming move and everything associated with it, the more we found the kids were dreading school, music lessons, sports practices, and homework was absolute torture for all of us. In full disclosure, we sort of forgot they could actually hear us talking about the impending move. This is the first time when they have been old enough to fully understand everything that was taking place. Mentally checking out became contagious in our family. So my husband and I agreed to have those discussions after the kids were in bed instead of at the dinner table. There is definitely a delicate balance between getting them excited about the move without mentally checking out before its time.

Do the Things:

Slow down, stop, and have that cup of coffee with a friend. Visit your favorite park one last time. Have dinner at your favorite restaurant. Watch the sun set off your back porch. It’s so easy to push those things aside in an effort to get everything done and organized in advance of the movers showing up. Soak it all up while you can, because trust me, the move stuff will get done. It might not be pretty or as organized as you want it to be, but you’ll never get those moments back. So take time to enjoy them while you can. 

PCS’ing is definitely overwhelming. But if we focus all of our attention on what’s to come instead of on what’s happening around us, we miss out on those small moments that make each duty station so special.

Enjoy every moment up until the end.