I had the distinct privilege of attending an Army Family Strong Bonds retreat this past weekend at Suncadia Lodge in Cle Elum, WA. I’m sure that sounds like a plug right from the get-go, and it pretty much is exactly that! If you are Army and you are reading this GO TO A RETREAT!
AFSB is a really cool program that is relatively new to the Army from what it sounds like on their website. It is led by Chaplains and exists to support, train and encourage soldiers and their family members on the tough parts of being in the Army. (Click here for a detailed description of the Strong Bonds program.)
This weekend was a retreat focused on Spouses of Deployed Soldiers and was designed to help us identify some of the tough issues/challenges we may have or are currently experiencing, the resources that are available to us to help us work through those issues and challenges, and some great reminders just about the basic stuff of life. They really wanted us to get away from everyday life and experience a fun break, to help us, remind us and encourage us about all that is available to us.
I really needed this retreat this weekend-more than I even realized. I’ve been so stressed lately and I didn’t even fully realize the extent of my stress or the effects it was having on Cooper (and probably Chase) until after we got there. I cracked up laughing when one of the Chaplains read us the definition of stress.
Here it is: “A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression…. A stimulus or circumstance causing such a condition…. A state of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain.”
One of the Chaplains disagreed with the “adverse” influences mentioned in the definition. He reminded us that sometimes happy things (like R&R and homecoming) can make us “stressed” out too.
Those underlined words really jumped out at me. (It’s now no surprise that massages are such a big thing to those of us whose hubby’s are at war.) I have tried, in my own strength, to shake a lot of this “yucky stuff” thinking that I was just in a funk or something. It bothers me to be irritable and depressed and tense. I don’t like me that way!
I remember saying before Jeremy left that I really didn’t want my kids or me to remember this year as described by those words. I mean I didn’t expect it to be fun, but so many of us mentioned over and over again this weekend that we don’t just want to “get through” this deployment. We want to live our lives, have fun and keep going. Not act like the whole world has to stop and wallow in self-pity. Ewww…
A lot of people have said to me how strong I am or how great I am handling this deployment. But, I think I had my breaking point after Jeremy left from R&R. It was really hard and I didn’t have any emotional energy or reserves to get through it. I think I kinda cracked a bit.
I really liked the way our Chaplain showed us how this happens. He was walking around the room talking to us about our emotions and about stress. As he was talking he had a soda can in his hand and he kept shaking it. He tossed it in the air a few times and wiggled it all around. Then he sat the soda can down on a table and asked us, “Can you tell by looking at this soda can that it is about to explode?” Whoa. Nope, you really can’t. You only know if you have watched what it just went through. Then he asked “and what needs to happen so that this soda can can be opened without exploding?” We all answered, “you have to stop shaking it and let it rest” (and then the peanut gallery mentioned you should flick it….).
I really appreciated that visual imagery. It helped me to check myself a bit and it also helped me to realize that I am in charge of myself. I am the one who is responsible for me and my emotional, physical and spiritual health. I’m the one who has to act to change it and stop shaking the can.
I had been telling myself stuff like, “I need to figure this out myself” and “I need to pull myself together” and “I get plenty of ‘breaks’ and I just need to stay busy” and “help isn’t always going to be available so you’d better just get through it and stop complaining”, stuff like that.
All in all, I was reminded of the Truth this weekend. That God doesn’t want me to be emotionally, spiritually or physically exhausted. That He wants to encourage me, refresh me and fill me up and that I need to do my part too. I need to allow myself some “treats” so that I have the emotional reserves to not just “get through” this deployment, but to have fun and build memories and happy times with my children. Our lives still go on-all of us, me the boys and Jeremy. And I don’t want to just “get through” this. I want to have fun and I want to continue to enjoy life.
I knew all that stuff before I left, but I needed to be reminded of it with a megaphone apparently. I was a bit deaf I think!
The resort was gorgeous by the way. Beautiful and luxurious place. I felt special that the Army would do something so nice for us. It honestly touched my heart. I leave you with some fun pictures (you can click on each pic to see it bigger and in greater detail)!