How to Move Far Away with a Sailor

006A successful blogger recently explained that she attracts readers by offering advice. Posts titled “How to” anything are especially popular.

Since I love to tell people what to do (hello–I’m a mom and a teacher!), this seems like a perfect fit for me.

I present the first of my friendly suggestion posts: How to Move Far Away with a Sailor.

Anyone connected with the military has had to deal with involuntary moves far far away. While this can be an opportunity to see different places and meet new people, it can also be daunting, particularly if you’re the timid type.

I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I moved to Halifax with my sailor. It was a bit of a struggle, but I got through it and I think I’m more independent and (dare I say it?) daring because of the experience.

This is what I learned.

1. Force yourself to get out and meet people. A job can be a great way to do this, but sometimes good jobs aren’t easy to come by. When I arrived in Halifax, no one was hiring teachers. Wandering around the mall alone everyday soon got old, especially when my sailor went off to sea for months at a time. I volunteered for the Canadian Cancer Society, worked at a pancake house and even (briefly) joined the Officers’ Wives Club bowling team. I’m way too uncoordinated to bowl regularly, but I stayed long enough to make a couple of friends and get myself invited to other social events that were more my style.

2. Find a new hobby. Mine was cooking, which is actually a solitary pursuit, but it gave me something to do when I was bored and kept me out of Tim Hortons. (I became addicted to their cinnamon sugar doughnuts.) To complement my developing prowess in the kitchen, my sailor and I became a wine making team–he made it and I drank it. I still enjoy cooking, but the wine making fell by the wayside when I got pregnant and couldn’t drink.

3. Perhaps the most important suggestion for anyone feeling lost and alone in a strange community: do NOT make any major changes the first time you visit a new hair stylist! I was bored, lonely and for some reason thought a zippy new do would be the answer to all my problems. Since I didn’t have a stylist in town, I made an appointment at the salon in the mall, printed a photo of a young Meg Ryan with her shaggy blonde mane and honestly thought my life would change for the better once I looked like America’s sweetheart. Years later I still have trouble breathing when I remember the result. It was more Meg Griffin than Meg Ryan.

Although these tips are based on my experience of moving far, far away with a sailor, they will apply whether you’re leaving your life behind for a grand romantic gamble with a professional bowler, a chicken rancher or anyone really.

The Secret to Happiness is Low Expectations

005I’ve never participated in the military wife culture.

With the exception of England, we’ve always lived off the base. Our neighbours and social circle are overwhelmingly civilian.

My only experience as part of the military family social structure was during our time in the UK. Although I wanted to live in the nearby village, our only option was Married Quarters. Soon after we settled in my sailor departed for five months in another community and I was left with my closest neighbour–a Canadian Army officer’s wife.

She vehemently hated, loathed and detested the Army for all it had “done” to her family. While I was thrilled at the opportunity to live in another country, she seemd angry to leave Canada, even temporarily. She blamed the Canadian Army for everything from her marital spats to the price of a frozen pizza at Tesco. She was the most miserable, wretched person I have ever met and she often spoke of like-minded peers on the base back home.

The funny thing was her husband appeared to accept what the Army offered with good spirits.

I have a similar relationship with the Navy. It’s just my husband’s employer. The Navy is not responsible for my happiness or the state of my marriage.

Sure the Navy has done some pretty crappy things to us (hello, Afghanistan), but my husband knew about the potential for long separations from his loved ones when he joined and I was certainly aware of them when I married him. Neither of us entered our association with the Navy blindly.

In return the Navy has given our family the opportunity to travel, a steady income that allowed me to be a stay at home mom; a secure pension which we’ll need because I was a stay at home mom and of course that dashing uniform.

Perhaps the secret to happiness is low expectations. I didn’t expect hand-holding from the Navy so I wasn’t disapointed when I didn’t get it.