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.

Happily Ever After

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My sailor and I met when I was in high school. He was home from school for the summer and dating my friend’s older sister. I fell for him about the first time I looked into his dazzling blue eyes. He had the irrestible combination of being a worldly older man (he was in third year university) with a gregarious personality that complemented my bookish introverted ways.

When he joined the Navy after graduation and his dad showed me a picture of my sailor in his dashing white uniform, my innocent school girl crush solidified. I was hooked and fatasizing about our happily ever after. I was a wholesome girl (read boring), so my focus was on our future family life. A recurring day dream involved my sailor visiting a perfectly groomed and made-up version of myself in the hospital where I had just delivered our beautiful baby boy. My sailor, of course, was in his striking uniform.

When it actually happened, the experience was more Survivor Tribal Council than Hallmark card.

My skin was sweaty and blotchy; my unruly curls a frizzy mess. My sailor wore a Canucks T-shirt that had been washed a few too many times and faded jeans rather than his full dress whites.

In spite of that, the reality was far superior to my girlish fantasy because we had made a healthy baby. He was better than anything I could ever have imagined.

Real life is often messier than fantasy, but so much more rewarding.