As I mentioned in my last post, I took a while to warm up to Pensacola. In hindsight, I think my early weeks here were spent moving through the stages of grief.
Research suggests there are 5 stages of grief:
I think I experienced stages 2-5 during our lengthy stay at the Navy Lodge when we first arrived in Pensacola. LOL
Our move from Michigan to Maryland was emotionally exhausting. Leaving our friends, family, neighborhood, and church was really hard for me. I shed tears, but I also dug into my reserve strength and pushed through. I survived the packing, moving, and unpacking, while Andy was away at officer training. I did my best to acclimate to life in Maryland and, while often lonely, I did come to appreciate living there. Just about a year into our time there, it really began to feel like home.
Then we moved.
One interesting thing about living in Maryland was even though it was a military move, and Andy was working at a military hospital, and the bulk of my friends were military spouses, it didn’t really feel like the military.
I didn’t feel like a Navy wife. I felt like the wife of a new doctor who just happened to move away from home for residency.
I was in denial. (stage one of grief)
Denial that our life was not our own. Denial that the Navy would be calling all the shots for the next decade (or more). Denial that I wasn’t going to be moving “home” to family and friends after a little while. Denial that I was a Navy wife probably more than I was even a doctor’s wife.
Well, I’ll tell you what will drag your sorry behind back to reality after being in denial…
A BIG DOSE OF REALITY.
For me that came in the form of another PCS move (Permanent Change of Station). A move to an actual military town (Pensacola is a military hot spot SO much more than Bethesda, MD) and a month of living on an actual military base. Going to Walmart and counting on two hands the number of people I saw in uniform. Flashing my military ID to get on base, to get into the pool, to get a discount at the local restaurant.
When you first move to a new city, you don’t know where anything is. Your GPS might as well be an oxygen tank. Almost all of your mental energy is spent figuring out where you live. Taking in all the sites and creating a framework that defines your new (temporary) home. You find the familiar stores, you try new restaurants, you learn where the nice neighborhoods are and conversely where the sketchy parts of town begin and end. You look at all of the people around you to try to figure out the culture of this new place. Are they like me? Can I relate to them? Could we be friends? What do I learn about this place by watching them?
We had to stay in the Navy Lodge hotel for three and a half weeks while we waited for our rental house to become available. As I mentioned before, that was really difficult for me. On top of extended hotel living, it was about 100* with crazy humidity every single day. The day after arriving here and NOT liking what I initially experienced, we drove through our neighborhood and past our new home and everything was underwhelming. Unlike Maryland and Michigan with their lush landscapes and mature trees, our new digs were dry, sandy, craggily, and just generally foreign to me.
I decided right then that I hated it here. I didn’t want the movers to unload my stuff. I wanted to rewind time and never join the Navy so I could be right back in my cozy Michigan bungalow surrounded by my family and friends. And beautiful old trees.
Too bad they haven’t figured out time travel yet LOL
FORTUNATELY they haven’t figured out time travel yet, because it turns out you need to spend some time in a place to really understand it. To explore the beautiful parts and the fun parts and to allow it to become familiar, and to meet new friends. It turns out that was just around the corner for me.
After weeks of anger that we signed up for this crazy life, bargaining in my mind with God about all the things that could have been and how wonderful life would have been if not for this unpleasant situation, and depression that I was stuck in this always-changing, constantly unpredictable life, I came to stage five: acceptance.
I can’t tell you exactly how I arrived at acceptance…well, other than by the grace of God.
Anger had eaten me up and made me yell at my kids and stonewall my husband. Bargaining had exhausted me and ushered me right into the hands of depression. Depression threatened to pull me under and suffocate every last bit of meaning and purpose from my life.
But God in his abundant mercy wasn’t going to let that happen to his girl. He drew near to me when I was brokenhearted. He comforted me. He brought fun and friendship right to my doorstep when I needed it most. He was the light at the end of my tunnel.
I’m sitting here trying to remember what I “did” to get to the place where God turned things around and I’m realizing how foolish and arrogant that line of thinking is.
I didn’t do anything. I was a pouty, negative, crybaby the whole time.
We don’t do the right things (pray, bible study, meditate, etc) to get God to move! He moves because He loves us. He moves because He’s good and sovereign and sees so much more than we do.
He also moves in His own time which is almost 100% of the time much slower than we would prefer. The waiting is always excruciatingly long!
But, you know what? I think the excruciating wait is God’s mercy. That “space between” where we are desperate and humble is such a catalyst to surrender. It’s a spot we independent humans don’t like to be, but it’s magical when we get there because it turns out that spot is the cozy crook of our loving father’s arms.
What better place to be than there?
Pensacola may have started sad, but it’s become really great.
Stay tuned for more of our summer adventures :)