Guest post written by Emily Tighe

We’ve all heard the expression. It’s on every social media “We’re PCSing” post, every good-natured Sunday sermon at the main post chapel, and at every hail and farewell, spouse coffee, or end-of-year function.

We have it on garden rocks outside of our on base housing or rental. On a flower pot on the kitchen window. Or just as a mantra going through our heads as we google how far the closest Target will be.

But what this military spouse motto seems to not take into consideration is that flowers do not just bloom by magic. You cannot take a daffodil, throw it into a pot, leave it alone, and expect it to do its thing. A flower, like us, needs support to bloom to its full potential.

While your typical flower garden needs sunshine, light, water and a bit of TLC and I require a vat of coffee to look like a decent human being acceptable to societal standards, we’re really not that different.

How Do We Bloom?

We bloom best when there is a space for us.

We bloom when we find our people.

We bloom when there’s a shoulder to cry on or a car to pick up our kids to soccer practice when we’re having a bad day.

We bloom when there are resources and readily available tools for us to help us advocate for ourselves and our family.

And while we are a bit of a wildflower, going where the wind and military takes us, we grow a little taller in the richer soil of a garden of our peers.

Now this is where it gets tricky. Not one of us is the same. We all require different needs and support to get to our true potential.

And to make it even more tricky, with the passing seasons, we change as well.

Embracing Changes

I am not the same green eared 19 year old army spouse I was 12 years ago when we started this crazy wide. I’m not even the same person I was five years ago in the chaos of raising four kiddos under the age of five and just clinging to survival.

My needs have changed, and the ways I bloom best have changed.

For me, my soil is now a house I can safely and comfortably make into a home. Location no longer matters. It did when I was younger. I held on so tightly to places on the map I wanted to raise my family. That is not the case anymore. I’ve grown in experience and confidence in myself that we can bloom anywhere. What matters now to me is living close to my husband’s job in a neighborhood where my children are safe to roam, and a house that is safe to live in.

I’ve  learned to advocate for myself to make these things happen. I’ve learned to put my foot down and fight for what our family is entitled to. I had people along the way who taught me how to do this.

The advocates have helped me bloom where I’m planted by giving me the tools to enrich the soil. 

Finding Our Roots

Another key component to any Milspouse are our roots. For me my roots no longer cling to how things have always been done. They cracked and tangled by my holding on so tightly.

I’ve learned to let go. I’ve learned to be flexible. I’ve learned that roots grow best to ground that is loose, not rocky and rigid.

I  have mentors in my life who I have looked up to. The common thread of these mentors was their ability to hold tightly only to love. Everything else comes and grows. Watching them prosper and shine through their flexibility helped me do the same. These mentors helped me bloom where I’m planted by allowing my roots to adapt.

For me I no longer need the same air I did more than a decade ago. The air that kept me going was habit and routine and the safety of what I already knew. I could go on for a bit without it but eventually I’d need it again to bloom. I held on to the places and faces I had known my whole life, often sacrificing the places I now called home and the faces I now called family in pursuit of the familiar. And that was fine.

But the air around me changed as time went on and I learned to stand on my own. Now, through all the deployments, separations, long hours and countless pcs moves….. I now hold on to the moments of stillness and togetherness with the man I chose and the family we made.

 I hold my breath and get through the chaos, knowing that a wave of air is coming during the in between. I have learned that there is no stability or routine as important as us being together. I no longer bloom in one place. 

My family has taught me to bloom in the moments when we are together. It could be in the plains of the Midwest, the deserts of California, the beaches of Florida or a snowdrift in Alaska. Where we can just be together, we bloom.

My sunlight has changed as well. To me sunlight has come in the way of friendships. When I was just starting out in this life, I found it so hard to make any lasting friendships.

I was often lonely. I was a young mom with a herd of kiddos.  I felt out of place in whatever group I found. I was younger than most of my children’s friends’ parents and felt immature and inadequate next to them. I felt out of place with peers my own age because they were not yet mothers. I felt intrinsically different from them and that my goals and needs were so different from theirs.

So I did what most of us have done at one point or other. I tried to change to fit whatever group I was trying to puzzle-piece my way into.  I mistook sunlight for the artificial light I was attracting. So desperate in my need to be liked that I never stopped to wonder if I even liked who I was around them. 

My children got older, and so did I. I learned what I needed and what I did not need from a friend. I learned to choose wisely instead of trying to have it all. And most importantly, I learned what kind of friend I wanted to be, not the kind of friend I was expected to be. I traded in the artificial UV for real, natural, simple and glorious sunshine. The tribes I have made, the ones I’ve been welcomed into, and even the ones I’ve said goodbye to but still hold dear put the light in my days. 

I have found friends in my exact stage of life. Army wives, young moms, homeschoolers, and those that share my same religious beliefs. I have also found friends that all we have in common is that we like each other. Both are valid and both are amazing as long as you are true to yourself. My friends have taught me that a small dose of the real thing is worth more than a lifetime of the fake. My friends are my sunshine.

And so, sweet Milspouse. Bloom where you’re planted. But find your soil, roots, air and sunshine to do so. And don’t be afraid to change and adapt. Everything living on this planet does. It’s what makes us alive. Go wherever the military and the wind take you, put down your roots and pick them back again. There is so much in this big wide world to love, and so many who will love you.

About the Author

Emma Tighe is a homeschool mama of five amazing kiddos and an army spouse of 12 years. In her free time (what’s that?) she loves to play piano and sing, participate in community theater, and write whatever pops into her head in the hopes of becoming rich and famous without much effort. And charcuterie. Emma is also the newscaster for the Mission: Milspouse podcast which can be found on Spotify.

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