I think of you

Dear military families,

I think of you a lot, especially this time of year. That sounds kind of creepy, but let me explain. I grew up with you all around me. I lived next to you, went to school and church with you. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in a military town, seeing the many sacrifices of brave souls.

You are those brave souls. I know your service member tends to get a lot of well-deserved attention and praise, but I see you. I see how, in many ways, you sacrifice just as much. If you’re a military spouse, you’re the one left to deal with everyday life when your loved one is deployed. You have to live with the worry and fear. And if you have kids, you get to play the part of both parents, making sure no extracurricular activity or school project gets lost in the shuffle.

Even when your spouse is stateside, you know work takes priority. I mean, who can compete with the safety and security of a nation? And so that promise of helping Josh with his math homework ends up being one you get to fulfill. And while of course you’re proud of your spouse’s choices, I’m betting you sometimes wish you could just be like any other family for one night.

If your parent is the one in the military, you’re probably pretty good at packing boxes. Every few years, you have to start over. Say goodbye to old friends, move to an area you probably know nothing about. I’ve said goodbye to many of you, writing letters until you’ve adjusted to your new lives and are ready to focus on your new friends. In many ways, we’ve both had to start over, finding new friends to replace ones we’ve lost, but you have the pressure of doing it in a new place with entirely new people. You’re the perpetual new kid. That’s a tough role. You know why your parent does what he/she does, and you’re probably even super proud, but that doesn’t make you miss him/her any less.

And if you have a child in the military, you know the dangers of both deployment and stateside training, either because you’ve lived that life or you started extensive research the moment your child told you they were joining up. No doubt you’re wonderfully proud of the person you raised but you also live with an edge of fear lingering around you.

I think of all of you, the million tiny sacrifices you make and the greater ones. And I find you’re particularly heavy on my heart during the holidays, especially if your loved one is deployed. You adapt in so many ways, and I know you have to work extra hard to fill in the gap. You may not wear the uniform, but I know you’re just as much a part of the military as the one who does.

This season, I’m thinking of you, praying for you, and offering my gratitude for your work, your service. You are my heroes.

With all my thanks and admiration,

dear Bridget: pile it up

Dear Bridget,

It’s that time of year. The time when people think about what they’re thankful for and celebrate holidays with family. It forces us to look at the good. Although really, how long does that last?

Here’s the thing: we always have a choice. Not just during this season, but all year long.

I could look at all the bad stuff that’s happened in my life. I could pile piece upon piece until I have a mountain of “why did that happen” and “it’s not fair” and stories that would make people feel sorry for me. When you pile up all of those, it starts to look like a pretty impressive mountain of bad, and it’s easy to think the good can’t outweigh it.

But it’s not a scale. You can’t measure out each bad event and look for a good one to counterbalance it. Life doesn’t work like that. You have to make a choice, a deliberate choice, to step away from the dark, towering mountain of bad and make for yourself a mountain of good. Not for comparison to the bad. Not to see if it’s enough. But because you can. To show yourself all the beautiful parts of your life.

Pile up the happy moments and the incredible opportunities and the hard-but-well-learned lessons. Stack up the comforts you have and the people who love you (not literally, though, because human pyramids are so 1990s).

It’ll be a choice you have to make throughout your life, Bridget. To create a mountain of good. The mountain of bad makes itself, unfortunately. The mountain of good takes a bit more effort. But it’s worth it. Not to trick yourself into ignoring bad things, but to reframe your perspective.

Now, the season of cheer and thankfulness, is the perfect time to start that mountain of good so you’ll have a foundation when January hits and February feels lonely.

Pile up the good, Bridget. Stack it high and celebrate the beauty in your life. There’s more there than you think.

Love,

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What’s Dear Bridget all about? It’s a series on my blog composed of letters to a hypothetical teen girl named Bridget. Why Bridget? It means strong. And it represents the current generation of young women. These letters are my attempt to break through the chaos and the crap that’s flying at today’s young woman in order to offer advice and encouragement, from me and other incredible women who remember what it was like to be in her shoes.

If you’re a teen girl and you’ve got a question or issue you’d like us to address, let me know. Just click on the contact button (that round envelope icon at the top of the sidebar) and send me your thoughts. If you’re an awesome adult woman who remembers those teen years clearly and would like to write to Bridget, feel free to contact me and tell me about yourself.