In an eye-opening twist, once Hubby and I began sharing that he would retire from the Air Force, people started offering their retirement experiences with us. People he had worked closely with for years, and friends we had known even longer, opened up about how their retirement came about or how they dealt with the days that followed.
It's weird...but we never heard these stories while Hubby was on active duty status. It wasn't until we were ready to "join the club" before we were let in on how it really was.
Hubby's response has truly surprised me...but evidently not those who have gone before him. It turns out his road to military retirement isn't much different from anyone else's journey. Who knew? We certainly didn't. I think there's a strange sense of comfort in learning this...which gives Hubby a relaxed, peaceful disposition in his new role. He's taking it all in stride.
I have found that my experience in walking away from this lifestyle was more difficult. It was the oddest feeling because there was so much stress and uncertainty with our military life...and leaving it meant I was able to finally put that behind me. With Hubby's retirement came great relief from worries I no longer had to worry over.
This is the lifestyle I have known the longest and retirement at our age is not retirement in the way most people think of it. We still have two boys to get through college...one of which is still living at home. We don't own a home...we aren't settled into a church or community full of friends and memories. Our military lifestyle has not set us up with those comforts.
We are very blessed to have had all those things at one point or another along this journey, but as we finish up our "roaming" lifestyle...we don't have them all gathered into one place to enjoy in our retirement. For us, retirement is another adventure in a long list of adventures. And for me...the least adventurous of our little family...it feels like I have traded old stresses for new ones.
While I do find joy and excitement in each move...there's also the whole starting over part that fills me with uncertainty...doubt...fear...and impatience. If I could just move from one place to another and jump right into a community with automatic friends, church, connections, a job, and especially a hairdresser...I would certainly enjoy these moving adventures a whole lot more!
And I know without a doubt I'm not alone. I can't even tell you how many many times I have heard from other military wives in the past few months. Sometimes with tears in their eyes....or in hushed tones....or even with a wistful smile on their face...recounting their own retirement struggles. Over and over they told me how their husband's retirement was harder on them than him.
Each time someone reached out to share this important confidence with me...I listened. I felt bad for them. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I pretty much waved it off. How sad for them...but I was not going to have trouble with it! I have looked forward to this for a very very long time. It was a goal we set years and years before...and by golly...we had made it over the finish line together! How could that be hard to accept? I had already planned to celebrate it with gusto!
But then the days zoomed along from the middle of March until all of the sudden we were nearing the end of June and the end of the only way of life I had known as an adult. An adult life full of security...a paycheck...a home...and a community of people experiencing the exact same life. Soon we would be kicked out of the Active Duty club and the new Veteran club was not nearly as organized...or special...and quite frankly....didn't pay as well either.
As I sat at Hubby's retirement ceremony...the struggle hit me with full force. As people stood to speak kind words about Hubby and his commitment to our country...I wanted to stand up and yell: "STOP!" I knew I wasn't ready for it all to be over. There were more adventures to be had.
I didn't want to change everything. I didn't want to go to the civilian world where people don't always understand. I didn't want to leave the security of a world where I felt safe...and knowledgeable...and part of something good in service to our nation.
As you may have guessed (or at least hoped)...I didn't jump up and scream. I did what every other military wife before me has done. I sat in my chair...smiling proudly...dabbing away the tears of happiness...sorrow...and amazing memories. I took a deep breath and drank it all in...knowing it was the last of the lasts of our military experiences.
And like so many other military experiences...I was braver than I thought I could be...or wanted to be...and I survived it. Soon Hubby and I were walking together through a sea of family and friends to the strains of The Air Force Song:
"Off we go into the wild blue yonder"...
And off we went the very next day...
As I write this...I am sitting on a wicker love seat in our temporary home. One month into our newest adventure, we haven't figured out the next leg of our journey yet. We have time. There's no rush. We are...after all...retired. Many many of our military friends have been in our exact same place. They have reassured us this is how it is. They went through it too. It takes time to find your place in a non-military world. It can be difficult...but we will prevail. They have. We will.
Knowing we aren't the first to ever experience this is somewhat comforting...but then again...I really wish it wasn't like this...that it didn't feel like this...that we weren't once again strangers in a strange land. I'm ready to settled in...grow some roots...become part of local history...know people and be known by others.
Seriously...I'm ready to have someone smile and wave at me because they recognize me.
It doesn't happen overnight... or even in 31 days. That is a fact I have learned from experience. These things take time. And now that Hubby is retired...that is something we seem to have in abundance. I believe deep down in my soul...with every beat of my heart...that God has this all under control...that even when I don't know The Plan, He does.
Even though we don't have the next adventure lined up...and it's been a more difficult transition than I expected...I trust God to be God of our lives. I do so because of these words written by the apostle Paul to the church in Rome:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Paul wrote these words to a group of people he had not even met. He sent them letters of instruction and encouragement with the hope of visiting them one day. Among his wise words were those found in Romans 15:13. Even though they were written to other people long long ago, Paul's words give me hope for our situation today.
God is the God of hope. He does fill me with joy and peace when I trust in Him. And I do want to trust in Him and overflow with hope. Overflowing with hope sounds wonderful.
I'm thankful that God gifted us with this Amazing Air Force Adventure...and while I may struggle just a little as I wait on God's plan...I do trust in Him...and I'm hopeful for what's to come.
After all...His ideas have always been way better than mine...