I know that everyone has it hard right now. There are dozens if not hundreds of extenuating circumstances that theoretically feel 100 times worse because you are adding the weight of that hard and terrible thing to a pandemic.
Within my own personal circles I know of friends who are grieving lost loved ones during a pandemic; have had a recent cancer diagnosis during a pandemic; are not living in their own homes because Mother Nature swept in and destroyed their houses during a pandemic; have lost their jobs or fear their small businesses will not rebound during a pandemic; have spouses deployed overseas with no return date in sight during a pandemic; I know–there are worse things than a military move, or Permanent Change of Station (PCS) during a pandemic.
Life is hard right now for all of us.
That said, I can only speak about my own hard thing because that is the hard thing right in front of me and continually on my mind. For me and my family, it is our PCS that we have been anticipating for nearly a full calendar year. The building tension of change already on our radar is something we were carrying long before we heard the word “Coronavirus.”
A PCS is exhausting in every sense of the word during normal life but experiencing this during a pandemic, is, well–in a word–difficult. I write to think through the ways in which I am processing difficult situations and in doing so, maybe can shed some light on what it’s like to prepare to uproot your entire life amidst social distancing, a rapidly spreading virus, sheltering in place, all while at the mercy of the Department of Defense’s Stop Movement Order.
For those of us expecting summer moves, the months of March and April are when we begin to secure transportation, search out housing at our next assignments, research and network about schools and jobs in our new place. We begin the slow fade and long goodbye of closing up shop on work, volunteer positions, school and activities for our kids, friendships and life in our current location. The month of May rolls in with all of its ceremony and celebrations (Mother’s Day, graduations, promotions, farewells, and Memorial Day). By June, most of our houses are packed up. We get on the road. We land. We unpack. We begin the “Recovery from Relocation.”
It’s tough. It’s emotionally draining to carry the weight of all of these changes like a heavy backpack on our backs– the highs and lows, the ups and downs, the sadness and excitement, the stress and the peace. We do it anyway and as they say, we “Soldier on!”
This year, March, April, May, and June are different. I’m left thinking about all of the ways this pandemic is making a hard thing even harder.
Like most other people in the world, we walked away from jobs, schools, ministries, and friendships for the last time without even knowing it. Unlike most people, we won’t be picking up where we left off in several weeks or months when life returns to “normal.” (Whatever that means!)
When others are returning back to their lives and “reopening” to their people and their communities– those of us who are military service families will be hustling to get to to our new jobs, new schools, new communities, new ministries, and new friends all in a new and unfamiliar place without the closure we have come to cherish when it’s time to say “See you later.” Many won’t get the needed leave time to reset as a family. Most won’t get to gather to say a proper goodbye or grieve the loss; a vital part, I’ve learned in getting proper closure at an assignment.
I should be doing my usual house preparations of removing and laundering curtains, organizing and purging books and kids’ toys, eating through all of the pantry and freezer foods that can’t be moved. Instead, we are doing just the opposite. We are at home, frozen, maybe even paralyzed from making real headway on our move. I don’t have the physical energy to start this move and I certainly don’t have the emotional energy to reflect on the past two and a half years of beauty, hardship, and growth. I can’t think about insignificant books and toys when we have a global crisis going on in our cities and states. I can’t cook my way through the remaining food staples when I’ve spent the past month securing hundreds of dollars worth of food to feed our family.
My mind is constantly calculating risk. My thoughts are perpetually trying to simultaneously grapple with staying home and saying goodbye. I’m trying to prepare my home, my family, and my own heart for a major life transition but I can’t even let myself “go there” because I’m just trying to get through today– wading through daily COVID-19 case numbers and death tolls, curves that should be flattening, gubernatorial and presidential updates and task forces, as well as the extra layers or prevention and caution decreed by the DoD.
Does anyone else feel like they “can’t even” right now? I, for one, don’t feel equipped for all of what lies ahead. The grief and toll the past six weeks has taken on us has left us listless, exhausted, uninspired, and weary–the opposite of how we may feel we need to be preparing ourselves for a relocation across the country, or in many cases, across an ocean.
What can we do when a PCS and a pandemic collide? I don’t have any real answers but here is what I’m telling myself.
- We will all get through this. We will.
- Life has changed and we are good at adapting. We have had years of practice.
- There is only so much that we can control; it’s not much. Just focus on those few things.
- Take it one day at a time.
- Limit and minimize the voices and noise we are allowing in our homes and minds.
- Just do today. Tomorrow has its own worries.
- Homes, jobs, community, our faith, and friendships have sustained us where we are currently living and they will be waiting for us on the other side of our moves.
- We will all get through this. We will.