Check Yourself!

As I share pieces of myself during this journey, I hear so many good things being said. So many good things being said about my honesty and willingness to tell my story. My response? Pride. If we take my response down to one of the most primitive but true levels of human behavior, it’s so easy to see how the positive praises reinforce my efforts. Acknowledging this praise is difficult for me; I am such an introvert that I don’t have the natural or even learned ability to gracefully accept the praises without feeling that I am being conceited.

I am proud of what my efforts are doing so far in this small realm of the Army Family. But it’s not a pride for my own efforts; it’s a prideful joy when I see smiles on others’ faces because they are excited about an activity or project. It’s a hopeful joy when I hear of the many participants and volunteers that are stepping forward to be part of our family groups. I don’t feel pride because of my own efforts. I feel – calm. And watchful, because as I said in my previous post, it is all too easy to fall in the same habits again. To turn my sadness into anger and shut others out. I struggle with this every day.

As I turn pride over and over in my head this morning, it makes me think about Army Wives as a whole. I search for words to describe it and all that comes to mind is “brokenness.” When did it ever become ok to outfit oneself head-to-toe in the paraphernalia of a favorite sports team, but not ok to carry a bag made out of your spouse’s old uniform? Is that kind of pride wrong? And who determines which prideful behavior is wrong and which is not? When did it become wrong to value oneself as an Army Wife? Is it really the wrong kind of pride to identify oneself as a strong Army Wife? Think about it – I’ve lived in both worlds, that of a civilian wife and most recently as a wife to an active duty Army member. I mean really and honestly think about it –

Can we as a society put a monetary number on the myriad of jobs that a wife performs? During my previous marriage, I always worked outside of the home because our life dictated the need for me too. But I was also the primary caretaker; the homemaker; the planner of all things – financial, health or more simply our meal plans for the week. But never once did I refer to myself as an “IT Consultant’s Wife.” That would have been pretty silly lol. I was a Wife, a Mother, a Waitress, a Childcare Provider, a Bookkeeper and an Assistant Manager among so many other titles. I was proud of myself during that time, but it was a destructive pride. I thought very highly of myself – my anger fueled my pride in a dangerous way. I belittled my then husband’s efforts and exalted my own – for I was the only one suffering during our marriage, right? At least that’s what my pride told me.

Fast forward to this moment in life where I’ve reclassified myself as an “Army Wife.” Oh, I read all the differing opinions on this term as I was entering this world. I identified with the ones who said they would never “wear” their husband’s rank. I identified with the ones who said they would never identify themselves as being a part of their husband’s career for he was the one who volunteered for the Army, not her. But reality is that cold shower that really opens one’s eyes to truth. I came into this Army world so prideful of myself and what I had survived with no realization that my pride was protecting my depression; pride in myself was the shield I carried so no others, not even myself, could penetrate my anger and self-righteousness.

This journey has carried me to the point where I realize I am that Army Wife. I let go of my self-righteousness; of my anger; of my self-isolation. My pride is no longer ME. My pride is being allowed to be part of this world. It’s pride in the Service Members that volunteer their lives for others. Its pride in the happiness we can bring to military children through base services. Its pride in the hope and love we see reflected in Army family members’ smiles. What do I see when another Army Wife walks by wearing a pink shirt with her husband’s unit on it? I see a strong Army Wife who is proud of what her husband stands for and is willing to give his life for. How and in what realm of the Universe is that so much more wrong than decking oneself out in sports paraphernalia? Do you know what is ironic? To judge others, one must think very highly of oneself – that is the ultimate prideful behavior. To think so highly of oneself that words are put to your anger and hate with the intention of harming others. And I remain beyond amazed at this wasteful way to live.

So – in the words of the rapper Ice Cube, “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self.” I had to go through the experience of turning my pride from an inward, wasteful anger and self-righteousness to an outward, purposeful support. As human beings, we are lucky to have 100 years on this Earth. One hundred sounds like a big number, doesn’t it? I’ve nearly lived one-half of my life as it is. I have maybe two adulthoods to go if I think about it. And my adulthood has already flown by. Do I really want to waste the last half of my life using my pride to destroy others? Do you really want to waste the shortness of your life to destroy others because of such a silly thing like condemnful pride?

AS for me – I will be prideful of my Husband’s accomplishments. I will temper my pride with compassion and thankfulness. I will not indulge in the wasteful destruction of self-righteousness, prideful behavior. I can only control myself and frankly I have far too many more important things to accomplish in this short life!

~ This chapter of my life began December 19, 2011, on the day I married my husband, Craig C. Smith, an active duty soldier with 29 years of serving in the Army under his belt at that time. Three years later  I jokingly and naïvely announced my official title of “Army Wife” on Facebook when I received a used copy of “The Army Wife Handbook” by Ann Crossley and Carol A. Keller only to be told by one of Craig’s longtime friends that apparently I married Craig for his social security check. I am so glad that was cleared up for me! I thought I had married Craig because I love him. Even though I can seem tough, I am an extremely kind-hearted and introverted person. Comments like the social security check really hurt even though I am may seem otherwise. I have forever been told that I think outside-of-the-box and it’s helped me on many occasions, this being one. As a child, mother and wife I have been molded to be a caretaker. 3 ½ years of marriage and a rocky introduction into Army life, I have found my purpose; to take care of others. To use my creativity and empathy to share experiences, encourage others to share experiences; to knock down some walls or at the very least, to pick at the cracks. Thank you for taking this journey with me to find and share my voice. I hope to help others find theirs. 

Join Jennifer Smith over the next six weeks as she shares her personal journey, “Learning as I Go”.  This is the fourth installment in her series.

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