We’re all searching for it–the secret to surviving the pilot wife life. After all, that’s why you’re reading this, right?
Well let me apologize to you in advance because…
If you’re looking for advice from a mighty oak– a solid, unwavering somebody who’s got this whole pilot wife life thing all figured out and held together with superglue–I’ll just save you a lot of bit of time and tell you up front that, honey, you are barking up the wrong tree.
Because some days I’m much more like a weeping willow than a mighty oak. And on others I am just a beech. But most days (Yeah, yeah, okay—everyday) I’m most like the good old pecan tree. Yep, that’s me, completely and utterly nuts!
Listen here, aviation friends. Last night I ate (binged, gorged, devoured) a tad few too many of my favorite chocolate cookies–you know, as in the whole batch. Again. There seems to be a theme here. I’m not entirely sure if I took a shower yesterday…or the day before. My house is a disaster. By disaster, I mean I’ve been to tornado cleanups that were in better shape.
And the dishes? Don’t even get me started on the dishes. I’m actually seriously considering throwing them all into the bin, driving all the way across town to ye ol’ Wally World, standing in line for a frustrating amount of minutes, and starting all over with new, shiny, clean ones. Believe me, it would be much less daunting than scouring through the mountain on my counter. True story. No shame.
Perfect? Hardly. Real? You bet ya. So if you’re looking for an oak, I’m sorry but I have failed you. Miserably. But if you’re looking for someone who’s been there, done that to stumble through this life with, well welcome to the nut house!
This life isn’t always all that and a bag of chocolates. And besides, if it was I’d probably binge eat them all in one night anyway.
The secret to the pilot wife life is not the pursuit of perfection. In fact, that path will only leave you frustrated and make you resent it all the more. Why? Because not only is it unfeasible, it’s impossible. Life is messy; pilot life is chaos.
He comes, he goes. Holidays happen without him. Things break when he’s away. You have to be in three places at one time. Dishes pile up. You binge eat a batch of cookies. Or six. The kid gets the plague. You struggle with the alone factor. Listen and listen well. It’s okay!!
You. Are. Okay.
You see, the secret to the pilot wife life is (drum roll please!) living! You can’t continue to sit around in a weird state of animated suspension, always waiting for him to come home so you can finally live. Life is not a DVR that you get to pause every time he walks out the door.
On the contrary, life is a continuous, swiftly flowing jet stream and you either choose to spread your wings and soar or you plummet like a rock to your death. You have to pursue living with passion. Spread your wings and F.L.Y., friends!
Because life? It’s happening with or without you.
Today my children and I spent the morning walking poor, abandoned shelter dogs. That’s us with a little Yorkie mix named Sassy in the picture above. Cute, right? Not.
Sassy. Hated. Us.
Well, not just us, but all ‘humans’ us’s. She was curled up in a corner of her cold cement cage with her back defiantly turned to the constant stream of humanity gazing through the bars at her pathetic existence. All the other dogs yapped at the gates begging to be noticed, but not Sassy.
She just lay there in her safe, miserable, little corner as life passed her by, sadly waiting for whatever human had left her there to come back. What she didn’t understand was that she was also waiting to die. With every passing minute and hour, her refusal to move was ironically enough marching her closer to her final breath. If she doesn’t get up and run, bark, play, and live, then the inconsiderate world will leave her there to be euthanized.
My kids, of course, decided it was Sassy that we would take out for a walk. That’s how we roll; we have a habit of always picking the underdog to love the most. However, when we opened the gate, Sassy didn’t even know she was free. She didn’t bother looking up. She didn’t wag her tail or make a break for freedom. Her prison was more than just steel bars, it was a self-imposed prison of circumstance.
I finally carried her outside to the dog area because she was unwilling to take that first step on her own and, hey, we’re a determined lot if we’re anything. At first she was a reluctant non-participant and sat in the corner of the doggie play yard trembling, crying, and yearning to return to her cage. To her cage! Because that is where she had allowed herself to feel the most comfortable—in her own miserable prison.
We stayed there too long coaxing and begging and demonstrating to Sassy how she should act. Yes, I barked and pounced on a ball on all fours. Don’t judge. Slowly, Sassy began to look around the green lawn surrounding her, then to run, then to play with another dog (through the safety of the fence). And finally her little tail wagged with joy. It was just a little wag, but a breakthrough nonetheless. For just a moment she allowed herself to live despite the fact that the person she had built her life around had left her there alone. For a fleeting moment she found joy despite her circumstance and the cage was shattered.
We’re not so very different from that little dog. When our person–our pilot–leaves, we lock ourselves in a metaphorical cage, turn our backs to the world, and wait for him to return. Our very own self-imposed prison of circumstance.
We get so comfortable sitting there in our corner with our tails between our legs waiting that we don’t…won’t…live. And by not living we are slowly dying emotionally. It’s a slow fade, ladies. So slow, in fact, that we sometimes don’t realize it’s happening until it’s too late. One day we simply wake up and think the words, “I don’t love him anymore,” but we have no idea how we got from the marriage bed to the marriage dead. All we know is that we don’t feel anything anymore. Just a cold, empty, nothingness where love used to be.
We have essentially euthanized our own marriage.
Ladies, don’t be Sassy. Don’t lock yourself in a cage and turn your back on the world while you wait in animated suspension. Your life cannot come to a screeching halt every time he leaves. The jet stream pauses for no one.
You are his wife–a Pilot Wife–but you are also your own you! He needs you to live a life of passion and joy even when he’s away so your marriage doesn’t die.
If you have come to that place of nothingness, I encourage you that there is hope! It takes hard work and intentionality to change a damaged and dying marriage, but fight. Every single day fight for your marriage! Spread your wings and soar. Love yourselves well. Live your life passionately. Treat him with respect and dignity. Feelings will follow actions even if the actions are initially done more out of necessity more than love. Fight.
You can still have a great aviation marriage. I have seen it.
For those of you who have never been there, fight. Every single day fight for your marriage. Don’t allow yourself to get comfortable in the misery. Keep soaring. Keep loving yourselves. Keep living with passion. Keep treating him with respect. Don’t ever create a circumstance prison for yourselves. Ever.
I urge you all to live every day to its absolute fullest. Fill up your empty spots with experiences. Go walk some kennel dogs. Take a hike on some beautiful trails. Eat at your favorite restaurant.
Fill up your lonely spots with amazing friends. Have a girls’ night at your house. Take your kids out to a concert. Go shopping with your mom or sister. Join a club. Volunteer.
Whatever you do, just don’t lock yourself behind bars of circumstance. The gate is wide open; you need only embrace and enjoy your freedom.
And, hey, don’t worry so much about those dishes. They’ll still be waiting for you another day. Or there’s always Wally World and a chocolate binge.
I love you, aviation family. Don’t be Sassy. It’s time to shatter that self-imposed cage and ride the jet stream. It’s time for you to live.
Angelia (A Fellow Pilot Wife)