How (not) to lose friends and alienate people

Last weekend’s update got postponed, as I was too busy catching up with the husband! We met halfway between my temporary home in Gateshead and his at Cranwell and had a lovely weekend together, even though about 50% of it was spent catching up on his sleep!

I was really hoping for a nice and easy parting this time: I would wave goodbye at him at the train station (public place – more of a reason to keep my composure) and then head back up north to carry on with my “routine” (relatively short drive, accompanied by a friend – no time for any destructive panic thinking! Excellent plan). Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances (or should I say lack of planning on my slightly-better-half’s end) I ended up having to drive him all the way back to Cranwell, before turning around and heading back home, completing a total of just over 270 miles. Safe to say, by the time I made it home my brain was doing some impressive emotional cartwheels. Dropping him off at the college, the long lonely drive back… the whole arrangement has played a trick on my mind and made me feel like I am back at square one! It’s going to take a bit of effort to get back on my feet and follow my own advice from my very first post…

One other thing that is not helping is that the novelty of living with a friend is definitely wearing off and I’m starting to feel irritatingly unsettled… Reminds me of a particular bit of my life, from a dozen or so years ago:

Summer 2004. I am one very excited 14 year old, anxiously waiting for my best friend to appear in the arrival gates of the airport. There are happy tears, hugs and kisses. Summer holidays are promising to be fabulous. This is going to be so much fun! We can listen to our favourite band together, eat lots of pizza, go shopping, crimple each other’s hair with my brand new hair irons and every day will end with a merry sleepover – girly chats and hot chocolates! Oh boy, I can’t wait!

Fast forward a week and a half.

4 days of the visit left and I’m beginning to suspect that if it was any longer, we would both be lucky to come out of this unharmed, never mind being best buds.

I miss being able to starfish on the bed without elbowing someone in the face. I twitch every time I see a dirty dish or a half-finished glass of juice, abandoned by its’ user, waiting for someone (my mum) to wash it. Suddenly even the little things, pet hates that shouldn’t concern me at all, annoy me to the very core: picking up a book when we sat down to watch a movie, not brushing teeth before going to bed, not clearing the bath from hair after getting out of it and then refusing to bin it because apparently unless buried properly it will never grow back (WHAAAT???).

Eventually the remainder of the visit passed and my friend went home, never to return.

Take note parents, if you don’t like your child’s friend, invite them to stay over for a while (preferably with no way of escape).

It is amazing how many new things you discover about a person when you live with them for a couple of weeks. My current housemate is lovely, you literally could not find a nicer guy. But sadly the last 3 weeks have revealed a few habits that are, for no particular reason, starting to rub me the wrong way. It’s certainly not as bad as the 2004 episode where I was literally ready to start gluing all the bath hair back to her head (AAARGH)! I am endlessly grateful to my friend for putting me up during this transitional period and for lending me an ear when I’m down. I also realise that some of those annoyances are simple nothings, picked up by my picky brain. Regardless, it is with regret that I must admit we are just not meant to be…long-term housemates.

On the other hand, this really does make me wonder, how do some people still get married, having never sampled a life under the same roof? Brave.

Miss this fluffy thing

3 weeks down, 10 to go.

Little Women – The RAF wives club

One of the activities that is currently helping me get through the hours is reading. Naturally, whilst obsessing over what the future in the RAF holds for us I turned to some helpful literature and ended up stumbling upon “Living in the Slipstream: Life as an RAF Wife” – a collection of short stories by some very brave women.

Whilst the book is a great source of entertainment, humorously covering a range of topics from military emergencies to Sherrie morning disasters, my attention was grabbed by a more serious topic – sexism and the patriarchal approach to family life within the RAF.

Surely enough a lot of the tales are quite outdated, going as far back as the 1950s, so I’m not blaming RAF for being sexist right now. (I am yet to investigate the state of current affairs!) Even so, I found myself quite shocked by some of the scenarios from the past that I had encountered. The most memorable scene that stuck in my head is the one where a pregnant RAF wife refuses to give birth at a hospital that will not address her as anything other than ‘The Wife Of’. I’m not sure if I’m just being naive, but I can’t even imagine that happening in this day and age!

I’ve never been a feminist, in fact I tend to roll my eyes at some of the more extreme feminist views such as, from the top of my head, hiring more women into physically demanding hands-on jobs, such as construction. Sure, it is a sector dominated by men, but there is a good reason for that – biology! But I digress. “Living in the Slipstream: Life as an RAF Wife” has really put just how far society has come in terms of gender fairness into perspective for me. Note, I much prefer the term fairness to equality. Men and women have always played different roles in the society and while those roles need to keep adapting to keep up with modern world, I don’t see how how they can be made absolutely equal. Men and women have different strengths and weaknesses, but instead of celebrating those differences, a lot of modern day feminists tend to view this reality as something our society made up to undermine the women. But that’s an whole different story… To think that it is only 22 years since WRAF merged with RAF, giving women to right and the option to become full members of the air force. Logically I expect this integration of women into the service must have had an effect on the lives of military families – and having read the tales from the past I can’t wait to personally compare and contrast the tales with modern reality.

Despite the fact that the book sends me into blind panic whenever it mentions anything about hosting dinner parties (Those horrid nerve-wrecking things must have been phased out by now surely?!), I would definitely recommend it to men and women, both civilian or military. It is very easy to read and has made me realise how lucky I am to live in a world I live in today where gender discrimination is no longer a taboo subject. But perhaps I have all the feminists to thank for that…

WRAF RECRUITMENT POSTER
WRAF Recruitment Poster 1914-18

 

2 weeks down, 11 to go.

Pursuit of Happyness – Happy wife, (happy) military life?

My first week as a wife of an RAF officer in training has been tough.

On Sunday 10 January we journeyed from York to RAF College Cranwell. The trip was short and sweet; there was no traffic, satnav did not get confused, the sun was shining and the surrounding landscape was beautiful. Upon our arrival the car, full to the bream with various shoe polishing trinkets, numerous pairs of chino trousers, a collection of cleaning products, all crushed by a massive brand new ironing board, got unloaded in a matter of minutes, with the help of my husband’s fellow RAF officer cadets. Quick goodbye, peck on the cheek and went our separate ways.

And then it hit me. Holy cow. That was not just a normal everyday “Goodbye”. That was a “Goodbye” for over THREE months. That’s thirteen weeks. That’s ninety one days, which is God knows how many hours… And the more you break it down the worse it sounds!

My husband and I got married last July and have been together for over seven years prior to the wedding. Over the course of our relationship, the longest we’ve ever been apart was 2 weeks when I went to visit family in Florida. And even then I never missed an opportunity to get online and check Skype. Long story short – I am not comfortable with separation.

Of course it’s not like our trip to Cranwell and my solitary journey home came as a surprise! We did plenty of research on my husband’s desired RAF position – legal officer. The application and selection process was long and painful, so there was plenty of time to think things through. The pros seemed to outweigh the cons so we went for it and were delighted when he got the good news! Three months of basic training, whilst definitely being a con, seemed like such a small stepping stone; overwhelmed by the exciting future prospects we handed back the keys to the little Scandinavian home we rented and found a (hopefully) temporary home for our two cats. I drove my other half to the RAF college for his basic officer training… and then I cried. I spent majority of my first week alone looking and feeling more miserable than Kirsten Stewart (3 months apart and potentially more to come? Uncertain future?? Unable to change mind and back out??? What have I done?!) and the remainder of the week trying to find ways to cope.

So how DO you cope with all the insecurities and worries that you find yourself facing when you quit your lives as a civilian couple and plunge into the mysterious world of RAF? Below are the three main survival strategies, that helped me pull myself back up onto my feel and let me see the bright(er) side.

  1. Shy bairns get nowt (Translation: Shy kids get nothing)

I soon discovered that if you don’t say anything and play it cool, the general assumption will be that you are in fact cool. Meanwhile the negative thoughts will be eating you inside out. It is OK to offload and confide in people. It is even OK to post an occasional ambiguous ‘I’m feeling sad’ Facebook status (Note my use of the word ‘occasional’ – Don’t become the boy who cried wolf!) You might just get pleasantly surprised to discover that there are people out there that care.

Within a day of letting a friend know that I was finding all the changes difficult to cope with, I’ve received numerous supportive messages, distraction suggestions and general love from people both near and far. It has made me feel so grateful to have such amazing friends.

  1. Me, myself and us

My husband and I do a lot of things together, which is only natural seeing as we have the same circle of friends, similar interests and generally enjoy each other’s company. But it is only since he has left to do his training that I’ve started noticing just how often I refer to ‘myself’ as ‘us’.

“Have you seen this movie, Mia?” “Yeah, we loved it”

“Would you like to go to the market tomorrow” “Sounds great, we’ve never been”

“Want a can of Coke?” “No thanks, we don’t drink fizzy drinks”

And the list of examples goes on!

At first it bothered me, as just about everything reminded me of things we’ve done together, making me feel both rubbish that I was left alone and frustrated because ‘we’ were robbing me of my individual identify. However once the initial shock wore off, I was able to look at it from a different angle. I have not lost myself – just the opposite – I found something that so many people around the world spend most of their lives searching for. I found someone who makes me cherish the past, appreciate what I have in the present and be very excited for the future. As a certain little bear once said:

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

  1. Time flies when you are a busy bee

Seeing as a watched pot never boils, I figured it was time to stop spending every waking hour checking whether or not he’s read my texts and get busy. If I am busy, I have not got the time to be upset and hopefully the three months will fly. So I have filled my evenings with yoga, boxing, swimming and other random exercise classes. I have made plans to cover most of my weekends right up until the end of February – spending time with mum, friends visiting me, me visiting friends. In fact I’ve made myself so busy, I have found myself having to plan-in time for power naps, just to be able to keep up with all of the activities! So far my strategy seems to be working: I get to catch up with a lot of people I probably wouldn’t see if it wasn’t for me being proactive, I have made it through the first 10 days of hubby’s training without any major upsets and I’ve lost a bit of holiday weight in the process!

 

1 week down, 12 to go.12625829_10153932074513338_1263532210_n