“That’s OK, babe. I’ll bloom where I’m planted,” were the words I spoke into the phone on that gorgeous winter day in Alaska when Rick called from Afghanistan to nervously tell me that instead of Washington DC, we were PCSing to Fort Polk, Louisiana. As we hung up, I sat shocked, wondering how I was going to do that thing that we Military Wives try so very hard to do…how was I going to bloom where I was about to be planted? I hadn’t even figured out how I was going to leave my AK tribe, a group of women whose hearts had attached themselves to mine in a way that is not so easily untangled. And now I had to figure out how to rebuild in a place that everyone agreed was one of the worst duty stations in the Army. As I sat with my tribe that day and tried to absorb the shock of the news, I dared to dream. I dreamed of a time spent in rich community with women who were as desperate for connection as I knew I would be. I dreamed of overcoming the hardships of living so isolated by being willing to open up and share myself authentically, even when it was scary. I dreamed of spreading the hope and connection that is The Veteran’s Spouse Project (VSP) with a place that so desperately needed hope and connection.
We arrived in Louisiana as the midnight sun was arriving in Alaska and my heart was broken but open. Rick went straight to the field, leaving the kids and I to discover our new surroundings from the “home” we had made in the Holiday Inn while we waited for our house to become available. Putting the pieces back together had never seemed so daunting. For the first time in fifteen years of being married to the military I didn’t want to make it OK. I didn’t want to diminish the magnitude and importance of the community I had just left by rebuilding in a new place. I wanted so desperately to hold on to what I had, but everything had changed. I wanted to mourn what I had left, giving it space and honoring the depth of the connections. I clung to what I could; my kids, my faith and my memories, and when I finally began to look up and around, I finally began to see the community I had dreamed of all those months ago, right in front of me.
VSP was created to provide a space for the spouses of our nation’s warriors to share, create, listen and connect. We have seen time and time again how our Made For You workshops open hearts and provide a space for weary spouses to take a step towards themselves, together with others who know intimately what they are walking through. We have seen the shared experience of I Will Wait result in restoration for spouses, marriages and the communities we call “home.” When I began to look around, I quickly saw that VSP’s arts programs were made for a place like Fort Polk, and the path to fulfilling my dream became clear.
For most of 2019 our team worked to fundraise and network, seeing if this dream could actually be realized. I am thrilled to say that it will be! On March 12th in downtown Leesville, VSP will present a staged reading of I Will Wait. We will lovingly share with this community our stories and we will see relationships deepen; we will see restoration occur. Then, Wendy Caldwell and Made For You will offer its “What Anchors You?” workshop to veterans’ spouses on Friday, March 13th. This will be a session focused on finding your grounding within the uncertainties of transition. On Saturday, March 14th, Made For You will pilot a new format of workshop for “What’s Your Spouse Story.” With guest facilitator Amy Uptgraft, they will inspire spouses to explore their own story through testimonials from I Will Wait, mindfulness, art-making and journaling.
As I begin 2020 and look back on the past year, I acknowledge the hardships of transition. I recognize the importance of taking the time to mourn the endings that hurt, that leave us empty and tired. However, I will also acknowledge that no matter where the Army sends me to make a home, YOU are there. You. The rich community of spouses who are dreaming with me. The dreamers who reach out quickly and so completely to create connections, and the shared stories that tether us together across streets, Army posts, states, countries and generations. YOU. The inspiration behind the dreams we dream at The Veteran’s Spouse Project.
For more information about and to reserve tickets for upcoming events in the greater Fort Polk area please click here.