I Lost My Tribe

Mapela Motshabi-Custodio, MS

Mapela Motshabi-Custodio, MS

Today as I dragged myself to take my usual run, I had to fight all my thoughts of excuses. Thoughts in my mind ran from ‘it is too hot’, to ‘take the children home and do homework instead’, to ‘just forget about it, try again tomorrow.’

I forced myself to run anyway, because last week I decided to “fake” train for a marathon. I did this because I figured it would force me to get running and back into my fitness routine. As I ran that afternoon, I had an epiphany!  I have lost my passion for my favorite physical activity because I have lost my tribe!

We did a PCS (Permanent Change of Station) move to Louisiana a year and a half ago and before we moved here, we were stationed in a place where there were a lot of women’s running groups. I joined one group made up of a lot of women who were strong runners and who had a lot of positive energy. I drew a lot of strength and energy from this wonderful group of women and now it is all gone, I have lost it all.

Our recent move has been particularly hard because we went from being close to a military community to living in a civilian population. We have no access to any military services or to military spouses who can relate to what I am going through. But I found acknowledging the feeling of loss as a great start and an opportunity for me to focus on finding a way to get over this “grief”.

As I work on recovering from my loss I intend to do the following:

1. Remember the little things I enjoy doing

I remember one of the things that made me feel alive and happy on our last duty station was being a part of a few running groups. It made running so enjoyable, that running without them is now dreadful. But this should not be a reason to stop me from partaking in an activity that I have enjoyed since I was a child. I have to dig deep and remember why I run. I run because it lightens my mood and I cannot forget the physical benefits that also result from this activity. I dug deep and thought of what will work for me. I am a very competitive person, I found that signing up for a marathon will be the motivation that I need to get out there (whether I feel like it or not), to train and be marathon ready by kick-off day.

2. Connect with a new community

Although we should not forget the past and our memories, I believe that we should always appreciate the present and what we have today. If we hold on too much on what has been and what we had, we might lose out on the present, and the amazing opportunities it could bring.

I am now actively looking for running groups in my area that I can join. I know that they will not replace my friends that I left in our last duty station and they might not relate to my daily struggles as a military wife. But I am not going to let that get in my way of making new friendships and memories. I am going to start on a new slate, open myself up, and see what greatness will come out of this experience.

3. Limit the usage of Social Media

Social media is a great tool to use to stay in touch and stay connected to those we care about but I find it to also be a tool for distraction that can bring sadness. I realized that social media has been holding me back and making it hard for me to move on. I still have very close friends in our past station, and looking at their posts on social media always brought me down because it reminded me of how much I miss our last home. I decided to minimize my engagement with social media.,

To avoid being carried away with social media I allocate 10 minutes a day to this activity. Instead of only looking at my friends’ posts and spending a numerous amount of time doing it, I actually send a few friends a message every now and then. I chat with them to find out how they and their families are doing and have a meaningful conversation with them. This form of communication on social media is more uplifting to me than just clicking “like” on a post.

Over the years, I have realized that it does not matter how many PCS moves we have had, each and every one of them brings on different challenges and it does not get any easier. With every move, there is always a sense of loss but with the right mindset, you can always find ways to move forward. Get yourself out there in your new community, get out of your comfort zone, let yourself feel vulnerable, be present and take it one day at a time. Find the things that work for you and those that motivate you, and use that to get you out of a rut.

I read this quote by an anonymous author the other day and it resonated with me, “The past is your lesson. The present is your engine. The future is your motivation”.

If you are also experiencing nostalgia about your past station or home and are having a hard time adjusting to your new home as I am, it is time to dig deep and think of ways to change the situation.  The military lifestyle can be challenging, but we owe it to ourselves to approach it with optimism and a positive outlook. This can help us flourish and always make the best of what we have.