An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Facing and overcoming change

  • Published
  • By Jolene Tolbert
  • 5th Bomb Wing spouse
"The waiting is the hardest part. Everyday you see one more yard. You take it on faith. You take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part." These words by Tom Petty come into my mind every time I'm waiting for something.

I believe military families do more waiting to hear what is next than the average family. With most assignments finally out for this year, the waiting is over. It was suggested I write about dealing with waiting and uncertainty. When I started this feature, I told you sometimes I would share my stories just so you know that everyone goes through the same kinds of things. Well this is that kind of column.

One would think that after more than 20 years I'd be used to the assignment game, but sorry to tell you, it doesn't get a whole lot easier. You know the drill -- the assignments will be out on Thursday, now they'll be out next Friday, now they're not saying when. All the while, it's all you can think about.

You accost your spouse every evening, "Any word yet?'' You might even give him a call or two during the day. Everyone in the house is a little on edge, then a lot on edge. You feel like you have no control over what is happening in your life. You start to wonder if those mysterious assignment boards enjoy this little game.

Then you start to hear the rumors. If it's that dream assignment you start to get butterflies and can't help checking out a few things on the internet. Still, you try not to get your heart set on it. Or, it's not what you were hoping for; so, you're a little down, but you know it still might change. This may not be your scenario, but it sure is what it looked like around our house for a month or so.

I must admit I did not handle the uncertainty well. Of course, once you know your assignment, you can deal with it, whether it's that dream job or not; but Lordy, Lordy, that waiting. Seriously, I thought I'd get better at it, but this year it seems I literally puttered around the house waiting. In light of this fact, I am obviously in no position to offer advice on how to survive the process. I did a little research for tips to help you and me next time we're waiting for something.

A lot of the research and advice concentrates on taking charge of the change, to see it as an opportunity, to be open to the possibilities that will open up because of the change, etc. While these are all true and helpful, I find it frustrating sometimes because we really have so little control over the change. Here are some of the better ideas:

Focus on the present -- We can do nothing about the past and little about the future, but we have more control over the present. We cannot control the circumstances, but we can control our reaction to these circumstances. Focus on being in the here and now.

Stay busy -- We all know this is true. Yet, it can be very easy to withdraw from your usual activities because of the anxiety. I pledge to do better with this one next time. Instead of puttering around waiting, I could have been doing something useful.

Keep sight of the long-term vision -- This one is so true. You know that once you are actually moved, everything will be fine.

The military often talks about resiliency, but what does that mean and how can we be resilient in the face of change and uncertainty? Here are common traits that influence their resiliency, found by researchers at the University of Georgia, of people who had productive lives past the age of 100:

Optimism - They had a positive view of the past and future, not dominated by negativity.

Engagement -- They were actively involved in life, not passive observers.

Mobility -- They stayed physically active.

Adaptability -- They had an extraordinary ability to handle and accept change and loss.

I am not sure how many of those traits are inborn or learned, but they are surprisingly simple.

Change is going to be a part of our lives for as long as we live. I know that if I happen to live to 100, I would like to be active and productive. I am sure you would, too. Keep these tips in mind when you know a change is coming and hopefully you, and I, will handle the uncertainty more gracefully.