By Amanda Vicinanzo
“I will only be happy when . . .”
How often do we utter this expression? For many of us, happiness remains contingent on some future event. We say we will be happy when we finally purchase a brand new car, earn that job promotion, or can afford a relaxing vacation in Hawaii. Yet, even when we finally obtain that new car or job, we find another reason not to be happy, again declaring, “I will be happy when . . .”
For military wives, “I will be happy when . . .” usually precedes “when my husband comes home safely”. While most of us can agree that we should not be basing our happiness on temporal things, like cars and houses, we excuse ourselves when it comes to holding off our happiness until our spouses are home. In marriage, we become one with our spouse, so it is only natural to feel empty in his absence. We become, as Aristotle says, like “one soul dwelling in two bodies”, so we feel like only a fragment of ourselves when our spouse is away.
When my husband left for his deployment in Fall 2010, I began reading various articles and books on coping with deployment. They often presented checklists of things to do to be productive and happy.
So, I made my own list and checked it off. I enrolled full-time in graduate school and began an internship in Washington D.C. at the same time. I joined a gym and started working out almost every day. On weekends, I made time for parties, outings, and church on Sunday. I thought I was doing everything right. I had done everything on my checklist but I was still lonely, unhappy, and saying, “I can only be happy when my husband comes home.”
It was not until I sat down to write this article that I really had a chance to meditate on what I was doing wrong and why I had not found contentment. My husband is still deployed and will not be home until the end of the month. But my challenge to myself now is not going to be to find ways to get through the next month. My challenge is going to be to find ways to get all that I can out of this time, to truly live my life as I should and not live by the statement: “I will only be happen when . . .”
G. K. Chesterton said, “True contentment is a thing as active as agriculture. It is the power of getting out of any situation all that there is in it. It is arduous and it is rare.” Contentment is finding joy whatever the situation.
With the understanding that we have to actively find contentment and not simply wait for it to come to us, our challenge to ourselves as Christian military wives is to truly live our lives, whatever the situation. We cannot think of happiness as simply being resigned to our present situation, but rather as embracing it, even in the absence of our spouses.
How do we do that?
From my personal experience, I can tell you that filling out that checklist of things to do and ways to be productive is not going to cut it. Human beings are not simply robots, but a body-soul composite, so our hearts must be in what we do.
Our first step is to actually try to be happy. Through prayer, we can cultivate that desire to be content. Once we can muster up the courage to find happiness, we can start doing those things on our checklist, but as humans rather than machines.
What I have learned through my husband’s deployment is that nothing will fill that void in your life when your husband is gone. But, at the same time, contentment is attainable. The mistake I made, and I think many do, is to merely fill out the checklist instead of putting my heart and soul into what I do.
In the words of Ecclesiastes 3:12, “I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.”