Monday, July 19, 2010

Red Tape


I know I'm still new to this lifestyle of the military dependent, but I can't help but wonder whether I'm not alone in feeling something like a paroled felon. Rules, regulations, addenda, fine print. I'm not an anarchist, I believe in maintaining order in the community, and I understand that the need to manage a standing military force of hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families will require certain additional constraints. I suppose the problem arises with those of us who are not active duty and still feel like "normal people," but who are no longer allowed to be normal people.

"You can help watch your friends' children, but not for more than X hours a week. You can have visitors, but not for more than X days each month. If you're pregnant, sick and need help, go home or learn to take care of yourself by yourself." I had more freedom of movement when I was living with my parents.

I can't help but think my particular military experience has been soured by other extenuating circumstances. The botched move which never happened, and being so far away from the majority of my family and friends, certainly hasn't helped give me a favorable impression so far. But I can't complain too much, because I know many military families have endured more frustrating arrangements than this. At least we're not overseas and dealing with a language barrier. Still, sometimes it's hard to get far enough away from the problem to put it in perspective.

The facts of the matter are that my husband is awesome, and I'm not sorry I married him. I don't hate the military, I'm not sorry he joined, and I wouldn't dissuade him from making it a career if he so chooses. I'm not even begging to move out of this state, although it's an attractive prospect. I don't care that our new hometown is a dump, or that our house is crap from the seventies that smells damp, grows mold, has warped walls, asbestos in the ceiling, lead in the water, and skunks in the ventilation. We knew it would be a difficult situation when we signed up for it, but we were determined to work the problems as they arose. Ultimately, the real frustrations come of not being able or allowed to work those problems, and they just stack up to taunt us. "Sorry, deal with it." "That's life." "Who told you that?" "Welcome to the real world." "What mold?"

I was prepared for reasonable difficulties (straightforward waiting periods, deployments, frequent moves, acquisition of copious paperwork, etc.); at least I could have entertained some measure of martyr's nobility for all the hardships we had to endure. Apparently I need to recalibrate my tolerance levels for unreasonable and/or petty difficulties like misdirection, the "merry-go-round" of misinformation, chronically poor cell phone signal, cancelled appointments, sneaky fine print on lease agreements, directories full of disconnected phone numbers, inability to qualify for any sort of moving plan, and all the issues that arise out of having two legal addresses. Those sorts of things just make us feel like we've been had.

Maybe it's because this base is so small and everyone is so temporary that we're not seeing the close-knit community we were told we could expect. There isn't even the level of accountability and personal responsibility we assumed would exist among servicemen behind all the fences and wire and ID checkpoints. Last weekend we had a small disaster to deal with because David's debit card was stolen - on base, mind you - and also fraudulently used on base. Human nature never ceases to disappoint.

My issues with the slow-pokes at the IRS have nothing whatsoever to do with our military situation, but it's just another one of those little things that get under my skin. It's always about the little things. At least my check finally came. The miscarriage had nothing to do with the military, but it certainly didn't help our outlook. The fact that we have no idea how long we'll be here isn't so much the military's fault as it is the nature of this place; we're here until the job is done. Everything else is essentially fallout.

Despite all that, I have to say there isn't anything I would have changed that was within our power to change. Most of what I would like to change would require an act of God, or congress. Nor is there anyone else I'd rather tough it out with. I'm guessing that if we can make it through this first year or so, our marriage will be practically indestructible. After all, adversity builds character, right? (Don't we have enough yet?) I often wish we had fewer crises that demanded our attention, but we seem to work well together when we do resolve them.

We had another of our timeless moments at the WiFi hotspot yesterday, endeavoring with much teamwork to cancel the missing debit card. I must have had a look that would have melted glass, navigating the website and automated phone menu multiple times in search of a real person. Once the issue was resolved, he told me I was beautiful. "It must be the Spaniard in you. They always look so regal when they're p*ssed as hell." Reminds me why I married him in the first place. ^_^

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