Me, Green Beret Envy & My “Magic Carpet”

About 13 years ago, I found myself in MAJOR transition.  After serving as an active duty Army logistics officer, I traded my captain’s bars for a Boppy pillow.  At the time, I thought I was more than ready to be a mom.  At 28 years old, I had successfully navigated my way through West Point and the challenges of serving in the male-dominated 3rd Infantry and 82nd Airborne Divisions.  With all my “expertise” in the male arena, I truly thought raising a little boy would be a piece of cake.  Clearly disillusioned, I soon realized child rearing was going to be more challenging than I had envisioned.

Six weeks after our little boy was born, my husband left for a couple months of training.  I suddenly found myself home alone and in a place where my thoughts seemed to keep me awake almost as much as our crying baby.  At that point, I remember stepping back and looking at my life as a before and after picture.  On one side there was me with pressed BDU’s and shiny jump boots.  On the other side was me in sweats with hair that hadn’t seen a brush in two days.  The 4:00 am wake-up calls for a random piss test

About 13 years ago, I found myself in MAJOR transition.  After serving as an active duty Army logistics officer, I traded my captain’s bars for a Boppy pillow.  At the time, I thought I was more than ready to be a mom.  At 28 years old, I had successfully navigated my way through West Point and the challenges of serving in the male-dominated 3rd Infantry and 82nd Airborne Divisions.  With all my “expertise” in the male arena, I truly thought raising a little boy would be a piece of cake.  Clearly disillusioned, I soon realized childrearing was going to be more challenging than I had envisioned.

Six weeks after our little boy was born, my husband left for a couple months of training.  I suddenly found myself home alone and in a place where my thoughts seemed to keep me awake almost as much as our crying baby.  At that point, I remember stepping back and looking at my life as a before and after picture.  On one side there was me with pressed BDU’s and shiny jump boots.  On the other side was me in sweats with hair that hadn’t seen a brush in two days.  The 4:00 am wake-up calls for a random piss test were replaced by a little boy crying at 4:00 am to have his diaper changed.

I wasn’t regretting my decision to move from full time soldier to full time mother.  However, I was quite baffled that I felt anything less than pure joy towards being a stay-at-home mom.  Like any good military officer, I had planned the pregnancy and birth, down to the last stitch of new bedding and useless wipe warmer, and read every book on baby’s first year that I could get my hands on. We planned our finances and started our son’s college fund before he ever saw the light of day!  I thought I was more than ready to make this huge life transition.

Nevertheless, all that planning couldn’t prepare me for how I’d feel about no longer being involved in critical military missions and not being recognized for my hard work.  Important missions were reduced to eat-sleep-poop cycles, and there were certainly no high-fives for surviving another sleepless night.  I was struggling – mentally, emotionally and physically with my new role.  My entire self-identity was in upheaval.   Living in the heart of a military community, just outside the gates of Ft. Bragg, NC, I found myself in unfamiliar territory as a stay-at-home mom in a town buzzing with soldiers.  I no longer felt a part of something “bigger,” devoid or any leadership responsibilities beyond my household.  Long nights spent nursing a sleepless child made me realize how much I thrived on recognition and being seen as this hard-core female paratrooper.  In those quite moments, I really wrestled over whether or not “being seen” simply by those baby brown eyes was really enough for me.

During this time my husband also made a big transition from the “regular Army” to Army Special Forces.  He earned his green beret after an intense selection process and qualification course.  He not only survived but excelled through grueling schools such as SERE and Ranger school.  I threw a big party for him when it was all complete, but I can’t deny there was a part of me that was jealous.  I remember frosting the cake and feeling as pea green as his new beret.  I knew that period of time was challenging for him on every level.  On top of everything else, he was missing out on seeing his newborn baby grow and develop.  For all I knew, he was jealous of me for staying home.  No matter what, at the ended of the day, I knew he was very fulfilled by what he was doing, and as for me… well, I wasn’t yet convinced.

It took some time for me to move through these feelings.  Instead of moving through them in a healthy, holistic manner, I initially chose to work through my issues as I had always done – by just DOING MORE.  As a very sleep-deprived, “single” mother (single by virtue of my husband’s work), I enrolled in grad school.  Six months and thousands of dollars later, I dropped out.  Then I went through a period of perfectionism where I was obsessed with the perfect house, perfect garden and hosting perfect parties until “perfectionism” steam-rolled me completely.  Shortly after giving birth, I attempted to reach for “my old self” by getting back to running 6.5 minute miles.  I quickly discovered that birthing an 8 pound boy naturally causes some issues “down South,” and speed was only going to cause me misery for a good while.  So much for that hard-core, paratrooper identity.

Eventually I got a grip on myself and realized that doing more for the sake of being more was downright stupid.  Somewhere along my journey, yoga rescued me and became the way I reconnected with sanity and came to know a deeper sense of Self.  Though I had practiced and even taught yoga prior to this time, I had largely approached it from a fitness perspective.  Fortunately, I found a great class class at my local health club that focused as much on mindfulness as the fitness aspect of yoga, and I soon became a regular.  It took a few classes to shift from comparing myself to others in the room to really focusing on ME.  When I finally let go of my ego and surrendered to the moment, a sense of my own BEING-ness washed over me, and I made the transition from simply doing yoga to experiencing yoga.  Least I forget the good humor of the universe, the yoga teacher who helped me make the leap from doing yoga to experiencing it, was a fellow paratrooper – a man who was a highly-decorated, retired Army first sergeant.

I began practicing both yoga and meditation at home everyday, developing a strong practice outside of class.  I started identifying my yoga mat as a magic carpet.  When I stepped on the mat, I was magically transported to my inner sanctum where time stands still and all that exists is me in the present moment – free from any self-judgment, expectation or agenda.

Now I am mom to two young boys.  Those infant years did feel easier the second go around, not because it actually was, but because I let go of rigid expectations (of myself and and others) and learned to relax into motherhood.  Knowing my magic carpet is at my beck and call, yoga is now more like an old friend than an actual practice for me.  Like any true friend, yoga brings me back to my authentic Self and makes me a better person.  I hope everyone, particularly in our military community (including those who wear the uniform AND those who don’t), have one of these non-judgemental, no expectation/no agenda kind of “friends.”  Life is much easier with a “magic carpet” too… whether it’s a yoga mat, a fly rod, a bicycle, a surfboard, or even a comfy pair or running shoes.  When you move your body, you quiet your mind; and when you quiet your mind, you begin to hear the whispers of who you really are.

“Move your body, and your Spirit will follow!” ~Gabrielle Roth

yoga mat magic carpet

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