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Diaries of a DLI wife: a typical Saturday night

It’s a typical Saturday night in Monterey, California.

Which means it’s been raining for a week and a half straight. I saw the sun briefly on Wednesday, as it was setting through the clouds, and I quickly went into Vitamin D shock. After consulting WebMD, I decided the best recovery route was to sit on my couch in near-complete darkness and watch at least 25 episodes of “South Park” without moving or blinking, but with occasional drooling.

Monterey Sunset

Beautiful ocean sunset or dangerous health risk? You decide.

A typical Saturday night for a DLI wife also means that her DLI husband is practicing language immersion with a group of same-rank classmates somewhere on the peninsula. Which typically leaves me, the DLI wife, alone in our new home wearing oversized pink sweatpants that are so covered in dog hair I’m afraid the neighbors might call animal control if I walk outside.

Saturday nights are really exciting here.

On nights like these, when Jonathan doesn’t come home until late, I don’t like to waste time in the kitchen with cooking; there’s another “South Park” marathon on, and I’m still in recovery. So for dinner tonight I had half a bag of microwave popcorn and two servings of almond milk. I did take the time to pour the milk into a glass instead of drinking it straight from the carton, though, because I’m worth it.

For the past month I’ve been consumed with transitioning my new business from Tennessee to California, and looking for local growth opportunities. The side effect is that I haven’t really been participating in normal human activities–like making friends. Instead, I’m forming concerning fictional relationships with three of the polygamist wives from TLC’s “Sister Wives.” Not with the fourth one, though, because I couldn’t handle following her on Twitter for more than a few days. It’s not you, sister wife; it’s your hashtags.

As for real-life interactions, those are pretty much limited to the cashiers at Target. And my dog. I’ve already been to Target three times this week, so I went the other route and spent the last 30 minutes chasing my dog up and down the stairs, growling and barking back at him, until I was so sweaty that I had to change out of my pink sweatpants.

Which was probably for the best.

When Jonathan first mentioned the prospect of moving to California, it came with an immediate caveat; though we’d be surrounded by ocean breezes and Trader Joe’s, the time we’d have to spend together would be limited. The purpose of our time here is for Jonathan to become proficient in a foreign language at the Defense Language Institute. And language proficiency in under two years doesn’t just mean all day in class. It means all day in class, mandatory after-hours study hall, nightly homework, weekly exams, constant studying, and completing his usual military busywork in his “free time.”

I went to a liberal arts college where I spent four years getting a degree in theater and creative writing, so my post-high-school educational experience involved much less stress and much more Shakespearean drinking games (my personal favorite is called “drink every time Hamlet is a little bitch,” which also explains why I don’t remember chunks of college).

I knew that life as a DLI wife would be lonely. I knew that it would put strain on a new marriage. I knew that, even after braving deployments and distances, the challenges in Monterey would be uncharted for us.

All of that has proven to be correct after roughly two months.

Being a military wife (or girlfriend, or husband or boyfriend) means something different to each person who goes through it. To me, it means learning how to be independent, then forgetting for a little while, and then relearning again. Lather, rinse, repeat with every deployment and PCS. Lather, rinse, repeat sometimes once a week. Sometimes every day. Sometimes twice in the same day, like when you convince yourself you can totally reach the smoke detector to change the beeping battery, find out conclusively that you cannot, wallow, then remember you have a 24-hour maintenance number that exists for this problem. (Then you move onto the next problem, which is an ant infestation you discovered when two hundred of them came scurrying out of the electrical socket in the master bathroom.)

To prevent the anxiety from melting me into a puddle of uselessness, I’m in a solid attempt to slow things down. When the sun comes out (even if briefly), I go outside. When the idea of trying to sustain a knitwear business through the summer, in California, gets too overwhelming, I put down the crochet hook. When it starts to feel too lonely, I’m Skyping with my friends back home. If anything, maybe my friends will have friends who want bulk orders of camo mug cozies. And all my problems are solved.

How do you combat anxiety or loneliness in a new environment?

20 thoughts on “Diaries of a DLI wife: a typical Saturday night

  1. Do you know how nice it is to hear that I am not the only one who treasures interactions with members of the Red and Khaki Army?

    Anyway, the loneliness: it bites. I’m lucky because my husband is assigned to a boat (aka a submarine) so there are 140 other dudes and a lot of them come with wives/girlfriends who are also far from home. These women have saved my damn mind during the shenanigans of the last 6 months.

    That being said, are there other DLI wives? Can’t you guys form some “We’re Speaking Damn English” Club that hangs out while the boys are practicing their Klingon?

    Two big things that helped me:
    1. Getting out of the house. Not necessarily speaking to people and making friends, but just going to the gym or commissary made me feel like a better human.
    2. Part-time job. I have a marketing degree from a fantastic business school, but now I work as an assistant librarian at the elementary school on a nearby base. Does it make sense? Absolutely not. But it’s part-time, gets me out of the house and interacting with people, brings in a wee bit of money, and allows me to push Harry Potter on another generation. Wins all around, my friend.

    • Such good advice, Colleen. Thank you!

      I’ve actually started going to some community military spouse events since I wrote this post. A strange thing about DLI is that the students are not allowed to socialize outside of their “rank group.” Luckily the wives are not forbidden to socialize with each other, no matter their husbands’ ranks, but it definitely makes for some strained social interactions. Military life just gets curiouser and curiouser.

  2. I second the idea of getting out, not necessary with other people, but taking a walk with the dog, or working out if there’s a gym. You don’t have to be bouncy and bright about meeting other people, but there have to be other women in your situation. ugh. I’m sorry it sucks. you can do it!

    • You know what I found out this weekend? There is a FREE gym here. Just about died. Then I did die after completing my first gym workout in, like, 9 months.

      You’re spot-on about the dog walking. I make a point to say hi to anybody I see while walking with Loxley, and to apologize when Loxley jumps on them and tries to lick their faces, because I’m not good at training dogs.

  3. I battle loneliness by interacting with bloggers online and being a gamer šŸ˜‰

    Honestly? It sucks. I’ve been reading a self-help book on how to make friends as an adult because it seems so much harder than it was when I was younger.

    If you’re interested, it’s called “MWF Seeking BFF” and it’s about a woman who goes on 52 friend-dates in search of connections in a new city šŸ™‚

    *huggles* best of luck!

      • hahahahh I’m dying laughing. If you need a gym buddy I’d rather embarass myself as a duet. My husband found your blog before me, how thoughtful. –My stare at neighbors is usually more “get the hell away from me” then “save me I’m bored to death” so far which means I’ve made a total of 0 friends. We’re off Noumea until next February, feel free to speed date friend away.

        • We live creepily close to each other. Do you, by any chance, like books and wine? Some wives in the neighborhood just formed a book(and wine) club that meets for the first time at the end of April. I’m going to send you the details and then force you to join. At gunpoint. (Just kidding. I don’t know how to point a gun. But I do know how to drink wine. Which is why I’m good for this new club.)

  4. Hey sweetie…wish I had known you were in Seaside…I live in Saratoga but was just in Monterey for the weekend! If you ever need anything, I’m only an hour away. Enjoy your Cali adventure. PS…be sure to have breakfast at LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle on the wharf…my fav diner in Monterey šŸ™‚

  5. I second what a lot of people said- not that my hubs is in the military but with his medical residency he is busy a lot and gone, sometimes overnight or just 12-14 hours a day. I realized I would go bananas with just the baby and my two dogs to keep me company (I needed someone who at least spoke something I could understand once in awhile!) It really helps to have even just one other human being that you can interact with on a semi frequent basis in a friendly hangout manner (checkout clerks and bank tellers don’t count unless you drink with them after shift)! 2 months is still really early on- I think moving is like starting a new job- gotta give yourself at least 6 months to feel like you’ve got a handle on things!

  6. I feel your pain on this one! My husband is in flight training which means a year of 12 hour work days plus studying when he gets home. And the small town offers little entertainment or distraction (and no Target…sob). Plus moving away from my family was WAY harder than I anticipated. Combine that with trying to deal with legit diagnosed anxiety problems, and its been a rough year! So I definitely understand where you are coming from! That being said, here are a few suggestions to combat the boredom/loneliness/anxiety.

    1. Get a part-time job. That should leave you enough time for your awesome Etsy shop, while allowing you to get out of your house and interact with humans. Plus it is a nice distraction and coworkers are potential friends!
    2. Group exercise classes! To be honest, I hate these…sweaty, asthmatic small talk is not my idea of fun. BUT, it can be a great place to make friends. Also, it reduces anxiety, particularly if you can find a yoga class. And again, distraction and human interaction is a plus.
    3. Even if you don’t have anywhere to go that day, put on semi presentable clothing. It make the whole day seem more productive somehow.
    4. If there are any spouses groups, join them. It’s a great way people, even if the meetings/activities are lame.
    5. If at all possible, help your husband study. Obviously this is harder with a foreign language, but even flash cards or something would work. It helps you feel involved with his stuff, and lets you spend a little more time together.
    6. Make time to do things you love; things that make you feel like yourself!

    Good luck!

    • Thanks for your advice and honesty, Ruth. I don’t spend much (or any) time talking about my actual diagnoses on this blog, but I’m so with you. I got extremely lucky in that, when I finally found a doctor out here, she was ready and willing to help get my brain back on track from what I lost in stability in Fort Campbell (Lesson learned: army doctors do not take anxiety disorders seriously. They will not authorize refills for your meds, and they do not care about the consequences.) I’m sure you understand completely how difficult it is to put yourself out there socially when you can barely tolerate socializing with yourself.

      Now that I’m starting to even out and get into a routine (not sure about you, but a solid routine to stick to helps my anxiety a lot), I’ve joined a spouses club, as well as some other activities that the spouses from the club helped me find. So your advice was obviously completely right. You should put out a pamphlet.

  7. Winter means A LOT of downtime when you work on a farm, so I can definitely relate! I’d never survive completely alone, so having a dog is the first step. Having a friendly dog that forces you to talk to people when you walk him also helps, so you’re much more prepared that I was when I first faced the Great Alone! It definitely gets easier to battle as you get used to it, but I do have a few backup weapons if my usual routine of housework/writing/online browsing fails… FreeRice & Lumosity. Both of those websites are ridiculously addicting, and both are educational!! So you can feel better about yourself while you sit and do nothing!

  8. Pingback: The Gilroy Garlic Festival (or reasons why I smell bad) | Army Pants And Flip Flops

  9. Hi! So my husband just finished basic and he arrived in Monterey this Saturday. Thankfully I’m on his orders and I’ll be heading out there sometime soon (I don’t have an exact date in mind yet since we haven’t gotten housing settled and I’m expecting). But I was wondering if you could give me any more insight on life at DLI as a spouse. My husband is trying to get his language changed to Korean so we can both study the language (I speak Korean, although nowhere near fluently and he lived in Korea for most of his life), but if he isn’t able to, how bad is it not being able to spend all the time you want with your spouse? How long do they spend studying? How much free time do they get after classes and on the weekends? I was also wondering if it was better to live on or off base. I haven’t lived in Monterey since I was younger and my dad was going through DLI, so I don’t remember much. I see that you haven’t updated in awhile, so hopefully you’re still checking your blog. But if not, thank you for all of your posts and insights!

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