I was grateful to be her friend. We moved often in those years. Vicenza was my fifth move (and seventh house) in five years. I was starting to tire of never being settled and starting all over every year. I fell into a dark depression and wonderful Elsa was a bright spot in my life. I felt guilty for having such a hard time and didn't feel entitled to register any complaint or be unhappy. There is enormous pressure on military spouses to fill a support role and maintain a façade of cheer and competence at all times. I bought into that and into the traditional marriage model – thinking that I should be able to meet ALL of my family’s needs without anyone knowing what my needs were. Least of all me!
There is little I value more than a relationship that does not require facades. Elsa and I could be honest with each other about anything. Not just the challenges in our lives, but humorous and deeply meaningful experiences. She didn’t judge my depression. Her attitude was compassionate and empathetic. She felt that the regimented and subjugated roles we played were abnormal, and my reaction was simply human.
We were in Vicenza less than a year before moving to Germany. Another house to settle, another school to enroll the kids in, another place filled with strangers. By this time, I was in full existential crisis mode. The “head of my household” had proclaimed counseling to be an unnecessary expense, so I educated myself on depression with books from the library.
Numerous resources suggested that meditation was a good way to get the negative thought loop under control. In my experimentation with meditation techniques, I became aware of the observer. That revelation was the beginning of my realization that I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know why humanity existed, or the earth, or anything! It didn’t make sense that all this would exist simply for us to go through our lives chasing goals and striving to acquire more things. I wanted to know the “why” of it all, the purpose, the origins of how we came to be.
I read all kinds books in those days, trying to get through my list of questions. During Elsa’s illness, I spent lots of time trying to understand the mind/body connection and the emotional roots of disease. Elsa had a more traditional way of processing. She was Catholic and trained in Western medicine. Her faith lay in external sources – God, Jesus, doctors and drug therapies.
Everyone facing a crisis must choose a path they can truly put their faith in. Elsa made a choice and I supported her. I also made a choice to try something I could put my whole-hearted faith into. Meditation.