The Wellness Spotlight Series highlights military spouses and their real world health and wellness journeys in a Facebook Live series. Below is an excerpt of Aj’s feature.
Aj is a military spouse who decided to create her own transformational Red Tent evenings using her theatre degree, enthusiasm for storytelling, and love of bringing people together. With her online Red Tent and workshops, she helps others learn in a brave and sacred space. Aj has performed as Mermaid Harmony around the world for the past seven years. She’s also a hot chocolate connoisseur.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A MILITARY SPOUSE.
I became a military spouse when my husband enlisted in the Air Force after college. We were stationed at Hickam AFB in Honolulu, and then moved to Spangdahlem AFB in Germany. We are now at Lackland in San Antonio. At my very first base I was Key Spouse, because they needed another one, and it’s been an exploration of trying new things and hopping in where needed ever since. I’ve loved getting to know the people and community around me wherever we are stationed, and now my focus is on creating places that can be safe and brave spaces for women to come and learn together in intentional community together through Red Tents.
If you are a health or wellness expert, tell us about it and how it has impacted your wellness journey.
I’m not, but I do teach women and others tools to help them show up well in their lives. This can range from charting their menstrual cycle to setting boundaries, and figuring out useful language for asking what you need. Sometimes we are taught manipulation instead of grace-filled awareness for ourselves and the people around us. Women especially are taught we are “broken” or enemies with each other, and the fact of the matter is we were created to be in community with each other, we just forgot how to along the way. Competition became more important and valued. Being in community and discovering this language has impacted my stress levels, and how I can view myself outside of society’s lens. It gives a lot more grace, when you realize we’re all more alike than we are different from each other.
Have you experienced any extreme highs or lows since becoming a military spouse? How did you overcome it?
He enlisted when we were twenty-four, and by the time we were twenty-eight we realized we didn’t want kids, and due to issues with my birth control I was so fed up with hormones I almost got a hysterectomy. I then discovered cycle charting, and it changed everything. Despite not lifting like I usually would because it’s COVID-19, I actually feel I am my healthiest now, between my mindset, body, and heart. I’ve been doing SE (Somatic Experiencing), and essentially it’s mind-body trauma therapy, and it’s given me many tools to help my nervous system self-regulate which has been an amazing journey. My goal is to be a fully embodied radiant woman of God. This means giving myself permission to be kind to myself, treat my body like the temple of my soul that it is, and live my days in expectation of possibility and goodness.
What is one personal habit that contributes to your success?
Morning Pages. Oh my goodness. If I can tell anyone to do anything in the morning, morning pages are it. It’s from the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and it’s three pages of free writing every morning. Essentially your brain is always processing and trying to remember things, even if they aren’t useful things (I see you memory of when I was in third grade and slipped on the ice in front of the cute new kid). But doing three pages allows you to write it all down, and then you can take what you need from it that is important for that day and put in your planner, but it’s like wiping down the counters and putting everything away. You don’t realize what a difference it really makes until you do it. I started two years ago, and it helps me get clear to start my day on the right foot. It also is really good for processing because it’s just free writing so there is no pressure to document your day. You just write your thoughts, and the clarity that comes from it is impressive sometimes.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FORM OF SELF-CARE?
I’ve been going on long walks after my run just by myself every morning and I love it. It feels like a luxurious gift for myself. I can go as slow or fast as I’d like and don’t have to explain myself, I can just be. To decompress, nothing beats laying in my hammock with a good book, or laying in the hammock and looking at the stars. Either way, the hammock is the best way for me to remember to relax.
If you could share a health and wellness resource with the military community, what would it be and why?
Brené Brown. Her books have absolutely changed the language I use when moving through vulnerability, shame, and life. She’s given me many of the tools I teach others, and her books are phenomenal resources.
IF YOU COULD RECOMMEND ONE BOOK AND/OR PODCAST TO MILITARY SPOUSES, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. This book helps reframe the idea that saying no is a bad thing. We can’t say yes to everything and so many military spouses feel guilt for struggling, asking for help, or not being able to help. This book outlines ways to see situations from an outside perspective and gives language for setting boundaries and for asking what you need in a way that feels true and genuine.
Aj is The Joy Weaver, who ignites imagination and possibilities through art and Red Tents with her business In Joy Productions. As a military spouse, she decided to create her own transformational Red Tent evenings using her theatre degree, enthusiasm for storytelling, and love of bringing people together. With her online Red Tent and workshops, she helps others learn in a brave and sacred space.