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Why I Don’t Write in List Form

By Liz Brown

It seems every website these days, whether for a business or a blog, publishes content in list form. You know what I mean, right? 'Eight Reasons Why Your Dog Wags His Tail; Three Ways You're Ruining Your Nightly Sleep; Five Real Ways Jazzercize May Be Ruining Your Marriage.'

There's a reason such lists are everywhere — people dig them. Ideas never get too heavy because they're separated into digestible chunks, which makes sense in the modern age of microscopic attention spans. What I struggle with is the supposedly definitive nature of the content, especially where military life is concerned.

It may be that the only thing we have in common is marriages to service members. And that's OK.

If I read a list of The 10 Ways to Survive Deployment, and I try all 10 tactics but still feel empty with my husband gone, what then? What if I read a list of The Four Kinds Of Military Spouses You Need To Be Friends With and my 'kind' isn't on it? Or what if I read the list of The Five Most Obnoxious People You See In Every NEX and find myself under #2: The Wife Who Doesn't Do Her Hair Or Wear Makeup When Her Husband Is Overseas? (Answer: Laugh and wonder why I started reading such a stupid list in the first place.)

Categorizing, making lists — it's easy. Maybe too easy. I get turned off by presumptions, by people thinking they know The Five Steps To Becoming A Great Milspouse. Trust me, my relationship is not your relationship. My marriage might actually need more jazzercise while the same prescription might tank yours. I don't think there's any harm in advising readers to 'Step #1: Be Yourself!' but I did just speak with a struggling milspouse who tearfully admitted, 'I don't want to be myself, I need to be better… for my family.'

You can see where generic advice doesn't always apply.

My most trusted resources are all as beautifully uncertain of this life as I am: Rob, my mom, my sisters, my neighbors. People who know me. When I'm drowning in the depths of deployment, I know to call my friend Cathy because she doesn't rattle off Six Cute Crafts To Make With Wiggle Eyes And Glitter Poms, she listens to me cry for a while before trying to make me laugh again.

I think there's something wonderful about learning why your dog wags his tail just by watching him. But that's just me.