So, now the day is over, and it’s well into night. I’m drinking scotch, which is against my new rules. Seemed like a good idea after being unable to outrace thoughts which seemed to only grow larger as I made it through the day.
The drinking plunges me in deeper, sure, but it also seems to help push through it. I’m hoping it will help me sleep, because the alternative is quitting the struggle. And that seems fairly unacceptable, if tenable and alluring.
I used to test my willpower by opening a bottle of scotch and loading a .45. I’d put a glass and the weapon on the table, and see which one won out. Clearly the Macallan won every time. My first PTSD doctor told me that they had treated a medic who apparently used to test himself the same way, except his gun won one evening. Sadly, I’m apparently unoriginal in my methods.
What I’ve come to see as disturbing about this game is that it’s not one of willpower, so much as continuing to live by accident, by default. I wake up sometimes and wonder why. I go to bed the same way. Without a mission, a purpose, what does a retired soldier do? Why does a retired exist?
I’m not trying to be maudlin, so much as illustrate the thoughts that I and others ponder regularly. The loss of identity and purpose is powerful. But so are the ghosts some of us gather in our effort to pursue purpose and find identity. Everyone is plagued or haunted by something. For me, it’s a lack of faith in everything I used to believe. I’m numb, I’m disillusioned, I’m tired. I see emptiness in old values, old constructs. I see pointlessness for myself.
One of the greatest gifts a former military (wo)man can give oneself, or another, is a new path identity, a new cause, a new passion, a new road to walk. Preferably, that road incorporates the old into the new so the person can be whole. I’m trying, but I’m not there yet. And if I’m honest, I’m not sure someone like me should be in the type of world I wish for others. Relatedly, I’m not sure the world I want for others is possible, given what I’ve seen about “the people at the top,” and the institutions that comprise our system. Moreover, the exploitation of noble virtues and goals shared by many soldiers, in order to process and continue the system is not just disheartening, it’s morally criminal.
Men and women kill and die for the machinations of assholes who pull on the heartstrings and values that make humanity higher than animals, and then put those noble folk into positions and systems which enhance their primal tendencies.
Let’s go further: not everyone serves for noble goals. I’ve personally met men who joined solely to find a legal means of killing. I’ve also met some of the truly most altruistic people that exist. Does that make the security institutions bankrupt? Nope. It does, however, mean that we need to truly look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and what we’re doing to the people and virtues prosecuting those policies/desires/goals. And let’s face it, this world is not in a position to do that. People are often too blinded by preconceptions to do that.
I grew up in a conservative household amidst a liberal society. I was raised to be a patriot and respect the military, while my friends were running nonviolence conflict resolution courses and programs, and often questioning the government. I straddle the line and see the close-mindedness on both sides, while trying to live in both worlds because I know both must exist for a healthy humanity. Neither is wholly right or wholly wrong, but many would like to believe that.
I offer that soldiers and the military are a composite of these worlds and beliefs. What doesn’t work is the rhetoric which paints soldiers, war, violence, or any facet of this complex monstrosity in black/white scales. It’s not even grey, it’s a kaleidoscope of vivid hues. To properly discuss it, we need to accept that all colors of the violence (life) spectrum belong on the canvas.
As for tonight, to experience the intensity of that palette, and then attempt to step away from it, is difficult. I try to live in this grey scale that society (separate from humanity) seems to manifest. But the memories of those colors make it difficult, kind of like the YA book, The Giver, maybe. What I’m grappling with tonight, aided by Glenlivet 12, is what to do when those colors turn black, and creep up on you. Where do you go when you are betrayed by that which you served? Where do you go when you can’t even have a conversation with someone about yourself because who you are is so undefined or so foreign to them that your words lack meaning?
I go into a glass, apparently. I’m trying not to go somewhere else..living by default. It blows, but it’s existence. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Gotta get there. Gotta get there.