Her, too…

As a husband, what do you do when your wife gets raped?

I’m sorry if I fucked your day up with this.

Her and I were both active duty and the Navy was sorting out our co-location, so I was running around the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego as the G-1 Division Leading Chief, while she was floating around on the USS Harry S. Truman as a Storekeeper (2nd Class). In hindsight, I knew something was “off”. We would talk as much as was practical when one half of a relationship is deployed, but the emails and phone calls seemed to shift in tone: they were more volatile, more “clingy”, and she seemed more prone to mood swings when I had to stop communicating to go and work. Something was definitely going on.

To this day, I still have don’t have all the details. Frankly, I’m not sure I want them. We are divorced, and have moved on with putting the pieces back together, or at least have tried to do that. What I do know, is that something did happen, and as it turns out, she didn’t want to tell me.

This is a legitimate question: what do you do when something like this happens? Is there some kind of fucking instruction book for it?

All these years later and I still can’t reconcile the events. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a victim, but not really a victim? To be in a situation where you feel violated, but to act like you’re violated will be so ridiculously laughable compared with other people in the same situation are going through?

I still don’t know if I did the right thing, you know. It’s still surreal, all these years later, trying to piece together coherent sentences on is topic.

I still don’t understand if any of it matters.

And don’t you dare try to come at me and tell me that this happened for a reason. Spare me with that bullshit.

Listen, I don’t want to drown you people by getting into the nuances of the dynamics of being the Chief Petty Officer. Suffice it to say that it is a brotherhood. Those of you that actually know me in real life are probably laughing about the concept of me buying into a brotherhood, but believe me, I did it one point. In fact, I took a lot of pride in it.

The guy who did it was a “brother”.  This person knew me.

A Senior Chief Petty Officer, to be exact.

Really, I don’t know if I’m more pissed off at the slime-ball who perpetrated the crime, or at the rest of the Chief’s Mess that took it upon themselves to attempt to cover it up. Instruction dictates investigations and all sorts of formalities take place when something of this nature happens, but that’s not how things went down at 37. Instruction also dictates that the member is transferred when something like this happens, but she never was because, for all intents and purposes, the event never happened.

So she had to sit there, at the supply desk of a squadron, knowing he was at the maintenance desk.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN IN NAVAL AVIATION, YOU KNOW WHERE THESE DESKS ARE IN RELATION TO ONE ANOTHER.

I can’t fathom what it must be like to have to work next to somebody who violated you.

And if this piece of writing is choppy, it’s because I have to keep getting up to (walk, lift weights, get a drink, shower) because I don’t want to relive the fact that an organization that I gave 13 faithful years of my life to would treat a loved one like a piece of common trash.

I’m still fucking pissed.

Some of you Chiefs are probably reading this…

Some of you same slogan-spitters that talk a good game when the “Season” is in full swing, shouting “Honor, Courage, Commitment”, and yet manage to slither back into your holes when courage and leadership is actually required.

YOU MOTHERFUCKERS.

People who don’t know the entire story tend to praise me for my restraint in not killing the man, or at least doing something with a high probability of landing me in prision. They tell me that I must be one helluva “good person”.

The truth:

I’m NOT a good person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the worst person, either, but you’d be hard pressed to convince me that I’m “good”. I’m a veteran Ordnanceman with a fascination for explosives. I have built and loaded bombs on fighter jets during wars. So it goes. I claim no morality for any of my actions: past, future…right this moment.

The truth is that I DID want to hurt him.

Badly.

Nothing fatal, because that would be too easy. Rather, I wanted to physically and emotionally main him so that life would never be the same.

I wanted him to scream for help and feel powerless when no one came, just like she did.

I wanted him to jump at every shadow he saw, every loud noise, every walk through a dimly lit parking lot…just like she does.

I wanted him to look over his shoulder and wonder if that was going to be the moment that I finally came back for him…just like she does.

I wanted him to live the rest of his life in fear….just like she does.

Why didn’t I? Part of the reason is because my therapist explained to me the importance of getting her get her own closure, but, more importantly: she asked me not to.

Looking back on it, I would consider this the proverbial “last labor of love” from her. She told me to let her find her peace; she told me to find mine; she told me that to punish him would be to become him, and I was so much better than that.

I’m really not sure anymore. Do I know?

What do I say here? Am I a victim? No. Not really. It happened to me, but it didn’t happen to me. I was a part of it, but I didn’t feel the most pain. I’ve had to find a way to move on and cope, but my life was it torn asunder like some other peoples were.

All I know is that this is a problem. This is a really, really big fucking problem. You’re either part of the problem here, or part of the solution. And on this I draw a line in the sand.

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I’ve Known You Forever

I've Known You Forever

I’ve known you forever.

And I’m not just saying that figuratively. Really…I’ve known you forever.

I’ve known you since the Universe flashed into existence and flung outward the particles that would coalesce into us. That unbearable heat that sent us barreling into the inky blackness of the void with no other intention but to burn off the Old Energy. To fight back against gravity for whatever it would prove to be worth. Heinrich had it right: “Aliveness is to resist inertia”

…and there was life within that purity.

The Old Energy is funny, though. Sometimes it streaks across the heavens like wild photons. Other times it lazes, like quiet moons. Timing is everything, or so they say, and we all take different paths towards the same destiny of no-thingness. Interdependence is a funny thing, too.

We had different Dharma, all the same, you and I. We ended up here, as it were, just slightly out of step with one another. Perhaps it just turned out that I was here ahead of the time, though I must ponder that possibility advisedly. Lest the balance be knocked off kilter.

I've Known You Forever

What I do know is this:

Somewhere along the path, someone caused you to believe you weren’t good enough. Maybe it was unspoken, yet there was this odd feeling that you lacked adequacy, that you didn’t deserve to be loved because you failed to hold a standard that seemed oddly vague and unspecified. The thought of this brings me a mild pang of recognition. As if I know the precise feeling of the experience. As if this has all happened before.

But you had to try. They were all you knew, really. They were all you had.

Besides, it wasn’t in your nature to not try. The thought of giving up was simply incongruent with you. The dissonance was unbearable. I know this…I know you! You had to try to do something to mask the hurt you had to do something that They could see, so you could stand up and shout:

“I’m here! Why don’t you see me?! Why can’t you just accept me and love me? LOOK, look at what I DID! IS IT NOT GOOD ENOUGH?”

So you kept trying – you burnt your mind out flooding over academics and snapped sinews with athletic effort and tore your body asunder trying to do something, anything that was good enough for them.

The goalposts moved, though.

Always.

And you persevered.

I felt you, sometimes. I saw you in my own reflection and your tenacity – your sheer WILL – was enough to rend me.

But I know you. I’ve known you forever. You and I have always been on the same trajectory. Our paths were the same, but the timing was all different. The Universe has its way, and who am I to think it owes me anything? Least not explanations for the affairs of humans.

Me?

People ask me why I don’t speak to Them anymore. Those without understanding tell me it is inconceivable; monstrous. They are missing the point. There is nothing hateful about the choice I have made. The reality is that the choice to walk away from Them was the last labor of love I had left. It was a selfless act of ripping a piece of my heart out, willfully handing it over, and refusing to be motivated by hate and spite and pain any longer. I didn’t want thought of them to be littered with resentment and scatter-shot “fuck-yous”.

And you know what?

If I could have it all back, I’d do it all the same. Every last bit of it. In a billion realities, in a billion alternate dimensions, if the Universe collapsed on itself and re-banged into existence a billion times…

I would choose the same me. Again…and again…and again.

…The heartache, the pain, the alcohol, the drugs.

…The suicidal ideation, the divorce, the financial mess.

…The career in a gutter, the life in a gutter, the soul in a gutter.

All of the shit I crawled through.

All of the glass the I was dragged through.

All of the kicks while I was trying to move forward.

I would do it ALL again.

Because every moment of my life, from the start, has unfolded exactly as was intended. Because the moments, as agonizing as they were. We structured exactly as they should have been…

To lead me…

right…

To YOU.

So that I can tell you I’ve been there. So that I can tell you that I was never really free until I learned to ignore everyone else’s goal posts but MINE. So that I can tell you that I never really knew how to love myself or ANYONE until I learned to let go of the hate and resentment I had toward Them.

Until I chose to walk away and LOVE Them, instead.

To love MYSELF.

When you are on that call with me and you tell me that you feel like we know each other, you are more right than you can possible imagine.

I’ve known you forever.

I’m Not Sure Why I’m Telling You This…

A Therapist once old me that just you don’t need to be physically struck in order to be abused… We will come back to that, later.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you this.

I remember being at my parents house for the holidays when I was Active Duty Navy and finding an old ‘school yearbook’ from my 5th Grade Elementary School class. It was nothing serious, but rather an art project that we did and was later copied and bound by parents as a memento. Each child in my class had a picture with a brief biography, which was written by their parents.

Some of the content looked like this:

“Jessie lives at home with his mom and dad. He has a little sister and they play on the swingset together.”

“Sammy has two pugs that he loves to run around with in the yard.”

“Sarah enjoys math class and hopes to be an astronaut one day.”

Except for mine. Mine was different. It was two paragraphs long and detailed all how smart I was. I don’t remember specifics, but there was a detailed account of my plans to attend Harvard or Yale and study medicine or law. It may have even mentioned Magna Cum Laude…or Summa.

I was nine years old. Nine.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you this.

When I was a kid, everything was about academics.

We were encouraged to participate in sports, but this was always an afterthought and came secondary to school work. It was all about getting an ‘A’, and, for me, it was about being the most dominant student in the class. From a Sport Psychology perspective, the Ego Orientation seed was planted very early on. If I wasn’t the best at something, I was a failure. I internalized that and it became a part of me.

I had “friends”, but I’m not sure how to classify them. How can you truly forge friendships when you look around a classroom and see only opponents in a game of who can get the highest grade? When being accepted by your parents hinges on the ability to be the best, can you really have positive interactions with people who are, in a very real way, standing in the way of you being loved?

As I got older to middle school, I shied away from sports more. I loved books, and still do, but my obsession with books at that time was a way to escape and disappear into other worlds and times. I would often daydream that I was someone else: an athletic star, a mercenary or soldier, a superhero. This was a way for me to take everything I wanted to be and create it in my mind. I hated who I was because being the best was mandatory and I was just on the cusp of the realization that it is impossible to be the best at everything and, more often than not, impossible to be the best at one thing. That is, if your definition of “the best” includes comparisons relative to other people.

Other kids would relentlessly bully me and I would often eat alone or blend in with another group of misfits, just sitting there. Looking back at this, I find myself pondering if they were really bullies, or was I just so cocky and arrogant and pretentious about my intellectual abilities that they felt that maybe I needed to be knocked around a bit. Maybe, in a very real way, I was bullying them academically and they were simply defending themselves the only way they knew how. If you are the most intellectually dominant person in the room and you rub other people’s noses in it like a puppy that missed a piddle-pad, would you expect them to just put up with it?

I started to become like my mother: Negative and full of Fear

Instead of speaking positively about people and seeking to grow with them, I would look for vulnerabilities. I would mentally tear people down to make myself look better, instead of seeking personal mastery. The problem, of course, is that even the smartest people in the world, though well read, have specialties. As such, you become older and branch out into different domains, and realize there are some areas where you simply aren’t as good. This realization was like a bomb being dropped on me. I couldn’t cope with the implications of this.

I became depressed and suicidal.

I would scare myself because I knew where my father kept all of his guns.

I would cut myself.

I became obsessed with the thought that I would never be the best at anything and would never amount to much.

I’m not sure why I’m telling you this.

Because of my Ego Orientation, I would shy away from anything that I didn’t have the potential to be the best at. This was the only way of shielding my self-esteem in the event that I didn’t emerge as #1 in a particular discipline. I have spend a great deal of time working on myself and exploring my motivations, and many of my issues stem from these formative years.

  • I was an expert self-handicapper
  • I would set goals that were too easy for me, in order to dominate.
  • Conversely, I would choose goals that were absurd and overly difficult so that I had an excuse for not being the best.

But, perhaps most tragically:

I would always tend to avoid attempting things, particularly new endeavors in which I was not sure how successful I will be relative to others.

This was my existence until I rebelled against my parents.

Having done a lot of introspection, I think my father meant well. There are no instruction manuals that come with children and you simply want them to do better than you did. My mother, however, is another story. Years of therapy and 4 Psychologists later, I have come to grips with the fact that my mother had serious issues of her own that she refused to face and accept. As such, she used guilt and shame as a tool to manipulate situations and fear as a way to control. In order to fill holes in her life she used my sister and I.

I don’t speak to my mother or my father, and I don’t feel bad.

I’m tired of lying about that and hiding it to friends and family. this is part of my process of moving on and bettering myself.

I have no children of my own, and my sister doesn’t either. When I take time to analyze this, I speculate that this isn’t because we are disinterested in kids (my current girlfriend has two), but rather because we were afraid that we would default to treating our own kids the way that we were treated. The apple doesn’t fall far, and this is not a new phenomenon. We default to the behavior that we have been exposed to, particularly in moments of high stress.

Instead, I chose to pour my heart into developing my leadership and coaching skills. I didn’t join the military for adventure or honor. I joined the military to get away from my mother, but the lessons and skills I have learned there have translated into so many domains which allow me to help people, athletes and otherwise, understand that life is about mastery and your self-worth isn’t determined by the number in the ‘W’ column, the number on a scale, or the number on an exam.

In helping other people, I have, in ways that many clients and acquaintances do not even realize, learned to help and heal myself. There is a long way to go, but I have learned to accept wins and losses in the context of mastery. I have grown. I am happy with the man I have become.