Hey Veteran, Stop Whining and Suck It Up


Although I’ve said I don’t want to talk about the blog, some people (for whatever reason) feel compelled to do so anyway. It’s my firm belief that they believe they are doing it to help (and there is surely truth in that and genuine human compassion). There is also another piece. It is the myriad ways that we avoid thinking about (or working on) the issues that face us in our own lives by stepping in to “help” others and it can be one of the most insidious and allusive ways we do this. I offer his message to me and my response as a gift to all of you in support of your own process and (hopefully) as an illustration of why I have asked people not to talk to me about the blog.

RUSSE: I read your plug tonight.  I wept!  You will never forgive Adam until you forgive your self for falling into him with obsession.  You still love him.  You are still obsessed, seek information and get angry at what he did. I don’t give a shit about Adam, he has something valuable but threw it away. I do care about you. Grieving takes time and we all do it different ways.  Please keep a balance of who you really are now, stop seeing yourself as that little boy being molested and taken advantage of. You are powerful, in your being, your writing and others lives.  If you really thought sex was your relief then it would have worked by now…thats insanity. No one will be able to love you anymore than you love yourself. Stop the whining, suck it up, Accept that people want to be near you for more than a tour of your pants. You are blind to all the love that surrounds you. Adam victimized you because you allowed it. It was more comfortable since you know what that is like. Now is the time to nurture that boy who was confused and fearful to a man who knows who he is and what he wants.  If you dwell on Adam you lose all that. Adam wins.  You are not a loser! I have given you my number. I mean it 24/7 you need someone to talk straight to you call me. I care about you. (and he here gives his phone number)

49 minutes ago

ME: What’s going on in your life right now? What problems are you facing? What issues are you working through?

I only ask (trust me, not to be mean but to be supportive) in that one of the reasons I encourage people NOT talk to me about the blog is that IN MY EXPERIENCE people often dive into “helping” others — you know what?  I think we have today’s blog. Thanks so much for your kind heart and your desire to be of service. I wish you the very best on your on journey.

I will offer this in return for your offer:

As you know, when I set about on this intense work on September 1 of this year, I first had to get very clear about what was not working in my life. What’s there that I don’t want and what’s not there that I do. I divided my life into categories and let my mind run free (for five minutes of stream-of-consciousness writing as fast as I could write) about what I wanted each area of my life to look like.

(Russe, please read today’s blog for the rest of this message)

Chat Conversation End

So, the categories into which I divided my life are:

  1. Health and Fitness
  2. Career and Finance
  3. Sex and Relationships
  4. Spiritual, Emotional, and Psychological

And so from the big “brain drain” that the stream-of-consciousness writing in each of these categories, I have become clear (and I’m becoming increasingly clear) about what it is that I really want. I’ve come up with this list of ten goals that I am working on right now (which you all are becoming very familiar with) and I’m (sometimes very slowly) getting started on the action items under each category that I believe will lead me toward the fulfillment of each goal. Through this process, it has been revealed to me (mostly through my fear of doing the action items) that those fears were programmed into me by things that happened to me in my past— sometimes very early on in life. This very public “uncover, discover, and discard” process (that is being broadcast through this blog) is not for everyone. I believe God lead me to this process when I prayed for help. I get it that most people had rather take a bullet than talk about their sex life (often some of the most embarrassing parts of it) so publicly. Again, I “turned my will and life” over to God (“The Great Mystery, Universe, Creator…) and so I believe that this blog too, is part of the perfect unfoldment of which I am a part. As I’ve said many times, even if people learn from my mistakes and I don’t make it in the end— I, in that way, have been of service to my fellow travelers which is my chief desire in this life (and “coincidentally” where I get the most joy).

This morning I have had a conversation with another man who is still in the military. He’s high ranking and lives in a very conservative part of the nation. He’s gay and a dad and had related to some of the things I wrote about in yesterday’s blog. He wrote to say thanks (and to let me know that he had faced similar issues) and we ended up having a great conversation about it. That’s not what I’m talking about when I ask people not to “talk to me about the blog.” Obviously, he, by saying “Thank you for your blog; I relate,” was “talking about the blog.”

Maybe I need to just state it in a different way. I do appreciate knowing that people are helped by what I write in the blog. I do appreciate also the encouragement: the quick “attaboys” and “keep going Marine” are what have gotten me through rough times in life, at war, in the military, and in this healing process. I’m also— and I have to be very clear here— touched when people share parts of their story with me although one of the primary symptoms of my PTSD is that it is exceptionally hard for me to pay attention. I don’t take medication for that (the VA had me on Adderall for a while and it helped but I worried about the longterm effects of amphetamines on my nervous system so I’ve decided to go the holistic route). So when I started getting all these messages that were several paragraphs long each day from people who wanted to tell me about how their experience related to mine, I realized that, if nothing else, there simply wasn’t enough time for me to read and respond! If I was going to achieve these goals, I was going to have to be very busy doing that and as they always say, “there just aren’t enough hours in the day” so I started to— no wait, first I felt very, very guilty for not reading and responding to all the messages and then I started encouraging them to write their own blog (or book or journal even if they never intended to show it to anyone). Some wouldn’t have it and continued to write me the tomes anyway until I ended up being increasingly firm with them (and of course feeling more and more like a jerk for doing so).

The main thing I don’t want is advice. Any one of us can go down to skid-row and ask any person living there for advice. You know what they’ll do? I’ll tell you what they won’t do. They won’t say, “Hey man, I’m living on skid row. You should go ask someone else for advice about your 401(k).” They are going to give you that advice. 

If, after reading my blog, you are primed and ready to ring me up (message, email, or smoke signal me) to tell me what I “should” do, check yourself right there. Ask yourself these questions:

In the area of Health and Fitness, do I have my shit together? Have I gone through struggles with that and come out the other side with a body that pleases me, allows me to be of service in all the ways I want, feels sexy to me, looks the way I want to look when I look in the mirror and reflects exactly how I want my body to look and feel?

In the area of Career and Finance, do I do work that sustains me spiritually? Does my work provide for me financially in ways that allows me to enjoy life and give to those I love at the level I would like? Is money my servant to do good on the planet or am I a slave to my finances? Does money work for me or do I work for money? If you have money, does that money come to you in a way that fits into your highest and strictest code of ethics?

In the area of sex and relationship, are the relationships in your life— with your family, your significant other if you have one, your work associates, your friends— are they healthy? Are they mutually supportive or based on power disparities of one type or another? Is sex something that makes you feel happy and alive or is it a commodity? When you say the words “my sex life” to yourself, does it feel you with joy?

In the area of Spirituality, Emotion, and Psychology— does your Spiritual practice feed your soul? (Secular, science minded agnostics and atheists— you have your version of this and you know what it is.) Or does your “spirit life” more often reflect what others believe and have more-or-less pawned off on you. Do the tenets of your religion really reflect how you believe deep in your heart or do they, when expressed outright, state things that you can’t believe (i.e. if the blood of Jesus is really the only way to get to heaven, and one must accept that atonement to receive salvation so the billions of Buddhists who have, do, or will live are going to suffer for all eternity in Hell, a punishment more horrible than the human mind can imagine. Does that reflect how you really believe?) Emotionally would you say that you live a life of serene joy most of the time with natural ebbs and flow or do you often feel like you’re being jerked around by your emotions? Do you feel psychologically healthy or are your “life skills” easily located in the DSM-V?

So, when you’re ready to write to me and tell what I should do, how I can “feel all better” and stop making you uncomfortable by presenting my “work-in-progess” blogs— please do take a look at these areas of your life and ask yourself those questions. And if, after having done so, you find yourself smiling one of those closed-lip wide smiles accompanied by a deep and cleansing inhalation through the nostrils— if you say to yourself, “Yep, I’m pretty much (as we used to say in the Marine Corps) A-J-squared-away!” (and you’re being very, very honest with yourself). Then, please, by all means, step right up and show me how you did it. Otherwise, and I say this with all the love and respect in my heart, take your advice and file it in the poop chute. You can’t manage your own life, why the fuck would I let you manage mine.

Okay, that’s the end of that part. I’m now going to use Russe’s message to help some of you out. Some of you have expressed to me your desire to show support and be of service to those of us who have served (or now serve) in the military. Some of those people are actually military folk themselves which is out-fucking-standing and reminds me why I fucking (in most cases) love military folk especially the best ones which are, of course, Marines. There are others among you (mostly women) who have expressed a desire to be a supportive ally in my overcoming the ways in which the gender paradigm has injured me (and other men). There is a lot (although not enough) talk about how women get screwed (pardon the pun) by this sick  system but almost none about how men are destroyed by it as well. There are some very powerful and awesome women in my life who get it in a way that astounds me. This is particularly touching to me because they have stumbled upon these insights inside a system in which historically  the direction of oppression coming from my gender toward theirs! How fucking incredible a human being do you have to be to be able to, while being part of a system that oppresses females, reach out to a male and say “I want to be an ally.” I’m tearing up just thinking about this matchless love. God, I am so grateful for the wonderful, powerful, Feminist, women in my life. They let me fuck up over and over around women’s issues and just keep loving me.

So to these two groups (and hopefully others) I am going to use Russe’s short message to give you some tips about how to be an ally to men and to veterans.

RUSSE: “I read your plug tonight.”

ME: This may have been a typo so I’ll let it slide, but just in case he really did mean to call my blog a “plug,” let me remind us all what that is:

plug |pləɡ| noun 3. informal, a piece of publicity promoting a product, event, or establishment:  ex:“he threw in a plug, boasting that the restaurant offered many entrées for under $5.”

To be clear, my blog is not “publicity” it is my saving my own life or, to a greater extent, letting God (with the loving support of people who care about me) save it for me.

RUSSE: I wept!

ME: This is good. Isn’t it? I mean when people stuck around after performances of The Eyes of Babylon to thank me and would cry while we spoke, and would apologize for crying, I would ask them PLEASE not to apologize and would often say, “You can’t cry with a closed heart. Cry! Keep that heart open!” BUT, in this case, when (essentially what has happened here is) a veteran who has recently found himself feeling suicidal and is trying to do something about it by opening up and has just shared a bunch of painful (and somewhat embarrassing) stuff with you and you say, “I wept” — THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE WRITTEN WORD which we all know from text conversations gone horribly wrong allow no room for inflection or tone— well goddamn! The veteran will likely end up feeling much, much worse because some has just told him or her that their unburdening has put another human being in such a state of emotional distress that they have actually “wept.” (How biblical.) Again, this is just one interpretation of “I wept” that the veteran may take but now having worked with hundreds of them, trust me, it is not an unlikely possibility. 

RUSSE: You will never forgive Adam until you forgive your self for falling into him with obsession.

ME: Do you understand the implicit arrogance in this statement? This man (and again I’m sure you’re a perfectly sweet man who’s “just trying to help”) but you have just looked into your crystal ball and have seen what will NEVER be possible for me! First of all, the statement itself is wrong. For SO many of us who are so relentlessly hard on ourselves, we will often forgive EVERYONE for EVERYTHING before we forgive ourselves. Adam is a very sick individual. For the time being he has been able to transfer most of his addictive patterns to workaholism which I have seen him do a thousand times before. But he nor I nor you nor anyone is above the simple principle that unless we get into recovery (and that comes in many different forms— I used to not be able to admit that) — but unless we take real steps to EFFECTIVELY address the addiction problem, “over any considerable time, we get worse, never better.” No matter WHAT Adam did to me I will always love him very deeply. I never want to see him again, but I love him very deeply. I know that what he did to me, he did because he is sick and not because he is bad. So in that way, I can come a lot closer to forgiving Adam who was a drunk in a monkey suit when I met him than I can to forgiving myself who was a seven-years-sober alcoholic when I met him and a man WHO KNEW BETTER AND HAD BEEN TOLD A THOUSAND TIMES not to get involved romantically with someone who was a newcomer to sobriety or someone who needed to BECOME a newcomer to sobriety. In that way, I got exactly what I deserved. I operated on self-will run riot and (in many ways ) threw away eight (precious and forever-gone) years of my life in doing so. So yeah, Russe, I’m afraid you’re straight up wrong on this one. I must forgive Adam if I am to move forward. I must forgive MYSELF if I am to move forward. I am working on both of these things. In fact I’m working on them in a very public way and if you read my blog you know that. In what universe do you think writing to me to tell me I have to forgive Adam and myself is giving me some kind of new and useful information? No. Is is allowing you to focus on me and not you. Ask yourself if there’s not some area in your life (check food, sex, and spending— these are the “usual suspects” for me) and see if there’s not some work to be done. TRUST ME, as you all know, I WELL KNOW how much more fun it is to NOT think about what I need to be working on. 

Now to the expression in that sentence “falling into him with obsession.” What does that even mean really? Is it the same as “becoming obsessed with him?” I’m not sure I understand. As you wrote it,”falling into him,” I guess I do understand that, I did “fall into him.” I fell in LOVE with him and no matter how unhealthy the situation, it was real love and for you to RE-qualify it and RE-define it as obsession is ridiculously insulting. I wish you’d thought that through before “helping.” Hell yeah, I “fell into Adam!” I fell into those upside-down moon olive-colored eyes and I was turned inside-out. I connected to his boyishness, I connected to his recklessness, I connected to his pain, I connected to his horniness, I connected to his addiction, I connected to his hope for overcoming, I connected to his love of his own masculinity, I connected to his beauty, I connected to his joy, I connected with his extreme intelligence, and I fell completely into him, you’re right. I fell right into his life, his heart and his bed (well, actually it was my bed but you get the picture) but it was not “with obsession” as you put it. For once in my life, as miraculous as it seems, with regard to the “obsession” thing, I actually was doing pretty good. I fell in love. Deeply and for real. Don’t project the details of your past onto what you think you know about me. 

RUSSE: You still love him.

ME: Well goddamn, there’s a newsflash. You shoulda hit up CNN with that one first. You might have gotten some kind of “tipster’s fee.” 

RUSSE: You are still obsessed

ME: Actually this part makes me wonder if the “helper” in this case knows what real obsession is like. I have known obsession and trust me brother, this ain’t it. I do not spend my days and nights thinking about Adam and if he comes up a lot in the blog it’s because any thoughts of him are parading by on their way out the door. Trust me, when those ten goals are realized, Adam Nelson will likely very rarely cross my mind. I’d rather spend my time thinking about me. The reason y’all have had to hear so much about him is that I’m dealing from the fallout of that eight-year disaster and it’s taken me two years just to figure out the ways I was negatively effected by being in relationship with him. Also, I had made a HUGE investment of time, effort and money toward a common goal and HE WALKED WITH THE MONEY. If you think there’s something wrong with me for not “snapping right back” after that then—not fuck him, not fuck me, but FUCK YOU! 

RUSSE: seek information and get angry at what he did.

ME: These are the first of two of several imperatives in Russe’s paragraph. That is a sentence or phrase that has “you” as the implied subject.  I’ll list them all now:

  1. Seek information.
  2. Get angry.
  3. Keep a balance of who you are
  4. Stop the whining
  5. Suck it up
  6. Accept that people want to be near you
  7. Nurture that boy who was confused
  8. Call me

So these imperatives, they are advice, do you understand that? They are telling me what to do. They actually don’t even come in the form of suggestions. They sound more like orders. Never give a Marine an order unless something on your sleeve says you outrank him (or her). It just pisses the Marine off. 

“Seek information.” What does that mean? Seek information about how to kill your ex and get away with it? More information about what Adam did? (Trust me, I know enough. I don’t need to know more.) Information on grieving, getting over divorce, healing, forgiving? What information exactly do you think I don’t have access to with my connection to recovery programs, support groups, men’s work groups, spiritual organizations, wise friends— I’m not really sure what “information” you think I’m lacking to make this all better in a way that would suit you.

“Get Angry.” Huh? Can he really be serious with this one? Can anyone (sane) who has read my blog really think that I am not in touch with my anger around what Adam did to me? Oh trust me, I have no problem finding the anger. For the sake of not simply spewing vitriol (and to avoid any run-ins with the police) I have tempered my anger as I seek to work through it. Don’t tell me to “get angry.” 

RUSSE: I don’t give a shit about Adam,

ME: I do. I love him. I never want to see him again. But I love him and I wish him the very best. I hope he figures it out and I hope his lessons come gently. Why would you, Russe, give a shit about someone you’ve never met and only know from the (discourteously honest) things I’ve said about him in my blog? That’s an odd thing to say.

RUSSE: he has something valuable but threw it away.

ME: Correction, he HAD something valuable. Those days are over. And thanks for reminding me that I’ve been “thrown away.” ‘really makes me feel great. 

RUSSE: I do care about you.

ME: If you care about me, respect my boundaries. I asked you not to talk to me about the blog. 

RUSSE: Grieving takes time and we all do it different ways.

ME: Oh that’s beautiful! I think I saw that on a Hallmark card this afternoon at the mall. Sorry to be such a shit about it but Jesus! I’m coming at you with raw honesty. Don’t come at me with pop-psych platitudes! 

RUSSE: Please keep a balance of who you really are now

ME: huh?

RUSSE: stop seeing yourself as that little boy being molested and taken advantage of.

ME: (here’s me tempering my anger again) You know what?! I AM that little boy who was molested and taken advantage of. He is alive in me and I love and honor him. I kept in complete silence for ten years and tried to self medicate my shame, sadness, confusion and rage about being a molested child. And it was years later before I gained the courage to speak about it publicly. Don’t you DARE tell me to turn him out again. I AM the advocate for that kid now! I AM his protector! ALL the adults in my life failed me when I was that twelve year-old boy by allowing this to happen and now I AM KEEPING THAT BOY SAFE. By telling me to “stop seeing myself as him” you are encouraging me to push him away like this fucked-up society pushed him away which actually made him MORE VULNERABLE to a predator. Stop looking at, talking to, or thinking about that boy, MY boy. Take one more step toward him and you’ll find out how fiercely I protect him now. You will meet the Marine that stands between ALL CHILDREN and their would-be abusers. 

RUSSE: You are powerful, in your being, your writing and others lives.

ME: Thank you. 

RUSSE: If you really thought sex was your relief then it would have worked by now…thats insanity.

ME: Thanks for calling me insane. Happy Christmas to you too. Ellowell. Actually, this isn’t the first time— no, I won’t go there. It’s mean spirited. But I am riled up so I will say that oftentimes gay men who have been all too happy to rush in and tell me how “insane” my sexual compulsivity has been (yeah, I pretty much coped to that ten years ago) are men who (at least in some small part) have wished they could have done what I’ve done— if only for a day to see what it would be like. You pity me for my sexual piggy-ness? I bet there’s a little jealousy lurking in there as well. Sorry. I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em. 

RUSSE: No one will be able to love you anymore than you love yourself.

ME: Wow. 

RUSSE: Stop the whining, suck it up

ME: Never, EVER say this to a veteran. You may believe me when I tell you that anyone who has served in our nation’s military has heard MORE THAN ENOUGH to “stop whining and suck it up.” The sentiment expressed by these insensitive and short-sighted expressions is likely THE SINGLE MOST DANGEROUS contributing factor to when the veteran actually does end up with the gun is his or her mouth. We have been told this ridiculous nonsense enough to kill us. For too many of us, it did. Shut the fuck up. Never say this again. Ever. 

RUSSE:Accept that people want to be near you for more than a tour of your pants.

ME: Ew. 

RUSSE:You are blind to all the love that surrounds you.

ME: Fuck you. What an asinine thing to say. (Besides, I happen to believe that I likely don’t KNOW anyone who has more incredible people who love him—even when I am being a colossal asshole as I am right now. I am not blind to the love that surrounds me. Indeed, it’s kept me alive more than once.) 

RUSSE: Adam victimized you because you allowed it.

ME: Again, fuck you. (and thank you for stating—not only the obvious, but something I have said myself over and over in my blog). 

RUSSE: It was more comfortable since you know what that is like.

ME: I LOVE when people try to “put me on the couch” to show how incredibly insightful they are. You don’t want to go to the mat with me in a psychoanalysis-off. I assure you, I’d win. 

RUSSE: Now is the time to nurture that boy who was confused and fearful to a man who knows who he is and what he wants.

ME: Time to tell that boy to “grow up” huh? As I said before, take one more step toward the boy and find out what happens. Hidden in the second part of that statement is the implication that I don’t know who I am and I don’t know what I want. Again, fuck you. I’m Jeff Muthafuckin’ Key! and there is no one on EARTH I’d rather be— and I know EXACTLY what I want and I’m busy co-creating it with The Source that made such a crazy and beautiful expression of Itself as me. I’m afraid in this case you were accidentally looking in a mirror and not at me. 

RUSSE: If you dwell on Adam you lose all that. Adam wins.

ME: Cheap trick and armchair Psychology 101. Adam has Adam’s karma. That means he’s going to lose by definition. Whether I join him in defeat is up to me. I’m choosing not to. 

RUSSE: You are not a loser!

ME: You’re goddamned right, I’m not a loser. I’m about as far from a loser as one could get. Anybody who’s been through the shit I have and not only lived to tell about it but has gone on to do what I have done is a winner. And if I ever forget that, I am SURROUNDED by people who are sweet enough to remind me. 

RUSSE: I have given you my number. I mean it 24/7 you need someone to talk straight to you call me.

ME: Indeed you have and that so sweet. I know that you were only trying to help and that you were doing the best you knew how when you decided to cross my very well delineated boundaries around discussing by blog with me or giving me unsolicited advice. You confuse “straight talk”  with something else and I have a stronghold of spiritual warriors on whom I can call when I’m doubting my own intuition. Thanks for the offer but I think I’ll decline the offer of the straight phone call. Additionally, I’d prefer if you do not respond to me or contact me anymore as you have proven that you don’t respect my boundaries and that doesn’t feel safe to me. 

The last thing you wrote before giving me your phone number was “I care about you.” I don’t doubt this is true and I do want to recognize your willingness to try to help even if it did come in a way that I won’t allow. In return for your kindness, I will offer you this little gem which is a hard-won kernel of wisdom I’ve gained from years of talking to people about gender issues and examining them in the laboratory of my life to include my service in the Marine Corps. A huge part of that whole “straight talk, tough love, pull-no-punches” thing, when it comes from one gay man to another is 1) a projection of homophobia onto the other man and 2) an attempt to mimic what we’ve been told men are supposed to be because “real men” are, after all, “tougher.”  It’s bullshit and it’s more of the same pandemic, man-hating, war-creating, heteronormative, dangerous and limiting paradigm that this world has had more than enough of. 

I’ve been very firm with you in this response. If some of what I have said stings, I hope that it will deter further missteps on your part with regard to my boundaries and perhaps will help you in your journey as well. In the Marine Corps we have a saying, “Pain retains.” If my pushback has caused you pain, my hope is that it will help you “retain” the knowledge that while it may not have been true of my twelve year-old self, this version of me now has very clear boundaries and I will defend them to the death. 

See y’all tomorrow. 

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