Soldiering On


(G.I.’s of 3rd battalion/8th Infantry (4th Infantry Division) in Hurtgen Forest. Near Schwarzenbroich Manor/Schevenhütte, November 18, 1944)

What follows is a very personal piece of writing. I banged it out last night with raw emotions. The last two days have been hard, hard as fuck, and yesterday it was a struggle to just move through the world. A part of me wanted to curl up and just sleep.

The piece of writing below was written at the end of a very long day. It includes things that I am uneasy about sharing publicly on my blog. There are details of my breakup with my wife, something I have not written openly about. But I have decided to share this piece of writing because I know that there is a damn good chance that someone will read it who is suffering hard. All of us are suffering or struggling with something, something hard. All the meditation, all the physical training, all of the philosophy in the world cannot keep the hard shit at bay…but it is my experience and my faith that training is what we fall back on when the hard shit comes.

So I am sharing this piece of writing with you. I do it so that you know we are out here struggling together. My knees might be bloodied from all the goddamn times I have stumbled and fallen, and I will continue to stumble and fall…and I pray that I always find the strength to get up and keep moving. I hope the words below inspire you to keep moving too.


Life can be bleak. I mean fucking bleak. Here is what is happening with me. My wife has left me. I am not completely sure why. Fully, I recognize that our relationship has issues, and that some of these run fairly deep and have been going on for a while. However, none of them seem to me to be the kind of problems that a marriage cannot weather, provided both participants are committed to commitment.

 And yet here I sit at the retreat ranch, alone, no wife,. See, ultimately the problem, for me, is this: there is a level of me that still loves her the way I loved her long ago…and have, for the last 8 years. I don’t know how to let go of that. Today I imagined it as like these nerve connections or tentacles or something, this way in which I have been entwined with her since the day I saw her for the first time, way back in prison, when she was a light of hope and warmth and beauty and laughter. And I could go on and on….I feel deeply for the woman….and yet here I am, alone at the retreat ranch, drinking beer and writing. These connections have been torn apart and are raw and hurting  And where is she? Probably at home, probably with someone new.

See, I went over the other day because I was worried about her. Maybe I over reacted but she hadn’t returned calls or texts for like 24 hours. And maybe it was an over reaction to go down there and ring the doorbell…but I was worried. There has not been one time in 8 years that she hasn’t returned a phone call or text or something….and I don’t want to draw out the details, but someone was there…so yeah she has someone new…and it is bleak. To say, there are a seemingly large amount of moments of pathê that recur with a frequency that is not comfortable.

Anyway, my point in all that is to say that yeah…life can be bleak. And it could easily, so easily be worse. We should live in deep gratitude when we recognize how worse it could be. But to quote the good book, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34).

That is an interesting passage on multiple levels. If you let that one set in, you might find, as I have, that it pops up and reveals deeper meanings of itself at interesting times. Here is one of them: yes, things could be worse, and I should be grateful for just how good things are going and yet, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”. The problem I am faced with is my current cross to pick up and bear. In spite of the fact that I think sufferings are comparable, and that one can gain good insights from doing so, there is also great benefit in recognizing that my suffering in the moment is what I am faced with, and it is sufficient for today. And of at least equal importance: it matters what I do. What I do when I am faced with these challenges, the quest to carve habitable order out of chaos as Jordan Peterson puts so well, is one of the key components of who I am and what kind of world I am contributing to building. This is key, it is crucial: what we do matters. The way we respond to the hardships of life build our lives. Every time we choose to pick up our cross and bear it we become stronger, more resilient, and more oriented toward the good. That is the quest that can move the world.

Somedays it is just the struggle to hold it together. The pain of the dissolution of a relationship can really be like an existential earthquake. It seems that this is particularly true if you happen to be the seemingly unlucky bastard (because sure, in some ways this really is unlucky but in other ways, maybe to some degree, didn’t you dodge a bullet? What happens if you recognize that? What happens if you give some room for that to stretch out a little and get some air? What would happen if that is the creature that you feed?) who does not want the relationship to end. It is like an existential earthquake and even after the main quake has passed there are still some significant after shocks that have the potential to come along and really give a rattling to the new structures that you are building.

When this happens, we can’t quit. I mean we can, but the options aren’t good. In fact, they should clearly be unacceptable. When I was in prison, people who would visit or write to me would always comment on how well they thought I was handling imprisonment and how they doubted their own ability to do so if put in the same situation. I would always tell them that it was not brave, or courageous or anything like that…it was a simple choice. If you ever find yourself in an old school (and when I say old school I mean like over 50 years old) southern prison, in one of those real small 2 man cells, where you can stand in the middle of the cell with your arms stretched out at your sides, and with the slightest sway from left to right you can actually touch the walls, if you ever find yourself in one of those, locked in with another person, let me assure you that anything but a reasonably calm acceptance of the situation will lead to absolutely nothing but making the situation worse.

So if the current situation is shit…don’t make it worse. Most of the time, kicking and screaming against the door does not lead to improved conditions. So the choice is simple. In the same way, you cannot quit when the after shocks hit. You have to make a choice, and the only acceptable one is to keep moving forward. Sometimes that is literally just putting one foot in front of the other, just making it through, just getting out there in the world and facing all the human interactions and situational stresses and stimuli and facing all of that in a way that holds it all together. That even if you are stumbling along a bit, you are still shouldering that cross.

Hard times can be when hard lessons are learned and earned. Hard times provide a certain treasure, but only if you can push through to the other side. Some people don’t make it. You probably know some people in your life who have not made it through some hard time. This can happen to various degrees. I know good people who still bleed from wounds that are years and years old. I know good people who have been spiritually broken by hardship and who have not recovered. There are no guarantees. When you face the dragon you might be destroyed. Does that seem gloomy? Indeed. You know what is even worse? Being destroyed with out a fight. Because giving up is to guarantee defeat. Soldiering on is a victory in itself.

One thought on “Soldiering On

  1. I am glad to see you writing again. I like your forthright, clear style.

    I’ve been reading your posts on discipline and, knowing how hard and consistently you train, appreciating the experiential base behind these posts. On discipline, one of my favourite slogans is Aristotle’s “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Or something like that.

    ” The pain of the dissolution of a relationship can really be like an existential earthquake…”

    Yes, I think I know what you mean. It can take years for the shock waves to lessen and to start making a coherent, personal path out of the wreckage. But you can, and I think you will, and you will be different, and wiser for it.


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