James W.D. Stewart

James W.D. Stewart

Embrace "The Suck"

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So much of life after the military is an identity crisis.  Yes, there's the emotional, mental, and/or physical pain…  The nightmares, rage, and/or insomnia…  The grief, the edginess, and/or the isolation…  Forced smiles, numbness, and/or lack of connection.  But, underneath all of it though, there's something else.  There are questions — "why am I still here" and "who am I now".

Underneath all of them, is a fear that you no longer have purpose.



Finding Your Purpose Post-Military

Count Words — Reading Time
by James Stewart
Updated:    Changed the Image
Location:  Rainbow Centre, 40 Elm St., Sudbury, Ontario, P3C 1S8, Canada


So much of life after the military is an identity crisis.  Yes, there's the emotional, mental, and/or physical pain…  The nightmares, rage, and/or insomnia…  The grief, the edginess, and/or the isolation…  Forced smiles, numbness, and/or lack of connection.  But, underneath all of it though, there's something else.  There are questions — "why am I still here" and "who am I now".

Underneath all of them, is a fear that you no longer have purpose.

There are two levels to purpose:

  • Surface:  The kind of purpose that comes from what you do — your activities, job, responsibilities, etc.
  • Deeper:  The kind that comes from who you are — your personal values, the primary energy from which you operate, etc.  For life to feel right, a good portion of what you do, should be determined by who you are.

When you separate from the military, you get hit with changes to both of them.  And, unlike most civilian jobs, for warfighters, what you do and who you are, are often the same.


Nothing Equals Combat's Sense of Purpose

I don't think that I need to explain to you why nothing feels as gratifying, important, and/or as meaningful as combat.  How you were trained and bonded, to move as one with your team, how that trust runs so deep — it simply can't be compared to anything within the civilian world.  How cohesiveness and unity created your sense of identity and purpose.  And, how the risk to your lives sealed it.

So, let me just make this clear right now — there's a no more engaging sense of purpose, than that of protecting and defending each other's lives, in combat…  Or, of suffering together — not because someone forced it upon you, but because you stepped-up to walk among the chosen few.  You'll not find anything within the civilian world that will equal such a feeling.

You can stop looking for it…  It's nowhere to be found.


Lost Within a Civilian No-Man's-Land

You get out of the military and your whole life spreads-out before you…  Wide-open.  You don't know what you want to do, and you don't know what you should be doing.  There's no one now to define what the shape of your days and/or nights looks like.  And, no threat to your existence that makes the future seem irrelevant.

You're stranded out here, with no clue what to do, in this civilian world.  You don't want to be a civilian — you'll never be one of them, don't worry — but, you do have to live among them, and find some way to make a life therein.

No, you can't go back — but, you don't know how to go forward — all that you long for, is what you'd left behind.  Every civilian that you know assumes that you're relieved and happy to be done with the military.  They don't stop to think that you're like a pro athlete who, at the height of his career, gets injured and will never play again.  You don't just face career choices, you face a void of purpose.  It's not that you just lost your job, it's that you lost your whole identity.  But, even more importantly, you lost something that very few people will ever experience — what it is to be fully and deeply alive.

This isn't about finding the right job and/or career path and/or hoping it will fulfill you.  This is about the "who you are" side of purpose.  And, it's spiritual — you're an eternal spirit, having an Earthly experience.  Until you solve the "who you are" side, nothing that you do will feel like purpose.


The Hidden Purpose Every Warfighter Forgets

Humanity looks to religion and meditation to find enlightenment of the soul.  Well, guess what?.  Nobody knows spiritual enlightenment like a warfighter does.

And, do you know what else?  You aren't just missing your team and your war, you're missing feeling spiritually alive…  Present…  In the now…  Surrendered to life and death, content to live now, and to live fully.  There's no future to worry about, when death's trying to send you home early.  There's no past to regret, when your buddy's taking fire and you're in a position to save him.  There's only now…  And, it's beautiful, colourful, and permeated with a heightened awareness and simplicity.

But, that feeling vanishes when you come home — before you know it, you're reduced to bitching that civilians don't have a fucking clue what life's all about.

Do you know why warfighters hate civilians?  It's not just that civilians have no clue about "the real world" — it's that they're unenlightened.  They spend their lives worrying over stupid shit that wouldn't begin to phase you.  Their lives seem to have so little meaning — they seem to waste them.  It grates on your soul as you know, exactly, how precious and fragile life is.  And, they don't give a shit what you know.  So, you bitch about them, and feel some sense of camaraderie in knowing that your fellow warfighters also hate civilians.  It gives you something to rally around.  A place to funnel the hate that you once would've directed toward your enemy.  What it really does, is distract you from what would be time better spent figuring out how to take your enlightenment, and use it to do something productive and/or meaningful.

Just because you no longer wear a uniform, doesn't mean that your obligation to live with honour and do something important is over.


All You'll Ever Need to be Happy and Have Purpose, You Possess, Right Now

So, what are you supposed to do?  Or, more accurately, what do most of you do?  Whine, mope, bitch, lash-out at everyone around you because they don't understand you and you aren't all that happy to be in these circumstances.  You think that you're special — and, you are special — but, you sure as Hell aren't acting like warfighters who were taught values.  You're not very likable this way, are you?  Yes, you say that you don't give a fuck what anyone thinks, but the reality is, you do.  It hurts to be left-out, to not belong, to be drowning inside, to lose your relationships, your marriage, and/or your family.  And, your attitude just drives you deeper into the darkness…  Alone.  You know what?  It's time to man-the-fuck-up and live for something greater than yourself.  Yes, your life sucks right now…  Yes, you're in a lot of pain…  Yes, you have open wounds that burn like Hell when anything gets too close…  Yes, you don't belong.  I get it — I do.  I ache for you and am here for you, to help you fight your way out of this.  But, I'm fucking tired of seeing incredibly good, strong, powerful people who know more than most, how beautiful life is — and, are still blessed to be breathing — act as if they're powerless, choosing to commit suicide instead of being willing to do anything to find well-being, acting as if they got dealt a bad hand, and/or as if they didn't sign-up and step-up to be one of the chosen few.  You're better than this.

It's about time that you remembered who you are…  Men and women of courage…  Strong…  Capable of enduring what most people can't and/or won't…  Men and women who own their power, know their limits, and know that you don't fight alone — you move, and win, as a team.  You don't endanger a teammate's life by keeping your mouth shut if you're low on resources.  You put the well-being of your team first, and part of that means making sure that you're well and supported.  If you're fighting this post-military battle on your own right now, you're endangering a brother/sister.  You need to un-fuck that shit — reach-out and rely on the support available to you.  Stop believing the lie that you're not capable of healing and rebuilding a life that feels good.  No, you don't let someone defeat you.  You own this fight…  As a team.  This, is who you are.


You Have the Power to be Significant

Right now — in this moment.  You don't need the VAC to tell you what you can and/or can't do.  You don't need someone else to assign you your role.  You don't need permission to change your life for the better.

All that you need to do, is to remember that you — and, only you — can choose your attitude.  That's where your power is.  That's where it's always been.  From the day that you enlisted — and, every damn day since.


Step-Up and Matter

I look out, at so many warfighters that I love so deeply, and you know what I see?  I see how beautiful our scars are.  Scars that are earned — not by surrendering to what's easy, but by refusing to give-up when it hurt.  I see men and women who've lived through combat and are still here.  I see men and women who want to be significant again.  We have what, only the chosen few, possess…  And, we need you to do more than lead small, me-centered lives.  We need your leadership in how to live with courage.  Leadership in how to be mentally strong.  Leadership in how to live each day as if it fucking matters…  Because it does fucking matter.

You want to know your purpose?  There's only one purpose for human life.  And, that purpose is to love — that's it.  That's the magic key to the rest of your life…  Loving others.  Not the "no one loves me, so I can't love anyone" kind of love — Hell, no.

You're here, to love with a power and depth, that comes from being enlightened.  You're here, to love others, even if it requires sacrifice.  You're here, to love, because that's how you create a life which matters.  And, I'm not talking about romantic love either.  I'm talking about the kind of love that, has you seeing the people around you as human beings who for the most part, are scared of truly living and/or fear that they're inadequate.  The kind of love, that has you leaving a generous tip to a taxi driver — not because he "deserves it", but because his life might be a bit harder than yours.  The kind of love, that has you asking how your annoying coworker's weekend went — not because she's nice to you, but because she's going through a divorce, and it's tough.

Sacrificial love, that demands all you have.  Why?  Why should you sacrifice more?  Because, you know what love is.  And, you're capable of more.  If you want to argue that a warfighter's purpose is to kill and hate, let me ask you this &@8212; what held you together in combat?  What keeps you here now?  What is it that has you reading this article, by this man whom you don't even know, who's speaking words that sting and/or inspire you somewhere deep within?

Love.  Not the soft, mushy, fragile, fear-based, self-protective kind…  Real love.  The "I will die for you" kind of love.  The love that we, as warriors, already know how to live.

And, why should you love?  Why should you put yourself out there and ask nothing in return?  Because, it's where joy lives.  It's the closest that you're going to get to feeling like you did in war.  And, it's your spiritual calling.


Defenders and Guardians of a Different Kind

What if you took that kind of love, and stepped-up, once again?  This time, not to defend and protect against terrorists, but to defend and protect against the limited thinking that keeps people small, insignificant, and/or afraid of their own light and greatness?  What if, you made it your mission to stop bitching about how much war hurts you, and start adding life to those who're more dead inside then you'll ever be?  What if, you just made kindness and listening and helping others expand their perspective on living, your purpose for today?  What if, you once again, lived an others-centered life?

Here's what I want you to understand…  It doesn't matter what job you do.  It doesn't matter if you turn this way or that way.  It doesn't even matter if nobody else loves you first.  You're a being of love and power.  You're capable of choosing, to be lit from within, by love.  And, when you operate your life based upon the energy of love, you feel good.  You feel significant.  You feel blessed.  You're powerful.

It's that fucking simple — there's no secret to purpose.  You choose, from which energy, that you'll operate.  Love empowers and nourishes you.  Hate and me-centeredness doesn't.

Am I being flippant, by making this seem simple?  No.  I know that we have PTSD, TBIs, physical wounds, losses, that we're grieving — Hell, I know this all too fucking well.  I know that you get moody and you don't necessarily mean to flip-out on people.  And yes, there's a place for medication and/or counseling and/or various types of therapy.  But, in all of the biggest changes and/or transformations in life, whether or not you end-up with a life that feels good comes down to this…  The perspective that you choose to have — the energy that you choose to live from.

You can be wounded and not be an asshole.  You can be wounded and be happy.  You can live from a place of gratitude and positive energy.  You can choose to stop bitching, stop focusing on the negative, and start doing the work of healing and post-traumatic growth.  That work means you start by humbling yourself to accept what you cannot change and that you change what you can.

You can step-up and choose to live, for something other, and greater than yourself.  Loving others, will give you back your sense of significance.  It's the key to every, meaningful, life.  And, you can start choosing to live by love — right fucking now.

Categories:  Health, Lifestyle  
Tags:  Higher Power, How to, MyCAF, Opinionated, Self, The Suck

Syndicated to:


  1. Camaraderie's One Trait the Civilian Sector's Lacking
    by James Stewart Published: 
  2. Embrace 'The Suck'
    by James Stewart Referenced: 
  3. The Infantryman's Arrogance
    by James Stewart Published: 


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Creative Commons Licence :: BY-NC-SA James W.D. Stewart by James Stewart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  Based on a work at https://github.com/jwds1978/jwds1978.github.io.