We’re in the Army now.
We’re not behind a plow.
We’ll never get rich, we’re diggin’ a ditch.
We’re in the Army now.
Welcome to the army.
Which army, you ask?
The Army of Second Adolescents.
Remember what adolescent means? Remember how it felt?
Neither child nor adult.
Inner turmoil. Vague anxieties.
Chronic feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, self-doubt.
Sure it does.
Everyone in the army feels that way.
We’re marching everywhere.
It’s getting in our hair.
We follow the rules
and follow the mules
We’re in the Army now.
Second adolescence is a stage when adults are supposed to find out who they really are.
As in first adolescence, you feel grown, but not grown-up.
You feel constricted by rules and expectations imposed on you.
Not by school, but by your job.
Not by parents, but by marriage and family.
You march through your days wondering just where you’re headed.
And, occasionally, if it’s worth the trip.
And you don’t like yourself much.
And you worry a lot.
And again life feels frustrating.
And again life feels unfair.
We’re happy as can be.
Have lots of company.
The cooties at night
Drop in for a bite.
We’re in the Army now.*
And just as first adolescents have their psychosocial tasks to complete, so do we in the army.
The main task we face?
To grow up psychologically.
To feel as adult as our bodies look.
To feel like this is our life, not someone else’s idea of the one we should be living.
To develop our own values and identity and spiritual core.
To love who we love — and dislike who we dislike — without fear or deceit.
To do our work, the work we were placed here to do.
To stop being controlled by fear and self-doubt, envy and the opinions of others.
To realize that our time here is not limitless.
That we need to stop planning and rehearsing and get on with it.
Get on with acting, finally, like just who we are.
Have you reached those goals yet?
So. On your feet. Fall in.
You’re in the army now.
*We’re In The Army Now,” lyrics by Tell Taylor & Ole Olsen, music by Isham Jones (1917)
* * *
Of all the pathologies to which control addiction can lead, family violence is one of the more grotesque. This post came to me as twenty-year old notebook pages scribbled by someone going through one of the darker days of her life. Worth reading, by men and women. I thank the writer for her courage in sharing it.
I keep thinking I don’t belong here.
When I first got here at 9:00 AM there was only one other person. The woman at the window talked to me in a loud harsh-sounding voice. Especially loud. She asked me why I was here through the hole in the window that keeps her separated from the angry and sad people on the other side. Her voice was so loud it seemed to echo.
Why are you here?
I am here for an order of protection I tell her in a soft embarrassed voice.
The worst part had been said, and I was told to sit and fill out a petition.
A petition that would order someone — someone who had at one time vowed to love and cherish me for the rest of my life – to stop hurting me. So much that it left bruises.
I don’t belong here, I keep thinking.
Later I sat in front of a probation officer. Attached to her desk were two signs with the same message: Do not move the chair closer to this desk.
The probation officer looked tired. It was only 9:15 AM.
I told her about the incidents. I told her about the strong hands around my throat, and how it still hurts in several places there. I told her about the hands that grabbed my wrists. I showed her the bruise on my left wrist. It’s brown in color. I showed her the small bruise on my right wrist. It’s purplish. I told her what happened when my face hit the rug of the living room, how it still hurts on the inside of my gums, how my head felt like it had been shattered, jolted for a long time afterward. I told her my shoulder hurts, and I wasn’t sure of the other injuries, because sometimes it takes a while for the bruises to appear.
Then I was told to sit until my petition was typed. It could take an hour, maybe two. Maybe more.
I take a seat in the lobby. It’s crowded now. There are a few children. Some of the people are speaking angrily. Some of them are arguing about child support. Too much. Too little.
Every now and then someone comes to the door that leads to the rooms where you tell about your bruises and other kinds of hurts and injustices. She or he calls out a name. The people come and go.
There is a very large colorful wall poster that contains artwork about family violence. These are drawings by children who have watched people in their families hurt other people in their families.
Like my daughter.
Like my son.
There are drawings of a hand holding a belt and a face that looks frightened. An arm held up to take the blow. It’s instinctive. There is a large tear on the frightened face.
Do I belong here?
Fifteen years, I told the probation officer. I have been taking these bruises for fifteen years.
She looks up at me, but she does not show any emotion. She tells me to talk to a women’s group.
Then she says, Fifteen years is a long time.
I feel very very small, and very very stupid.
What is wrong with me?
Then I think — later in the lobby, where a little dark-faced, sad-eyed boy watches me intently — I have never really had a time in my life when I haven’t been abused.
I can do one of two things: I can fight back, like I am today, or I can accept this fact of my life and just keep surviving the best that I can, and then die.
Last night I thought to myself it’s time to disconnect the life support systems here.
Let this sinking ship fall beneath the surface of the waves and hit bottom.
It takes so much effort to keep this ship afloat, and even at that it’s barely above the surface.
I’m barely breathing, and I’m alone.
Later I’m in Part 10 of the court. I’m waiting for a judge to listen to my problem and decide whether I should be protected.
It’s another life support system.
I’m very tired, and I’m numb.
I can’t feel anything, so I don’t know if this is the right thing to do or not.
There are so many people here with attorneys in suits. They are talking about transactions. They are talking about child support and custody of children. Some of these children are here. One of these people is crying. Her attorney is here.
I am alone.
I am used to this.
Who would sit here with me?
I am not important enough.
I have not reached out.
My therapist offered to come here, but I did not want her to because I know how much it would take from her day.
It is too much to ask.
I am used to being alone with my fears and my hurts and my oh so very very much confusion.
People are pacing. People are running after children. People are talking to the people they are with. Some people are just sitting, not talking, not moving, only thinking very deeply.
I wait for my name.
I am not sure if I belong here, but I cannot get out of my mind the look on my son’s face that night.
He was so frightened, like the children in the family violence poster.
I can’t stop thinking of that pain, that look on his face.
That is why I am here.
~ Susan Perretti