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MANLY GIFTS FOR CHRISTMAS
AS MEN, WHAT UNIQUE GIFTS ARE WE CALLED TO GIVE?
Hey, let’s face it. As men, we are, each and all, the original motley crew. We’re the guys who stand in front of the mirror and say to ourselves, “Man, what a fat, ugly SOB!” Then we turn to our sweety pie and expect her to see Prince Charming! Hello! How does that work? How does that make any sense at all? Let’s face it. It doesn’t!
Yes, we are the guys who are tough. We never cry. Our claim to fame is never being a whimp or a pussy. And we make sure our sons don’t cry, or we brutally wound them by letting them know what whimps and pussies they are. Yes we are a cruel motley crew.
Yes, we are, each and all, angrier than hell, controlling, and miserably lonely. Yes, there is no one who wants to live with us inside this hardened shell. We cling to the few who dare to get close to us. And we end up suffocating them. Most of the time, no one wants to be around us. We walk into the room, and everyone gets up and goes to another room. Because everyone knows, but us. We are a dying bunch, about ten years ahead of our female counterparts. But so what? We are tough. We will die honorably with a stiff upper lip, a chest hard as nails, so thick the shell, we can’t even hear our own heartbeat. It is sad because we don’t get it that no one wants to rest their head on our chest even though inside we are literally dying for someone to do just that, but we will never fess up, never let anyone see that very soft vulnerable part of our being.
And when we feel rejected, we don’t let our loved ones know about the rejection. We just show them our anger and drive them even farther away. We are not only a motley crew, but an insane and suicidal bunch.
Many of us still live in the last century when prior to the Sixties, it was the standard for the man to dominate, and for everyone else in our life, especially the woman or women we love, to be submissive. And many of us don’t understand why that is not acceptable anymore. We somehow forget our U. S. History 101, which is only a metaphor for the gradual evolution of man and woman kind toward equality, and learning just exactly what that means, especially when it comes to love.
Read St. Paul carefully. He calls us both to be submissive, not just the woman. Yeah, you missed that part didn’t you? He calls us men to gently bathe our spouse and cover her with a white gown, to love her the way we love our own body. There’s some servitude there, that somehow we conveniently miss. Women will say, “That’s a guy for you.” But dammit, we can change that. Yes we can. We can stop conveniently missing the obvious.
When you love, truly love, there can be no better half. It is about each person in the relationship being whole. There really is no such thing as compromise. It is rather a dance, a movement toward consensus, which means to sense with or to perceive together. It is not give and take, but give and receive, which means as men, we are called to learn the experience of loving and being loved.
This is not Dad bashing time. But for us men, he is, after all, our primary model, and it is important for us to revisit that relationship so we can truly honor Dad by being a different man than he was able to be. And even if you say, you didn’t have a Dad, not having a Dad is also a model.
I watched Dad possess my Mom, and I watched her allow herself to be possessed. Mom, for example, could not have friends, either male or female. Well, she could have them, but could not spend time with them. He clocked her every second, her every move, her every breath.
After I left home, when I would come back to Fresno to visit everyone, I soon realized that I could not come back home to visit everyone. I could only come back to visit Dad. He wanted me to spend every second of every visit with him. I want you to know, I never really got all of this till just NOW, like last week in a conversation with my youngest sister.
And I will never forget the day I finally had the courage to break lose, and I told Dad that I was going to see Forest Gump with my sisters. Dad cried and then told me that I would have all the time in the world to be with my sisters AFTER he died. I was stunned because at the time, he was not dying!
I have come to realize that he lived every day of his life as if he was dying, and he lived every moment from a place of scarcity, that he would never get enough. And so when I came to town to visit, he would literally capture me and suffocate me, and I would allow him to, to the point that I would get physically ill every time I did come to town.
On one visit in particular, as I was on the way back home, about twenty miles out, I was shocked that suddenly all my symptoms literally disappeared. I knew then that my getting sick had something to do with visiting “home,” but it has taken me to almost this very moment to totally get it, that it was the suffocation and imprisonment that was making me literally sick to my stomach.
In recent months, through the help of Alanon, I’ve come to understand the impact of both my Dad and my Uncle on my life. Both were alcoholics and very lonely men. But Dad was able to look good, while Uncle Herman fell down every staircase there is to fall down in the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. But in both relationships, I stood on my head to make them happy. I loved them dearly. But I ended up thinking that I wasn’t quite good enough for either one of them.
If I had been good enough for Uncle Herman, he would have stopped drinking. If I had been good enough for Dad, he would have spent more time with me. He would have noticed the fear in my eyes when he talked to me and figured out a way to make me feel safe and loved by him without imprisoning me and suffocating me. He would have encouraged me to fly, to be free, and to be my own brand of man.
Yes, obviously there was something, or a lot, missing in our relationships with Dad. I Thank God that I have been able to fill in those missing pieces for myself with other male relationships. I thank God that I learned how to give to my son exactly what I yearned for from Dad.
Each of us can become aware of the missing piece or pieces in our relationships with Dad, not to bash or convict him, but to compassionately forgive him, because he he did not have the piece to give, but we now, as grown up men, can grow that piece within us, and give that missing piece to both the men and women in our lives, big and small.
So what are the gifts we are called to give this Christmas?
First of all, we do have a strength that is connected to our testosterone and our “manliness.” We want to learn just exactly what that strength looks like and feels like. It is the strength that allows us to grieve, to cry, and invite those we love to also grieve and cry over their losses.
And for as long as it takes. There is no two minute rule here.
It is the strength to say NO when our own limits and boundaries are being violated. In recent years, I could have been much more honest with myself and the family and respectful of my limits, when it comes to money management. But I wasn’t. I wanted to make everyone happy.
It is also the strength to acknowledge the limits and boundaries of those we love. It is the strength to resist our perhaps genetic urge to penetrate, to take over, to capture, to win over. It is the strength to transform the competitiveness in our relationships to an invitation to those we love to be who they are. There is plenty of room in our relationships for both ourselves and those we love to be top dog! Remember, when you win in a relationship, the other person becomes a loser!
It is also the strength to stay connected to those we love at those moments when they are not either able or willing to give us what we want. For example, when we are all turned on and ready to go, and our partner has the perennial headache, we do not have to roll away. We can breathe, enjoy our sexual charge, and stay close without any demands. It feels a lot better than rolling over to the very very edge of the mattress. It is amazing that we do not fall off the bed, we roll so far over.
As you breathe, believe it or not, that sexual energy will permeate your entire body and actually leave you feeling as if you did come. TRY IT before you “toss” this away.
This strength we possess as men is the strength to really listen when it seems like our partner is telling us that it is over. They may be telling us that, or they maybe telling us a whole bunch of other important “stuff.” Like I am dying in this relationship..
Sadly, it is also the strength to let go when it is clear that our partner is asking us to leave.
For me, that was the most difficult decision of my life, to really hear finally that she was asking me to leave. I felt so kicked to the curb, so dismissed, so unappreciated. My dreams were shattered. In my own alleged mind, I had given EVERYTHING. And she had gladly taken it all, and now I had nothing left. Nothing left, but my cruel sadness, that semed to becoming from a chasm in my soul so deep that eventually I realized my sadness had more to do with me and my life than it did the ending of our relationship. I mean the fact is I had lived fifty three years before we met.
So it is also the strength to shift from the hurt of broken relationships to looking at what is so so so painful in my life, pain that I continue to drag around like a ball and chain, and pain that drives me to make everyone pay even those who have absolutely nothing to do with my pain. And for us men, most of that pain is connected, directly or indirectly, to our relationships or lack of, with Dad. Again, this is not about blame, but recognition. So we can heal, for crying out loud and stop blaming.
For years, even going back to my childhood when I would sip from my Mom’s highball, I have covered my pain with alcohol. At one point, when my son was in high school, I was smart enough to stop drinking for seven years. Why, on earth, did I ever go back to drinking, I will never know. I can only assume it had to do with pain which for whatever reason, I did not want to face. Fortunately fourteen years later, before I die from alcoholism, I am sober once again and learning how to be in relationship with men and women and with God as a way that is healing for both myself and those I love. It is the manly way to heal and to live.
You may not have soothed your pain with alcohol as I did, but do not fool yourself. Each and all of us find some form of chaos, insanity, or craziness, whatever you want to call it, to escape the pain of being a man in a world that tends to be ignorant of what it means to be a man.
Our biggest pain that we continue to refuse to face is our incessant sacrifice of our sons and daughters to the gods of war. Too long to go into here--for another hub. But we are destroying the lives, not of the enemy, but of our very own, and we do so very little to assist them coming back to their humanity. We leave them to suffer every day the horrors of war in the name of freedom, in the name of patriotism, and in the name of duty. We are so so so archaic when it comes to this entire issue. But a topic for another hub, on another day. I am just pained by what our sons and daughters suffer, and you can read about it in the comments that veterans make to some of the blogs I have posted about war.
Another important gift we as men can give, is the gift of love. But I must start by being aware that I am loveable. I must start by allowing myself to be touched by other’s love for me which will lead me to the awareness that God loves me more than I can ever comprehend. I’m not just writing some nice sweet piece of spiritual or religious crap. If each and every day when you and I awoke, we let it in just how much God loves us, there would be no more war: no more war between between countries, between couples, individuals, families, neighborhoods, political parties, religious denominations, the so-called haves and have nots, no more war. This “dream” doesn’t have to be a panacea. It can be an individual “project” that each and everyone of us can practice each and every day, assuming that somewhere along the way, a critical mass event will occur. It certainly can’t hurt anything or hurt anymore than it already does. As men, we have nothing to lose here and everything to gain or regain, our rightful place as healers and lovers.
My gift of love includes having my fears, my sadness, my grief, my losses, my vulnerability, so I can allow those I love to have theirs. It is not about being a man. It is about being capable of loving and being loved.
My gift of love INVITES those I love to be in relationship with me. It is not demanding. I hold myself accountable. I do not become the bean counter for those I love, implying that I am better than they are. Just remember if you are better, at some point, you become a pain in the neck to the people who have to look up to you and who experience you looking down at them.
You might have guessed. My Dad was an accountant. Yes, professionally Dad was a respected accountant and made good money at it. But he tried to make it work for him in his relationships and it didn’t. And whatever our profession is, it works well in our work, but not in our relationships. For example, I cannot be a therapist in my relationships with loved ones and family. What I can be, what all of us, as men, can be are partners. We can let those we love see, by our behavior, by our behavior, yes, by our behavior (not our words) that we believe we are in the relationship together. I am no better or no worse. No one looks up to anyone, but we stay on level footing with each other so we can dance the dance.
When, as men, we hug a stuffed animal or we hold an infant, or we carry little ones around and comfort them when they are out of sorts, we feel something inside of us. Those feelings are not coming from the stuffed animal obviously, nor are they coming from the little ones. Those feelings are inside of us. They are telling us that we are indeed a LOVING bunch.
The only thing that will happen to you if you attempt, in even a small way, to give any of the gifts mentioned above, is you will sob and sob and sob and eventually cry your eyes out. Because deep inside, we yearn to give these gifts as well as to receive them. And if you cry your eyes out, you will no longer be able to see, or judge or criticize. You will only be able to FEEL what it is you have to give and what it is those you love have to give to you.
Maybe ironically the gift we can give is to allow ourselves, as men, to be captured by those we love, and we can sing these words to those we dearly love. I have no idea where these words come from, but they fit the melody of the Christmas carol, “Bring A Torch, Jeanetter Isabella,”
and they speak to the gift we can bring to those we love.
You, my love, have captured my heart
You, my love, are food for my soul.
Sing to me the songs in your heart
I’ll treasure them
I’ll hold them close to mine
Singing my heart’s delight to you
Our songs forever more will be.