Monday, October 25, 2010

Extending My Reach, Expanding My Realm

So recently I have posted a bit on my journey into and through manhood. I have spent a lot of time reading on the subject, and reflecting on my own life, seeing what matches up between the two; what matches up with my ideas or not.

When I was growing up, I was often out away from the house, away from my parents. Most of the time by my own volition, other times at their behest. Turns out that I could be a bit of an annoying pest from time to time- go figure. I longed for adventure as a kid, but was always told to play it safe. Do this, don't do that, blah blah blah. Most often I would do the do list in public. Conforming to those around me. Rather than be me, I tried to please people. Out of sight, I often participated in the don't list, occasionally with my best friend, but many times on my own. I was told be a boy, but be a good boy. The times I was told to be a man, was when I complained of a perceived injustice or at a moment of injury. Beyond that, I never really knew what a man actually is. I saw the loner in John Wayne, Mr all-American heroic cowboy who could do anything. I liked that idea and set it into my brain. Well, I achieved the loner part pretty easily. For when I was alone, I could do things, and if I failed, it was only me who knew. When I tried and failed at something in front of others, the message was quite clear that I was not good enough. When I would express my dreams to do something, like be a pro ballplayer, I was often confronted with the stats on how little chance there is, and how I should think more realistically, more practically. I liked my dreams, but they were just illusions in my head. The real world just didn't have a part for me in that dreamworld. Rather than push myself, I bought into all the hype entering my ears and eyes, and slowly resigned myself to a life of dull necessity.

I remember once, when I was older and I was making my car payments through my dad who had cosigned the loan for me. I had worked many hours day after day, and I walked into my dad's work while I was in town to give him the money to write a check to the bank. I gave him well over a thousand dollars in cash to cover my $100/month expense as well as a huge payment on my car loan. I didn't say anything, but I still had $600 in my pocket and another $900 in a bank account. I was quite pleased with myself. And my dad commented to his co-worker who was standing nearby about how responsible I was being, and that he was quite proud of me in my dealings. I'm sure he had mentioned being proud of me about other things at points along the way, but that was the first time I really truly realized he was saying this. So in my mind, the job of a man was to go to work, and pay his bills. In a nutshell, that's what it took; all it took. Dad and I never really talked about what it is to be a man, and I never bothered to ask. I just watched, and went with what my eyes saw and my ears heard in the public realm.

Then I got married, already with one child, and later we would have a 2nd son born to us. So, it was time to man up. I had a job, I worked hard to pay the bills, and make sure we had a roof over our head and food in our belly, along with a little extra money to help cover incurred debts along the way. I got up, kissed the wife goodbye, went to work, came home, ate food, watched TV, played with the boy for awhile, went to bed, and repeated it the next day. Here I was, Mr Provider, Man of the House, doing my duties of work and paying bills. We would do family oriented things from time to time, but mostly my life was centered around work and bills. My wife and I would get into arguments over little things. Me being me, would argue that this cant be done, or we cant go do that, because I need that money to pay this bill or that bill. My life had literally become centered not around my family and living life, but around what bill was due next, what problem came up that I was going to have to pay for now, how many hours could I be allowed to work to make up for this new discrepancy in my financial outlook.

In essence, I became what I thought I saw my dad to be. A man works and pays his bills. I never saw the other side of him, the side that drew my mother in and makes her love him to this day. (I can't see it; he's always got a bit of stubble going on, and in my estimation a bit ugly. Just kidding, Dad!) My wife struggled in her life as well, especially with the marriage. As a guy, I hunted her down, I pursued her, and eventually I was able to persuade her to be mine. And then, it just slowly died out. I made the compliments here and there, I tried to do things for her, get her gifts, take her places, whatever. But the hunt was over, and I was drunkenly complacent, not unlike a guy right after a healthy sized Thanksgiving meal. I just sat about wasting away, waiting for my belly to be unstuffed. I basically 'took a nap' in regards to her, focusing mostly on the man things of going to work and paying the bills.

While I did those things, I left her home to take care of the kids, clean the house, and just be the good domesticated wife. Of course my wife was never really built for that role alone. Don't get me wrong, when it comes to cooking, and mothering and just about any task, my wife is at the top of her game. Even in the work world, my wife sets the standards for herself well above that of her coworkers and even the expectations of her superiors. She learns, adapts and applies knowledge quickly, as though she has known it all along. In fact over the past couple years, instead of just bitching about her 'promotions' that came with pay cuts and increased responsibilities, she merely took ownership of her role, expanded her knowledge base, and was probably more adept at her job than anyone there, including her superiors, who were merely personnel managers as far as action goes.

With the absence of my emotions in the form of communication and support (I seemed more worried about how much her paycheck was and when it came in, and what bills needed paid), she turned to her work as a major focus. She turned more to the support of her friend instead of me, who could be counted on mostly to just do the same crap I was doing every other day. My complacency wasn't just a self-identity killer (as I hid myself behind my job), but it was killing my wife's femininity in regards to me. I had realized, only well after the fact, that I had slipped from actively loving my wife to merely taking her for granted. I have since learned that this is the quickest way to kill any sense of romance in a marriage. My wife just settled into her routine, patiently waiting for me to hear her, actually hear her, and to correct my mistakes in regards to how I live my life, as well as how I treat her, but one saying comes to mind: Abused patience turns to fury. - Thomas Fuller

She has felt that she was no longer the adventure, not inspiring enough, and not worth my efforts, but just too much trouble for my self-absorbed lifestyle and mindset to deal with. In other words, she didn't feel that she was the beauty to be loved wholly. In response to this, it is only natural that a woman puts up her self-defenses towards men in general, and especially the men in her life that can still hurt her, like her husband.

To a certain degree, I recognized this on an intellectual level, but I wasn't truly learning it. As I have done my reading, I have extended my reach of reading into the world of women. I'm new at it, and by no means an expert. In fact, I'm scared beyond my ability to fathom such fear. Men are simple and easy to figure out. Women are a bit more complex. Yet I press on, because if I am ever to be able to get it, I am going to have to expand myself into the realm of a woman, to understand her mind, her heart and her soul. This is the part of true manhood, which I never really knew about. I grew up knowing only a few things about girls: they have cooties (we all learned this early on), they are nothing but trouble (I learned this from DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince as well as shows like Jerry Springer), and as guys we just like them for some damn reason we can't figure out (and sex-ed class never answered that question)...which goes back to the trouble part. We know we want them, whether or not we know why, and once we have conquered them so to speak, we look around for the next one to conquer. Essentially most guys are bastards at some point in their life, with some of them eventually figuring out that isn't the way to go. Some guys remain just guys, and not men. Just because you turned 18, or moved out of your parents' house does not mean you're a man, in the true sense. Trust me, I've done both, and at the age of 31, I'm just beginning to fully realize that maybe I wasn't truly a man, but a still a lot more so a boy, or just a guy.

Most guys prefer to look at life as a series of puzzles and problems to be solved, and this applies to our attitude as women as well. Rather than looking at a woman as a problem to be solved, we forget that a woman is a vast wonder to be explored. An adventure to be had everyday of our lives, using our strength as men to tackle the adventure that is a woman. Not to conquer her and move on, but to get to really know her at the innermost intimate levels (not just sex). But to fully expose yourself to her, and allow her to feel safe in secure in making herself naked to you (again, in the proverbial sense). But to take a woman for granted, over a long period of time, can result in her building walls around her, that she feels she has to protect herself, control her world, to avoid the pain that a guy can bring her, to avoid the painful vulnerability and broken trusts that are the risk of any real relationship. In essence, by being just guys instead of men, we steal a woman's femininity, her very core, forcing her to replace it with something else a little less natural. Many of of guys act like we listen, but often we just hear the noises associated with Charlie Brown's teacher, and never get to understand the women in our life. And when they suddenly shoot lightning bolts out their eyes at you, or worse yet display apathy towards you, as guys we stand (or sit) there completely dumbfounded, as to why this might be. We run through our head what we have done. We went to work, we paid the bills, we took out the trash, we didn't cheat on her. What in God's name could be wrong?

Well, maybe that's the problem. We forgot about God. We forgot the true name that God gave us as men made in his image, instead bearing and living out the name the world gave us. We forgot that our wives or girlfriends are essentially the daughters of Eve, the mother of all mankind. That we are to continually seek and pursue her as much as we are expected to do with God. We are to seek true beauty, and true love with all our heart, in a never ending journey. For God really is both love and beauty, and a woman is the bearer of that image of God. Now, I see why we feel this natural inclination towards women. there is, no matter deeply buried, something in us that tells us to go after the woman. But as with most things, we always think we have the next day, or the next week, or year, or whatever to accomplish whatever project or mission in life we have slated for 'later'. But we really don't know, if you really think about it, if any of that will come to pass. We take today for granted, and thusly our women for granted. I know I have, and as I have been reading and seeing the truths for the first time in my adult life, I feel as though I'm being hit by a brick from Heaven. That brick is full of knowledge, but it hurts like hell when it smacks you. Like a spanking to a child, it sometimes requires a little bit of hurt, or a lot (my dad could really pack a wallop), to make the message clear. Taking a time-out doesn't always cut it, but rather the issue needs to be addressed swiftly and directly. Maybe then the lesson will take, and the mistake won't be repeated anymore.

Also as I read, and I have seen communications from friends or words spoken to me from a friend about situations they have had, and I hear, see, and feel the beauty they bespeak, and it pains me to hear it. It feels like hell, because what they write or say sounds wonderful, and romantic, and like the perfection of a dream world encapsulated in the small moments, and I realize that I didn't necessarily give enough of myself to provide my wife with more of a love story to such a high degree that she deserves. I realize life on earth and in relationships isn't going to be always perfect, but it could be more perfect than what it is now with even just the slightest efforts, of which I have withheld. I hold many good memories, many great thoughts and affections for my wife, but inside of me. I rarely let them out. I don't know if I'm just subconsciously trying to be the strong silent type, or if I'm scared of being told off or rebuffed in anyway to avoid my own pains.

I remember first seeing my wife in October of 1996 at our place of work. She was a vision of beauty to beheld. She had on jeans and this deep blue sweater. When I met her outside, she had on a heavy coat, and the hood was pulled tight around her face that only her eyes, her cute button of a nose, and her small mouth could be seen. I was very smitten with her. I didn't care who she was dating, married to, or whatever, I had to know this one girl; this beautiful woman who made my stomach churn, my legs weak, and not just my heart, but my mind skip a beat. I had to be careful and slow down my speech in order to sound like I had things 'together' and be impressive and all that manly macho bullshit I was convinced was the way to be.
And after 14 years since I first saw her, she still turns me on as much now as she did then. I just found a way, to my own detriment as well as demeaning to her, to hide it better.

I regret that beyond almost anything I have ever done in my life. And yet, I know that before I can repair us, I must first retool and build myself up to where I'm supposed to be, to be my true self, before she can accept my overtures in the same manner she did in our more innocent first days of teenage love. I think my lesson is one that many guys need to learn, and the quicker the better. For if one is truly honest, it's much easier to build up a happy woman than it is to heal her hurts that you inflicted.

And yes, even the thought of such a journey, to explore our own emotions, much less those of a woman, is one of the scarist ideas we can have. Acting on it as a mission is even scarier. Yet, regardless of the outcome in our personal life, we can draw upon the strength of God to enhance the warrior, the adventurer that lives within our soul, to make this journey into the unknown realms. We shall come out stronger in the end, should we see ourselves through it. And if we have a significant other in our lives, maybe that relationship, even if all seems to be lost and over, can become stronger and fuller than we could only imagine it to be in our dreams.

You just have to make yourself vulnerable, no matter how scary or hurtful the idea may be, and give everything an open-minded and honest chance. To go about it any other way is both unfair to yourself and those you love, but dead wrong in the approach.

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