Men’s Work is a Tug of War

from the Lair of the Wildman

boyoutIf you had attended Elementary School or High School with me, you would immediately recognize me in this photograph – I am the one up front. In fact, I don’t think I was as cool as this kid.

For me, those years in school were a nightmare. Sure, I was usually the last one picked for a team, I was clumsy and pudgy. We didn’t have much money and my mother made clothes for me that caused quite a sensation; and teachers usually liked me – a sure fire method for exclusion.

All those truths hurt and caused conflict but the thing I wanted most was to ‘belong’, and I don’t know if its the nature of people or wanting something so badly, but thats the thing I just couldn’t have.

That truth is what makes the story that follows compelling for me. Following March’s Conversation Circle, where once again 16 men showed up to get real about their shadows and gold, I received an e-mail from a man widely known in the community. This man is a long-time warrior but a man who hangs on the fringes, dresses differently, is a lightning rod for judgement and an self-appointed eccentric. He had heard through a friend of my Conversation Circles and wanted to be included on the e-mail list. My gut response was “No!” That is how I found out I was perfectly willing to be in the background part of the photo too.

So to speak it clearly, I, who was painfully familiar with being made fun of, being excluded, and the butt of sarcasm and even ridicule about things that might or might not have been true – was suddenly willing to perpetrate those acts against another man.

I sat with this unwanted e-mail a few days before responding. By now I had had an opportunity to look more closely in my mirror. I saw a very accurate and unflattering image of my ego and attachment to things that are not even mine – like the beautiful and provocative energy of this circle of men. I saw my fear of having to share, my fear of things changing and the illusion that I have any control over change. Most powerfully, I saw my own need to “feel special” and what I was willing to do to perpetuate that feeling rather than “knowing” that it is inherently true.

A few days later, this man agreed to sit down face to face and talk with me. I had included him on the next e-mail but, there was more work to do. It is worth noting that I was 35 minutes late for that breakfast meeting. He doesn’t carry a cell phone and I went to the wrong restaurant (of the same name) and noticed the Universe permitting me to be humbled on my way to being humbled.

After a brief greeting and exchange, I got right to it. “Jim,” I said, “Thank you for the e-mail you sent, it gave me a chance to see myself more clearly.” I looked in his eyes deliberately, took a deep breath and continued, “When I read it my gut response was that I didn’t want to share my group with you. And, that is not the kind of man I choose to be.”

Now an amazing thing happened when Jim responded, he said, “Thank you for seeing me brother!” There were no bells nor magical chimes, but I am telling you the world felt a little shifted. Not only that, Jim gave me permission to share our story for the sake of a bigger picture.

Reeling from the blessing I had received in my conversation with Jim, I thought I saw a larger opportunity. Could I share this story with the Circle? What if sharing the truth of my own prejudice and attachment to ego in this regard, could allow more of us to look honestly at the fractured condition of our community of Warrior men? So, with the intention of sharing the ‘ugly’ truth about myself, I called and personally invited more than a dozen men, who sit on a different side of our tribe to to ‘step into’ my discomfort with me. The more I called, the easier it got. Hell, those who I didn’t have numbers for I Facebook messaged and texted.

To set the tone last Friday, after men landed and checked in, I announced that we were going to have a Tug of War, assigned two Team Captains, and, just like in High School they selected teams one by one. I had a remarkably old and familiar feeling in my gut. It began a meandering and heartfelt exploration of belonging and not.
Of wanting and not daring to want.

I was, until this moment, ambivalent about disclosing to you that, aside from Jim, not a single man I called personally showed up. However, I just realized what the real Tug of War is.

Wild Man

Used with permission from the Lair of the Wildman Facebook Page, a page dedicated to the Archetype of the Wild Man. Part myth, full of gold and shadow, this character and voice is the birthright of all men.

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