The Day I Lost My Edge

What do men really need?

What is ultimate bliss for a man? What is that special something that makes me different from those desires of a woman? What makes me in essence, unmistakably masculine in my heart?

I was talking to a good friend of mine yesterday. He’s doing a TEFL training course. He’s under pressure yet inspired by it, tired yet thrilled by the intensity of his experience – and in his late 50s he’s rediscovering his edge. Undiscovered country. New land. A new test.

How does a man find his purpose?

A man’s edges thrill, inspire and challenge him. I like being challenged. I need to map out new boundaries and terrain. I have only met a handful of truly fulfilled men, and they are constantly within their adventures, mapping out new lands, charting new territory. My experience of men is that we admire each other for our activity and courage, often in the face of danger or risk. Women admire us for this too. When I shy away from that risk, I neglect something about my core, my essence; I withhold my spiritual gift.

I’d worked as a drama teacher for over 20 years, a master of creative inspiration and technique, a man with the Midas touch: miracle-maker! At a jot I could turn the most mediocre theatre work into gold. I led class after class to their creative brink, to doors of their newly found artistic freedom. But I’d mastered my edge long before. The inspirational production line stopped rolling, breakdown and burnout came knocking. Depression began to eat me up as my soul shrank, my offering crumbled and the lights began to go out.

I didn’t want to see it.

I couldn’t hear the cry.

My edge was clear back then. My purpose unclouded. I was a teacher and I shaped theatre. We made the unrealised possible and the undiscovered known. I’d held that unchartered land for many rising performers and students. My edges were the windows I provided for their creative potential. How beautifully or thrillingly I could make that happen was my ultimate edge. I thought it was about them, and of course it was, but actually, it was still deeply about me.

Understanding that your life is not about you is the connection point with everything else. It lowers the mountains, and fills in the valley that we have created. (Richard Rohr – Adam’s Return)

I’d lost my edge long before I eventually ‘broke down’ at work. I’d danced a thousand dances on and over it. I was standing on a flat, over-trodden, worn-out landscape with not a mountain in sight. As I looked up that day, the only light for my office was from a single window which framed an unused, concrete wasteland. It was a September morning, the start of term, and I was running a large Drama Department single-handed. As I sat down at my desk after the morning’s deadening briefing I felt numbness spread through my body and deep emptiness within me. It was as if my soul was stirring. A deep longing and breath within me was saying “I’m here, I’m here. Why are you still treating me like this?” I looked at the walls adorned with photographs of past triumphs, bibles of dramatic knowledge and at the names on the lists of the new students coming in. I didn’t want to be there. I knew. The edge had long gone.

Where a man’s edge is located is less important than whether he is actually living his edge in truth, rather than being lazy or deluded. (David Deida – The Way of the Superior Man)

Looking back, I wonder how I spent so long inviting these years into my life. Many of my colleagues just seemed dead men walking. How was I still working with these half-alive people in this completely uninspiring institution? 

Laziness.

And Fear.

Fear of change, of not being needed, of being broke, of being lost, of drowning out of the pond, of not knowing. Fear of finding out who I really was.

I shift the paper on my desk. Students mill around outside waiting, excited, nervously expectant. The pendulum of another academic term swings and the ensuing tide carries me unerringly with it.

I did eventually listen to the voice within, but I needed a strong dose of divine intervention. Four years later an Almighty hand finally plucked me from the safety of that pond and lay me like a fish writhing on the concrete, flipping and jumping, strangely tossing and twisting its last.

Only when the struggle for that life was over, could I hear.

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8 thoughts on “The Day I Lost My Edge”

  1. Your words make me think about the Buddhist idea of non-attachment. Everything is transitory. Even when we think we have found our ‘edge’, our ‘calling’, that too can pass. I remember a previous career which I believed was ‘the big one’ and was determined to make happen. What a slow, wrenching process it was to let go! A couple of great years, believing that I’d found my path… only to discover that the path ended abruptly. Do you cling on at the cliff edge, clutching at tufts of grass? Or let go and fall into the unknown. Every strength to you as you make space for the new and find a new way to live at your edge.

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    1. Lovely to hear you Kamlesh. Sorry I haven’t replied sooner. Yes, the falling into the unknown. That must have been a huge crash for you. For me it’s about learning to fall, as it’s something that’s happening to me all the time. If I’m riding a bike, the people under the illusion that everything’s OK are those stubbornly holding on!

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  2. sometimes semantics are very clarifying of the nature of things… in surprising ways…. I remember when I first realized that being convinced of something (or having conviction) rendered one a convict of the idea
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/conviction
    so ideas can be like prisons… mmmm … perhaps the enlightenment of our western culture 3 centuries ago wasn’t such in some ways (I know in others it was) …

    after re-reading your blog again a similar link popped up in my mind related to maleness, careers, and edges…
    finding one’s edge may make one become edgy… (tell me about it when I’m riding my bike to work in the north circular and I want all other drivers to disappear from the planet)

    but… is that the way it has to be? I remember during my childhood just how scary my dad was when he got angry… and he wasn’t ever physically violent but just the fire of his emotions…

    so I suppose the question is, if not edge, what is it that can make a male thrive in his maleness (and his career)?

    the only answer I can suggest is balance, and the only thing maleness can be balanced with is… well… femaleness… which makes me thing of this TED talk I watched a while ago and really loved

    http://blog.ted.com/2009/07/28/a_kinder_gentle/

    much love

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    1. I loved the talk Rafael, and it’s lovely to have you post it here. I think for me the ‘edge’ was not about risk or danger, but about meeting myself where I was actually at. Losing my edge meant that I was no longer in my own soul contract, no longer living my purpose. I wasn’t listening to my heart so I couldn’t work at my ‘edge’. Yes – I hear you about balance. I think my experience is that I see many men happy in encountering their feminine these days, but don’t we have some catching up to do in healing our masculine?

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  3. I’ve just discovered your website and I found this piece very moving Duncan, it’s not very often this gets spoken about as we are all supposed to be these machines that get up, go to work and come home but its the passion of what you do that’s important, it’s what keeps us going.

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    1. Hey Alex – it’s been a while. Yes, so glad you’ve connected with that. Yes, it’s the passion.. And we have to find new passions when old ones die, or find ways to re-ignite or refresh. And emotions change too. But to bring my full self to what I do or how I am and too live fully. This can be done in any work or relationship with others. Sometimes challenging though. Great to hear you! 🙂

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