Is Your Man Redundant or Abundant?

Men need to work

‘Life is difficult’. The famous opening to Scott M Peck’s landmark book The Less Travelled Road. And I’m not the first for which this was a landmark wake-up call. Life is difficult when we don’t work. We need to work.

In relationship with my woman, if I am not focused on my purpose, if I am not passionate about my work, whatever that is, then… How do I lead? Take away my purpose, and I remain a shadow to her. The man she needs and dreamed of; the passionate man in line with his purpose..? No. She’ll have to prop up her life for years if I cannot meet her feminine edge with my masculine essence. She will never flower. She’ll never laugh with the freedom and abundance her spirit longs for.

I started my ‘career’ as a Drama teacher. I worked for years, very, very hard. Socially, I was always pleased to hear the enslaving social nicety “What do you do?” When replying “I’m a drama teacher” a secret code was somehow passed. “Ooh, how interesting…” they’d say. So the ensuing conversation inflated that sense of self.

I am a..

That makes me feel so good.

The ‘fragile’ male ego

This ego spent a number of years dilating into a huge, masked balloon of false self. At the beginning I talked with passion about my work, but gradually, very gradually, after I’d pushed all the education boundaries, taken a feast of artistic risks and ‘achieved’ A grade after A grade, I gradually became disconnected; a yearning hole began slowly to open and depression began to growl within. Burnout had also begun. I masked this; more hard work and creative activity, this was all I knew and seemed my only option, but the slide had started. Relationships came and went and I threw myself even more into my ‘work’. I became my work, or my work became me. Striving for perfectionism, the workaholic in me manifested itself in a need for control that dogged me in my search for contentment and in my relationships with women.

tree and benchAnd if I’m not in control I’m less of a ‘man’.

A deep yearning opened.

Who was I?

Redundant or abundant?

He’s ever so slightly uneasy in his seat, the faceless hotel foyer the stage for a scene he doesn’t want to play. His face is lined and tired. But he gives a good performance. This man’s been running his own business for the last few years. He’s working very hard to build his ‘empire’, his outer container, the groundwork that frames the adventurer, the warrior; the man in the first half of his life.WorriedCorbis460

I don’t trust him. He has that kind of face, it triggers something in me. He’s had to be hard-nosed, make some tough calls, and mold himself into the ‘businessman’. It’s changed him, he’s had to harden his heart. But as the scene quickly plays out, and he tells me “I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go” he softens ever so slightly. In me, I feel tears welling up suddenly. It’s a big shock; the impact as sudden as a car crash. I cry openly in the hotel; my tears as pearls precious in their deep waters.

Soon after, a friend reminded me on the phone that I had been made Abundant. I laugh loudly. “It’s a cause for celebration” she told me. Now I could follow my passion again, I could begin to co-create my soul path, re-realise my spiritual gifts.

A day later, I was so relieved. I hadn’t fully realised how unhappy the job was making me.

Who are we when we don’t work?

Handling the ‘What are you doing now?’ question was tricky at first. How did that make me feel? Devalued? Redundant? How was I ‘contributing’. But I’d already started this journey a few years before. In a few days I was happier than I’d ever been, and so relieved.

We are essentially lazy creatures, us men. Given half the chance we’ll do anything to opt for an easy life, the least hassle possible, the ‘no worries mate’ route. lionBut is this really our blueprint, or do we yearn for purpose, to lead, to adventure and mark out our boundaries? When teaching, every time I saw boys being told off for ‘mucking around’ by a woman teacher, I cringed. “Right, line up! Girls here, boys here.” No prizes for who always wins that one! As boys we battle against this unconsciously from an early age. Had the teacher had asked them to run around and create chaos, I wonder who’d ‘win’? The good teachers do. Boys and girls need to stand in the same line.

So Ms teacher, maybe they are pushing boundaries, pushing your buttons and causing you discomfort, but that’s what boys need to do.Untitled-5 And they really need a man to set their boundaries, not a woman with her wounds. This learning dynamic is a time-bomb for developing a strong masculine polarity in boys, especially those who go home to a single mother. 26% of families in the UK are headed by single parents (this doesn’t account for couples for whom the man is physically or emotionally absent, or both.)

What is my work?

That is the question…

How many of us are really inspired by what we do? At a party recently none of the men I met, including myself (at that time), talked passionately about what we did with our lives. I doubt many of us could face having a conversation about being. We talked dryly and pessimistically, we all know the loose kind of men’s talk. How you doing?  “Surviving…” “Not too bad…” Jokes, conquests, football…  I felt the sadness and anger behind these men’s eyes; the silent unspoken hopes of youth. Somehow, it should have all worked out better than this.

Knowing that no-one will really understand us, we avoid talking about what fills the majority of our lives; the deep pain of the man who has to sidestep the horrendous ‘what do you do’ question because he’s ashamed; he can’t bear spending any more time being with something he hates; deep wells of anger rage inside us. There’s a coal-mine of repressed masculine energy stored here. Why would a man be interested in a dreary common ground of middle-class woes – houses, mortgages, holidays..?

If I can’t talk with passion about my work, then who am I?

Men often define themselves in some way or feel connected to this world by their skills, their dexterity, the way they can make and do things. They’re becoming more useless it seems, more enslaved, more trapped. They sit at desks, and they’ve got to look so good – they’ve got to look so damned good now, and so neat and pressed, and the hair’s got to be just right, and they’ve got to smell nice and stare at a screen all day. The regimentation is appalling, and what does this do to the human spirit? What is it doing to the spirit of man? (Blogpost from: Fraser Nelson: Boris Johnson wasn’t joking – work is becoming a woman’s world)

Standing shoulder to shoulder

Men stand shoulder to shoulder; women face to face. We need to face challenge together, and you need to communicate. Untitled-4We’re different here. Our brains, our bodies. We have different purposes somewhere in our genes, we’re designed differently. At the core, men crave physical challenge. We need physical activity to knit together as a team, and as brothers. Today we’ve lost many of the physical skills that our fathers knew. Recently a news round poll showed that 25% of boys in the UK aged 8-12 answered ‘footballer’ when asked the question what do you want to be when you’re older.

Does our mid-life crisis mark the end of boyhood? A friend of mine last night said he probably didn’t ‘grow up’ until he was 51, but maybe many of us never make it at all. I think I ‘became a man’ when I first really suffered – so my previous girlfriends were in relationship with a boy! Absent fathers, female teachers and an education system geared around continual assessment where girls succeed more than boys, means our young men are growing up emasculated and dis-empowered. Men are often emotionally distant and absent from the upbringing of their sons.

To be a young man in Britain today is to be cajoled and winked at and even pressured into becoming a foul-mouthed aimless cynical and lazy drunkard: “it’s cool, dude!” (Blogpost from: Fraser Nelson: Boris Johnson wasn’t joking – work is becoming a woman’s world)

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We need to succeed. We need to be seen to be doing good.

Last month I went to see some performance poetry as part of the Kingston International Youth Arts Festival. A young female comic stood up and asked “Is anyone here a feminist?”  A few young women raised their hands and my good friend next to me half-raised hers saying “depends what you mean.” Closing the evening, another young artist offered us a passionately delivered piece intimately revealing the negative role of men in her life so far. It’s true. We knights in shining armour have become a side-lined minority voice. I haven’t seen a male comic live for a while, they all seem to do us a disservice; I liked Billy Connolly, but more funny guys being clever? Isn’t there another stereotype for us? Oh yes, there’s the mumbling, I desperately need some vocabulary lessons, football-summariser appraising the ‘complex psychology’ of this national game.. er.. disease. Uh oh.

Opening my heart

But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. (Galations 6:4  New English Bible)

I’ve often wanted to appear wiser and better than other men. I don’t like the feeling, it’s something like envy, but I experience it still. I’m still seeking my own heart and learning to envy others less. I’m looking to open my heart wide to the Holy Spirit and to ask for God’s gifts. So who am I proving myself to now? What presence am I honouring with my life and work?

A man in his purpose is a man in his abundance, a man who knows his spiritual gifts and stands strongly yet humbly in them. He’s a good man. And let’s hope the teenage boy won’t have to decorate his coursework in gold pen to qualify for this university course.

 

Relationship Intensive in the Middle East

I look deeply into your eyes. They change, into a beautiful, emerald blue when you’re with me. Swimming and deepening; through them I feel all your love, vulnerability and longing.

I murmur, “You make me feel like a man”.

STARTING A RELATIONSHIP

I’m in Dubai beachon an education: a relationship ‘intensive’ course. My woman doesn’t live in the UK; she’s Brazilian, we’ve known each other for a while and we know some of what’s on the other’s heart – Skype, email – it’s amazing what’s possible nowadays. But until last week we’d spent just two and a half weeks together in 18 months, and only 3 days of that with each other. I’d never seen her place, and now I’m living in it. I’d never seen her wash up, make the bed, do the washing. Hoover. So we are on this sudden two-week ‘relationship intensive’. We’ll both get certificates at the end, no doubt.

MAN AND WOMAN

How did relationships get complicated? Industrialisation didn’t help for us men. We lost touch with what our fathers ‘did’; functional, practical, provider-type work became ‘business’ and communities were destroyed as we moved away from the land after thousands of years of working it. We men no longer look at nature’s face. God’s creation got high-rise. A drastic change. Defining ourselves as men very quickly became how ‘successful’ we could be, signified by how much money we made. Thus began the material ladder to a modern UK of spiritual desolation.

On day 2 of the intensive I was reminded, more than ever, that

IT’S ABOUT POLARITIESpassionate_love_mlu15-v

“Come to bed honey”. Shifting in the bed, you open in all your longing, and I give you my energy, strong, holding you, opening us both.

I need a clearly defined role. In fact, in the home, I need my woman to create a clear masculine pathway for me. I don’t want her to take out the rubbish, lift the boxes, fix the electrics. I’m a man. We’re practical creatures and can quickly get things done in an uncomplicated way. Sure, there are places to overlap, but unless our experience clearly defines our roles, it’ll get blurry. Despite all her circling and complications, she wants a man to step in, firmly, and sort out the problem. She may not say she does, but she does. She may resist if I move to penetrate her bubble, but my presence can only blossom her into deeper love if she can yield to my gentle yet forcing energy.

His entrance into your body is deep, persistent, creative, unyielding. His strong hands hold your wrists, his belly presses down into yours, his gentle force enters you again and again, opening places you have never felt to open. (David Deida)

It doesn’t matter what our roles are…  as long as the polemic between is clear. And if our polemic is clear, we’ll have an active dynamic, and it’ll be fun and creative in the bedroom. It’s a dance. And this is our foundation.

LEARNING HOW TO FEEL AGAIN

Intensive Day 3. Bright sunshine. You leave for work, dressed in a smart black dress, high heels. Sexy and professional. “See you later baby”. Getting home later you’re tired, you’ve been in your masculine energy, working with us guys all day. And I’m here.. moving things around.. in your place…

You are now successful in the workplace and manage the home. This makes it difficult for us men. And, we are less able to communicate emotionally about these changes to our role. We didn’t have an equivalent of your intimate mother-daughter dynamic when we were young. We are nearly always alone with our sex, misunderstood, then channeled into unfulfilling work or left behind in the education rat-race. This builds up over the years; various addictions, depression and pornography all raise ugly heads, closing our hearts and resigning us to live less fully than we were designed for. Jesus knew a lot about living fully, a man on the edge of his purpose

I come to give life—not just ordinary existence, but life in fullness, abundance, and prosperity. (3 John 2)

Many of us are not ready to receive and surrender to deep spiritual transformation, we walk around with our heads full of baggage and hearts closed, hoping one day to meet you guys. We seek an illusion of physical relationship before we are even aware that we are longing to begin our spiritual journey. We forget, or are simply not taught, that intimacy is a divine gift and love an eternal presence. My experience was, before asking that spirit of abundance to be in relationship with me, that I had to learn how to really feel and open my heart. This allowed me, for the first time, to kneel before God in humility. My Creator longs to be intimate with me. That’s why Jesus is it. What greater love is there? What greater gift?

AN UNSPOKEN MASCULINE CODE

Most of us that grow up with fathers have little idea how he feels.

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He never tells us, so we learn an unspoken code of masculinity. The way we’re supposed to do things. So it’s ‘cool’ to hide feelings. And growing up with Mum creates a negative view of men from the word go – why isn’t he here? Why are men so absent?

So. We don’t ‘do’ feelings very well, we’re doing much worse at school than you and those beautiful mothers among you are bringing us up, largely alone. So in your eyes, dear woman, I become the shady hunter, the hunter-outsider, not guarding his territory and protecting you, but outcast, someone to be feared. And if I’ve proved unreliable before and there’s a fence around your heart, why would you trust me?

WHY MASTURBATE WITHOUT A WOMAN?

 “Jesus didn’t masterbate” proclaims the home-grown Christian Theology lecturer. He’s playing to a home crowd, fully in his flow. It’s a conference a few months ago, and I’m questioning. “I bet he did when he was 14” I retort. His jaw dropped.

I’m politely warned at the tea-break for ‘interrupting’.

But something still shifted in me. How did we manage before computers and magazines? We went to whorehouses. Is that it? Is it because we are alone; outside of community, outside of relationship? What kind of man wanks with porn when he has a girlfriend?

And you’re urging me, 6000 miles away, to wait for you, lying in your knickers all Skyped-up on your bed. Something had changed. I wanted to give something different, I wanted to finally shed my adolescent wanking hangover. Finally.

Back in Dubai on intensive day 4 and I watch us guys walking along the beach; many are simply lazy predators with the awareness of a reversing, school-ferrying four by four. Such is the overriding pulling power of our perverted media machine. I imagine many have never really ‘been’ with a woman. Not really. We’re at home wanking in front of porn. This can be quite healthy for adolescents (er.. without the porn right?) But for us men..?

Why waste the power you could use with a woman on a computer screen? …What do you think you’ll want when you go to bed with a woman? If we get addicted to self-pleasure, just focusing on our sensations, that is what we will continue doing in front of a naked woman. (Gustavo Gitti – The New Generation of Spoiled Men)

HarrisonFord_WhatLiesBeneath

Porn distorted my sex-life for years. Badly. It was so easy to find an excuse. Erotic love? Yes, but it’s almost impossible not to slip. If my first intimate experience of sex is gazing at the navel of a naked 19 year old girl? What are we doing? And you girls that have a choice – what are you doing here?

There’s such a lot to live up to, this idea of being a man. Our flimsy egos massaged by our bulging pectorals, it’s all about exteriors; it’s ‘looking after yourself’ on a nose dive to a relationship hell.

ARE WOMEN BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE?

We want equality in the workplace as much as you, but are some of you barking up the right tree? How are you measuring your new success – isn’t this just the same material trap that we’ve been squeezed into? Why would you want that? And how can you expect your man to be this dream guy, if you are treading on all his societal toes with no awareness… ‘But he’s a bastard’ – I hear you say. But you women with the awareness, you’re ahead in this, we’re just trying to catch up. But please, don’t let your son hear you. Don’t turn him against me. Don’t contribute to the cycle.

WOULD ANY MAN CHOOSE TO BE A HOUSE HUSBAND?article-0-039162FD000005DC-609_468x561

Day 5, still the relentless desert sun, and I’m at home, in your place. Not a husband, a boyfriend now, yet I’m getting a taste of ‘being at home’ while you ‘go to work’. Why would any man choose this? Isn’t it just the result of a distorted masculine/feminine pathway? We are being squeezed, inwards, into our own fear, and cannot offer you a clear masculine presence. What man would choose willingly to take the female role here? He’ll only choose it if there is no other choice – is there any evidence to show the father is the most important parent during the first five years? It’s kicking Mother Nature in the metaphysical balls. No man’s purpose is to stay at home.

I’m on the intensive because I want to create something long-term. To make a home together, maybe a family. We want to commit, yet we’re in different countries. My good Latino friend told me that Latin women make great life partners. Well, the jury is out! But what does this really mean?

‘If you want a relationship with a Brazilian girl, you must be aware of the fact that she will love and care for you unconditionally – as long as you remain masculine.’ (Colt Williams – How to Have Sex with Brazilian Women)

I’m sure this is not specific only to you ‘Latinas’, but, we’re cultural creatures. I want to remain in my masculine and we both have our cultural baggage. You are different to the European women I know. There are different expectations of me, of us, in your culture. So where are we going to meet? Can we both move in this dance?

I NEED TO FEEL LIKE A MAN

You need me to feel like a man, so you can feel like a woman. You want me to take you, to claim you. You desire it in your deepest core.

And if we keep failing to show up as men, will we fall into a soon-to-be-dominated female society, unclear about who is who, creating more girl-friendly examination systems, while passing laws allowing all types of mixed partner and sex coupling scenarios to sit alongside this gender confusion? We are trying to take responsibility, some of us, but it’s tough out here.

You are still an underclass in most of the world; cycles of historical and contemporary societal abuse weigh heavily

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Close to 60 million school-age girls are still not enrolled in schools, yet sexism seems overdramatised in some western nations and societies, given the opportunities created for women by anti-sexism legislation in the West. (Blogpost from: Fraser Nelson: Boris Johnson wasn’t joking – work is becoming a woman’s world)

yet let’s forget immigration laws, minimum wage, NHS, recessions and even the environment for a bit. We, the British man, are a forgotten underclass, right here, now. And if we’re all not careful, we can forget 5-1 man/woman ratios on singles holidays, they’ll be so very few of us ready, to really meet you.

.. a male underclass of feckless, unqualified and unemployable men who will resort to criminality, drugs and mental illness by their thousand. The dominant female gender will dispense with traditional coupling and resort to AI for procreation as there won’t be enough respectable, employed and reliable male partners out there for even 10% of women. (Devondickie from: Fraser Nelson: Boris Johnson wasn’t joking – work is becoming a woman’s world)

sexy_men_on_the_beach_1600x1200_zps38086412If the world is still (sadly) full of us making the decisions, then both of us, more than ever, need to work to effect change with them. The world desperately needs a Madonna; a new breed of accountable and reliable male role model to guide our leaders and young men through.

Yet with education systems designed for girls to succeed more than boys, a serious lack of male teacher modelling, and mothers hoping their sons grow up as men, are we blindly falling into a tunnel of societal feminisation?

So, it’s now day 8 and yes, we’re still joking about this crazy crash course. It’s a beautiful day, the Dubai racetrack hums outside, and you’re making me feel like a man. It must be going OK. Every day now I feel you slowly open, and in my heart I feel God’s gift of your love-offering to the world start to dance. And we smile.

Now, where’s that hoover?

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Deida, David: Dear Lover: A woman’s guide to men, sex, and  love’s deepest bliss

A Man in the Presence of Men

I’m heading down a darkening, wintry M3, returning home from an intense weekend in a Wiltshire forest. I’m sleepless, tender, and inspired by the healing power of a group of men. During the past few weekends I’ve attended various events and workshops with men: in Brighton, in London and here, near Salisbury. I want to write about how it feels being in the presence of men.

Men Together

There’s nothing more grounding for me than being in the company of my own sex: no distractions, straight talking, the sense of humour, men together getting things done. I feel at home, as if I’ve come home, and even though I’m meeting many of these men for the first time, everyone here understands me in a way no woman ever can.

Do I allow this to happen enough in my life?

I look deeply into his eyes, beyond the mysteries of his childhood, and held within a deep, beautiful vulnerability, lies the heart of this man. I feel his tenderness, longing and pain. I see myself reflected as his father, his brother, his son, and sense his spirit, lightly, flickering, slowly meeting mine. I am beyond my body now, in the places where God moves, and something holy here dances between us.

When I strip away the societal conditioning of how I am expected to be as a man – me against the world, just surviving, defined by my work and in a world where I’m taught that repressing my feelings is the only way to get on – and then step into a held space with other men, it’s as if the whole world tilts. I find I can speak what’s on my heart without fear of judgement, I feel I am not alone and that other men are similar to me – they too have been hounded by addictions: pornography, computer games, sex, alcohol and drugs, they too are wounded by the world, they too know what it’s like to be truly alone.

Shared Suffering

As I grew up I was conditioned into thinking that being ‘emotional’ was weak and that it was something best avoided or overridden rather than experienced. Vulnerability was what women ‘did’ and so for me to really feel was something to be ashamed of and therefore something that I learned to hold back. It’s okay for a girl to cry at school, in fact she’s not a girl unless she can do this, but it’s absolutely not okay for a boy. So, like many of us, I spent years and years storing up my pain.

A circle of 30 men define a woodland space. ‘Any man who has lost a loved one or partner – step forward. Men, you share a special bond.’ Damp leaves carpet the wet earth. As men step forward I feel time expand and the space around me ripe with the fruit of our shared past, our history; the circles of men that have stood for thousands of years.

As the circle shifts, I feel one man’s pain, then another. As if we are one body we stand; and as the inner circle of men sharing their grief shifts, I feel the presence of an ancestry only rarely recalled. I feel an overbearing sense of grief; and as the men’s tears moisten their cheeks and fall, we are lifted up into a unity and togetherness that I yearn for all men to share.

I’m crying again. A deep, deep sense of grief. I cry. I cry for us all, for those men before me, and those to come; for everything I’ve ever lost: my childhood, my friends, the women I’ve met and will never meet, for love undiscovered; for her, for you, for life, for God.

For me, they are the tears of deep healing, the years of stored male grief; all of our shared tears. And they are the same tears that invite me to fully live the next beautiful, sunlit morning.

After I cried I felt relieved… and happy and grateful, and maybe not fully healed, but helped in a huge way by expressing my feelings… (Thomas G Fiffer – Boys Do Cry, and Men Do, Too)

Taking It To The Men

No woman wants to be her man’s mother. It’s the last thing she desires or needs. It’s a complete turn off. It’s just a big NO.

So why is it I so often fall back into doing it?

How many times have I taken my needs to my women? Just how many? I don’t know about you but it makes me squirm. Let’s just say too many.

I’ll only set her free by taking it to the men.

I feel the circle around me, the men’s faces, their presence. I move them both around the space, the two women in my life. And as I stand apart from them both, fully seen in my need, I know that I am a man, my father’s son. I leave them both to their paths and step back into the circle, more determined and resolved – to keep on taking it to the men.

Validation

Is there anything more powerful than being validated by another man – where a man actually comes to you, meets you fully in the eyes and gives you positive affirmation? I don’t mean being told I’m a clever guy who’s funny, but have you ever heard a man speak fully of his experience of you? Until my early 40s the nearest I’d got to this was a few drunk ‘I love yous’ in a pub, or some throw away comments that never landed and fit only for the wind. I was too scared to make myself vulnerable. It’s my conditioning. Maybe I still wanted to be one up; I loved him, but I wouldn’t trust him with my heart.

As men, we need each other’s validation. The validation we maybe didn’t get from our fathers. The validation that, over the years, has been replaced by individualism, narcissism and competition. My father gave me strong positive affirmation many times, but if he were unable to meet me in this way, it’s possible that I’d never get this validation anywhere else.

As the men’s words sink in I feel my heartbeat, the visceral pumping blood of history, the man inside me preparing to rule, a benevolent king ready to serve. I feel an inner strength within me, shining, and I feel something of the boy in me die. My spirit quickens, I sense God’s gentle power and feel ready to stand in the world.

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.

What I needed from my Dad

When I was 14 what mattered to me more than anything?

What mattered was having my father there. What mattered were the words he spoke to me. What mattered was his presence. What mattered was the rite of passage he offered me from his world – to play rugby like the men.

Much of my childhood I watched my Dad play. Every Saturday we’d go to Lazards Sports ground and I played with the men, often for hours and hours. After the game, beyond dusk, the cheap florescent bar lights illuminating the muddy grass, one of the guys would usually hang out and play with me, show me how to hold the ball, pass and kick. I’d learn special things my Dad hadn’t taught me. The men’s world mattered. I loved being part of it.

It’s a wet, windy day out on the school playing field. It’s cold. We’re playing a strong opposition. They were usually better than us – the other teams. Our record defeat was 0-78. Dads litter the touchline. I’m playing number 8 this day. (This is the guy that sticks his head in the back of the scrum, mauls into other guys when he picks the ball up from the back of the scrum, and tackles everyone) Now I wasn’t big, but I was brave, and I’d tackle anyone. It was a matter of honour. I’d do anything to prevent a guy getting past me. Especially when my father was watching.

What mattered most was hitting the earth, body and body, wound on wound. What mattered was that they didn’t score.

When I played full back (that’s the guy right at the back of the team wearing 15) I used to tackle a cascade of boys who broke through. I was the last line of defence. And even though I was small I’d hit these guys, heroically saving many points. (No team ever reached 100 against us). I loved playing the hero; when all else was lost I’d save the day, do the very best I could for the team.

I was learning that I had what it takes.

So, I’m 16, a few years older and it’s cold. It hurts when you mis-tackle someone. You get your body in the wrong position technically and if the guy’s bigger than you, which virtually all of them were, it really hurts.

So I’m at the back of the scrum and we’re under pressure. One of their team picks up the ball in the loose and for a split second there’s an option. I know it’s going to hurt. I’m out of position and this boy is 3-4 stone heavier than me. But he’s my man. And as he charges through like a young bull, I hit him and down we go.

The earth, the blood.. bodies.. contact.

There’s no sound from the touchline. There were a lot of players around us. Did Dad see? That was the best tackle I’d ever done. Did he see it?

The game goes on and I quickly recover from the hit.

Just a word, I need just a word.

The game ends. Somehow the score’s irrelevant. The players clap each other and mill off, some to the changing rooms, to each other or the touchline.

I need to hear his voice.

I loiter around, not asking but needing.

“That was a great tackle on their number 8.”

My heart shifts a beat and I’m welling up with an enormous feeling of pride, unity and belonging. He said the right thing, but not only that. He felt  it. He’s been there, in the wild country of the sports field, he knows exactly how I feel. He noticed me in my stepping up. This joy I experienced in my father watching and tending to me was second to none.

I wonder now what type of masculinity I was subscribing to when I stepped up to the mark. What exactly was I ‘manning up’ into?

When I was younger I cried. Or was it the feeling of longing to cry? I’d get tackled and winded, and everyone used to want to hit me hard as I was the teacher’s son. Dad was reffing. I remember one time particularly, I’m 10 years old and it’s a house 7-a-side rugby game, so for a 10-year-old it’s basically a cup final. I’m playing scrum half, the pivotal position in the short game, and I get tackled hard by a friend and go down wheezing.

I don’t want to cry.

boy cryingCrying’s not what men do.

And I can feel my father with me, struggling to be with my withheld tears as well as playing his role as referee and teacher. It seems to go on for ages. I’m embarressed in front of the other boys. Somehow a boyhood wound is shaped.

Is it impossible? To develop as a boy with direction, certainty and purpose, to stand ground when others around are failing, is it possible to become this fully embodied masculine man and CRY playing sport?

Can the boy become the king without a wound? Wounding is important to be with and overcome. And what kind of space for wounding is the modern sports field? It’s one of the few spaces for men to go. How is it boundaried and held?

Last night I saw the fantastic film The Hunter. If you want to understand men a little better go and watch this. It’s terse, direct, staccato, beautifully shot and WILD. During the fantastic climax, where the Daniel Dafoe character, Martin, confronts the essence of his own beautiful, untamed wildness, more of those lost boyhood tears stream down my face, unashamed, cleansing and pure.

Sex, Intimacy and Me(n)

What is masculinity?

So when did I become a man? What did I need to ‘do’ to become ‘masculine’? Until recent years I thought I’d already become a man – a ‘legs and arse’ man. Well, those are the body parts I liked. Still do. Some guys like breasts, but I don’t think you can beat the women at Wimbledon for a good bit of old fashioned masculine validation…

A few years ago I was internet dating and dated a number of women. Three months into the relationship she raised her blue eyes to mine ‘Oh, you’re a relationship virgin’ she said. I felt disarmed. Perhaps she felt my uninitiated male energy. Was she saying I was still a boy? That was summer 2007. During another love-affair a year later a similar insight was offered me ‘you’re not the finished product yet’ she smiled, lovingly. What was it they sensed in me? Something incomplete?

I was still learning to use a warrior’s sword.

My body exploded into hormonal ecstasy when I was 14. The hard-wired rootedness, uncontrollable release onto the sheet, the used sock, the free-flowing connection between my imagination and that life-given and giving force within me, the glorious fantasies of English teachers and girls: Orgasm – again and again and again. An effortless flow. I think of women’s body: breasts, thighs, buttocks, the mystery between her legs and within seconds my groin is alive with energy and I’m a potential succession of fountains of fireworks. Was it then? When I realised I was a powerful engine and could kick-start with just a thought?

I’m 14 and on holiday with my parents in the South of France and I’m lying on a beach. It’s my first experience of women topless and two gorgeous creatures a few years older than me are sunbathing 20 metres away. I roll onto my front to hide the energy in my trunks and within seconds I’m climaxing – the light abrasion of sand and towel enough. I lie there disempowered and then walk dandily to the sea, a picture of complete ridicule, alive with my secret.

The loneliness of men

No-one understood this. That’s what I was led to believe. No woman could ever understand and no man was intimate enough with me to empathise. We’re alone. No man I knew talked openly about sex, let alone orgasm. The media, magazines, my peers and the loose vocabulary of older men regarding women were my teachers. Later, pornography was to derail me further. Surveys suggest that between 80-90% of men watch pornography or have at some time.

My sense of early masculinity was that it was inseparable from sex. I had to prove something, to myself and to the world. My quest was to seek out and experience the treasure that was being offered. It seemed pretty clear that that was what was on the mind of many of my friends too. How could we authenticate our ‘manly’ power? Dishonestly and ego-driven? This was the way the world worked and men worked the world.

‘We adults have put boys in charge of teaching other boys about the most sacred parts of their bodies. Boys are teaching other boys about sexuality in this culture.’ (Jayson Gaddis – ‘What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Boys About Sex‘)

I didn’t realise then that in taking the treasure for my own I was helplessly buying into an endless cycle of dissatisfaction with relationship and buying into the illusion of a societally defined model of masculinity. Or else there was abstinence; this is what religion seemed to offer – a monk-like existence filled with sweaty dreams of untouchable women, fuelling the mystery; a life of denial and frustration.

Men’s social conditioning

The Centrefold Syndrome, Brook’s 1995 study into the social conditioning men undergo, details voyeurism, objectification, masculinity validation, trophyism and the fear of intimacy as five catagories into which we’ve fallen… For me that’s tick, tick, tick, cross and long, flowing tick. Just who were these other creatures that seem to have the power to utterly dominate my reality?

Society taught me that women’s bodies are here to be looked at – films, magazines, television… It’s endless. Skipping back from school Mayfair magazine’s centrefold lies dirtied across the alley pavement, her legs agape: the fruit from the tree of knowledge? Either way, I’m pretty hard-wired by the time I get to the French beach. I’ve already been de-programmed in thinking that sex is something I ‘do’ or experience myself. I am the watcher and have the power. Woman is passive and my voyeurism is validated by nearly all the men I know, on TV, in novels and plays. This conditioning fuels itself throughout my life. It binds sex and my longing for intimacy together. One becomes synonymous with the other. Perhaps all I really want is to return to my mother’s arms.

Have I got what it takes?

So, for my 14 year old self, orgasm is the Holy Grail, the fruit from the tree of life is between a woman’s legs and sex is all about performance. How many? How long can you go for? Had I got what it took to prove myself? Every man needs to know he’s got what it takes. Now, I wasn’t the one-night stand type at all, but my intentions were clear. Masculinity was about being driven, goal centred and achievement orientated – competition at the expense of the other – so her orgasm(s), and her bodily reaction to me – become my goal. If she’s rolling in ecstasy coming like a train until the wee small hours then I’ve really made it. I’ve got what it takes. I’m validated.

Of course emotional intimacy is just not on. That’s not the path of a warrior hero, that’s the road to weakness and vulnerability. I know this because I secretly crave the softness and security of the woman’s body, the body of my mother that once held me, yet it is this very sensitivity that I’ve been socialised against. Sport scratches the surface, especially contact sport, but if I’m not one of those sporty types I’m lost, and if even if I am… Where are the men I’m supposed to get my nurturing and physical contact from? Television has degraded the theatre of sport into a win at all costs pageant of the ego. The lost opportunity here for young men to engage with healing masculine role models, I suggest, is next to catastrophic.

Is it any surprise then that the rapid-orgasm teenage firework fest completely derailed me? My fear of intimacy rises right on cue and in my mind sex and intimacy fuse at the hip. My body’s gone haywire. No woman will ever really understand this. My Dad’s friends who played rugby with me until the wee small hours never warned me. So, as far as I can understand sex is intimacy, and society demands that I seek it to affirm my masculinity wherever possible. Where were the wise, vulnerable male elders to guide me?

Where are men’s rites of passage today?

My private secret evolves into a deep sadness within me. I sense this in other men around me – quiet and unspoken within the matriarchal emptiness of their homes, the only outlet the pub, sports ground, cranky hobby or office, office, office. Where do men go? A long-lost rite of passage lies buried, flawed beneath layers of societal conditioning and fear of not meeting the mark.

Still unconscious of the potential of the pack of men who are my only source of genuine masculine affirmation, I struggled through relationship auditioning female partners via a crude process of body-part compatibility. Eventually I went into meltdown when I realised that my fear of intimacy was leading me to my heart, and that somehow I was looking for the essence of my soul among the late-night online porn searches that dirtied my 30s.

I was 42. ‘It’s all about sex’ she said, a little wryly and somewhat sadly. Boy I still wanted to buy into that. I’m closer to 50 than 40 now, and when my soul finally called to me during the emptiness and agony of that inevitable breakup, suffering forced me to face myself and journey the less travelled road into spirit, and that longing for her was really a longing for the one, loving, divine relationship at the heart of all things.

I developed a deep insecurity about intimate relationship. Looking back now – of course, I understand my daily interest in sex and distrust of emotional connection was part of an unavoidable socialisation. Penetration affirmed me as a man. I’m not sure that the primal hunter-gatherers of ancient times were prey to the myriad of language and images dehumanising women that I have been, even if they might have put it about a bit. Or did they? I’d heard they were pressured to have sex to populate, bonded heavily in groups away from women (sound good?) and didn’t have anything to do with kids until adolescence (let’s face it – this is when us older guys really need to show up)

‘If we’re not careful, someone’s going to get hurt’ she said.

Right.

I guess I’m still a legs and arse man: I’m trying to work with it.

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