I have a name for it. As a way, I guess, of making sure it stays branded on my memory the way it’s emblazoned on my soul. Anyone with a fraction of common sense would immediately want to forget it all, who with an above average intellect could remain so committed to preserving such epically forgettable memories? Don’t we learn at an early age to remember rainbows and butterflies and sweep into the corner thunderstorms and rattlesnakes? Isn’t that why we hang pictures of weddings and births on the mantle instead of divorce hearings and funerals?
The name I chose is as poignant as it is accurate and provides just enough imagery to paint a picture without looking like I tried too hard.
[pullquote]They see it more palatable to medicate themselves with careers, handicaps, and pornography than finally do battle with the dragons they’ve spent a lifetime trying to evade.[/pullquote]It was 2008 and out of the gates the year was decked up to be a bad one. For starters I was hungover Jan. 1st. Not long after I would begin championing the notion that how you feel on New Year’s Day will be how the entire year goes – I haven’t touched a drop on that night since. Second, I was working through the recent break up of a long-term relationship and still in the fog. Third, I had just been let go from a job replacing it with a new one at half the pay. Fourth, an IRS audit notice arrived right on time to ruin my uneventful Valentine’s Day. And to top off this cocktail of catastrophe I was reintroduced to the family court system thanks to an ex wife who chose to do things the hard way. And this is to say nothing of my bumbling social and dating life; by late spring I was convinced I had reverted back to a toddler learning about life by putting round pegs into square holes.
And it’s here I should mention all of this was happening at the same time.
The hidden reality of this chaos, which consumed my life, was how violently it removed the crutches I had relied upon for my self worth and manhood. Now that the money, job titles, and relationships had been stripped away and all the static that until then convinced me I had everything figured out suddenly vanished, leaving only an insecure little boy struggling with how he could have fallen so far. At this crossroads of circumstance I was forced to ask serious questions, “How did I get to this point?”, “What could I have done differently?”, “Why had I put my value is such superficial incidentals?” Those questions would send me on a quest for answers.
My journey was laid out before me and for the first time in my life I made the conscious decision to learn about me and figure out who I really was, regardless of where that led or what I ultimately found. I began with grabbing hold of every book I thought might offer clarity. I shut myself away like a hermit, reading, studying, and taking notes as if preparing for a massive final exam. Counseling, too, became a weekly ritual with my ego and pride as the usual sacrifices.
Men have good reason to avoid soul-searching expeditions. For starters, without a GPS there’s no telling where one might end up – angry at the world or curled up in the fetal position. Second, it’s a long trip that’s never enjoyable; driving down the back roads of our past is extremely treacherous. And lastly, self-reflection isn’t manly. Not one beer has ever been sold using the picture of a guy hitting the waterworks on his therapist’s couch.
It’s because of this men generally would rather go shoe shopping than spend any amount of time in introspection. Choosing instead to become masters of avoidance who find it easier to swallow hard and keep it down than spit it up and talk it out. They see it more palatable to medicate themselves with careers, handicaps, and pornography than take up arms and slay the dragons they’ve spent a lifetime trying to evade. These same men, whose passion for living is all but extinguished, merely go through the motions of living, as if a cog in a wheel, while never realizing the machine they grudgingly feel a part of – is their own making.
It’s difficult to imagine how things might have gone without enduring and surviving my Emotional Winter. Much like a near death experience, my return from the other side resulted in a changed worldview, new priorities, and a vastly deeper perspective on things. I could now look back on that other me and see how he got himself in such a mess. With a better appreciation of my past, I now grasped what had motivated me to do those things that in time wreaked such damage. Through healing I was finally able let go of past resentments I hadn’t even realized I was holding onto. Peace and security were finally freed by breaking the shackles of yesterday.
All of this leads me to one conclusion, none of this could have occurred without a burning desire for it to do so. Change, growth, and healing never happen by accident. We can’t wish ourselves into a better person or expect it to be painless. Just as a model car won’t build itself, we first must learn where the pieces go, after which we must break them apart from their current molds, and only then can we put them together the way they were intended.