Dylan Stewart Columnist
Have you ever been so down that you didn’t know how to get back up? I mean really, really down. So down that country music starts sounding optimistic and hopeful. So down that even pulling the covers off your face when the Sun comes out is an almost impossible expenditure of energy. So down that you forget what up even looks like.
I have. And most the people around me, most of the people in my life would probably be surprised to hear that. The version of me that they see is always positive, always upbeat, a whistle on my lips, a bounce in my step, and a world of possibility at my doorstep. But when life hits me, it hits me hard with both fists and a knee to the groin. Ouch.
The details don’t really matter, the sob story is just that: a story. So I won’t bore you with that, but suffice it to say that as a man who usually has all the answers, the events of this week grabbed me by the throat, shoved my head in the toilet, and flushed until I begged for mercy.
As the problems, the stress, and my frustrations mounted, I found myself with a short temper, snapping at everyone around me, and hating myself as I did. At the crescendo, I was at my wits end, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop worrying, and didn’t know what to do.
This is where the story turns around. Many men don’t have the tools in their toolbox to deal with this kind of situation. Many men take it out on themselves, turn to alcohol or harder drugs. They take it out on their wives or children, lashing out verbally and physically. They do things they will regret because they don’t know what else to do.
That’s not me. Over the last 15 years I have been gathering tools by the handful. Ways to shift my way of being, ways to see other perspectives, ways to find a new direction and head towards it. But I haven’t done it alone. Not by a long shot.
Every week for the past 15 years I have sat in a circle with my men. A support circle of sorts. Men of all ages and all nationalities. Married men, men with children, single men, young men. The circles have changed over the years, some men have joined, some men have left, and some men have stayed since the very beginning. I’ve gone to other circles, and sat with other men. I have even gone to other cities and states, to sit with men I don’t even know, and found that they too are MY men.
You see 15 years ago I was introduced to the beauty of having a men’s circle in my life. As a man who was not a jock, not a fan of hot rods, not among the popular crowd, and raised by a father with more emotions than my mother, I’d never had an opportunity to really surround myself with men. In fact I spent most of my time telling myself I was not like “those” men. THEY like sports: THEY lift weights; THEY fix cars; THEY get dates. I was just the smart kid who played chess, or read books off in the corner by myself. Little did I know the damage I was doing to myself, and the world of possibility that lay outside of my field of vision once I recognized that there was no difference between those men and myself. We are all men, and we share the same challenges, emotions and wisdom.
The wisdom was the key. Once I was introduced to the inherent wisdom of men, I began to find my place amongst men. I began to listen, and learn. And my whole life changed.
So when life smacked me upside the head this past week, and grabbed me in the worst sleeper hold I’d felt in years, I didn’t despair. I didn’t give up. I didn’t lose hope. I picked up the phone, and called my men. I told them my fears, my angers, my sadness. I released all of my emotions and challenges freely and blissfully. I let them hold a space for where I was, and remind me of who I truly was and the path to a better man that I was well on my way to.
And the next morning, I remembered the greatest lesson I’ve learned in those circles. When you’re deep in it … when it seems like there is no way out … when everywhere you turn there is struggle … you have a choice. You can be the victim, suffering … blaming … wishing for a better way.
Or you can be the victor… change your perspective, change your direction, surround yourself with people who see you as you really are when you’re at your best and your worst … then get off your ass, and get back into action.
Dylan Stewart is a writer and Macintosh Technology Coach living in Los Angeles. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.