Grieving In the Lonely Cave

Fred Boyles 
MDI Contributor

I have been on a men’s team for 31 years, and it has never gotten any easier when a man hides out.

I’ve repeatedly told men via phone and texts that if they ever disappear, hide away or go into their proverbial “cave,” they take me with them. A fair warning I would say.

To work around that whole hiding out thing, my team has a standard where a teammate is to return calls within 24 hours. And such a protocol has never been more important than for one of my team leaders.

Team leaders need all the support they can get, especially those new to our a men’s organization.

I was on an MDI team for 20 years, where the basic MO was to give a new man a job so he could learn the ropes a bit. Back in the day, this meant to having a man step up for a basic team job, such as fire god or team scribe … any job except team leader.

The team leader job was too big and too time consuming. And over time it has experienced “feature creep” where the tasks and responsibilities grew larger and larger. Two calls to a mentor, a weekly team leader call, planning meetings, fulfilling division level tasks, figuring out Zoom meetings, last-minute communications to division leadership, and on and on.

To know what your team needed, the team leader had to make calls to all the men on his team. Imagine how much time that would take. Imagine what it would be like to have all that responsibility, and then having to manage it all, with very little, if any, training. Those of us who have long experience in leadership roles may forget what it’s like to be new in the position. And it doesn’t help when that new man is left on his own by those who may have forgotten.

With a number of veterans who have already had the experience as leader, the job often fell to the new guy … the least qualified but the sound choice since “he will learn so much.”

Often our teams’ secret sub-context became: “It’s your turn in the barrel.”

How could we throw a man into a situation like that? Who would want that position?

The new man was to learn a ton in a hurry, with a $100,000 education routinely shoved up his ass a quarter at a time. We promised these new men if they stepped up to this challenging job, they would be happy with the results. The last five team leaders of my old team all had one thing in common: they refused to return calls in 24 hours and would hide in their caves for days or weeks at a time.

Two of these leaders had a history of holding suicidal thoughts. Scary. When they would not communicate with anyone on the team for a week, we became fearful that they had killed themselves and sent men to check in on then. Even after I knew he was still alive, I still would grieve over his disappearance and avoidance.

Once I told the team leader about my sense of loss whenever he hid away in his cave and didn’t return calls, reminding him that I was in that cave with him. I asked him to call me before he caved with one of his 3-day medication binges. He told me, “Fuck off, who are you to stop my coping process?”  

I’ve called most of these hiding men, and I’ll get a call back or two, but not often. The one man I grieve the most over stopped calling back six months ago. I have feared the worst for this man, and I’ve looked for his presence on the Internet. I’ve left over ten messages.

He’s not calling back is deliberate, and I receive his “fuck you.” He did not get what he needed and has tried to complete as a team leader three times. We promised him if he would be our team leader, he would be so happy with the results.  

I think his not returning phone calls pretty means he’s unsatisfied with the results of being our team leader.

It’s a sad state of affairs, but even if he hides away in his cave, it isn’t over.

Because, although he may not know it … I’m still in there with him.

1 thought on “Grieving In the Lonely Cave”

  1. men think their “taking care of themselves” doesn’t impact others.

    it doesn’t. as long as they aren’t a part of a team, a family, a community, a society, or a piece of the interconnected web called humanity.

    those who hurt about it are alive.
    those who don’t are dead. and do not know it.

    way to go Boyles, a man among the living.

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