Just when it seemed that the tide wouldn’t stop rising.

___

I don’t quite know how to begin.

I had the most amazing and moving experience in recent memory on Wednesday night, completely out of the blue.  Well, at least unexpected, anyway, but I should have known better given the source.

I was given an opportunity to attend a Men’s Group by a therapist for whom I have a ton of respect.  I’ve worked with him in the past and he’s just a phenomenal person let alone educator and revelator, so when I received the invitation, I found it humbling to have been considered, imagining that such a group would be curated deliberately to ensure the cohesiveness and progress of the current members while trying to identify someone who could fill an open spot with a sincere desire to learn and grow.  I’m glad he thought of me.  It made me feel really good.

A seed started to grow in the back of my mind, though.  I thought of the person I’d presented while working with him.  The person that I try to be.  He’s always made me feel like I can …

Shit.  It’s making me emotional just thinking about it, ’cause I’m landing on the reasons why it hit me as hard as it did.

He’s always made me feel like I’m not a weirdo for speaking the way I do or using the words I do or feeling the way I do.  It’s not about the nod, not about “oh, you’re smart”.  It’s about acceptance of being.  And I didn’t realize until the last few days of really tilling the garden that I’d planted seeds, within myself, of the kind of person I’m trying to become.  It’s eluded me for a while.  But I digress.

My point is this, then I’ll get back to the group:  I was invited to be a part of this because of the person I was presenting, the person I most desire to be – open, honest, vulnerable, confident, thankful, appreciative, hopeful.  All the things I’ve learned and continue to learn manifest themselves when I’d take on that persona, and I’ve started to realize that’s who I am.  I really like that person.

But the group.  I’d never done anything like this before.  I was a bit reticent to sit in a room with six other dudes and talk about feelings, like what is this supposed to be?  How does it work?  What is the protocol?  Can I really open up?

Toxic masculinity is real and I’ve perpetuated it.  I have, up until recently, not cultivated friendships or familial relationships with people to whom I can be honest and open.  I’ve always put on the mantle of the type of people I’m around in order to win their favor, afraid of showing a sensitive side that may dismiss me, because I didn’t want to be that kind of guy.  The guy the other dudes talk about as being a pussy.  I have not been real.

But within five minutes of being in this room with these guys, it became clear – perfectly crystal clear – that I didn’t have to hide.  It was… exhilarating.  I began to realize that there were other men, like me, who could recognize themselves, who could see their inner-workings, who wanted to be better today, then better tomorrow, then even better the next day.  And we talked.  For two hours.  That seemed like five minutes.

One guy announced that he was leaving the group after two and a half years of being a part of this bi-weekly session.  It was an obviously emotional moment.  I watched one man I’d pegged for a tough guy tear up as he looked into this other man’s eyes and told him how much he’s grown just by being around him, thanking him for all the support and kindness he’s shown by being open and vulnerable and it was jaw dropping.  The other man, the one leaving, was speechless and he said as much.  He said he was going to really take that and think about it and hold that with him for a really long time.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It was real.  And I got to see it happen.

Better yet, I got to be a part of the group.  During one moment, he looked me right in the eye, looked at the other men in the circle and told everyone that he was super comfortable now, knowing that the person coming in – me – was going to be able slide right in to keep the spirit alive.  I felt it was a shame that I wasn’t going to be able to experience his gift to the group.  And I told him so.

I don’t know.  It was transformative in every non-hyperbolic way.

I walked to the car.  I sat down.  I wept profusely.

The invitation, the opportunity, bearing witness, the acceptance.  The recognition that I’d put myself out there, taken a chance, and had it bear immediate fruit.  The hope that I’d be able to learn and grow like every single man there said they had.  The truth that I’d let myself be me for a moment and it was ok.

I got to see what I’m becoming.

Anyway.  This is incongruent and that’s ok.  All I know is that it was an amazing experience that immediately made me a better person.

The kind that decided to swim.

 

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