Wednesday, May 4, 2011

But first, its time for inspiration!

It’s Week 10 folks. I received $100 dollars this week, so I am at $2,100 with 6 weeks to go. Its crunch time for me. I have $900 more dollars to raise to help support Pyramid Atlantic's fabulous arts & education programs. You can help me get there by contributing here.

But first, its time for inspiration! What inspires me in Week 10? Being a man inspires me. Now that might not seem like such a hard thing, but I have not always found being a man the easiest thing. When I was a kid growing up in my family, being a man meant only one thing: being macho. Sensitivity was a weakness. Crying was a weakness. I was a sensitive kid. I cried. I could tell my Dad was not proud. I grew up hating the very things about myself that now are my biggest strengths: my sensitivity and my compassion. It was my Dad's opinion of manhood that mattered most to me and I was not it. My folks divorced when I was 13 and I didn't see my Dad for again.

I went away to college and my views and my world expanded. I met a whole new group of men who were very different different from the men that I had grown up around in the Theatre Department at Southern Methodist University. Many of my professors were thoughtful, insightful and compassionate men. They were men who never stopped trying to perfect their ability to articulate their thoughts and feelings through their art, their words and their deeds. I so wanted to be that kind of a man. However, in my mind, my Dad's opinion of me still colored my progress and development. I still did not feel like a man or that he would think much of my maturation or my chosen profession.

I went looking for my Dad after my freshman semester. I am not sure why, but I wanted to see him, much to my mother's dismay. She gave me his address and I drove over to his apartment one evening. I was so nervous. I walked to the door. I knocked on the door. He opened it. "Hey, look who's here," my Dad said. He hugged me. "Sit down," he said. We just started talking. It was as if we had both been just very busy for 5 years and had just been unable to return each others calls. We didn't talk that night about where he had been or where I had been. We did not talk about why he never came to see my brother and I and why we had never come to see him. He called my step brothers over and we went out to play pool.

After that night, my Dad and I began to see each other again, much to my mom's objections. We would meet for dinner when I was in town from college and occasionally talk on the phone. I was so hungry for his company. I missed having this man in my life. He came to my graduation, much at SMU and he was at my wedding.

My Dad passed away of a heart attack at the age of 64, I was 32. It was very unexpected. The big hole between him and I that had been getting smaller over the years, with his death, seemed to begin to grow wider again. I was a young father with so responsibilities. There were so many things that I didn't know. So many questions I wanted to ask him about being a father. So many things I wondered about being a man. I mourned the conversations that my Dad and I never had and the ones that we would never have. I mourned a man who I was just getting to know.

Six months after my Dad passed away, I joined a men's group in DC and did that for about 3 and half years. For three and a half years, I sat in a room with men who had experienced loss or trauma and who were not sure of their responsibilities or identities as men. I was there because I wanted my own identity as a man. I wanted to come out of the shadows of the man I thought I had to be and into the light of the man I was capable of being. In the group, I learned that. I shared my questions about being a man, being a father and being a husband with the other men in that room. I learned that my feelings were a strength. That my compassion was an asset and not a weakness. That I had greater capacity that I had given myself credit for. I slowly came to my own definition of the man I was and wanted to be. I also slowly began to forgive and accept my Dad.

I see so many men today struggle with being a men. Expectations and responsibilities can seem so overwhelming. We have the capacity to feel fully and it is that helps us during trying times. But to many men, it is easier to ignore the emotional part of who you are. There is no time to feel, its just "do" and "back to work" and asking for help is a weakness not a sign of strength. That's what my Dad believed. I wish that my dad would have found the strength to be the kind of man that he wanted to be. I used to see my Dad stay up late at night painting and drawing. One time when he was visiting me in DC he let out with this quote from Macbeth, in his really thick Cuban accent, "Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?" I couldn't believe it. Here was my Dad this macho guy quoting Shakespeare. I wish my Dad would have felt more comfortable letting his artistic spirit out. I think that maybe if he's grown up with a friend like me around maybe, he would have.

As fate has it, I am a father now of two boys. I was thinking about my sons and my Dad this week at my son's baseball game. I watched as all the Dads stood around the back stop, volunteered to coach 3rd base and talked about what great hitters and fielders our boys were. I was so happy to have this opportunity to see my sons and be a part of their lives in ways that my Dad was never a part of mine. I hug and kiss them all the time and tell them I love them. I want them to know that their emotions are pillars on which to stand on and not vestigial organs that should be ignored and wished away. I see my older boy, Josh, (that is him below) who is 10, struggle with the expectations that come with being a young boy. He doesn't feel its okay to cry or ask for help and that its important to be "tough." I tell him it takes a real man to cry. He thinks I'm stupid. That's alright. I am not going anywhere and I am going to stay here help them both find their way to their own definition of manhood.

I hope I inspired you today.

Make a contribution, in any amount to my Pyramid Atlantic fundraising campaign by clicking here. If you were thinking about contributing, but wanted to wait to see how far I would get, look at me now! I am almost there and a contribution of any amount from you, will get me that much closer. Have a great week.

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