I don’t usually blog about deeply personal emotions and thoughts. I’m reluctant to do so now, but I want to put some thoughts and feelings into the collective (un)conscious of the internet – almost like carving them on digital stone, to be preserved as long as they are useful, and to serve as a reminder to myself to prevent backsliding in the future. I won’t share this on social media, angling for ‘likes’ like little hits of digital cocaine. And yes, the title is a reference to Barak Obama’s ‘Dreams from my father’. For me, it isn’t so much dreams, as demons that need putting to bed. Today was the day I did just that.
For much of my adult life, I have tried to be the Good Man. To be something better – something stronger – than men I see around me. And especially my own father. That is complex karma, which I won’t mention in depth here but suffice it to say, when it comes to personal decisions, I’ve tried to pretty much do the opposite of what my father did.
So today I found myself sitting under leaden skies, under the shade of an old Ash tree – on the main street of a small Welsh town. Thinking. And reflecting. In trying to be a Good Man, I’ve often put myself second to others – or at least what I perceive others need of me. This has manifested primarily in my attitudes to work, love, and life in general.
Listening to the wind in the leaves, and watching the bustle of the town, a huge weight lifted off my back… and put another weight on my shoulders. I felt expansive. Basically, accepting that I am who and what I am and nothing much can change that – whether it’s in regards to work, love, duties of care… or something as menial as rebuilding a gearbox.
I have tendencies, needs, faults, and fears. But I also have desires, hopes and dreams. Sometimes those aren’t reconcilable with the responsibilities, commitments, demands and constraints that are placed upon me. As for what boundaries are workable in my life, that’s a separate issue… but I can’t change what I am and feel.
Whether the people and demands in my life like what I am and do now or not, I don’t know. But I’ll be damned if I lie to myself – to make myself something I’m not. A thread that often comes up in manhood – certainly when it comes to our relationship with women – is the idea of ‘cheating’. This is something that has haunted me throughout my young/adult life. To always be seen to be beyond ethical reproach – in everything (and, everyone for that matter) that I do. Yet the one person I’ve cheated on in my life as a man so far is me.
This is a hard process for me. I’ve always put others’ expectations of me before my own. Expectations I placed on the conduct of my father were tested and found wanting. So I reflexively went the other way. To try to hold myself to the highest possible standards in everything that I do. But that in itself is unhealthy. It is being chased by the shadow of another man – and just that, a shadow, not the man himself. Who I see enough of myself in the be uncomfortable – and yet to smile.
I’m finally becoming a man – my own man. Not the inverse shadow of another man who was weak in my eyes, that I was trying to avoid becoming, but of one that is strong enough to stand up for what he needs and believes in.
And finally dropping the idea of being the Good Man. Instead, I aspire to wake up every morning being a better man. A better me. A more honest me who can exert integrity to my own path in life without being bowed to others projections of what I should be, or do. Integrity to others must come from self-integrity, and self-integrity comes from self-honesty. So, as an Atlantic storm comes rolling in across the Irish Sea, I sit… and look at myself, naked in heart and soul. And make promises – to myself, not to others.
To work humbly and graciously where and however I am needed in this world. To love, without fear or limit in my heart. To hold space – for myself, in which to operate, and for others who come across me. And to be bound by my duty of care to those who ask it of me. But above all in open honesty to myself. Stripped bare by the storm I am reborn… a new man. Or perhaps not a new man, but A Man. No longer a boy…