Wednesday, December 12, 2012
What I Know About Men
There is a tree. A woman reaches out to touch that tree, to sense the rough strong bark ripple along her palm. As she savors this moment, she realizes that through sensing her world, she is becoming her world. She realizes that she is beginning to know herself and that there is another half in this world who has been teaching her right along. What she knows about herself has come from others in her brilliant, alive world, including all the men.
What I know about men is that they make up the other half of my world. What I know about men is that they outnumber me in my home. What I know about men, frankly, began to really inscribe itself on my life and move deeper into the many layered me through the birth of each howling baby boy.
I have noticed so many things about my world, and men in this world. What I know about men is this, they are vulnerable. They feel their world as deeply and gut-wrenchingly as we women do. They notice their world, they see the fear and suffering, they walk the edginess and exhaustion, too. Their shoulders must be strong and broad and able to bear the weight of family finances, and woes, and sorrows that cut to the core and heart of every one of us.
What I know about men is that they have mammoth hearts that are warm and tender and afraid but wish to be confident and reliable and loyal to their loved ones, to their spouse, their community, their spiritual home all the while keeping a façade of having it all together in the work realm. What I know about men is that they get tired too, they get sick, they cry, they weep, they break down and collapse to the floor, they crumble and need to be picked up sometimes. What I know about men is that they, at times, feel the shame of their humanity, or their neediness; that their aggression and anger may flare and burst out like a raging, roaring fire.
What I know about men is they remember the time when they were once young and they had a story to tell, tears to shed, a hand that needed holding, or a victory that needed celebrating, or a heart that needed mending, or a face that needed wiping, or a torso that needed hugging. What I know is men are human and strong and frail and soft and firm and joyful and fearful and confident and resilient and impermanent.
Today as I sat at the lovely Art Deco bar at Oliver’s with a friend, I noticed a well-dressed, manicured man in his thirties next to me. When he strode in I observed his impeccably tailored clothes and Italian shoes and coiffed hair which told me the outside story. As I sat there drinking my red wine and laughing giddily with my friend, I began to see the inside story of this man. He reminded me of a man I once knew well, who passed from the world this year, and who, too, felt like he needed to impress the world and be someone special and wise. What I know is that it took him a long lifetime to let that illusion go and to just be authentic and true enough with himself to let go into the flow of love. What I know about men is that they are timid and shy in love and some sign of acceptance is all they need to come alive and flourish in that same love.
I stood up to make my way to the restroom and as I entered the ladies’ room, I realized that what I know about men has come to make a difference to me, a meaningful absolute difference to me. I have come to realize that what I know about men is directly and inarguably linked to the simple but profound art of paying attention, paying attention by listening, by quieting down both my mouth and my inner conversation. Paying attention by offering space for things to settle like dust motes and manifest into that which they already are but has been shaken and stirred up for so long that they have lost their true identity. What I know is that there is a way back.
What I know about men is that they all started out as newborns with cries of need for nourishment, warmth and love. What I know about men is that they want to be appreciated for their trueness and not despised for their weakness. What I know is that when they have forgotten something, disappointed themselves or others, or have failed in some way, that they may feel their knees buckling under the weight of life but do not want to be bailed out or rescued or treated like an incapable child. What I know about men is that they grow up from the comfort and arms of their moms to men, to men who want to be appreciated, loved, heard, honored with space and dignity, they grow into men who want to love their mates with their yearning hearts and not have to defend who they are, their basic goodness.
What I know about men is that they started out as our children and they want to love and be loved. They need their moms with all their hearts and they orbit their moms throughout their years and still need to land nearby once in a while even as they grow up for a hug or just the space and devotion only a mom can offer. What I know about men is that the love they learn from their mom through trial and error is the love they will share with their first love, their small loves and the great love and that they need a good deal of room from their mom so they can feel their way through the workings of their hearts.
What I know about men is they want to feel less shame and more dignity, less fear and more confidence, less neediness and more resilience. What I know about men is that they want to love with all their hearts but need some silence in a crowded room or a noisy relationship to actually share and be received. What I know about men is that a woman who bosses them around because of her need to control, or her own fears of death and impermanence ,will quickly stale and erode the love that was there. What I know about men is that the love from a mother can be much more forgiving and as moms we should take care to be forgiving yet also spacious in our doing so.
What I know about a man is that things and electronics and digital doodads and toys may seem to be what he is thinking about but what really matters is the love he feels for The One in his life. He is grateful even in his quietness for the connection that has permeated his life. What I know about a man is that even if the world ends, the love he feels and has felt is what defines a man and is his signature left on the world.
What I know about men is from my many teachers, my sons, my husband that was, my father, my brothers, my boyfriends and lovers and guy friends, and fellow warriors, my teachers, my neighbors, my colleagues, my classmates, all the men who have touched me, my life, my dreams, my mind, my heart, my being. What I know about men is that they love and love to be loved. What I know about men is good.