Disclaimer: If you were one of the men who recently visited the Intrepid Homestead, and participated (or didn't) in flipping Big Bertha - please resist the urge to think that I was analyzing you and identified you personally as one of these personas. I did not. These thoughts came to me as Bertha became a metaphor for a much bigger reality I've encountered in my own life and in the lives of men I mentor.
Being a man can be hard. Very hard. It’s a bit like being told we have to race in Cannonball Run or something.
Entering manhood from being a boy is a road that contains a lot of potholes, obstacles, and painful experiences. Most often, no one shows us the way and so we’re left to try to figure it out on our own. Hell, we don’t even know how to drive and yet – all we see before us is this road that disappears into the horizon. It’s intimidating AF, not to mention discouraging.
What if we run out of fuel? What if we wreck? How about supplies – where do we get those? Who will fix things if they break?
We don’t know what we’re doing and seem to only find out we’re doing it wrong after our sheepish attempts to do it right.
Honestly, it’s often easier to just not try – to stay in park. For many of us, that is exactly what we do.
The guy who won’t try
That is the first and hardest phase of the masculine journey through life or even a scenario. Sometimes one we re-visit many times while learning to be a man.
It feels much safer than everywhere else. Though we hate how we feel, at least it’s predictable. Not much is required of us but what is are things we feel we can at least get by doing. The car is in park, it’s clean and shiny and might even turn some heads now and again.
Sometimes we talk about the journey ahead like we’re king of the road and like our engine never runs anything but hot and fast. In reality though – we’re kinda faking it.
We feel a bit like posers and yep – we’ve got a good dose of self-loathing and hatred going on as a result but at least we’re not experiencing the full brunt of that God-awful shame and insecurity of lagging behind.
Life feels manageable here and safe. Unfortunately, it’s pretty lonely too. No one wants to be with us and we’re tired of seeing literally all the women we come across attracted to everyone but us. This just makes the shame and insecurity worse and produces more lack of trying. Sigh.
If only someone would save us from this despair! We want to leave the parking lot but just can’t seem to put the car in gear.
Unfortunately, no one will because no one can!. Only we can save ourselves from this misery. There is no way out of this space but putting the ignition, turning on the car and getting the fuck out of dodge.
We must throw off the mindsets that encourage us to stay victimized and paralyzed, stop sitting in the stagnant filth of our self-contempt and shame and get busy moving in a new direction.
The man who will try… and fail
When a man manages to find this initial spark of self agency and begins to move out of the space of waiting on others, he’s on his way. Shame and insecurity have moved from the forward view out his windshield to the rearview mirror. He still notices them, but sees them getting smaller as he gains distance and speed.
This is the season lots of action, movement and doing but feeling very little to show for it. The temptation to turn around and go back to the parking lot is immense at times. At least back in the season of not trying life was predictable and didn’t come with such a feeling of exposure and danger.
It was discouraging but the accompanying resignation was a better bed fellow than failure that feels inevitable. That’s what we tell ourselves at least.
We must keep going. We’re actually really close to entering the land of success now. Much closer to it than we are to the parking lot actually.
Fortunately, we have our good days in this space. Days we aren’t succeeding or gaining much ground, but we aren’t failing either. The engine sputters at time and things are just generally ok.
At the very least the doing, action, and agency of the driving feels good. It’s definitely not bliss but with every day comes an increasing sensation of something new, a crisp new grounded feeling in our inner being. It feels right and we want more of it.
It’s our masculinity. It’s the rewarding feeling of self-agency that we’re finding even though we’re not where we yet long to be.
Masculinity is odd though… we didn’t feel it when we were idle in the parking lot, only when we overcame inertia of complacency and lethargy and began to do.
It’s not that we don’t have masculinity when we aren’t doing, but that the full power of the masculine engine is best felt when we’ve put the pedal to the metal, and unapologetically move forward with zest.
Ahhh… we’re failing but we feel alive!
The man who will try… and succeed
Wait a minute… how did we get here?!
Suddenly shame and insecurity aren’t visible in the rearview mirror and we the finish line is just ahead. We’re killing it! I guess this time behind the wheel has been accomplishing something all along. Our diligence and effort looks like it’s paying off.
Fear is gone and in its place is a big wide grin.
We’re blazing down the road now – unafraid of losing. We’re feeling capable, in control and at rest. You know what else? We’re winning! Turns out we did have what it takes. We survived our worst fears, overcome loads of failures and challenges and reached the goal.
We can’t wait to go back to the parking lot and start over. Maybe there are some guys languishing back there that we can pull up alongside and help?
Wow – the ladies sure do see to notice too. They don’t seem impressed with the trophy of success either, but the dirt and grime on my face – the stuff that got there when I had to fix that blown tire from stupidly thinking I could take that “short cut”.
The man who needs others
Brother – no one is born knowing how to ace the masculine journey. No one. There is no magic bullet, secret formula, or special skills that some are just born with.
Every one of us needs help. How about you? Where do you see yourself?
Are you in park, waiting it out, hoping it will all just go away?
Or perhaps you are you on the road but feeling like a slow-motion car wreck in the making?
Or maybe you are a seasoned veteran wondering what to do next?
No matter where you are, you need others and others need you.
Curious where to go next? Perhaps I can help!
As a participant that tried and failed, I was faced with a bit of discouragement. I consider myself to be fit and strong and the failed attempts highlighted an area that I’ve been avoiding for years – leg day – thinking that my running and hiking were good enough. I know how important it is to have strong legs and a strong lower back. So if want to flip the tire, I need to lessen my focus on things I’m already good at and turn more attention to an areas of weakness. Another opportunity for growth in life! Because I want to be a man that tried and succeeds.