(admin-we had our database compromised and lost some users, but not before this fine contribution from a man of commendable integrity who has honestly portrayed some of his life battles sharing fragments relating to substance abuse and family struggles. Take your time reading this self-help gem carefully. Don’t pay a therapist. Reading this inspirational piece WILL uplift your life!)
All I’ve done thus far is comment on other posts. So when I was invited to contribute my own stories, as excited and flattered as I was, I’ve also been nervous as hell trying to decide what could I possibly discuss that would be interesting enough to encourage readers to comment. How could anything I say invoke any sort of open discussion? I’m not exactly up to date with current events. I occasionally read the news, but usually the sports section, and almost strictly when the news involves the Dallas Cowboys. I know a lot about all sports. But I’ve spent my life being a Cowboy fan.
That got me thinking though, at the shallowest level, that’s what makes me a man. I do manly things, therefore I am a man. That’s it, right there! I can write about what it takes to be a man in this day and age. Surely the answer is as simple today as it was 30 to 50 years ago. Or is it? I honestly don’t know. I know if my step-father were alive, he would tell me I’ve got a long way to go to figure out the answer. Are you taking care of your wife, and her needs? Are you supporting your family successfully? Do you get up every morning and go to your 8-5 job, working over-time when it’s required. And the answer to all of these questions may be yes. But do you feel like a man? I mean, when stacked against your father and the things he did that made you look up to him like “that’s a real man”.
For me, and maybe only me, the answer would be no for most of my adult life. I might’ve been doing all the same things to carry my family. But when I was alone, I always felt like I was fighting way too many personal battles with myself to really be a man. The word that’s become most popular is “demons”. As much as my dad was up against, and as much stress as he must have been under, to not only be responsible for his own 2 children, but to take on the job of supporting 2 more that weren’t his own must have weighed heavily on his shoulders. But he never showed it. And yet for me, just the responsibility of supporting my own family, and having to make adult decisions each day, I felt like I was at war with two versions of me on a daily basis. And usually I’d choose to run. Not physically. But drugs and alcohol became the way I dealt with the emotional tug-of-war.
Any man from my father’s generation, and especially my grand-father’s generation, would say that’s the cowards way to deal with problems. And they’d be absolutely correct. But I became an expert at not only hiding it, but even functioning “perfectly” with my responsibilities as a husband and father. The easiest part of this story is to guess where this behavior lead me. Two divorces, and a life as an every-other-weekend dad. But until I finally figured out for myself what it meant to be a man, I went through my day to day life not having a clue what lead to my divorces. Or, at least not knowing that I was at fault. I blamed the economy, or worse, I blamed my ex-wives.
For as long as I’m asked to be a contributor to this website, I can promise you that I will hold nothing back. I’m not embarrassed of the mistakes I’ve made in life. Maybe it sounds a bit cliche, but my mistakes have truly made me who I am today. Am I a man yet? I’m not ready to give myself a passing grade. But what I have learned is, no matter how well you provide for your family, or how big the roof is that you and your family sleep under, you are not a man until you learn to accept responsibility for your actions. That may sound like the simplest answer, and one that you saw coming. But speaking from personal experience, accepting responsibility is one of the most difficult things to do in life. There’s been no greater high in my life though, than the high I’ve gotten from figuring this out. I know now, my life is where it’s currently at because of the way I was living. It’s not anyone else’s fault. It’s not the economy. I chose to run from my problems, and allowed them to snow-ball. And that’s not how a man conducts his life. But I’ve finally turned around to face the snow-ball, and even though it’s way too big to take on all at once, it still feels good to finally be doing things the way they should be done. Maybe that’s not even the right way to say it. But I do believe that in order to be a man, you’ve got to face the obstacles life places in front of you.
Being that this is my first entry, I might be way off in what is expected of me. But I’m hoping some of you read this and see yourself in some of the things I’ve written about. Hopefully it will prompt you to ask the question yourself. Are you a man? Or do you run from the things that scare you? For some of us, that’s all it will take. Some self-awareness. Maybe you’ve gotten this far in life without realizing you’ve never faced anything head on. And you’ve been running so long, you’re not sure how to stop. Just ask the question.