(Anesthesia) Pulling Heart Strings
It’s interesting what gets attached to our sense of beauty and joy. How memories, things we connect to in our early (and formative) years can bring us into a moment of reflection. Well, this is true for me, anyhow.
I found myself a bit surprised by the reaction I had when I got to hear the recording of the San Francisco Symphony’s Scott Pingel performing a tribute to Cliff Burton on the new Metallica Album S&M2. I can remember being blown away by Burton’s solo so many years — decades! — ago. Hearing this tribute actually brought tears to my eyes.
I can’t imagine that Burton had this kind of reaction in mind when he wrote his famous bass solo. But I do imagine that he wanted it to go right to the heart.
Where all good music is meant to go.
This is what was bequeathed us, by Gregory Orr
This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
Left to us.
No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.
No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.
No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.
That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
What have we been bequeathed? Certainly there are commons we share. And we each have our own inheritance to be with — to be blessed by / to wrestle with / to become.
I asked the circle of men this morning:
What have you been bequeathed…
…that has brought you blessings?
…that you’re wrestling with?
…that you wish to let go…or to pass along?
Sometimes we have been bequeathed a trauma. Sometimes, however, it is something about the way we view the world that we can’t explain. Who are we? How did we become who we are?
It’s easy to want to make this about decisions we’ve made in our lives. It seems to me, when I sit with the poem above, that perhaps there is more to it than that.
Finding the way back
It starts, as David Whyte might say, close in.
Sure, it seems like I can’t figure out the problem. It sure feels like I just don’t have the tools, like I’m somehow not up for the task. Sure, that sense triggers all of the voices — learned to call him the ‘inch worm’ in one of my (many / many / many) men’s group processes. You know the ones (lucky you if not).
You don’t understand.
You’ll never quite understand.
Who, exactly, do you think you are?
It’s tempting to be in this space and assume that this is a problem of knowledge. Of information. Of skill. But, not really. Sure, those things are there, but where does this actually…start? We’ve established that now, haven’t we?
In a moment of clarity (thank Gods for this), I remember the body. What is closer in? I remember the nervous system, and the way that trauma lives inside it. I remember that there are ways back — back to present, back to clarity, back to the humility of knowing what I know and not knowing what I don’t.
I wrap myself in a blanket — giving myself a warm hug from shoulders to belly; as tight as can be. I can feel the edges — ah…the edges! When trauma visits in the infant years, the edges disappear. We fall into an endless abyss. What but fear could survive this space? But the edges provided by a $50 yoga blanket provide what wasn’t provided all those years ago. The possible collapse softens. The edges emerge. There I am.
There I am.
There I am.
It feels nice. So I fall into a deep sleep. First rest in a couple of days.
And, now? The problem feels like less of a problem. I see the tools I have and, more importantly, the willingness to step into what I’m stepping into. I’m in love with the idea once more.
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
way of starting
Good, useful mistakes
I just wrote these words in my journal:
I just want to make some good, useful mistakes.
They were written on the heels of a sort of freestyle poem — a poem I doubt will see the light of day. It’s a bit self-pitying if I’m being honest. But the end result was that statement up there.
‘Good, useful mistakes.’
What does that mean? I’m not 100% sure, even though it was my hand, under the direction of what I assume was my mind, that wrote it. Here’s my take: Try things. Throw things up on the wall. Fail. Fail hard and fast. Each mistake has the potential to steer us toward where we’re heading.
And where is that?
Toward the questions that occupy our life. Toward even better questions than those.
Keep moving. Don’t stop — except to rest. Rest is critical.
Every mistake is good. Every mistake is useful.
Let’s make them.
When the pandemic became a reality to us here in the US, I found myself wanting to find a way I could reach out and support people. Pretty quickly, my friend and business partner Shannon and I plugged in with A Human Workplace, facilitating gatherings for people to process what the hell was going on. I also found myself thinking about men — what was going to be the experience of many, many men during this time? So, I decided to put out an invitation, and Men Connecting was born.
Over the past four months, this little gathering has turned into something special; something I couldn’t predict. I had originally envisioned a meeting space where 20 or so men would come and support each other and move on. What emerged was something entirely different. A smaller group…generally three to eight or so, that are committed and caring for one another…meeting weekly. There’s been a growing core group, and then another layer that come often enough to know and be known. This week, after four months, I decided to ‘seal off’ the current group as there are enough men coming that we can count on a great conversation each week. Sealing it off also helps create a container that can go deeper. I’ve even started cooking up some thoughts for a ‘virtual’ retreat for us to experience together.
The group meets Thursday mornings from 9 to 10:30. It’s my favorite part of the week. We’ve evolved from doing exercises that I bring in to supporting individual men in their work. And what work it is. These men aren’t holding back. They are bringing forward their life challenges. Crying together. Celebrating together. Being in community together. It’s awesome to see.
Whenever I start writing on something that feels really familiar, as this does, I look back at the archive of these posts to see if there’s already a topic I’ve forgotten about. When I did that a few minutes ago, I turned up this post from almost two years ago. Tears swelled in my eyes as I read this post, and recalled that moment. One of the things I’ve heard a lot since starting Men Connecting is that a lot of men don’t have the kinds of relationships that they long for. Yet they are finding it in this little rag-tag group that has found its way together.
From Tennessee to Arizona, from Montreal to San Diego, these men are caring for one another in ways that disrupts, I believe, the conditioning of a patriarchal society. They are connecting. It’s fucking awesome.
As I mentioned, I’ve sealed this group so it can go deeper. However, I think I’ll be starting up another soon. This isn’t about building a big movement. There are plenty of places doing that. It’s about creating the space for real quality connections. It’s about building some culture. We’re doing that together.
If you’re a man (or know one!) who might be interested in joining when the new group gets going, you can connect with me for more info here.
I was talking with a new friend yesterday about various things in life, work, well, life. She was sharing what she thought might be a professional opportunity. It was an opportunity where she would be able to have a real impact on people doing incredibly important work. And she’s uniquely positioned to make this impact given both who she is as well as experiences that she’s had. At the end of her telling me her (actually pretty heart-wrenching) story, she said, “but personal stories don’t really belong in these kinds of professional environments.”
[If I’d had my wits about me after she said that to me, I would have said something like, “Pardon me while I preach for a moment.” I wasn’t as clear then as I am now — a speech is coming.]
If I had a nickel for every time I’d heard someone express a similar sentiment. I believe that this is one of the most toxic beliefs that’s been forced into us. Many of us (most?) have introjected some version of this idea. We seem to have been sold on the idea that we can leave parts of who we are at the front door, as if there was a locker where we put our emotions, hopes, traumas, joy, and on and on. This is, of course, ridiculous. That doesn’t stop us from believing this. And acting accordingly.
You were born. You were born in a time and a place. You were born in a body with certain characteristics. Regardless of what those are, there are certain inalienable rights that come with that experience — being born. One of those rights — a primary one, I’d argue — is to experience all of your life.
No one knows what it will be, but your life will have a length to it. Is it predetermined? Is it a result of just choices you make? The jury is still out on that one. That said, it will have a length. It also has a width and a depth. What’s found in that width and depth? The fullness of what makes you a multidimensional being who has grown, hurt, loved, celebrated, grieved, and on, and on, and on. The time that you were left behind by your friends is there. The cry for attention in your family. The time that you felt the deep love of a grandparent. It’s all there.
To constrict any of this is to ask you to strangle a part of you. To kill a part of you.
Every meeting you go to. Every interview. Every social gathering, it all comes with you. It’s in the room like a vapor. It surrounds you, informing how you see and experience what’s happening. And everyone with you? They are surrounded as well. Indeed, everything that’s happening around you, in a way, is the result of a set of experiences encountering one another. There’s nothing else that could happen.
And it’s your birthright that you should get to feel and experience all of it. That is my stand on this. You have a right to every ounce of that. And no one has a right to tell you what you can and cannot bring forward. And no one has a right to tell you what to ‘leave at the door.’
Of course, it’s also your right to decide what to share, and when. This might be because of safety. It might be because you choose it’s not appropriate (or even better, relevant) for a given situation. But it’s no one elses’s right to tell you what is and isn’t appropriate — or relevant. Of course, they get to be with their reaction to what you bring forward. That’s theirs to own and be with, just as your reaction to them is yours.
So, what do I think of my friends story? I think if she thinks it will move the hearts of people in room (and, trust me, it would), than she should tell it.
And you should tell yours. You get your full span, just as I get mine. We deserve it.