It’s raining. Was sleeting early, but the temperature mercifully cracked the freezing point for the first time in awhile.
I sit at work alone, everyone away, like a young Scrooge left behind at boarding school. But it is good for getting work done, and I am thankful we have it.
The young man I work with is in Vegas at a weekend bachelor party. Because I am his FB friend, I get to see the posted images from the trip; a big group of men, all good friends, out having a blast, all arm in arm in the bold, drunken camaraderie of youth. Facebook once again reveals its double edge sword, of giving a window into worlds, experiences I have to resign myself to never having.
On the positive side, things are continuing to improve. Going to the gym I now finally feel a comfort level among the men and women there. Banter is coming more easily, though it is something that will never come naturally to me and I have to keep working to improve it.
The mens’ meeting I go to also has been going well. For the first time in my life I feel comfortable among men. No forced interaction or small talk, no macho platitudes or attitude. Everyone gets real with each other. For a brief moment I feel connected, appreciated and, just perhaps, understood.
I have pledged to keep what happens at the meetings secret, but I need to write about what happened to me at the last one. I wonder if it really happened, as it was unusually intense and unreal. I have told no one outside the group.
The structure of the meeting is to prepare the men for doing “work”, that is, working on something an attendee does not like about himself. No one is required to do so. So, for that part of the meeting we all state what is it we would work on that evening if we could.
I described an experience I had earlier in the week that reminded me of my feelings of alienation from others. “It’s pretty stupid.” I said, feeling foolish for even mentioning it. But something, perhaps in my face or tone, tipped off the others they were dealing with something greater than my depiction.
When the determination came of who would go first, to a man they all looked at me.
“You don’t have to work on this now if you don’t want to.” the group leader and elder spoke quietly.
At that I grew rebellious “I’ll show them how silly this is.” I thought, and agreed to go ahead.
Without revealing specifics, after various exercises I found myself on the floor, almost in a ball, in surprise and shock as wave after wave of brutal emotion appeared. Out of nowhere, a violence of sadness, frustration and anger, so long buried, repressed, erupted again and again. All I can compare it to was a stomach virus that comes fast, out of nowhere. You hurl uncontrollably, and when you think it is over, more comes up barreling like a freight train. I alternately sobbed and cursed in anger, most of it welling up from long ago; some from the moment, as I was angry at myself for making such an scene. I suddenly realized the men had gathered round me; I felt someone’s hand on my back, in protection and comfort. It could have kept going on and on, which is a scary revelation, but I forced myself to put on the brakes and regain composure. That’s how it ended.
I drove home from the meeting in silence; did that just happen?
How many of us carry around such emotional cysts, reservoirs of grief, sadness, shame, negative feelings of all kinds, like a poison, without a clue that it is there? What cues was I giving out that tipped the group off that this needed to be dealt with? Work for future meetings, I gather.
When I got home my wife asked how the meeting was.
“Fine.” I said. “Just fine.”