Saturday, July 10, 2010

Warriors in Blood

The first indication that I had major work to do as a man came thirty years ago when I took the EST Training. After hours of de-stabilization and witnessing the self-concept of others torn asunder, I offered myself to the cruel fangs of the leader, but she inexplicably asked me to sit back down, apparently too tightly wrapped in my confident façade of good fortune and prosperity to let loose. For years, I joked that the experience revealed my biggest problem was my belief that I had no problems.

Even a divorce and second marriage full of financial and emotional stress shaping the next twenty years could not dissuade me much from that core belief. An undaunting optimism pushed one foot in front of the other, seeing challenges as opportunities in a compulsive determination to prove that all would be well if I just worked a little harder. Nearing a second bankruptcy and often locked out of my own bedroom, chinks in that armor suggested some internal wounds, but I stubbornly moved from counselor to counselor looking for corroboration in the problems surrounding me, not so deeply inside myself.

Growing desperate, the persistent suggestion of a friend to try the New Warrior Training finally aroused my attention. Witness to astounding cathartic upheavals in the other initiates, still the compassionate and confrontive container of men could not force a breakdown of my own tightly held certainty that I could control my own destiny, and in some measure, the people around me. No amount of mud smeared on my face, taunts and physical restraints designed to humiliate my façade of bravado could ignite the anger in me needed to get vulnerable. I felt the sting of a tear, but could not weep.

As quickly as the ride home, I could talk to my father on the phone about my newly acquired perspective around the “de Moll Legend”. At home, late into that first night, I shared insights with my son since his was the open door. A pen soon felt more comfortable scribbling in my hand. Within six months, I moved from a separate bedroom into my own apartment. My old guitar came out of its case.

This blog became a process of self-discovery, like a journal but shared with friends (or strangers who have become friends) as if not brave enough to proclaim my journey, the lessons might be lost. Still, despite smiles and laughter, loneliness and hardship, the exterior remained hardened, tarnished, but unyielding.

In my weekly I-group, my work continued, stories repeating themselves, but still holding myself rigidly together, eyes rolling at ritual and heart shielded. I conveniently fell in love with a woman who loved me back as a friend. One man, in particular, pushed hard and it seemed a true shedding of a tough skin might be imminent until a scaffold collapsed, changing the course of everything. Tears have welled and sometimes over-run, but I have still not been wracked with the sobs of grief and gratitude witnessed in other men.

Last night, my son, drunk and vomiting, was delivered home safely by a designated driver. For several hours, we sat on the bathroom floor in near darkness, his body convulsing at first with ugly spew, but soon with emotions deep and uncontrolled. For the first time to me he could openly lament that his innocent childhood had been selfishly spoiled by parents who chose to fight each other more often than showering love on their children. In the same breath that he could forgive me, he could actually curse the circumstances that caused such stress and declare his anger that I was unable to make it better. His body shaking with sobs, he professed to the deep and profound weariness of having to take care of us, his parents, trying to make everything okay.

He worries that so tightly held together, he cannot feel. His body refuses to let down, his emotions clutch. His heart is carefully monitored to only open so much and so far. He aches to know passion and is terrified to feel the possibility. Petrified that feelings for a young woman might turn into the kind of painful codependence he witnessed in his parents, he is attracted to women living too far away or emotionally out of reach. I know exactly of the struggle he was relating.

Embarrassed that it took the alcohol to loosen his tongue with me, embracing in the darkness, we vowed to continue on this path so different than the one I travel with my own father. All three of us yearn for love and connection, seek freedom in and from our shared bloodline. That the youngest is the farthest along, the most able to crack himself open and speak his truth, gives me hope for my own future, comforts me to know that some parts of this life I have gotten right.

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