To contrast this rant, I'll intersperse it with recent family photos.
Think of this as an art project.
My Man BoxI had a lot of "stress" or "pressure" last week, and for one reason or another, wasn't handling it functionally. Those words are in quotes because it's also possible that I was just a busy, fully stocked steam engine, with no release valve.
Either way, most everything people said bothered me, such as, "You must feel disappointed you didn't go to Egypt."
Really? "Must I?". You fargin icehole. How dare you tell me how I feel? How about asking me how I feel? Ever think of that? You wingnut?
Or folks will say cheerly, "Hi Caleb."
And I would dearly want to say, "Fuck off."
In this box, I loathe even more than usual, frequent and fake laughs, repetitive anything in speech such as, "like," "as I said," "sort of," and "it's all good." Oh, and people who say the same thing twice, or three times, in slightly different ways, and people in general, and their friends, relatives and people they have met - or seen online.
What lead up to this?
A LOT! Work ramped up suddenly, with a consulting contract with USAID and a trip to Burlington for a conference, both intertwined. A trip was planned to Egypt with a week's notice, then canceled. But the contract got more intense in terms of work because it became virtual. This left me simultaneously holding down my job, ramping back up on e-textiles and laser cutting, while doing instructional design for Schoology.com and traveling 2.5hrs north and back to Burlington. I was way outside my Flow zone for sure. What I was in really was more of a white knuckle ride. But I was tough, wasn't I? Bring it on baby!
And then return to the home front after this work conflagration. I felt a bit like a mix of two stereotypical men you might recognize from movies and books. The first stereotype is the 1950's father who comes home from work and retreats to an easy chair, a drink, and silence. The other is the stereotypical rebel biker, hitting the road for freedom, leaving everyone behind who messes with him with nothing more then a middle finger and loud noise.
While I'm at it, here's a confabulation of the the rants these two stereotypes might go on. "These infidels can't possibly understand the shitstorm I just came from at work, the pressure, diverse complexity, and outside my skillset things I'm trying to do at work...while also networking so I'm employable if I lose my job. They don't know how much I'm unsure it will all work! They worry about trivialities with no realization that the entire world supported by my paycheck is at a breaking point! Are they checking in with me? They are not. There's no time for that. And if they did, they wouldn't like Daddy Downer's answer now would they? And they couldn't possibly understand anyway, since they aren't working with me and don't really care about LMSes and ISD, so, why even try to tell anyone how I feel?" Where's my drink? Or my Harley, or maybe both with a hotel room on the beach with...Oh, and I don't actually have TIME to get all touchy feely, since I have two hours of work to do after dinner and putting the kids to bed. And now it's my turn to hold the baby since my wife is on the frickin' edge after a day with two cranky kids. So we've both had a hard day, but I'm treated like I'm fresh for battle when I walk in the door, when actually, I'm just returning, and I'm wounded! But I'm a soldier. If they felt like I did, could they handle it? I think not. They'd crumble under the pressure. They would. But I'll be fine. I won't crumble, hell, I won't even say anything. You know why? because if I did, I'd do it wrong and end up in a screaming fight with my wife, instead of getting the support and understanding I really need. Oh, but I'll make it. I'm strong and tough and I get the job done. I won't complain or explain. Rat bastards. Ectoplasms! "
Tony Porter in his TED talk "A Call To Men". But I am not experiencing the parts of Tony's Man Box that have to do with women, just my own emotions.
Being a man can be confusing, because sometimes the bad is bundled with the good. It's hard to know which is which sometimes. I like a lot of "man-ish" things (which I think are not limited to men at all) that I think can be helpful to the right family. I like being the one in my household who worries about the car engine, tire tread ware, and how thick our break pads are. I clean the really dirty drains and pipes, and keep them clean - on the inside where the hair and gunk is. I think often about the condition of the inside of our furnace and I have a compulsion to grow lawn grass fast in an upward direction, that I then spend time cutting it back down, vs growing healthy vegetables we can eat, like my wife focuses on...silly wife! I often wonder if our computers need some optimizing and how much money we need to save for new windows in 2021. I'd rather make something with tools that is really hard and makes my body hurt and sweat then go to the gym and hurt and sweat. I like getting a little cut and working right through it with blood on my shovel, while I'm in the mud, in a ditch, in the freezing rain. I make sure my hands get really cold at the start of ever winter, so I don't need to wear gloves all the time. I'm pretty sure that if a big monster comes, I'm the one who will be killed slowing it down as my wife takes the kids out the back. I have hunting guns I wish I used more then once a decade. I've owned trucks. I have plans on how I'll kill small animals to eat during the zompoc.
non-violent communication ways that people respond to positively. I tend to incite folks, or be confused and neurotic, when I try and explain how I feel. Most of the time it takes me hours or days to even know.
Man Box is a good way to talk about it in two words. The sides of my box seem made of a mixture of marginalization, anger, anxiety, neglect and fear. The top of the box is definitely fear, held tightly down in my chest, over my heart. I become quiet, focused on work, wanting to be alone, or with those who can understand what I'm experiencing because they are too. Dive bars become attractive ideas, so escape, like eating lots of mac and cheese, with a bottle of wine, while watching two or three movies in a row. Or perhaps sailing.
I expressed my feelings to my wife, gently, briefly. She is amazing at receiving my baggage, if it's handled well. And I wrote this post over several days. I took a long walk, drank water, and watched a movie. Expressing is good. The fear went on its miserable way, hopefully not to another man. A kind strength came into the place of fear in my chest. It's almost all gone now, I'm more flowing at work and through some of the more complext unknown, unknowns of these two hard gigs.
Ironically, it takes more strength for me open up then for me to be in my box. If I'm really toughened up, battle ready and with my sword sharpened, being the man I want to be, the good parts of being man, then I can express my feelings. The box becomes a thing used for shipping stuff, or making forts with the kids, not for being in.