For decades I suppressed and hid my emotions, operating on the belief that is what a real man should do – especially with expressions of fear, sadness and need for belonging. So, being an even-keeled, perpetually calm and staunchly independent guy should have felt good.
The suppression became more and more extreme over time. To give you an idea of how detached I became, a colleague once said to me, “I have a question for you as someone who is emotionally vacant.” That should have been a wake up call, but the emotionally vacant march forward continued for years. My plan was to remain on top of the growing pile of suppressed emotion. But the plan was a complete failure and eventually it became harder and harder to keep marching. My existence became a miserable one, suffocating under the pile.
It seems obvious now, but for an excruciatingly long time I was blind to the fact open expression is a necessary part of really being alive. Getting to a place of expressing more often and doing so without worry has not been easy, and there is more work ahead. Talking about my feelings, especially with another man, is linked with fears of judgment and of being shamed for softness and weakness. This poem is about my ongoing learning process to sever those links and continue growing.
Neither judgment nor shame has ever resulted from my moments of open expression. What has resulted is a happier and stronger man. While typing this introduction, I feel the pain and harm from my years of suppression and there are tears in my eyes. That does not make me less of a man; it makes me completely human.