My last post, Craving Community, wasn’t the most uplifting to write. Maybe you are someone who enjoys reading about the loneliness of a random blogger, but it didn’t feel great admitting to the internet that I’m a bit lonely during the hours of 9am and 3pm (when my kids are at school). With that said, I’m certainly glad I wrote what I did. I’m glad because getting these thoughts out of my head is therapeutic. It makes them less scary and enables me to see the thoughts for what they are – ruminations that do little to productively guide my days.
This loneliness is something I have been thinking about for a month or two. While I have been talking to my wife about some of these things, I have also been “working” on these issues with a men’s group that I attend on a weekly basis. If you’ve been following along on this blogging adventure, you’ll know that I have written about my experience talking with counselors, psychologists, and business therapy groups in the past. I can’t tell you if I believe in god or not, but I can tell you that I believe in mental health help.
In my experience, the thoughts that swirl inside my brain are the most destructive and powerful forces in the universe. Case in point: On Sunday, I spent a wonderful day celebrating birthdays with family, seeing Santa with my kids, and having dinner with friends. Prior to 8:00pm, the day was fantastic and if I had an Instagram account, there were at least 52 insta-classic photos to share of all the celebrations. What wasn’t Instagram worthy was what I did upon coming home from dinner at 8:00pm. Walking into the house, I was met with a scene right out of a college dorm; you just have to replace the beer cans, bongs, and blacklight posters with headless Lego people, crumpled wrapping paper, half finished puzzles, cheese infested blankets, and enough arts and crafts junk (I mean masterpieces) to fill an entire Michaels store. My kids had claimed war and it was clear that their forces had occupied every room in MY house.
Rather than acting like an adult and flushing both my children down the drain (to eradicate the core root of the problem), I remained somewhat calm on the outside (kudos to the meditation practice) and decided to be mature and responsible about the whole situation. Instead of losing my shit (not yet anyway), I proceeded to passive aggressively say the following to my wife:
“Do the kids REALLY need all these toys?”
“Did YOU let the kids start opening their Christmas presents?”
“We really NEED to get the kids to put their stuff away”
“How come they have their shit in every corner of our house?”
As the passive aggressive barbs were being thrown at my wife (out of ear shot of the kids), the voice inside of my head was saying things like,
“We need a bigger house!”
“The kids are ungrateful little punks!”
“My wife isn’t listening to me!”
“She doesn’t care about this mess!”
“I’m completely alone in this. Burn the building down!”
If you were a fly on the wall, watching this episode unfold, you would have thought that while the house was relatively untidy, you were just witnessing a young, healthy family go about their day. Said another way, you wouldn’t have thought there was a problem at all. However, there was a problem. While my children were happy, running around and carefree after a great day and my wife was trying to rally them for bed, there was a fight brewing up in my head. With no one in danger, sick, or troubled, I was creating a problem like milk spilled in a car seat creates a stench.
After angrily telling myself, “CALM DOWN YOU SOB!!!”, “JUST BREATHE!!!” and “IT’S NO BIG DEAL!!!”, I eventually lost the war, not with my kids, but with myself. I can’t really remember what I said or did next, but in technical terms, I acted like a bigger asshole (then I already was), to my wife. After putting the kids to bed, I was served a healthy (and deserved) dose of the silent treatment. Finally coming to my senses, I apologized profusely to Jenny and slept off the self-inflicted sad ending to an otherwise outstanding day.
While I have come to be pretty good at analyzing my thoughts and reactions while in the moment (meditation is good for something), I have a better understanding of this entire ordeal because of the help I received from the men’s group meeting I attended the following day. During this meeting, I painfully relived the experience with the support of men who I have come to know and trust. Through a process, I was able to see a serious failing in my inability to calm my thoughts as they proceeded to turn a small “situation” (dirty house) into World War III. You will see in the previous paragraph, I “angrily” told myself to calm down. It has come to my attention, I frequently get angry when trying to curb my anger. Duh, right? Well, fighting fire with fire doesn’t work. It’s a small realization, but I am optimistic that by using more love towards myself, in situations when my thoughts are waging war against me, that I can win these battles not through anger, but through joy.
What does this look like exactly? For starters, the next time I see a house covered in toys and half eaten food, I’m going to try and see the humor in it all. There has to be something funny about regurgitated food and mildly abused Lego people, right? If that doesn’t work, I’ll try laughing at the ridiculous thoughts attempting to suffocate all the good in my world. If all else fails, I’ll be a jerk as quickly as possible, then apologize profusely to my wife and kids and look forward to my next men’s group meeting where I’ll work on “my shit” all over again, until I get it right.
For anyone interested in learning more about Men’s Groups, there was a recent New York Times article that covered two such organizations. I am involved with The Mankind Project and can speak highly of the organization as a whole. To find a local group in your area, feel free to click here.