The transition from how we were taught to be to how we want to be is akin to whittling a stick. A sharp knife is important, but so is the right angle, pressure, etc. And then there’s the vision thing: what do want it to look like when it’s completed?
When I was a young boy at summer camp, I had a dull knife and a heavy hand. I broke my first couple of sticks. As a man, I was much more patient, but I ran out of enthusiasm and patience. I would say that my only whittling success would be sharpening a pencil.
Sharpening Scott has taken sixty one years and I’m still working it. In the last twenty years, I’ve made a lot of progress, but I have no idea if I will ever say, “Done!” More likely than not, I will continue to experience some mixture of gratification and mortification at the progress made or still to come. (Hopefully, more of the former.)
This morning, I spent three hours in bed going through a kind of angst that has become all too familiar. Fortunately, I was able to spend some of that time talking to Beth as she stroked my hair, providing me with the time and love necessary to arrive at a place where I could rise up out of bed and start my day with a small sliver of hopefulness.
When we hold one another with the tenderness that our loved one needs, we heal, too. We become a temporary parent until that person can parent themselves. It’s a very intimate and trusting part of a healthy relationship. I would say that there is nothing I have experienced that compares to being held when the pain of life is too much for me to bear alone.
As I’ve said before, my journey is to move away from the myth of “self-made man” to a mature, interdependent partnership with my wife and others. Complicating this process are a family and cultural legacy of codependency, addiction, emotional numbness and self-loathing I’m still whittling away at. It is taking patience and bravery and it hurts – a lot.
I know now that I’m not alone. My life is full of people who love me and who will hold me – as long as I have the courage to be held. It’s like staying at someone’s home or having them provide a meal. All I have to do is ask – not an easy thing for a recovering, self made man!