“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
― A.A. Milne
. . .
. . .
I’m surrounded by moving boxes as I sit and write this. One week from today, we hit the road and head back to the midwest. And while there’s plenty to do between now and then, all I can think of at this moment is what I won’t be bringing with me.
Or rather, who I won’t be bringing with me.
Over the past few years, I’ve realized that the Joe who left Indiana was numb and dormant in so many ways. I’d worked so hard at avoiding emotions that I’d nearly broken my ability to access them — and those of others around me. And as a result, it impaired or even ended many of my relationships — specifically with good men I knew.
Good friends who, in retrospect, I knew more of than I actually knew.
We’d talk sports. We’d cover weather, work and politics. But the second a feeling wafted through the room, I’d find a way to dodge and deflect — lest something deep and meaningful be absorbed within me. Because I was sure the more I invested the more I’d likely be abandoned.
But that’s not me anymore.
Maybe it’s a pandemic. Maybe it’s the aging process. Maybe it’s a decade of therapy. Or may it’s being apart from the men I didn’t know I loved and needed so much.
But all I know is that I’ve had a bit of an awakening in my body, mind, and spirit the past few years. And now, I feel real feelings in the cells of my body. My chest hurts when I’m thinking of someone in need. My body tingles when I’m excited. It tightens when I’m stressed. My eyes well up and tears release without hesitation when I’m happy and sad.
In short, I’m more alive and more whole than I’ve ever been.
And it’s this Joe who will be returning to Indiana. It’s this Joe who will be looking for a return to the relationships with men I once knew — but in real and honest form. I’ll be wanting to wade in deeper waters of friendship and wondering if you’d trust me or trust yourself to go there. I’ll be asking how you are and be far less satisfied with “fine” as a response. I’ll be curious how it’s going for you as a dad, husband, brother, and son, and doing my best not to fix anything by your response.
Because it’s okay — no, vital — that we admit to each other when we’re furious, motivated, apathetic, grateful, or all of the above. It’s essential to share when we’re afraid of our futures or ashamed of our pasts. It’s necessary that we stop trying to carry everything in silence. It’s okay to ask for help. Because that’s when we can stop hiding and start healing.
That’s when we can find better MENtal health.