The post is from a ManKind Project man who shares his thoughts at edmondmanning.com.
Why Didn’t You Invite Me?
By Edmond Manning, March 11th, 2008
A week ago or so, I met an interesting gent online.
We started an email discussion and immediately the conversation went to the richest places: gilded insights, masculine archetypes, and personal growth. One of those fascinating, cool connections with a wonderful someone in a far away place. He’s retired, mentor and advocate for teenagers’ rights, and he takes night walks to speak with owls and skunks.
After discussing fiction, I sent him a link from my website and he returned an email or two later with the news that he poked around, read everything, and was now planning to attend a NWTA.
The question he posed to me was, “Why didn’t you invite me?”
Sitting at the computer, staring at the email from a man I had not known a week ago Tuesday, and…his gentle curiosity pierced a rusted dimple in my heart armor. Something stuck me deep and my outside body froze solid while inside I melted memories into sticky little judgments.
Why didn’t I invite him?
After all, New Warriors has been a focal part of my life the past four years. (Five?) It’s the most powerful mens’ movement I’ve witnessed. Flawed? Absolutely. It only works with each man committed to his own personal integrity. And we’re men, so we’re all fucked with all the ego armor each of us has already accrued.
And yet I’ve watched New Warrior energy bulldoze shitty lives and leave behind strong green growth. I’ve witnessed victims shed that skin, bullies melt with vulnerability, cowards command courage, and poor of spirit men elevated to instant kingship.
Men reach out to transform their own and their brothers’ lives in subtle, really big, and massive ways. I remember during the last moments of a 2006 staffing, a twenty-something man tried to tell me what I had done for him personally, how he thought I transformed his relationship with his children. But he couldn’t speak. He just stood there with his hand clenched on my shoulder and these streamlined tears stealing down his cheeks as his eyes burned into me with unflinching love.
I understand this man now reads to his sons almost every night.
So why wouldn’t I invite this new friend - a man already a warrior in a hundred ways in his life?
Yeah, shadow. Projections, acquired ego or armor to protect from shitty stuff that happens in the world. That which we hide, repress, or deny.
I talk about Shadow a lot on this blog because it’s like March’s salty brine, that slosh accumulating on the windshield that messes up my view of the world. Instead of Spring, I am still staring at grimy residue of childhood wounds, accumulated mental garbage, miscellaneous eight-legged emotional shit that buzzed and crashed, smearing its guts in my view.
No wonder why it sometimes seems like winter in June.
I didn’t invite this man because…
The first obvious layer of shadow is my craptastic history with religion. And despite the amazing nudge New Warriors gives my life, inviting a guy to the NWTA feels like saying, “Come to my church.” (Words that make me cringe as I type.)
One of the reasons I love New Warriors is because they don’t order me what to think, how to believe, who to love. (Uh…like that would ever work with me.)
My first I-group got together weekly for three-years after the NWTA. We had a conservative Christian and a Ganesha-worshipping body worker, an IT guru and a cab driver. And me, corporate guy/artist soul. And we managed to love each other pretty damn well. So not only is diversity of background respected, it’s actually celebrated.
And yet I still resisted inviting this new friend because I was afraid of secreting the smell of church. Huh. I had better look at that again. I know there are plenty of decent churches out there, so this must just be my crud.
(That’s the thing with shadow. There’s often another layer.)
Shadow: If I invite a guy to the weekend and he doesn’t love it, it’s my fault.
Reality: I don’t control everything. If he has a crappy time, that’s his experience. We can still be friends.
Shadow: If I invite a guy to the weekend, I’ll look like a dork.
Reality: Holy crap, I wallpapered my bathroom with comic books and there’s a Mageneto sticker on the front door glass threatening would-be burglars. I’m already a huge dork!
Shadow: If I invite a guy to the weekend he’ll assume I’m totally gay for him.
Reality: Oh please. If that happens, that’s his projection. I don’t have to carry that possible scenario like a wool sweater on a hot day.
Enough swipes with the wiper fluid and the shadowy windshield smears start becoming translucent. Turns out it’s not so impossible, so measly gray out there. Could even be the sun’s out and I never knew it.
This new friend’s question gave me a bit to ponder.
And ponder doesn’t mean twist my hands over who wronged me most, nor does it mean purchasing an action planner for 2009 goals. It’s right now in this moment, this breath, this strange and wonderful place: present tense. What if I breathed a little bit and let go?
Beyond this cleaner windshield the world sparkles with billowing green trees and silver/red dragonflies zing by. I didn’t realize the sky was quite that richly blue. I ponder how I’ll handle the opportunity when it comes up again and I express some dragonfly gratitude for the gift this new friend inspired by just asking his question.
Have I changed? Am I a better man?
But I’m not measuring my life using inches anymore.
I’m measuring by miles.
Inside, I have this deep seated spark of confidence that next time I’ll be more willing to say something like, “Hey bud. You may be interested in checking out this amazing mens’ weekend. It could change your life. Add more richly blue.”