REBLOG – Men and Grief: Staring Down the Eye of the Storm by Carlos Andrés Gómez

In tingly anticipation of Carlos Andrés Gómez new book entitled Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood, here’s a blog by the man himself. I’m hoping he considers swinging by Toronto on his upcoming book tour.

Man Up book cover

Today is a heavy day – mere hours removed from a scary shooting outside the Empire State Building and news just now coming in of another one just south of Mexico City where my sister lives.  Having lost my grandmother less than three weeks ago, it has been a heavy month.  Grappling with all of the aforementioned has had me thinking a lot about how men are taught to manage grief and the extreme alienation so many feel as a result.  It’s something I unfortunately know all too well.

I’ve been forced to confront a lot of grief in my life.  Before I’d graduated high school, I had already lost close friends and family to gun violence, suicide, car accidents, and cancer.  On most of those occasions, upon hearing the unexpected and devastating news, my focus quickly shifted from being crushed by the overwhelming grief of losing someone I loved to hastily compartmentalizing that pain and then immediately squelching how I expressed it.

I was fifteen when I heard about my closest childhood friend being killed in a car accident, and I will never forget this tremendous burden I felt to “stay strong” and “tough my way through it.”  I didn’t want anyone to know how much I was hurting.  I didn’t want to ask for help.  I accepted it as a given that I would bottle up all of my emotions and deal with them alone.  I took great pride (at the time) in the fact that I excused myself from the table to cry alone in the bathroom after my father told me the news. I never shed one tear in front of my sister and dad, and it somehow felt like undeniable proof that I was finally ready to be a man. I quietly celebrated that moment of shutting myself down emotionally, as though it were an accomplishment.  I wore it like a badge of honor that I could conceal the hurricane of emotions in my chest.

Now if only I could not cry at ALL, I thought to myself, Wow, now that would be a real man.

I have watched so many men in life buy into this same misguided and self-destructive narrative.  Men who I love and deeply respect, who have talent and gorgeous, epic hearts but drown all the magic they have inside in bottles of Jack Daniels or numb it away with needles or through pipes or with gambling.

I want all of those men to know that the uncontrollable, unplanned storms inside their chests are not only nothing to be afraid of but are, in fact, their greatest gifts to this world.  They are the things that must be expressed and shared and, even, celebrated.

Read the rest of this post on Carlos Andrés Gómez’ blog.

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6 comments

  1. Kenneth · August 30, 2012

    I’m reminded here of Tony Porter’s short TED talk, “A Call to Men”:

    • Katherine Toms · September 1, 2012

      Great example, thanks for sharing! Actually Carlos did a Ted Talk you might like:

      I got to hear him tell the story at the end of this video in person. Amazing.

      • Kenneth · September 1, 2012

        Very nice. Thanks for sharing that.

        I’m curious if you know Robert Bly’s “Iron John,” his book prefacing his call for a new men’s movement. Actually, I’m thinking of rereading it in light of Carlos, and Tony Porter’s “A Call to Men.”

      • Katherine Toms · September 3, 2012

        I haven’t read it but sounds like a great read, thanks. I find these “men’s movements” pretty interesting but it sort of puzzles me that more progressive groups that want to disassemble gender roles are often confused or lumped in with more conservative groups who want to return to stricter gender roles like the Promise Keepers. There is confusion about this even among feminists. Where do you think Robert Bly fits in?

  2. Kenneth · September 3, 2012

    A great question, Katherine–and one I’m afraid I can’t yet answer. Bly and the mythopoetic men’s movement is steeped in Jungian analysis and archetypal stories, neither of which is necessarily easy (for me) to make heads or tails of. The crux of the problem, according to them (I think), is that modern industrial societies have made men either hyper-masculine or too feminine and have created for men deep emotional wounds difficult to uncover and heal. I don’t believe this movement calls for strict gender roles but rather a way for men to explore their psychic roots and find emotional balance. It could be, however, that the larger question eludes us all: just what is a man?

  3. Katherine Toms · September 4, 2012

    There I guess is the problem – we tend to define men by what they are not supposed to be (whole emotional human beings) instead of what they really are… Which is likely just a construction of gendered behaviour a la Judith Butler anyway, but I digress… :) Thanks for your great comments and conversation!

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