Writer’s note: I wrote this not to advocate any position, or to say anything in particular. It’s simply a collection of observations, stories, hushed chats and whispers. There’s stories in here that aren’t my own, and it’s certainly not my intention to sound like I’m advocating a position. It’s in a minor key, it’s a bundle of observations and a collection of mumbles.
Bekka’s turning 18, coming of age, party at mum and dads. Scotty spins the tunes and dad throws up the fairy lights, mum caters to fill teenage stomachs – it’ll come up in the front paddock in a few hours anyway.
Mason’s got a new truck, lifted with an LED bar light to be seen from space. He’s the first to arrive at this festive event, and his country dimples cover valleys of insecurity. Cowboy hat bent at the front, ma and pa secretly hope he’d turn his eyes towards their Bek – if only they knew.
Stace, Maria and Bree tumble out of someone’s back seat, pre-loaded. Dressed to the nines, their heels sink into soft country soil, squealing with each squelch, their lives work to snob you off.
Jase makes an entrance, circle work in his beat up ute. The joker, always the laugh. Bekka’s beau, the half bottle of cheap bourbon held by it’s neck. He’s the joker, but she’s got a creeping suspicion the joke’s on him. 20 years old, on the same an hour, with no prospects of increase.
Family comes, smiles abound. Uncle Frank and Aunt Nina, there’s grandma and gramps. Cousins of all ages. Dad playfully grabs Danny in a headlock, trying to explain that his sodomite son is merely creative, like you can try to explain the gay away. Thanks dad, but they both grieve, unable to move past recent revelations.
Raye and Chrissy sit in the tray of Mason’s ute, necking cheap vodka straight from the bottle. He could have both in a heartbeat, but his sights are set on other targets, perhaps tonight he’ll pipe up the confidence to tell her.
Dwayne sings along to the country ditties, he’s unusually talented that way. Laughing off the compliments, he wonders how life might be different if not yoked with three generations of expectation breathing down his neck. Still, he hums along, wondering, even for a second, if things were different.
Kal, as everyone agrees, is classic wife material, the mother hen of the group. She chats CWA with mum, half an eye on Danny, blissfully unaware he’ll make no woman honest. She mistakes his compliments for flirting, and the thought crosses his mind that perhaps he could fake it, until he made it.
Speeches, and mum and dad praise their perfect Bekka. She spies Jase, he’s getting amorous with Raye, and way too close to his bourbon. She pats her tummy – a week late, and she wonders how daddy will react if she breaks the news to him.
And the party continues, and the fire crackles. They all continue to live their lives together, all in secret.
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I’ve been feeling pretty down in the dumps lately. Really badly, actually. In fact, so bad, I’ve had some terrible thoughts running through my head that I can’t shake. I went and had a chat to the GP, and it turns out I have pretty crazy depression and anxiety. Who would of thought!
I’ve been doing a few ‘self-care’ things – trying to exercise, eating better, sleeping better, listening to more positive things. It probably is making a difference to my overall mental and physical health.
One of my fav websites is the Art of Manliness. If you haven’t checked it out, do yourself a favour. They’ve put up a recent post, ‘What Does It Mean to Be a Man? 80+ Quotes on Men & Manhood’.
If you’ve ever spent time at the beach, especially if you’ve surfed (or done something similar), you’ll know that the formation of a wave starts way out in the ocean. Winds blow over the water, creating cycles of water that start rolling across the ocean. These form waves, and when the water gets shallow, these rolling cycles topple over – these are the waves you see breaking on the shore. The strength of the wave usually depends on the force of the wind blowing across the ocean and the bulk of water behind each wave. It’s why, sometimes a wave can seem small, yet carry the weight of the ocean behind you and crash into you with great, great force.
This post, ‘What Does It Mean to Be a Man? 80+ Quotes on Men & Manhood’ for me is like a wave that has generated many miles out to see, blown across the ocean by winds and forces immeasurable. Even after reading a few quotes on masculinity and manhood, I was bowled over by the commanding words, encouragement and grit these heros of old had to offer.
You’ve probably heard the term ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ before. I’ve never really thought of that term, until recently. Until reading those quotes. Are they inspirational? Not entirely. So why have these great quotes inspired me? It’s because they carried me. They carried me, like the ocean’s surge propels a surfer through the water. I was carried by something that started many eons ago, propelling me to something way bigger then I could ever imagine.
For a while now, I’ve been struggling against an outgoing tide in my mind. I’ve felt like the contributions I make to my family, my employer and society have all been for nothing. I’ve felt like letting go and allowing the outgoing tide to sweet me out to sea. To forget about all that’s important to me and live a life that’s swept around by the whims of nature. Reading these quotes, however, it’s like being propelled towards a goal I never thought obtainable before. Reading the wisdom of men, passed down from generation to generation – it’s like a surging ocean pushing me out of the tide of despair, and forward towards all that I hold true.
I want to leave you with a few quotes from the abovementioned website, ones that have resonated with me, encouraged me and made me feel like I was truly riding the surge set in place many generations ago
“The greatest thing a man can possibly do in this world is to make the most possible out of the stuff that has been given him. This is success, and there is no other. It is not a question of what someone else can do or become which every youth should ask himself, but what can I do? How can I develop the best possible manhood?” Orison Swett Marden
“Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor” Norman Mailer
“One cannot always be a hero, but one can always be a man” Johann Wolfgang van Goethe
“Opposition is what we want and must have, to be good at anything. Hardship is the native soil of manhood and self-reliance” John Neal
There’s a stack of ways, good ways and healthy ways to help manage depression and anxiety. For me, it’s been standing on the shoulders of giants, and feeling the surge of generations past lifting me up and pushing me to be the best man I can be.
The wilderness. A place far away. The wilderness of the soul. The wilderness of relationship. The wilderness of being. A place where all senses are both parched, starved and then finally, restored.
I’ve been pondering times when I, and those around me have been in the wilderness. When ones I’ve loved have been far away – either physically, mentally, relationally or spiritually. Times when no amount of reaching out could save them from the scorched earth they have found themselves in.
History is littered with times of people who have had wilderness experiences. Some are self-imposed, some are enforced by outside forces. I think of Joseph, head filled with dreams and promises, sold as a slave. I think of Moses, wondering around the Middle Eastern desert for many, many years. I think of David, who was promised to become king, running into the desert for his life.
All these stories have similarities. These men’s lives start full of promise – whether it be dreams, a royal upbringing or a promise of greatness. I think of a life changing event or events these men had – challenges on their life, a fissure between their promised glory and their present reality. I try to empathise with these men – how would I react if everything I held dear was ripped away from me? My home, my family, my comfort, my stability taken away and I was flung into the desert.
There’s a few ways we can react when we are having a wilderness experience. When everything seems far away, when even a little comfort seems unattainable. When we thirst for refreshment of the soul, of the mind, of the spirit or some nourishment relationally.
I guess there’s a stack of ways you can act when you’re in the wilderness. You could just let it overcome you. You could fight it out. You could go into survival mode. I guess everyone is different and deals with those experiences differently.
The more I hear of people that have had ‘wilderness experiences’, the more I see an emerging pattern. After being in the wilderness, there’s a restoration, but that restoration is always a choice. People generally don’t chose to stay in the desert forever. We all know the aforementioned stories end – Joseph does not lose sight of his visions, regardless of what life throws at him (and a stack is thrown at him). He stays true, he believes, he is lead through his many wildernesses. Moses? He led the Israelites out of Egypt. That’s no mean feat! David? From shepherd boy to giant killer to desert wanderer to King.
Here’s the crunch. What were those dreams you had in your heart, all those years ago? Where are they now? Have they been snubbed out by life? By a wilderness experience? Maybe your partner walked out on you. Perhaps you lost your job. Maybe your faith has been battered by the storms of life. Maybe the lure of riches ended up just being a rusty fishhook.
I truly believe those dreams were put in your heart for a reason. I also truly believe sometimes we need a wilderness experience to remember those dreams. To remember what it is you believed in, those many years ago. You don’t need to be in the wilderness forever. You don’t need to be separated – from life, from promise, from relationship, from destiny, from hope forever.
What has being in the wilderness taught you? When all has been stripped away, what is really important to you?
What’s stopping you from getting out of the wilderness? Pride? Past hurts? You’re right on your own? You like being in the middle of the desert? Whatever it is, you can be restored – but you need to make the decision.
Look around you – the world is full of stories of the odds being battled. Of sunshine after the rain. Of the stillness after the storm has past.
It’s time for you to write your story of coming out of the wilderness.
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