The man I would become
Is not the man I am
nor will ever fully be
but he is the one
who must decide
what this man will do
or neither of us
So, here is what most of May is going to look like on Defying Atrophy, in case any of you need a warning to avoid it…
A couple months ago I read a book called “The Velvet Rage – Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World”, by Alan Downs. It was one of those “life changers” for me.
Toward the end of the book, Dr. Downs has a chapter of various “Skills for Leading an Authentic Life”, which are not necessarily “gay life skills”, so anyone of any orientation could/should benefit from looking at these with me, unless you’ve already got it all figured out, in which case, “Well done, you!” For myself and the rest of us, I’m going to take one “skill” a day and blog about it. Some may be brief, some may be more protracted, who knows?
Here is today’s:
The man I would become.
When faced with an important life decision, ask yourself: “What would the man I wish to become do in this situation?” Take a moment and listen carefully to what your heart tells you, and after careful consideration, act on it.
For the sake of gender inclusion, let’s change this to “The person I would become”. I think it’s pretty universally applicable. Now, if you are ALREADY the person you would become, feel free to just make your decision and stop reading now. You don’t need to hear any of this.
Still reading? I thought so.
I’ve just begun to start exercising this one. I’ve made it more memorable for myself by rebranding it as WWRBD (What Would Real Ben Do)? The good news is “Real Ben” is much more accessible than he used to be. The act of coming out erased a lot duplicity, so now I only have ONE sort of messed up me to deal with :).
Not gonna lie – as a perfectionist, this “skill” has a pitfall for me: admitting that there is a “man I would become” means that I am NOT him yet, and throws me into feelings of inadequacy. But here’s the thing (and I used to roll my eyes at this, too. Hear me out): If you can push through those feelings and actually DO THE THING “the person you would become” would do, a little bit of that inadequacy falls away. It’s sort of magical.
Actually, it’s not magical. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and it works. You just have to trust the process. I always thought I was “too smart” for “act in the opposite way the lie is telling you to act”, but it turns out, fighting it was pretty freakin’ dumb.
We all know who our real selves are, even if we are too afraid to admit it. Most of us recognize when we are telling ourselves lies. So why do we believe them? Answer: years and years and years of internalized shame. And coming out doesn’t magically erase the emotional and psychological (even physical) effects of living with that shame (although it’s a big step). I was a little disappointed when I came out and didn’t feel “all better”. Don’t get me wrong, I felt a LOT BETTER, but that’s different than being “all better”. There is still work to do, and still a “man I will become”. I try to visualize him more and more. And as I visualize him, I ask him what he would do when a need for a decision arises (especially a scary one).
He’s usually right. The trick is to get THIS Ben to do what THAT Ben would do, and that takes practice.
This blog series is practice – “Ben, no one is going to give a shit about any of this and read it. Go back to poetry.”
The “person I would become” disagrees. Writing it is for ME. And MAYBE someone else? That would be a bonus.
Our hearts tell the truth, even when what it has to say scares the shit out of us. Listen carefully.
Then do it.