Small steps, Jason is what a former mentor and CEO once said to me when I was feeling frustrated from a series of failed test trials at work. I never forgot that even though the words are so simple, it resonated deeply in me coming from someone who leaned on me for the success of the project and had complete faith in my efforts. Every now and again those words pop up in my head especially when I reflect on how far I've come as a man over these last 5 years (and change). Not only am I talking about my mental health, but as a dad, friend and much more. I struggled before with managing my anger. I was the guy who cursed in traffic, worried anxiously over little things beyond my control such as the weather and other people's decisions, and was fragile when it came to my self-esteem.
I woke up this morning feeling a greater sense of calm. I still only got my usual six hours of sleep (give or take), and my cat Inori still caterwauled the night away, but for whatever reasoon I felt present. I climbed out of bed and sat on the floor, staring outside, listening to the sounds of the 7am morning with a warm inner glow. I then proceeded with my usual morning meditation and eased myself into an even greater state of peace. My morning coffee that followed tasted richer and more aromatic. My eyes beamed at how beautiful my 900sq ft apartment was and how nice the warm morning shower felt on my body.
Facing our fears is perhaps one of the most terrifying experiences a guy can have. Why is it so painful and daunting to look deep into that abyss? Is it because we're afraid we'll discover things about ourselves that we'll reject? It's painful enough if the World rejects you, so why would I delve deeper into myself and run the risk of rejecting myself? Why would I walk straight into a burning house?
I've never been a "handyman" and it still puzzles me especially in this day and age, we still call it a handy "man". Let's just say, I'm not very good when it comes to fixing or building things at home. When it comes to being a Man, what's more important to me has been listening, sharing thoughts, being compassionate, being encouraging, sharing my feelings and challenging others to think deeply for themselves. That's been more of my scene ever since I could remember as a kid, but I've only finally come to embrace in the last 5 years.
Does love mean accepting the person as they are? If that's true, we wouldn't be fussing at them to turn off that gawd awful TV show the Bachlorette, would we? Yet, we still love them regardless of their different interests. Thus my perspective's changed. You can still love someone, and not accept them entirely. So, my quest continued to define what love means for me. Here's what I came up with and jotted down...
What happens when you feel stuck? I used to have every excuse in the book for my unhappiness. It was always someone else's fault, or how shitty my upbringing was. I wasn't loved enough, or no one gave me what I needed. My negative attitude led me to a path of depression, anxiety and anger, never able to sustain a healthy relationship with anyone because I would constantly look externally for validation. So that's how I lived my life for decades. I was holding everyone else accountable for my misfortunes, when the answers all came from within.
I've been feeling a little depressed these days and thought I'd utilize some tools I've learned over the years to address it. I realized we can all get affected mentally by changes that happen in our lives. No one is immune to feeling depressed, lonely, anxious or upset, and it's important to recognize even the slightest of these feelings, and address them accordingly.
In the last several months, I've made a conscious effort to put myself out there to broaden my peripheral view on life. I not only feel a boost in my self-esteem, but I also feel that I'm socially more comfortable in my own skin than ever before. I've attended a number of social functions where I knew very few to know one at all. I've gone to business seminars and conferences that I normally would have turned down the moment I heard they were taking place, and I went on a number of dates just for the hell of it. A dear friend once told me that going on dates is like going for a series of job interviews: you gain practice and experience hoping someday for that perfect match. As it stands right now, I remain unemployed.
My delightful millennial coworker Stella often teases me at work about my Gen X philosophies and idiosyncrasies. When I was in my 20's I never would have imagined going to bed at 8pm and that's one of the many things about me that she banters about. When I explained to her that on my dating profile, I included that I like to have meaningful conversations about life, she exploded in laughter pointing out that it's far too serious and a turn-off to say that. After her brief 101 on dating, I stood back and said yikes...she's right! Thus, I elected to save the meaningful conversations about life for a blog or with my close friends only.