Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Truth About Manning Up

“Love is born with solar flares
From two magnetic poles
It moves towards a higher plane
Where two halves make two wholes…”

–Neil Peart

Early in 1998, she left a clear directive: I want to be with you, but take care of your business, or I'm out.

It was more heartfelt and elegant than that of course, but I remember distinctly how they made me feel as I read her letter while overlooking the Pacific: like a matter-of-fact slap, one that was a long time coming, one that left a chilling burn. The wind cold, the sea cold, my heart a cold rock released from its cliff mooring to sink below the unsettled surface.

I stood in the same place that more than a half a year earlier I'd stood when I realized this was the place I'd live, only months later to meet the Mama on the beach in October 1997.

Then on to early '98 again and slipping below the surface, when the reality of my unfinished past life haunted us both. Separated, but not yet divorced, still tethered to a unhappy life I no longer wanted (and would still take a few years to unravel from), it was time to reconcile my life at that point, to man up and take care of business so the future Mama and me could have a happy life.

And we did; and we do. But I have always had time with happy, and I still sometimes allow myself to be released from my cliff mooring, the unforgiving gravity skewed by my misunderstanding of what manning up really means. 

In the above context it just means taking responsibility of one's life, of the things we have control over and can change for the better. When we do, it's freeing, uplifting, Zen-like, slowing the natural erosion of things to an imperceptible crawl.

Then there's the context of social mores and traditional, gender-specific roles that we've grown up with. Unfortunately it's the old-fashioned "manning up" ones that I get caught up in much more so than the pragmagical Mama. We're pretty together people overall, but we're still fallible and breakdown once and a while, and I for one am haunted by self-inflicted emasculation.

Take for example when our friggin' dishwasher broke recently. At least, we thought it was broken. Water wasn't spraying inside. We had no idea why. We did have it serviced a couple of years ago and decided that now that it was almost 10 years old, we'd buy a new one. But then the Mama thought we should just have it fixed again. I still thought we should buy one. Then I thought we should get it fixed, and then she thought we should buy a new one. Then we were both on board with buying a new one, the Mama researching new ones and delivery and installation costs.

I thought that was that, but that wasn't it. The Mama watched a YouTube video about what might be wrong with the dishwasher and then proceeded to fix it. And fix it she did. It worked like a champ. Too bad I couldn't say the same for myself. 

Instead of celebrating the fact that she saved us hundreds of dollars, I got frustrated, Daddy Goat Gruff style. I gave her a hard time the whole time by suggesting we should just buy the new one, and what happens if it breaks again, and what happens if it leaks water all over the kitchen. I was basically a dick, true to my gentrified chromosomal heritage.

This wasn't the first time I've acted this way when the Mama enlists her economical pragmatic magic. The struggle for me is the fact that I feel like I'm "manning down" when I don't get to the fix first, when I'm not taking care of business for her and the family. It makes no never mind to the Mama as long as somebody does. Not because I'm a man and she's a woman. Just because it gets done. 

There are things I've never cared to know about and don't ever care to learn about today. Things I don't care ever to invest the time to understand how they work and how I might fix them. I'd rather find someone who knows how to do it and pay them to do it. The Mama on the other hand prides herself in saving a dollar by trying to learn how to do it herself.

And that's okay either way when you "man up" to make it work. Since our beginning we strived to embrace each other with open arms, while arming each other with life skills to thrive together. We wrote our own vows based on mutual respect, but we were never about two becoming one, we were all about two halves that make two wholes, reveling in our individuality and differences just as much as our shared values.

As it was. As it is. As it always should B.

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