Helping men who feel something missing in their lives

The Disquiet in Men

Helping men who feel something missing in their lives

Man Space

The lost art of hanging out

When you were growing up, do you remember the great jokes
and exotic smells in barbershops?
Or the sense of real
adventure in discovering treasures at the hardware store?
And how much you learned about women, politics and economics
at the garage?

These were the places where growing up, I learned about
what it means to be a man. Going with my Dad to get a
haircut, hunt for a valve for the leaky toilet or sitting
on a step drinking a coke and hanging on every word of
conversation echoing in the garage, were times when I learned
a lot.

I now use much of what I learned from those times. I know
how to use humor and banter to connect with someone. I’ve
become skillful at eliciting how my boys are doing in school
and in life, not through an interrogation, which only gets
a grunt or a mumbled answer like, “s’ok”.

Instead, I know to weave in with my questions the stuff
they are interested in. I learned that from listening to the
flow and pace of conversations in those places of men.

Now, from just a casual exchange, I can check out how others
are just like me.
We struggle with bodies that are growing
and looking older yet I still feel like a kid inside.

Or I can find out how others are also feeling dead in their
jobs as I once was, all through a language of joking and
venting. And in the process, I often pick up a tip or two
on how to navigate these struggles.

I also learned how deep-in-my-belly good it feels to just hang
out.

This is a big topic coming up in my interviews with men as part
of an ongoing study about the Disquiet in men’s lives.
This
Disquiet has been described as an unease or a restlessness.

While there is a real desire for community, most men are not
interested in meeting just to explore their feelings.
One
man captured the sentiment by saying, “I don’t want to sit
there and talk about my feelings…I don’t have time for that”.

But he stressed, along with others, that it was really important
to not feel alone but to be supported. Everyone I have interviewed
so far has said being in community is needed.

So it seems to me this idea of men coming together is pretty
important, especially as a way to explore our Disquiet.
Not
that you have to talk about it directly, but you know, touch
on it, share one aspect with someone else who would know
what you are speaking about.

Remember when you could ask your friend, “Hey have you ever….”?
Wouldn’t that be great to have in your life right now? Where you
can hear a gentle joke or a story that let’s you know you aren’t
crazy and you aren’t alone?

Look around in your life. When was the last time you just hung
with a male friend or a group of buddies?
A while ago? Not
since college?

I know, it’s hard. Life is complicated now and there are all
those commitments. But I am finding out it’s important to make
the time.

So dust off some of those phone numbers and email addresses of
old friends and get reconnected. Make a hole in the schedule
to find time to gather over a football game, change the oil
with a friend, or frame out the shed with some neighbors.
And while you are doing these things, find ways to connect and
converse.

If you’ve lost touch with everyone, start fresh with someone
new. Look for ways to connect with someone while you are
doing something.
Nice and easy, like just shooting the breeze
in the neighborhood garage.

And when you get back into that place among men, enjoy the
banter. Revel in each other’s experience and wisdom. Remember
what it was like to learn important things through the easy
conversations, the mundane commentaries and all while, having fun.

Let me know what your thoughts are!

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4 Responses to “Man Space”

  1. Art Conn Says:

    This story about learning from older men touched a soft spot for me, especially the part about the sounds/smells/conversatons of a workplace. I have fond memories of my dad’s place, they called it the drug workroom because they manufactured all sorts of cosmetics, hand lotions, smelly stuff. In retrospect, I see how I learned there how admired and loved my father was by those he worked with. Too bad I didn’t see it at the time.

    We need places where men can talk and be men and have younger men around to overhear, to learn, to reflect. Happens on the farm, maybe in the dugout, but tough in the city.

  2. Dave Schoof Says:

    Art – I can almost smell your dad’s workroom. It always amazes me how powerful our sense of smell is in our memories.

    As I sit here, I can recall the smells of printing houses that I saw when I accompanied my dad on his rounds. As I sit here, I can smell the inks, papaer and other stuff, and I can actaully feel the connection with my dad. Powerful.

    You are right we need places to meet and hangout and for boys and young men to be able to seep it in – smells and all ;-)

    Thanks Art – come back often!

  3. Engaging the Disquiet » Blog Archive » First Aid Says:

    Get structures of support in place. Do you have friends and/or family who can be a supportive? Is there someone you can confide in, be scared with, strategize together, etc? It’s very common for us men, when we feel at our worse, to “turtle”. We go underground. We pull away from that which we most need. We seem to be wired to go off and try to figure it out alone. So if you don’t have any friends – make some. Really. It makes a difference. Think of where you like to hang out or what kind of things that interest you (even things that used to interest you). Go where others who share that interest hang out. It will be hard at first and you may have to fake it until you make it. You can read more about this in this article. [...]

  4. Engaging the Disquiet » Blog Archive » Do you remember war movies? Says:

    The link above will take you to a related article.

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