I LOST MYSELF

…the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:

 what have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”

Antonio Machado

Most people never really know the date, time, or place that we let ourselves slip out of sight.

I know when I got my genetically pre-dispositioned heart attack several years ago that’s when I saw myself “slip out the back Jack,” and a few years later after a couple of knee replacements and a hip replaced (God, I’m old!) and entering semi-retirement, there wasn’t a whole lot of me left in the last couple of years of my sixteen- year marriage.

I can’t tell you how many women clients or workshop participants have said, “I lost myself in this relationship,” and quite a few men have said the same thing.

In more than a few workshops and lectures I said the following:

How many of you ended a relationship, broke up, divorced and after the sobbing and grieving and anger work pulled yourself back together with friends or professional help? And then you started writing in your journal, joined a Yoga or Pilates class, meditated and/or prayed, planted a little garden, and felt better than you had in years?

And then you met this new, wonderful, personal growth lover or partner who kept nodding their head yes to everything you said – “I like coffee, you do too? I like movies, you do too?”  You can even get a recovering redneck to say he likes the ballet, and then six months later you no longer wrote in your journal, quit going to Yoga class, and your garden was now as plot of weeds?

Damn! A lot of hands go up in the air as a symbol, “Me too! I did exactly what you just said.”

So, if you’ve lost yourself or are seeing yourself beginning your own personal disappearing act, treat yourself as if you are your own best friend. Make a list of all the things you loved or still love to do. Tell your loved one if they are still with you what it was like in previous relationships and how you lost yourself and how you may be losing yourself in the present one. Ask your partner for support to hold on to yourself and still love and support them to do the same. Dust off that journal, recommit to yourself; get help if you need it from friends, coaches, and/or counselors. If you are in a relationship currently, here is the best remedy: slow down; get to know each other; court each other’s soul; be friends first because friends don’t tend to lose themselves.

Good luck.

I am not I.

I am this one

walking beside me whom I do not see,

whom at times I manage to visit,

and whom at other times I forget;

who remains calm and silent while I talk,

and forgives, gently, when I hate,

who walks where I am not,

who will remain standing when I die.

JUAN RAMÓN JIMÉNEZ

Translated by Robert Bly

I’m Not Your Mother and I’m Not Your Father: How We Speak to Adults

“…all spoke the same language. That was the time when words were like magic…” Inuit

If you are not my parent, why do I feel like a child?

Growing up in Alabama, or at least trying to, my mother almost always talked to my dad as if he were her son or her father. Dad most often interacted with my mother like she was his daughter or his mother.

The language, tone, and style never (or almost never) were adult to adult. Now, I’m not the only Alabama man who had this unequal, paternal and maternal mode set in stone by the time I came out of the womb but mastered it shortly thereafter.

“Why did you leave your clothes on the floor?”

“When are you going into therapy?”

“No matter how many times I tell you…”

“You should call your parents.”

“Why do you let the garbage or the bills pile up before attending to them?”

Folks these are statements and others like them suggest they are being spoken to a child or an unruly adolescent, but men and women – intelligent, well-educated adults – speak to each other this way on a daily basis.

“You’re not going to work dressed like that are you?”

“Honey, you need to change your dress because it’s too revealing.”

I think you get my drift. Well some couples are drowning in this sea of unsolicited criticism and all the while not exactly knowing a better way because we’ve been talking like this and hearing others talk down to or up to but never unilaterally, respectfully, and balanced.

I’ve been studying, reading, learning, and practicing a better way of communicating for over 35 years and I still slip as I’m sure most of you do.

In my next blog post, I’m going to introduce a communication concept I call “compassionate assertiveness” and how to say “No” to unsolicited criticism.

I hope you’ll join me and until then we all must remember as often as we can to try and speak this almost foreign language called “adult-to-adult.”

Moment by moment, things are losing their hardness; now even my body lets the light through.” Virginia Woolf

Courting a Woman’s Soul – Part 2: In Search of the Feminine

It still hasn’t occurred to Western man to stop looking on woman as a symbol of something and to begin seeing her simply as woman – as a human being.” Robert Johnson

Still here in 2020, most men are still unconsciously searching for their own feminine part of their being in the faces, eyes, and bodies of women.

Ironically the patriarchal mentality which still rules is what drove the Feminine almost completely out of culture and a man’s individual life.

When men finally start removing our projections of the Feminine from women, we can develop the strengths of our own Feminine or what C.G. Jung called our “anima.” When this is in process, it completes and compliments our own masculinity in a healthy positive way.

This connection not only makes a man more human, it allows him to see women – from mother, to lover, to sister, and female friend – as human beings and not as a repository for his own Feminine part of his soul and psyche.

If this is not accomplished, or I should say in the on-going process of being accomplished, by mid-life or older, the man who hasn’t accessed his interior Feminine may become ill, seized by a depression, lose interest in life, or find himself angry and abusive towards women in general.

If a woman should feel and/or say to her women friends, “I wish my husband would court my soul,” she may mean a number of things, but some of the things she actually means is that she wants her husband, lover, or partner to be more attentive, thoughtful, and show her more feeling.

A man who is stunted in his ability to feel and express emotions will not see, cherish, and hold dear a woman’s soul.

Without a man’s ability to reclaim his own Feminine he will believe unconsciously what way too many men believe that it is a woman’s responsibility to make his life whole, keep him happy, give his life meaning, and intensity and ecstasy. This is not a woman’s job.

If a man finds his Feminine, he finds his soul, and he will see a woman’s soul instead of only her physical appearance and court that woman’s soul now and possibly forever.

The minute I heard my first love story

I went looking for you, not knowing

How blind that was. Lovers don’t

Finally meet somewhere, they’ve been

in other all along.

Rumi

Picture1

Courting the Souls of the Ones You Love: the “Platinum Rule of Loving”

I was forty-something and still longing to be loved the way I needed to be. She had the same longing. Misguided like a missile missing its target, I practiced the “Golden Rule” – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So, I tried to send her love the way I wanted to be shown – showing up with flowers, buying odd little gifts from Australia or New Zealand where I spoke for years.

She would sigh and set the flowers in a vase in the curio or on the mantle, and I couldn’t understand where her enthusiasm for such gifts had gone.

Then one day, quite by accident, with no conscious thought to it, I took the rough draft of my third book into her office and said, “I’d like for you to read this and tell me what you think.”

She burst into tears and sobbed for several minutes. I’m good with tears, but I wanted to understand what the hell was going on. Slowly she stopped crying.

“Would you tell me why this touched you so deeply?” I asked.

“This is the first time you have asked me to read your work. You usually send it to Robert or Bill first. Thank you so much for loving me so respectfully.”

“Damn!” I said. “I didn’t know you really would enjoy the books about men. I highly respect your intelligence and would always value your input on my work.”

The next day I came home from work and found she had bought me several little gifts that touched me so deeply I broke down and sobbed.

You see I stumbled on to the “Platinum Rule of Love” – Do unto others the way they have been longing for probably their whole lives. In other words, send the people you love – partners, parents, children, husbands and wives – the way they, not you, the way they can feel loved. If you don’t know how they want to be loved, here’s an idea, ask them.

Last night you looked at me

So lovingly I had to turn away.

A friend said to me

There are two ways to love

Face-to-face, eye-to-eye,

Skin-to-skin

And in the other way

We give love at a distance

And hope they pick up the clues.

Yesterday I brought you a

Dozen red roses and each

One was a clue and a promise

Some day I would learn to

Love the open way of the flower.

Poem by John Lee

Conference Feb 2020john-lee-courting-womans-soul

 

Courting a Woman’s Soul

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Antonio Machado, translated by Robert Bly

By the time I met my friend who became my wife for 16 years, I had failed so many times in my youthful attempts to love and be loved.

Every book I’ve written in my 35-year career emanates out of my old failures. Courting a Woman’s Soul is no different.

By the time a man is, say 35, he knows, even if he can’t say it, that the things he has been taught, told, saw, and heard from his peers, Playboys, and yes, even his parents, do not work in life or love.

Like most “straight” young men, I was only seeing, no – worshiping, the bodies of the women I slept with or wanted to sleep with. I was un-tutored and un-emotionally intelligent.

By my 40s, thanks to about a million hours of therapy, recovery and men’s work, I finally was yearning to see something eternal – for a glimpse of a woman’s soul, bare of society’s makeup and my upbringing. I wanted to see the beauty that time and knowing enhances. Now don’t get me wrong – I can still enter the slip stream of my own latent narcissism and regress back to adolescence from time to time.

Here are just a few lines from Courting a Woman’s Soul about the moment I stopped being a naïve, irresponsible boy:

We are not going to be lovers, are we, Isabella asked timidly.

No, Isabella. You deserve the kind of love I can’t give you… If we made love, I would be one more pathetic jerk included on the list of men who have hurt you. I have hurt enough women in my life.

Why had it taken me nearly four decades to realize the difference between lust and love?

Lust takes everything and gives nothing; love gives everything and takes so little.

At first when I was working on “Courting” I didn’t have a title. I asked my wife (my ex-wife and still best friend) why she picked me to love and marry. Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “That easy. You’re the only man who ever courted my soul.”

I hope you can join me Feb. 29th at “Recovering Our Power” A conference for women inspired by the dedication of Ruth Bader Ginsburg to make women’s lives matter presented by Creative Changes Conferences being held at the Annenberg Health Science Building in Rancho Mirage, CA.

John Lee Anger (4)

The Flying Boy Letters: Getting Back to Y’all 30 Years Later

This is a most unique and comprehensive book, which is a culmination of thousands of hours of teaching, counseling, key noting clinical conferences on relationships, men’s issues, recovery, anger, regression, grief, and passivity. This small book is the “best of” 30 years.

I would be honored and appreciative of any support you may provide. Please buy it if you can, read it and post a review on Amazon; or recommend it to your friends, family, clients, and colleagues.

If you have a podcast, radio, or television program, I would like to do any and all interviews.

Thanks so much for over 3 decades of support!

JOHN

Order The Flying Boy Letters

Schedule sessions, or to bring JOHN  to your treatment facility, community group or place of worship or an interview, please contact me.

 

Conflict

“In fact, the conflict itself is creative and perhaps should never be healed.”

~ Thomas Moore

Very often men seek to remove conflict. At times that’s the best move to make. But hoping for an end to all conflict is unrealistic. Conflict is natural; it’s part of living in community rather than isolation.

When conflict arises, I can take it as a great opportunity to practice my skills. I can explore, appreciate, and learn from each circumstance. If someone flirts with my wife, I get to practice handling my jealousy and anger. In a disagreement with a coworker, I can practice seeking a task in a new way. If my teenage son wants to dye his hair purple and put a ring in his nose, I get to practice tolerance and compromise.

No matter how disagreeable on the outside, every conflict has a delicious sweet at its core – a great teaching hidden in its middle. To pray that a conflict will disappear before it has done its work on me will only lead me further into darkness. To meet conflicts with an enthusiastic good nature, to work at each one until I discover its hidden teaching, is to live wisely and fully.

Today I accept the presence of conflict in my life. I have the choice to embrace conflicts, to learn from them, to use them to grow.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Seeking the Truth

If you tell the truth, you have infinite power supporting you; but if not, you have infinite power against you.

~ Charles Gordon

I’m a man who has told lies and lived lies and listened to the lies of other men. Lying is what I was taught to do. I was told that if it hurts, you put on a smile; if it cuts or bruises you, be a “big boy” and act like you’re okay. And if you fail – fake success.

Now I want and need to tell the truth about my hurt, my pain, and my disappointments, and I need contact with other men who are learning to do the same. I also want to learn the truth about a man’s special capacity for intimacy, joy, and serenity.

Nothing less than the truth will suffice at this point in my recovery. But I also don’t want to turn the truth into a battering ram. I may feel shame and regret for past untruths, but none of these mistakes is who I really am. Not one of them diminishes me as a man. If I begin to shame myself, I can raise a shield, saying, “Stop.” If others use the truth brutally against me, I can leave.

Today I honor, search for, and embrace the truth about myself and my masculinity.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Where is the Treasure?

If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having.

~ Henry Miller

As boys, many of us learned that having a lot of toys brought popularity. As teenagers, whoever had the first car was the center of attention. If we had more clothes, money, and athletic ability, we had more dates and others envied us. To this day, many of us still seek happiness in things – a better car, a gold credit card, a more spacious house – more, always more. Where is our satisfaction? Aren’t the things we have now the things we wanted a few years ago and worked so hard to achieve? Where is the contentment, the enjoyment we expected to feel?

There’s nothing wrong with possessions, of course. It’s great to feel gratitude for what we’ve received in our lives. But if we feel driven to get more, to accomplish more and more, maybe our desire is misplaced. What we really want most is not to be found outside us. Throughout the ages, the wise ones have said that the love we give and receive in this life is all we take with us when it’s over. Together we can focus on acquiring inner peace. Then by our example, we will leave our sons and daughters this great treasure, a wealth they can never lose.

Today I’ll look at how much time I spend getting, how much I spend giving, and how much I spend just being. I have the power to change the focus of my time and life to reflect the highest good.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul

Fire

The voice at the center speaks in tongues of flame … The child in man hears his fire rise.

~ M. C. Richards

The author of the quotation above, M. C. Richards, is a potter. Fire is at the center of her art, as it is at the center of much art – indeed, of life itself. The blaze captures our gaze. Love, like fire, can sear, is not always kind, can cut through the dead wood, demanding change. Solar fire lights each day; without it we would perish instantly. The sun rises brilliantly some mornings, giving us pleasure and another new day. The sources of fire are many: relationships, the sun, a forest burning wildly, and wherever friction exits. Fire is many things: strength, power, destruction, beauty.

Some people so fear fire that they never allow its flames to ignite them. They become passive, missing the activity inherent in fire. Others move too often into the fire and are frequently burned. Crafting the appropriate relationship to fire and to fiery people is key.

Today I will reflect on fire. I may light a fire in a fireplace, or make a fire on a beach, in my backyard, or elsewhere. As I watch the flames leap, I will think about how to kindle the fire in my heart.

Excerpt from A Quiet Strength: Meditations on the Masculine Soul