Finding Your Rhythms: When to be Close and When to Separate

Entrain: “To draw along with or after oneself.” ~ Merriam-Webster

Entrainment is syncing our rhythms with someone else’s. Women who live or work very, very close to one another will entrain to another or several women’s menstrual cycles.

We are all easily drawn into other people’s rhythms.

However, entrainment is not usually beneficial in most relationships.

Most people don’t know what their true rhythms for closeness and separateness are. I know I didn’t even begin to explore my own pacing until my late thirties.

Did you ever have the feeling that you wanted to go, but still had the feeling that you wanted to stay…” ~ Jimmy Durante

Yeah, I know you don’t know the comedian, but he says it all. I would stay too long or not stay long enough. This could be at parties, other social events, and most importantly, in relationships.

Some of the beautiful, intelligent, creative women I’ve had the honor to know stayed with me a long time before kicking my young ass to the curb, or for that matter, even my old ass. But more than that, some would be very clear and committed to their own way and pace of doing and being before I got there.

I’ve asked hundreds of women what they were like after leaving a relationship. So many have said things lie, “I started yoga, kept a journal, planted a little garden, meditated…”

“Then what happened?” I’d ask.

“Then I met soulmate number 12 or 15, and within six months, I stopped yoga, my garden turned into weeds, etc., etc.”

By the way, many men do these exact same things and then “lose themselves.”

I adapted to a lover’s schedule, pace, needs, appetites, agenda, diets, etc. Why? Because I didn’t now what my own rhythms were for closeness and separateness were.

By the time my ex-wife and I got together I knew how long I could be at a social event – an hour. She would stay two or three, and we did this gladly with never an argument because we took separate cars and cared and trusted each other’s time frame needs and fidelity.

Now when I go out for dinner or coffee my maximum time for relaxed and refreshing conversation and interaction is right at two hours. And all my friends now this about me.

So, have you ever let your rhythms for closeness and separation get too far in sync and “lost yourself?”

It is one of the kisses of death to creativity, intimacy, communication, and way too often, contributes to the demise of relationships.

Here is the mysterious poem that illustrates this:

The Wind, One Brilliant Day ~ Antonio Machado

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”

Translated by Robert Bly

Every Time You Say “YOU,” You Will Pay!

The rule for men and women’s communication before, say Adam and Eve, was to not talk much about anything.  Adam never told Eve how he felt about the apple thing. Then there was a huge communication advance somewhere around the 80’s – “When you say or do, I feel…,” and then you would fill in the blank – “When you don’t show up on time I feel angry, disappointed, hurt,” etc.  To be sure this was a great break from the silent treatment.

I’ve had many clients say to me, “Well, I learned in couples’ counseling to say to my husband, ‘When “YOU” don’t make love to me often, I feel rejected, not sexy, not beautiful, and I need “YOU” to find me attractive.’”

“What did he say?” I asked. “Did you feel heard – really listened to?”

“Not at all! He got defensive and said in his harshest tone, ‘Damn, baby, “YOU” know I find you attractive. I married you, and it just seems like “YOU” are just too needy sometimes.”

Here’s what I used to do when I was not very smart just so you’ll know I learned the hard way what I’ve said so far. When I was young and dumb – when I was upset, disappointed, annoyed and even angry or hurt – “YOU” need to stop saying… or Why don’t “YOU…?” If only “YOU” would stop or start or, God forbid, I wish “YOU” would get some damn therapy. Well let’s just say my track record was not very good for this, and many other reasons, and that’s why I had to do what seems like 10,000 hours of therapy.

About 20 plus years ago I thought, “Why do I need to say, ‘When you say this, I feel…?’ Why not just say what I feel?” In other words, tell my lover, partner, parent, friend, child – “I feel…;” “I need…;” “I want;” “I hurt;” “I’m sad;” or “I’m angry.” Now you really smart people will say, “But how will they know why I’m sad or angry or hurt if I don’t tell them?”  When you take out the “YOU’S,” they can usually listen, and more often than not, even ask questions, like “Tell me what is wrong?” or “Tell me more.” If you don’t have to fend off any “YOU’S,” guess what happens — a conversation, communication — just imagine that.

So this is how most arguments or fights go, but don’t really go anywhere.

I’m going to tell about “YOU,” what you’re doing or saying, and how you’re wrong. Then he or she is going to tell “YOU” how “YOU” didn’t say that.

We tell the other person what they just did wrong, or “YOU” are not saying it right, and then you tell him/her, and they tell you, and this is a four-hour marathon where at the end I don’t know anymore about “YOU” and “YOU” don’t know any more about me – and I jokingly say, “This is too often called marriage?”

Every time you say the word, “YOU,” you will pay when you’re having a conflict, confrontation, or argument because there’s something about the word “YOU” that triggers people unless it’s followed by a compliment, and if not, we get our buttons pushed, or worse case, we really regress. As soon as I say “YOU” – the person almost always goes into defense mode. Hell, you may have already stopped reading this and are preparing a defensive rebuttal, and that is what most people do when they’ve had enough “YOU’S” hurled at them – they stop listening. “You” throws many into flight, fight, or freeze.

“I,” on the other hand, says, “Let me tell you about me, and then I want to hear your thoughts and feelings about this.” “I” tends to keep me in my adult self, my new brain, my neo-cortex.

…The truth is you turned away yourself,

and decided to go into the dark alone.

Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten

   what you once knew,

and that’s why everything you do has some weird

  failure in it.

From Kabir translated by Robert Bly

Masculinity

Masculinity means so many different things depending on who you ask. In 1991 there was a meeting set up by Warren Farrell, one of the earliest pioneers in men’s issues, at his mountain retreat in California. A dozen or so of us so-called leaders of the Men’s Movement were invited to come and share our thoughts, feelings, and positions regarding the question of what true masculinity was, among other topics, including whether or not the Men’s Movement should be politicized like the earlier Women’s Movement.

By the way, this is where I got to be friends with poet Robert Bly. He and I shared a cabin together and it allowed us to start a relationship as equals and colleagues for over 20 years. This relationship helped to forge my understanding of my own masculinity.

It is kind of ironic that the recognized Father of the Men’s Movement was a character like Robert Bly. He is one of the most sensitive, kind, generous, and generative men I’ve had the pleasure to know, learn from, work beside and be friends with. It took a wild-haired bear of a man who is a poet and a master storyteller of fairytales and ancient fables to lead men right down into their well of pain. Here is a man who blends intelligence, emotion, music, poetry, passion and love of all things into what would be considered a new definition of masculinity.

As for the question, should the Men’s Movement be politicized, Robert and I, and a couple of other early pioneers, Shepherd Bliss and Aaron Kipnis, agreed that the Men’s Movement should focus on an interior journey, not an exterior one. Women had to become political to assert their rights as equals in every way to the predominant male culture. Robert and I said, “We’ve been political; let’s go into our souls, bodies, and hearts” for answers on how to live in the 20th and 21st centuries. Poetry – his own, Rumi’s, Hafiz’s, Machado’s, Jimenez’s, and dozens of others – was a way inward, and fairytales would help those of us who listened as he said – often accompanying himself on his Greek instrument, the bazuki – “We’re leaving our time now.”

One of the main reasons I was asked to attend this little-known conference was due to my approach to masculinity. I felt, believed and taught through workshops and writing that men who are abusing alcohol, anger, rage, and drugs should sober up and discover who they really are under all the layers of addictions.

Both Robert and I are adult children of alcoholics, which greatly impeded our growth and development of our masculinity; we talked about this and other issues while we shared that cabin and for 20 years after.

So what is masculinity? I can tell you much more easily what it is NOT.

True masculinity is not John Wayne movies.

True masculinity is not who has the biggest cock or stock options.

True masculinity is not homophobic, xenophobic, anti-feminine or anti-feminist.

True masculinity is not full of rage.

True masculinity is not oppressive.

True masculinity is as tender as it is tough and tenacious.

True masculinity is a balance between the wild and the sensitive.

True masculinity is not afraid of being called names like prissy, pussy, or fags because we read, write poetry, play music, sing to our brothers,’ fathers,’ and sons’ souls.

True masculinity mentors the young men and women.

True masculinity weeps, mourns, celebrates, laughs, wonders, looks at how we were wounded and how we have wounded others and our planet.

I could go on, but the truth is that true or deep masculinity changes over time with new information and experiences and at different stages of life. It changes as the seasons of a man’s life change. My own sense of masculinity at 67 is somewhat the same as it was at 35 but also much different. My masculinity now includes a kind of patience my younger masculine self did not have with people, processes and life in general. My masculinity incorporates the old Arabic saying, “Haste is of the devil, slowness is of God.” My masculinity, while still a little competitive, doesn’t do harm to other men. My masculinity finally learned lovemaking is 100 times better than fucking women I don’t know hardly or at all. My masculinity sits on the porch much more often and drinks coffee and eats banana nut bread without worrying about calories. My masculinity demands I stay in shape, but my ego is not damaged if I don’t, and as my old friend, Martín Prechtel, would say at our men’s conferences, “Long life and honey in the heart.”

Excerpt from best-selling book The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man

The following is taken from my first best-selling book, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man. I thought it was timely to share this since I will be keynoting at two men’s events this month:

Oct 19-21 The Bubba-Buddha Men’s Empowerment Weekend for Mentor*Discover*Inspire Organization (MDI) ~ LaFayette GA

Oct 26-27 What Does Healthy Masculinity Look Like Now? ~ Sponsored by Lenoir-Rhyne University ~ Asheville and Hendersonville NC

I hope you will find something in this post that will touch you in some way, and I will be pleased to hear from you.

In 1981 I read one of the first articles about Robert Bly’s work with men in New Age Magazine. While I was moved and completely understood what he was saying, several years passed before I felt the truth told by the man who spoke to me as one who had lived my life. His father was an alcoholic – so was mine. His mother treated him like a magic person and gave him what C.G. Jung terms a “mother complex” – so did mine. He had escaped the world of men – so had I. He said that men who didn’t get in touch with their own deep masculinity found themselves unable to make commitments, hold down jobs and have good relationships. They constantly projected their souls onto the women they loved and left. These men did not have male friends because they only trusted females. He called them “Flying Boys” – I was a Flying Boy.

Unconsciously I had denied many things masculine and male in me. Though I looked and dressed like a lumberjack, I kept my hair long like my mother’s. I saw maleness as exhibited by my drunken angry father and wanted no part of such meanness. I had seen maleness via the cultural fathers who sent their sons to Vietnam to live out their, and John Wayne’s, dreams of heroism and cultural domination. I wanted nothing to do with such maleness. I looked toward the feminine and tried to look like a sensitive man who would not use his intuition to plough through people’s souls and bodies. My spirituality was deeply feminine and finally soft. During my early 30s, thanks to Bly, Laural and others, I realized that I was one who was completely out of balance and quickly approaching a “sickness unto death.”

If you fly away from commitments, responsibilities, intimacy, feelings, male friendships and your own body, chances are you are a Flying Boy. If you are a woman reading this, chances are you have loved or come into contact with a Flying Boy.

Flying Boys frequently use fantasy to escape reality. They hide in their mind/intellect, reason to avoid the pain they keep in their bodies. They appear to all but those closest to them as sensitive, gentle and completely in touch with their feelings. The truth, except in the most extreme circumstances, is that they seldom even know they have bodies and feelings.

Fate and circumstance always seem to be controlling their lives. They can’t quite make life work for themselves. When things do begin to work out or they finally succeed at something, they fly off in pursuit of another city, lover, job, degree, religion or drug. recovery treatment center image jumping between two mountains

Flying Boys are often addicted to sex, work, pain and failure as much as they are to intensity and darkness. They are constantly coming down from ecstatic highs and descending into deep, dramatic depressions. They seek the extremes and are bored with the in-between times.

Flying Boys often grew up in dysfunctional families. Their fathers were both emotionally and physically absent. Their mothers often tried to compensate for this loss. In the process, the Flying Boy learned to reject his masculinity and grew to overvalue the feminine. He experienced his feminine side vicariously through his mother and other mother-like women in his life.

Letter # 40 – Sitting on a Rock by a Small Stream

Dear Mr. Lee,

I’m sitting on a rock beside a small stream in the Memphis Botanical Gardens as I write this letter to you. My name is Thomas and I am a 25-year-old graduate student who knows where you have been. I can and do identify with everything you have written in The Flying Boy.

Last night I started reading your book and immediately felt a connection. As I would read, I would feel the tears well up in me like an oil well ready to burst; however, I had a tight lid on and it couldn’t escape. I went to bed and in the morning still had the said feelings and also questions about the woman I am in a love/friendship with. I continued to read your book and have the tears come to the surface. I knew I wouldn’t be any good at class, so I skipped and came to the spot by the stream. The point in your book that really got me was on page 67, when your father said to come home. I started crying and sobbing; thank you.

I wanted to write you and let you know how much this book means to me. I am also a fan of Robert Bly’s work and a fledgling member of the Men’s Movement. I hope one day to become a counselor and work with men and women and help them reclaim themselves.

Thank you for your work and God Bless.

Sincerely,

Sitting On a Rock by a Small Stream

Dear Sitting On a Rock by a Small Stream,

I want to honor you for sending this poignant letter in a different way than I have others.

I want to share with you one of the greatest quotes about tears from a man you wouldn’t naturally assume would come from him, but you know his books:

Men are allotted just as many tears as women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our lives eaten away by alcohol because the lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough. Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini.

We men were taught so much bullshit about tears, weeping, crying, sobbing, that most of us like you, my friend, we hold tears and put them in the tanks, barrels and drums of our own bodies, and as you said, put a “tight lid on” so they can’t escape.

I remember when I allowed myself to enter the slipstream of my own sadness it scared me. Like I told my therapist at the time something thousands of men have said to me, “I’m afraid if I ever start, I’ll never stop; I’ll flood this therapy room. A second Noah will have to build an ark.” But once I got my tears back, I told myself I’d never let anyone take them away from me again and if I need to shed sadness through my eyes, I’d do so no matter where I was or who was watching, and I’ve kept that promise to myself.

So much so that at my wedding a thousand and one years ago, my best man, Robert Bly, gave a toast; he said, looking at my wife’s family and friends and my own, “What can I say about John Lee? He is a great weeper, and he’s taught me to grieve and I wish I could be more like him.” After those words were spoken, I didn’t hear anything further from my friend’s mouth because I was looking at the mouths dropping open from Susan’s mother, dad, uncles, and cousins thinking, “Okay, Robert, thanks. Now my in-laws are worried.” But I wept as he said them. So you keep letting your tears come out and never let them be taken from you.

Oh, one more thing. Men carry handkerchiefs not for the women they love necessarily but for our grief that could come pouring out anytime, anyplace.

Take Care,

JOHN

 

2016 Minnesota Men’s Conference

The Minnesota Men’s Conference is near and dear to my heart, and this link will take you to an exciting and worthwhile opportunity to help others. I hope you will consider giving back to this cause. Please click here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/2016-minnesota-men-s-conference-poetry#/