Some while ago, my partner and I were having a hard time. A really hard time! It felt like we were fighting every day. And try as I might, I just couldn’t drop my shame, stubbornness, and anger about how she wasn’t accepting me as I am.
One Saturday night we gathered with a group of friends and went to Karaoke. The blessed relief from our stuff was as welcome for us as it was for our friends! When we checked into our song room, I grabbed the laptop and began searching for my favorites! When I came upon the B’s I found one of my all-time favorite bands- the 70’s rock group, Boston. After putting a few hits into the cue, I saw the song- A Man I’ll Never Be. I looked up at my wife. I was sure she was watching me just a moment before but now she lowered her head. Smiling confidently, I clicked on the song and it was logged into number seven. I had seven songs to warm up my vocal chords, should be enough!
For three years in college, I sang in a chorus. By the end of it, I was a pretty accomplished Tenor, even though I couldn’t read a note of music! It didn’t matter because I could sing by ear- hear and replicate the notes almost perfectly. This got me a number of solos. Although that was over thirty years ago I could still, occasionally, hit those high notes. I spent the evening prepping for that one song. I really wanted her to know how done I was with pretending to be the man she wanted, A man I’ll never be! When the song came up in the cue, I rose for the occasion. Loosening up my diaphragm with a few deep breaths helped strengthen my confidence. With each verse, I eased into higher and higher notes. As I did so, I fixed my gaze more intently on my wife. I wanted her to listen to the lyrics. I wanted her to appreciate all that I had done in my life to change. I wanted her to get that I could never be the man she wanted me to be!
But the more I demanded of those eyes, the more she deliberately avoided giving them to me. When the final verses arrived, If only I could find a way, I’d feel like the man you believe I am! And it’s getting harder every day for me to hide behind this dream you see, A man I’ll never be. I opened my eyes to the cheers and applause of my friends and the vision of my wife looking down at the laptop, scrolling for new songs.
Weeks passed without any mention of the song or that night. Our arguing continued around the same essential themes: she wanted me to change and I wanted her to hear– I can’t get any stronger, I can’t climb any higher. You’ll never know just how I hard I tried!
Finally, she let me have it! “Don’t you ever sing that sappy, sorry excuse for a song to me again. I am sick and tired of your excuses about why you won’t change! Yes, you have done a lot of inner work, but it isn’t over! Talk about hiding, hiding behind your past work is pathetic! So whether you change or not, don’t you ever, ever sing that song to me again. I will not stay in the room, much less meet your eyes!”
She had listened! She knew exactly what I was trying to say and she would have none of it. With that acknowledged, like a roller coaster coming to a stop, my awareness careened into the present moment. She was right. It was true. I was hiding behind my past. I was reinforcing my unwillingness to change today by making it harder and harder every day for me! But not because of her expectations, because of my fear. I was scared to change but knew I was ready.
I surrendered and contacted a therapist. This was a big step out of my pride. For years I had felt Spiritual Coaching was superior to Therapy. I didn’t want to rehash my past again! I had done enough therapy- from my teenage years through my thirties. In September of that year, my Spiritual Teacher passed. In November, my Father passed. My new commitment to my inner work was already supporting me when these losses hit. In fact each step I took on this new journey into the man I am, showed me just how fortunate I am that my wife didn’t give up on me. Her tenacity and refusal to allow me to rest on my inner laurels pulled me out of my anxiety and fear.
A fear filled ego hiding from facing my own self imposed limitations and risking to grow beyond them. Now as I see the true meaning of this event through the song, I see how I was the one who needed to hear those lyrics! It was my fear that held me back from saying what was on my mind. It was I who was listening to my stories and settling to be a man that I really am not! It was I who was disappearing way back into my dreams.
Six months later I am so proud of both of us. All those months of blaming and defending seem laughable now. But they have left scars and those too need time and attention to heal. Everything I wanted from my wife, I really wanted from myself- take ownership for my stuff, understand how I feel, have some compassion and patience for both of us. With time and commitment, those sappy lyrics are coming true:
If only I could find a way, I’d feel like the man you believe I am!
With daily, sometimes moment to moment awareness and recommitting to digging deeper, I am becoming the man we both believe I am.
I chose to write this blog specifically for men who want to step out of song lyrics and become the men they know deep down that they can be. To you I say, it is never too late! If you are reading this, consider it a sign, a clue, maybe a wake- up call! You can still become who you know in your Heart of Hearts you are. If you have too much pride, so did I! If you have too much fear, so did I! If you have too much baggage, so did I! Remember, there are countless other men who did exactly what I did- they took the risk to listen to their partner a little more each day, every day, and took one step to change every day.
Just for today, pause and listen to one thing your partner is saying to you about you. Ask yourself, could it be true? Just for today, pause and look a little longer in the mirror, into your own eyes and ask- am I living out the life of the man I really am inside? Just for today, find another man who you know is struggling and give him a hug, fist bump or just a nod and tell him he is not alone. Just for today remember, you are not destined to be a man hiding behind a dream of who you will never be.
You are here, You are alive and You are ready!
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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