Archives for category: Men’s Issues

Our men’s group met last week. We span four decades, and it was the arc of our chronology that dominated our dialogue. Whatever our respective ages, we face the unknowns that accompany walking into that landscape for the first time.

Three of us are in the “sandwich” years, directly caring both for children and parents. Two are exploring what it means to retire and when. Two have done so. Each of us dances with our partners in ever-evolving relationships. None of us has ever been here before.

Always the task beckons: how do we define ourselves within the unknowns of each stage of life? What insights and perspectives do we bring forward from the past to guide us? What baggage do we leave behind? What are the treasures of this time to embrace and the trolls to beware of?

As each member of our group has chosen to live where we do in a small town near lakes and hills and remote forests, the words of Wendell Berry resonate, reminding us of the adventures to which life calls us.

Always in big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. You are undertaking the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is an experience of our essential loneliness; for nobody can discover the world for anybody else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes a common ground and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.



As darkness descended outside last night, the conversation of our men’s gathering deepened in the room. A stillness wrapped itself around the words of those who spoke, hallowing the circle of our sharing.

Reflecting afterward on how we show up with ourselves and each other, one of the men forwarded the link to Krista Tippett’s interview with poet David Whyte from her series On Being. I listened to it this morning. It is a gift to share.

Of the many jewels in the podcast I have selected the poem below for this post. It serves as a reminder to myself and to many with whom I have worked that the darkness in our lives holds the promise of horizons we cannot see and challenges us not to settle for less than we are here to manifest.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired / the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone / no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark / where the night has eyes / to recognize its own.

There you can be sure / you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb / tonight.

The night will give you a horizon / further than you can see.

You must learn one thing. / The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds / except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn

anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.



At our monthly men’s group meeting this week one of our members remarked how quickly time is passing. Now in his sandwich years his life overflows with the joys and duties of spouse, father and son. Like many he struggles to balance all of this with grace, while at the same time responding to the nagging tug that wonders if there is something more to satisfy his soul’s longing.

More than twenty years his senior, I smiled to myself, having traversed much of the ground that lies before him – not that his journey will be similar to mine, but that he will continue to formulate his answers to the questions that life brings to each of us. For me the focus is the closing window of time remaining and the fear that it will slip away unattended.

I continue to ask myself two questions. Am I doing my soul’s work? Am I doing it with the people who love, challenge and encourage me? My joy and blessing is that I am able to answer YES to both questions.

Do you answer YES? If not, an opportunity invites you to take the first step now to move toward your YES.

As my friend spoke, the refrain of a favorite song visited me with its lyrical counsel about time, fear and friendship. It is Sandy Denny’s signature song also covered by Judy Collins.

And I am not alone, while my love is near me. 

I know it will be so until it’s time to go.

So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again

I have no fear of time.

For who know where time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?



The younger man sat across from me, and we explored a dilemma he’d brought to share. Words and feelings flowed back and forth, gradually filling the space between us like gentle waves of an incoming tide.

We belong to a group that has been meeting monthly to support and challenge each other with what it means to live our lives as men. Our ages range from late 30s to early 70s. As sons, spouses, fathers and some of us grandfathers, we are eager to learn from each other how we define ourselves at our various stages of life, how we nurture our most important relationships and how we manage our livelihoods.

Conscious or not in the moment, each of us knows we bring our own father with us into the room. Not surprisingly our father-son relationships run the gamut, informing each of us in the ways we show up in life.

Robert Hayden writes of one such relationship, revealing that the “offices” of love can sometimes be hidden in the raw reality of routine, or under-appreciated in light of conflicts. For those of us in cold climes who heat by wood, the image is particularly poignant.

Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

 I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he’d call, and slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house, speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well.

 What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?


While preparing to co-facilitate a men’s weekend, I came across this quote from James Thurber. It applies to all of us regardless of gender but is particularly apt for us men.

“All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.”

In the closing days of June I flew to Oregon for a retreat; five men spanning the ages from 40 – 68.  What we shared from the past was the fact that each of us had led Outward Bound programs.  What we share today unfolded.

It was like paddling a new river without map or guidebook.  Around each bend we discovered beautiful vistas.  We encountered and navigated churning rapids.  We also eddied out frequently to spend time in quiet pools of reflection.  There was no other destination than to be together and explore and nurture the “soft” side.

Sure, we played hard, as competitive guys will do – mountain biking, hiking and running.  We practiced a new form of yoga that had us all sweating and laughing profusely.  We ate well and with relish the meals we prepared.  We played some music and spent time in the sauna and hot tub.  Basically, we gave our little boys permission to run free from their entrapped shoulds of grown-up roles and responsibilities.

We also shared some of the tender underbelly of our lives.  We listened to each other.  We honored each other’s journeys, especially the traumas that had left their various scars on each of us.  All of us are coaches, business owners and OD consultants.  One of the gifts we gave to and received from each other was the undivided attention, perceptive questions and unconditional support of the other four competent professionals.

This post is meant as a tribute to my brothers for the time we shared and the depths we traveled together.  It is also meant as a hopeful reminder to the women and men who read it that guys can and do go to their “soft” side.  We realize that doing so helps us step more fully into the light of who we are as men and more effectively into our partnerships with those we love.