This photo has always had a special place for me. I had the opportunity to go to Cambodia and do work with agencies that work to end human trafficking. I was a photographer on the trip, two weeks meeting men and women who had endured horrible pain and suffering in this world. I remember taking this shot after my partner at the time, who would later break up with me, had finished her set. We walked into the sun of the facility and there sat a lotus in the midst of this courtyard.
Since this shot in 2011 I have endured. Learned about pain. Switched jobs. Lost a child. Found peace with myself and fallen in love again.
As we suffer, we try to find meaning to it all. It is not easy. There is so little capacity in many of us to just pause and try to go slow. The lotus flower is birthed from mud, this quote in the title is the wisdom of Trich Nhat Hanh. He is Buddhist monk who had helped millions be more compassionate and take their time in life.
Without stillness and moments of great compassion we cannot notice what is around us. That moment in my life fed a transformation and I am still growing.
The process of getting free in your life takes many turns, not all of them a path of light and safety. We begin this process of working towards resolving issues in our life, at times, haphazardly and seeking out connection and love from others. At other times it is wrought with job decisions. At other times it is the drastic escape from family. And so on. Your journey, no matter how ardous or dramatic is made up of many decisions in your life where you seemingly venture between different paths, always wondering what is the right way to go. What is it you are supposed to do.
Along this path you find yourself shacking up with strangers. Finding comfort in new friendships. Trying new things out which may or may not have a lasting impact. For some that is yoga. Others that may be throwing axes. Still others the piano. Whatever it is we begin a path of identifying ourselves based on what we do and what we do not do. Therefore, other people around us become people who "get it" and those who "don't get it." We look for acceptance from both sides. Feel insecurity from both sides. And rarely capture the moments where we, in fact, truly "got it."
The journey begins somehow, and as a therapist I am here listening to the stories of where we all are on the journey. I, having had some paths in my life, relate to the struggle. And I know, and have felt that--when I have had nothing in my life, I could believe in anything.
The sense or depravity and fear we have faced in our life is a tell tale sign that our desperation for life to take a positive turn is one that we would like to vanquish no matter the cost. Having been in places in my life that I would not rather visit, I can relate to this sentiment. I have not made perfect choices in my life. I have tried often to grasp at the idea of something rather than the facts on the ground. When we have nothing—we can believe in anything.
That simple adage has wrapped its way around my mind for many years. It is an adage about hope and foolishness. It is about the wonder of the journey and how, at times we feel that we are totally bereft and lost and then, we stumble upon something shiny and new. Then, we have it again. The path. It is an adage that many if not all of us can relate to.
No matter where you are in the path. No matter whether you like lifting weights, or striking up your bbq, or painting pastorals--the act of trying to understand yourself is the most beautiful process you can wrestle with. It is an honor to work with so many souls in this process. Don't get desperate, just keep moving towards the light inside of you and remember, have fun.
When I work with men the question arises. How do I get over her?
It's been a while since I thought about this but let me put some things down in writing.
It has been mostly the case with my work that I have seen more men who have come to me struggling to get over relationships than I have found women who have struggled to do the same over a man. In fact, it has been overwhelmingly men who come to me and discuss their past relationships. They come in all forms of relationship distress. They are about to break up. They have just broken up. They are trying to stay together and he does not want them to break up. They are working through their separation or their divorce. Or they are no longer together and he misses her. Or he can't stop thinking about her but they have not been together in a long time.
You catch the drift. All sorts.
This is normal. Men, I have found, are wired in this special way to never give up once they settle down with a mate. You heard that right, once a man makes their decision, they want to go the distance. I believe this goes to the core of what it means to be male, that as men have conquered the world (with families in tow) and fought across lands that the intrinsic drive is always linked to family. This is a good thing, the difficulty is it gets wired incorrectly.
The trouble is, they're not exactly sure of what that exactly means for their relationship and to give their mate what they want. Worse, they're not always sure that they have the commitment mutually metted out between a pair. Simply put, the woman hasn't always decided to give that back to him and many women--countless women find themselves in the cross-hairs of men who they have no interest they want to commit to but end up on the receiving end of affection that they never asked for. This is wrong. I will address in greater detail the core concepts behind this in another post.
Men. We need help. Here's where we start:
1. We need to understand that the process of cultivating partnership is a two way street. If we don't have the skills that our partner needs and we have no interest of working on ourselves then we need to move on with our lives.
2. If someone has expressed they don't want us as a partner, we need to move on.
3. We need to adequately accept and work on ourselves as a being that is not near completion.
4. We need to understand that the way that we have been socialized in this world has been one where we have often been told that being a man is "enough" and that the work of change is not that we have the language or the energy for.
5. We must begin to accept the fact that self care is part of our vocabulary and that living stressed and with poor self-care standards ultimately makes us live a less fulfilling and lonelier life.
I had a friend that I asked how they took care of themselves on a regular basis. The question for a female client would have immediate responses of wine dates with friends, spa time, massages, early bed times, and so on and so forth. But with this male client there was dead silence for a while. I just sat there while he looked around and then said something to the effect, I take a shower sometimes.
This is what drives women mad, brothers, how can we know ourselves and calm our minds and bodies down and work on ourselves if the most time
This is not our own fault, of course not! We have been socialized this way to fight and strive and shut down our emotions and been told to not work on ourselves. Look at the cancer rates for men and women, look at the heart attacks, look at the CoVid cases, we are more stressed out, die earlier and this is our life. We don't know how to stop it.
I could go on. I'm interested in what your own thoughts are about your own wellness and how you relate to this topic.
Men, there is hope for us. Turning to therapy is a huge first step and taking that step allows you to focus on yourself and your own needs. With me you get a man who focuses on both the male and the female condition and I will help you get over whatever you need to work on.
Lex Enrico Santí is a mental health therapist based in Ithaca, NY. He offers therapy sessions in a home practice and can work with clients using a secure telehealth (online) practice. Contact him today for more information.