Saturday, 11 May 2013

Hardening up (the mistake of it)

It is often said that women are soft and men are hard. Any man who has problems in dealing with life is mostly told to "deal with it". Classic Australian vernacular is "take some concrete powder and harden up".

Its bullshit.

One of the myths of western culture (perhaps others) is of the tough guy. The self reliant guy who can go through anything, unaffected. It is the stuff of adolescent male comics.

This is of course a fantasy, something which has perhaps infected society as a romantic meme that such a thing as a tough guy exists. A warrior who battles through life, never needing to express emotions.

In reality it only serves to enable (mainly) men to justify thier distance, their disaffection from those that they love. They can pretend to be pillars of strength not needing to (and probably not knowing how to) love. The movie "once were warriors" is in my view an excellent example of this (and its results) in recent cinema.

Yet love is something we all do, feel and to various extents accept. Accepting love is actually not as easy as it might sound. Part of loving is learning to accept anothers care and help. In some ways learning to accept help results in relinquishing ones ability to do that thing for yourself. Like many things in human life when someone does something for you, you stop doing it for yourself.

In some ways this can make one vulnerable. There could be the threat of withdrawal of the love on the part of the other, which can hurt (this is something of a strategy in some cultures actually). There is also the fact that its easy to become dependent on the love of another, again potentially weakening.

Of course for one who truly loved you (rather than just using your affection to gain control) this not something that they would do.

So I can see why some men choose to harden up.

The reality is however that one does not really harden up, but instead puts on an exterior. A suit of armor in some ways. Its a barrier to accepting things and a signal (by behavior) to "keep away".

In accepting the care and comfort of the one that you love you must inevitably soften up, to prevent yourself from being hard towards the one who is trying to share difficulty with you and to offer you comfort. In fact this can help you to grow stronger and more resilient.

Delicate things like love do not grow on rocky soil.

As the love that I had for my wife grew I allowed her into my heart and allowed her to provide support and comfort. Which was something she naturally wanted to do (as I wanted to do for her). Her loss from my life (well, and from the lives of everyone who knew her) has left me with a softness that is now unsupported.

It is a paradox that at a time when I most need the care and support of the woman I loved, the woman who loved me, I am by virtue of her death devoid of that love and that support. In many ways that is one of the hardest parts to this sort of grieving.

But the solution does not lie in hardening up. Putting on the armor over my bleeding wound will not heal the wound nor will it go away. I have discovered that in the time before I had such love as I did, that I did not support myself, instead I actually hardened up, developed coping strategies, denied that things upset me. Now in the absence of the support and love that I once had I can see that difference.

So I guess what I need to do now is to learn how to give support to myself in the way that she did. Of course I can't actually do that, but knowing what she did I can learn to do that for myself in a different way.

No matter how hard it is to loose the one you loved, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved before.


So I keep climbing ...

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