On a cliff top in Dorset one summer evening I sat with my wife watching the sea churn and toil. After a long silence she asked me if we would ever have children together. I looked at her, wanting to say yes, wanting it so much, but something dark and terrifying pushed forcefully into my heart. I said No.
That moment signalled the end of many things. My marriage disintegrated over three gruelling months. My relationship with alcohol began to worsen. I was compelled to leave my bed, my house and my hometown. My opinions and beliefs began to drop away into a meaningless void. My energy sapped and my light went out. My friends couldn’t understand, moved away quietly, unsure what to do. I descended inexorably into the gloom and lonely despair of a breakdown. I did not ask for help. Nobody helped me.
At the bottom of this emotional pit I gave in to the utter despair and started to drink to numb myself from these feelings. By some good fortune, I also called a counsellor and began weekly therapy. The drinking made things worse but I was lucky enough to find Alcoholics Anonymous and avert more misery. The counsellor helped me to understand why I had said “no” to my wife on that cliff top. He awakened me to my sadness and the reasons for it.
Some clarity entered my life and I managed to resume the day-to-day, but it was empty and I was still afraid. I was a boy. A timid little boy, aged 31.
I was terrified that I would become, had already become, my father, in his worst incarnation. Full of violent rage, anxiety and resentment.
I had seen first-hand how deeply I could wound those people closest to me with my anger. Just like dad. This made me feel ashamed and the vicious circle of negative emotions continued to loop around and around.
As a young boy I had been terrified and anxious, afraid of my father, scared to take my place in the world, feeling undeserving of love, unworthy. How could I bring a child into the world if this was what s/he would experience? This was unacceptable to me. People told me I would be a good father and could rectify the faults of my own parents. I did not believe this in any way. I was imprisoned by my own fear, anger and shame.
What did it mean to be a man? A good man. As a boy in a man’s body, I had no idea. My father did not teach me and I did not know where to start. How could I become the man I wanted to be? These questions led to a good friend mentioning the ManKind Project to me.
The ManKind Project
Within days I visited the ManKind Project website. A week later I was on my way to take part in the New Warrior Training Adventure weekend. (Also called The Adventure Weekend.)
That weekend signalled the beginning of many things. I rediscovered my power, which had been caged when I was very young. I hunted down my demons and took them on. I won victories against them.
I found my frightened little boy, hiding away to protect himself. I encouraged him out of the darkness and into my arms. I reassured him that everything would be OK. He began to smile and my tears flowed.
I allowed myself to fully feel fear, anger and shame. I thought I would die in this emotional volcano, but instead of death there was a birth, the beginnings of joy, something I had not felt for a very long time.
My light flickered back into life and began to burn fiercely. I forgave myself and began to step into the shoes of the man I really wanted to be, had always been, but had never allowed to step forward. I stood strong and courageous and announced to the world: “I will be a father. I will be a fantastic father!”
Three months after the ManKind Project NWTA weekend I met my new partner. A few months after that we became pregnant. Now my son is born. Thanks to the ManKind Project I know that he will receive all the love he needs from me and that I will be a wonderful father.
I will make mistakes, because I am a humble man, but I am also a powerful and loving man, and my son will benefit from the loving warmth of my open and authentic heart.
Like father, like son? Not this time.