Dad and Me

the mask we live in & the backpack we carry

When we’re young, through parenting, Hollywood, sports, and society, we quickly learn what it means to be a ‘real’ man. 

They are providers and protectors, strong, take risks, don’t need help, suppress their emotions except for anger, and are in charge. They have a look, a walk, and a way of speaking—they’re tough.

In order to survive, around middle school, we start wearing masks (click for a must-watch documentary) to hide what we don’t want others to see. We pray, hold our breath, and begin shoving rocks in our backpacks, hoping that we are not the subject of another’s cruelty.

When we got out of line, our parents grabbed the belt because they got it when they were kids. After, you either cry in your room, suppress your emotions, or dump your pain on others with less status.

Years later, you get a job, meet someone, and start a family. You believe being loyal to the company will pay off. You get a bigger job and more money, but the next level brings new devils. 

The stress builds, but you suck it up and place more rocks in your backpack because that’s what men do. It hurts. It’s heavy. Your pilot light begins to fade. You raise your voice at home and start numbing your pain. It makes it tolerable, but when the buzz fades, it hurts more.

Somewhere around 40ish, you see the finish line of retirement. Yes! If you can hold on, you tell yourself, things will get better when you get out of the rat race. College tuition looms, and so does the need to parent your parents.

You pray you’re not downsized or whatever the consultant’s term of the day is. You’ve been loyal but not to yourself. You keep it all bottled up because you don’t want to worry your family—because you’re supposed to be a ‘real’ man. 

To deal with stress, you keep wearing that 7th-grade mask and rationalize your unhealthy coping habits. They work, but after the high, there’s just shame. 

Your metabolism slows, and you gain a few pounds. Now, you need one pill for this, another for that, and a third to deal with the side effects of the first two. All that weight you’ve been carrying is now impacting your health. 

From time to time, you wonder if this is the life you want to live. 

There’s always been a belief that those with power, mostly men, have ruined society. It’s time for them to step off – especially white men – and let others run the show. They have a point – we’ve done many horrific things over the ages. 

Over the last 50 years, groups mainly marginalized by men have been able to imagine endless possibilities through role model inspiration, leadership, and societal change. As a girl dad times two, it’s been fantastic to see—although equity and equality are still moving at a glacial and uneven pace. 

On the other hand, men have few positive, well-known male role models to help them step away from our historical ‘real’ man view, but if I’m starting a list President Obama is on it. 

Pain is when anger makes a public appearance.

The points about men and status can be valid AND it can also be true that men are hurting. The data on mass shootings, suicide rates, and addiction support what we can see if we are willing to look.

I’m not suggesting that we get out our tiniest violin for men. It’s about remembering that men are also struggling. It’s about helping all of us heal from the trauma and limiting beliefs that are the sources of so much of today’s pain.

Today is Father’s Day in the States. Like other Hallmark Holidays, it’s an emotionally challenging day for many, and one thing I am willing to bet on is that Dad doesn’t need a new tie or socks.

He might need permission to recognize and acknowledge how heavy his damn backpack is and help him see that there’s a better way. As scary as it is, he no longer needs to wear that mask.

Our society today needs better men; we need better humans. We can’t keep downloading our pain and expect to come together.

Happy Father’s Day to my fellow dads. Please take a moment to Pause, Breathe, and Reflect on the importance of your ripple.

If the day is challenging, you have permission not to enjoy this holiday. You also have permission to do whatever you need and want to do on this day that supports you and your feelings versus what you think you should do.

Until next week, have fun storming the castle!


P.S. Guys, join me and discover how breathwork can change your life.

P.P.S. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thank you for role-modeling the importance of service, faith, kindness, and humor.

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