What happens when men are asked to surrender? As in … surrender their will to something greater than themselves?
I can hear the collective groan rising right now.
“Don’t I do that that everyday? With my wife? With my kids? With my boss? Am I even in control of this thing called my life?”
Actually, yes. You are. We are. We all are. Well, maybe we’re not. The only thing we may have control over, really, is our awareness of the fact that we really are not in control—at all.
What I am referring to is something much more spiritual—mystical even. And neither of those two things tend to make much logical sense because—and this may be News at 11!—one simply cannot make much logical sense out of a spiritual or mystical experience. By their very natures, these delicious things defy logic. And maybe that’s why we males out there might trip up.
I’ve written about this before but the topic is so fresh and juicy and up in my face, that I have been led to write about again. And let’s be clear: I am not just referring to men. We humans sometimes have a curious time “letting go” and trusting in something spiritual, even though we may claim to be spiritual creatures. But it is the male species, in particular, that I find fascinating because it’s clear that, culturally, males are asked to take charge, become leaders, be strong, think clearly and make everything “happen.” And, oh, wrap it up in a present with a bow on top of it, all the while, working 60 hours a week and barely checking in—with themselves.
With gay men, this might be a much different scenario, but I am not fully convinced. For if we’re not living a spiritual life, first and foremost, then, what the heck sort of life are we living?
A major life turning point happened to me five years ago when I was diagnosed with two life-threatening diseases. I’ll write this more in the future, however, that event, coupled with the fact that I felt the ghosts of my ancestors tugging on my heartstrings, forced me to make some major life decisions. During the entire summer of 2012, I opted to Louise Hay myself and become more healthy, even though I thought I had been. The illnesses forced me to go within even more—although, I’d been picking spiritual lint out of my navel and chanting on mountaintops and grunting and groaning and clutching crystals in Northern California for decades. I had a choice: I could surrender to what the Universe (My Higher Power, God, whatever you want to call it) was suggesting I do, which was to dive deep into the interior passageways of myself and look at my deepest fears of existence right in the face. Or … carry on like the burned-out, creatively spent, overworked journalist I had become, mostly for the sake of attaining status, “fame,” approval and career advancement.
What a carnival ride that was.
During that summer, I actually had conversations—with the inside of my body. I said: “Look, I know you guys are here. The doctors so boldly told me so. So … you can stay. You can go. Up to you. This is not a war. But you need to know something: I am going to send a good juicy flow of self-love into the interior of my being, and, well, it just may not be comfortable for you. You choose. Stay. Go. In the meantime, let’s learn something from each other.”
I suppose all those years doing Bikram Yoga helped me with this decision. There’s nothing like sweating your ass off for four to five days a week for more than a decade, to help you realize that maybe there’s some other powerful force at work in the world; and that we humans are simply the vessel for which life to move through.
I love how Deepak Chopra puts it: “You are not doing the breathing. Something is breathing YOU!”
My first major act of surrender to a will greater than me revolved around that health issue.
The second, which came like gangbusters around the same time, was stepping into writing a memoir about how my Polish family survived the brutal wrath of Stalin and his henchmen during the 1940s.
And it’s here where I love how The Universe played its cards … because, really, health issues are enough, but to chase it back with a haunting tale about a million Polish people, my family among them, being sent into a miserable life of Siberian slave labor and relying on their faith to pull them through it all, somehow, barely, managing to survive as they roamed around in homeless despair on four continents for nearly a decade is, well … it’s not as fun as a Saturday matinee. Trust me.
But I chose to lean into it all. Hell. I plunged deeply into it. I let go and said: “Alright—show me the way to go; show me the way through it.”
And when I did that, events and conditions I could not even have orchestrated on my own—things so profoundly surreal—occurred. Even when, a few years later, the newspaper I had been at the helm of for fourteen years, was bought out by another media enterprise and a many of us were let go, I was given yet another opportunity to trust even more.
It was as if I was being asked: “Look. You can leap right back into Corporate America, or you can finish the memoir, which is due in summer, dismantle your life in Santa Cruz, California, downsize, put your things in storage, and head to Wisconsin to finish the book where you are being given a temporary home—and unemployment.
No offense. But it was no Ritz Carlton … the kind of glossy things my ego had loved while interviewing celebrities for years.
Once again, I was being given an opportunity to surrender.
So, I did.
Sure, there was fear along the way. A lot of it. I felt as if my entire identity was being stripped away. I had left the comfortable confines of living in Northern California for twenty-five years and … I just had to trust that things were going to work out.
Truth be told: I believe that, for the most part, anybody who comes from a family who survived the war, especially those first-gen folks, has a more challenging time with surrender and trust. It’s just built-in to our DNA.
The events that followed after the book was completed also defy logic. Serendipitous occasions became the norm. Chance encounters multiplied. Connection to the Polish community in Chicago, where I eventually temporarily relocated, grew stronger. It felt as if something much more powerful than my human self was orchestrating it all. Perhaps this is what one calls “going with the flow.”
So, what I am saying: I don’t think it’s that we leave behind a life, as I was led to do. However, I believe that if we did do that … the net would appear after we leapt. I think this is message I felt led to share today: To encourage men to let go of something that just doesn’t feel right. And I mean, “right” … down to the core. It may be a feeling, a belief, something. It may even be a job. There’s a remarkable grace that occurs when we allow ourselves to lean into this act—even if it’s just a little bit.
In doing so, I now see, something greater than myself, was attempting to mold me into an even better man.