Mates [HDYDI – Part 3]

This time around on the HDYDI (How Do You Do It) series I focus on me, a man, and what I think has helped me along the way. My hope is this will give other men ideas on how they could set themselves up with the support they need to “do life”.

I credit a lot of why I’ve been able to cope to something I’ve gone to over the last handful of years, a mens night. It’s a simple way for blokes to get together and share life. The easiest way to explain what I’ve got out of the group is by describing how it’s run. It’s evolved over the years, but in it’s current form this is what goes on:

  • First rule of mens night: don’t talk about mens night… sort of .. I couldn’t help but mention and adapted quote from Fight Club, the real rule is everything that’s said at mens night is confidential, it’s a “circle of trust”, guys need to know what’s said won’t be turned into gossip and go beyond the group.
    • For me, this is very important, I’m introverted and private, I don’t openly share the way I’m feeling about everything, it’s who I am. In the early days of Violets treatment, it was these guys I turned to for prayer and support, it was these guys I called and yelled at when I was frustrated, it was these guys I knew I could trust.
  • Opening – The night is started with chairs around a fire pit, a kettle and some biscuits. Men arrive, grab some tea and biscuit and grunt/chat about how they’re going.
    • For me, this sets the scene, there’s something primal about fire, it’s good to keep warm, you can cook on it, it’s good to stare at and loose time.
  • Check in – we find a seat and someone introduces how checkin works. A talking stick is placed in the middle (not in the fire). When men are ready, they pick up the stick and talk about the last month and how they’ve been feeling, not what they’ve been doing. Whoever has the stick is the only one who talks, everyone else listens, we don’t try to fix. As men we like to fix things, by not fixing other guys allows us really listen to what’s being said, often just being heard is all you need.
    • For me, I get as much out of getting stuff off my chest as it is listening to other guys, often I find things I’m worried/frustrated about or feeling incapable/inadequate that there’s others in the same boat, it makes me feel less alone.
  • Meditate – a sit, contemplative prayer, mindfulness session… call it what you will, we sit in silence for 10-15 minutes and clear our mind
    • For me, this is one of my favourite parts, I have no other time in the month that I just sit and let my thoughts run away. I used the breathing techniques I learnt here early on in Violets treatment, taking deep breaths, breathing negative thoughts/anxieties out and breathing clear thoughts in.
  • Discussion – Usually we have a topic, a bible verse or something to bounce around, talk though how we deal with certain situations, sometimes the conversation gets deep, other times, not as much.
    • For me, this part is good to have an open, deep conversation with other guys, understand where other guys stand on topics and why
  • Close – prayer, cuppa and quick chat before heading home to bed.
    • For me the “chat” that happens here is much more loving and direct than the when the night starts. We let out mates know if we think they need further help, we hug to show we care, we setup catch-up meetings before the next month to check-in on how we’re going.

To be honest, the group can a bit awkward (silence is a hard thing to master), there’s sometimes I feel uncomfortable and challenged (sharing how I actually feel). But the overall I enjoy it, I come home feeling refreshed, supported, loved and not alone.
As a society I think men have lost their way a little, every other minority has been supported that men have become a minority too, but I’m starting to see a shift, with things like movember  to bring awareness to mens health, Mens Shed to get blokes together and the rites of rites of passage  to help our boys become men. For me I think I’ve found out a bit more about be being a man at these groups I attend, and for that, I’m truly grateful.

So men – who is in your support group? Who would you turn to in a time of crisis? Do you have a safe place to share how you really feel? If you ask around there’s probably a group like this near you, if not, why not start your own stop having shallow conversations and start having real ones.

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