Fixing Things

Today I’m going to let you behind the curtain and deliver some unsolicited information about men and women. Buckle up. I’m going to mansplain some stuff.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard woman complain that men are always trying to fix things. If a woman has a problem, she doesn’t want a man to come swooping in to fix things. She just wants him to listen. This seems to be a universal complaint.

I’ve read books on the subject that talk about whenever someone puts themselves into a position of being a mentor/mentee or worse–a parent/child role–eventually when the student/mentee reaches that equilibrium of having their shit together, they will do what children/trainees/etc always do. They will assert their independence and bite their teacher/parent/mentor in the ass. Or at the very least put in a boundary that told the other person to back off, we’ve got this handled.

We’ve all done it at some point.

So, here’s the problem between the sexes. And I’m going to do my best to articulate this…men aren’t the fixers. Not really. Sure, in a traditional role, men fix things around the house, they fix cars, they change tires, etc. And probably upon request. Or multiple requests. It’s usually the periferal things (unless he’s a paramedic or a doctor or nurse) such as inanimate objects too. But if I go to one of my male friends and vent my problems and fears and whatnot, 9 times out of 10, he’s just going to listen. He might say something pithy or funny or sarcastic. But he isn’t going to fix anything. Not unless I say, “What do I do?” In which case, he’ll probably just say, “I dunno, man. I wish I knew.”

If (and I have) I were to talk to a female friend, relative, therapist, etc. about my problems, 9 times out of ten they are going to tell me how I should fix things.

Kinda weird, don’t you think?

So, this begs the question, why is it women think that men just want to fix everything? Well, maybe it’s the spirit of reciprocity, because women are always there to fix our problems (as men). Behind every strong man is a good woman…that kind of thing. Women are the ones who traditionally put band-aids on our boo-boos and kiss them to make them feel better. They are the ones who bust out the map or tell us to pull over and ask for directions if we get lost. They are the ones who will see a hole in our jeans and get out the needle and thread. I’ve heard more “This is what you oughta do” from women than I’ve ever heard from men. I’ve heard them say it to each other too.

Men probably just figure that if a woman is talking about a problem, in the spirit of reciprocity, he is obligated to give a solution. It gets called “mansplaining.”

Perfect example of this is something I saw on TikTok. A woman noticed that her boyfriend had put a solitary egg on top of her egg carton in the fridge. She posited the question to some male friends and they told her that the other carton was probably empty except for that one egg, but rather than leave it in the fridge, he decided to put that egg on top so it would get used before the newer eggs.

Her mind was BLOWN. She called it “positive mainspaining.” Hold on. I already know what you are thinking. It gets better.

In the comments she got dogpiled by her viewers (99% male) that it wasn’t mansplaining. It was just a man answering a question she had asked.

So, in giving her this information in her comments (and I’m talking HUNDREDS of interations of this) that was completely obvious…guess what. They were mansplaining.

So, my friends–my male friends especially–you don’t need to correct someone, you don’t need to offer solutions or unsolicitied advice. You don’t need to fix anything (unless YOU broke it). You just need to listen. Like really listen. And maybe offer her a snack.

And ladies. Same.

Advice/assistance/etc. requires consent. Always be sure to ask if someone needs help first and then ask them what anybody in retail can already tell you the first question you should ask anyone.

“How can I help you?”

That’s not falling into gender roles and stereotypes. That’s just being a good listener. Isn’t that just what we usually all want? Unless they say “Tell me how to fix this.”

Then work together to fix it. Because even if you “fix” someone’s problem, they might wind up resenting you for it.

The Arena

Yesterday I spent the majority of the day picking the metaphorical gravel out of my teeth. The morning had been another disappointment. The rest of the day felt pretty bleak. I am exhausted by the process and there always seems to be just another squall line rolling up on the horizon. It’s hard to be optimistic about any of it.

Some days you just have to dig deep to find the will to fight on. Some days you find yourself utterly defeated. To not just roll over and play dead, but to actually just give up entirely. You’re done. Your tank has completely run dry. Yesterday was such a day for me.

Which sucks, because it came so close on the heels of a day that felt like a total victory. A day when I felt comfortable in my own skin and happy with the direction life was taking me. I mean damn, I’m a nationally published travel writer! I live in one of the most beautiful places in Colorado! My car is paid for. I have an adorable puppy. And I live in a cool old house, far from traffic jams and continuous police sirens, and bums sleeping in the park.

People who have survived abuse, neglect, and trauma know this feeling well. It’s the “This is why we can’t have nice things” feeling. Every amazing day, every tender heart that touches your life, every twenty dollar bill you find on the street just means that eventually the other shoe is going to drop and you are going to wish you didn’t let your guard down for that moment to enjoy life. Because here comes the hobnail boot, stamping your teeth into the curb from the back of your head.

I used to think of the good days as an emotional investment. The better the weekend or the victory I had, I knew some fuckery was brewing. You see, I left a burning house seven years ago, and I went back in to get my kids. And one by one, they went right back into it. My ex wife does not approve of my parenting methods (which do not include hysterics and screaming), my choice of where to live, my family, or likely the oxygen I take into my body on a regular basis. For the last seven years, I have had to fight for everything I have. I fought for everything I had for fifteen years before that too, but she kept most of it. I got out with my life and something even better: the potential to begin a new one.

But that trauma holds onto your soul like a bad smell. It’s easy to become bitter, gunshy, and know that eventually, you are going to have to deal with some shit, and risk getting sucked right back into it. That control someone else had over you, that panic that takes hold when you thought you could be done with it, but you have to walk back into that blaze.

Yesterday I looked down the long plain of the next seven years of storms, one rolling up on me after the next. I thought about how I’ll have to face them alone. Just like I always have. Damn, but that sand at my feet felt awfully cool and inviting to just lay in it. To watch it soak up my blood. To have just a moment of rest. Nobody would blame me if I gave up.

I’m so tired of fighting.

This morning I woke up, and got out of bed. I let the dog outside and looked at the snow that had fallen on the mountains all around me. I live in such a beautiful place. It is inspiring. In years past, it used to rejuvinate me to come visit the mountains where I grew up, even for just a few hours. The cold wind. The blue skies. The icy teeth of jagged peaks that bite up into those clouds. I think now this place sustains my spirit. Like the mountains, those storms will wash over me. But they will not subdue me. The rains and snows might chisel away the mountains, they might cover them, they might grind them into that fine arena sand over eons. But, the clouds just roll over them. A storm washes them clean of all the bullshit that has come before.

Today, I decided to fight another day. And another day. And another. And so on.

Today I’m going to smile back at the storm with a mouth full of broken teeth and spit out the sand. I can do this all day.

Big Life

Today it started to sink in a little bit. Last night on the drive home from seeing my son for the first time since I dropped him off with his mother on July 1st, I saw a break in the clouds. Metaphorically speaking…and literally too I suppose.

The last few days, Winter has begun to flirt with North Park. Four or five inches of heavy, wet snow dropped on us a few days ago and the mountains have been glazed with snow, which is melting off, but I think will serve as a base coat as the nights get longer and winter settles in.

A year ago…it’s hard to imagine what was going on a year ago. Like now, I was preparing for a court case. I put my writing on hold. The book, which was writing itself had to be paused so I could represent myself in court. That thing they say about a person who serves as their own attorney has a fool for a client…believe it.

It was a waste of time, but I did save a little bit of money on attorney’s fees. Anyway, enough about that. We are talking about a break in the clouds.

Yesterday, I got a my first face-to-face visit with my youngest kiddo. We played chess for an hour. He beat me twice. I’m proud of him. It was so nice just to be present with him and interact that I forgot to take pictures. It was good to just be near him, encourage him, help him through moves or teach him better ways to play the game. Zoom calls are no substitute. It’s a long process, but one I hope will end well for him. He has a lot of patience for an eleven year old. He could teach a lot of us what strength really is.

I wish he didn’t need to be so strong.

On the way home, I stopped at the old neighborhood where I had landed shortly after I began the journey of my divorce and new life. The old house has been bought and it looks like it is being flipped again. I spoke with my neighbor and former coworker. We caught up. I had left the neighborhood without saying goodbye back in December. We weren’t all that close, and about half an hour of chatting in the cold evening air was enough to motivate me to head back into the mountains. I stopped at Dutch Bros. for coffee. Chatted with a couple of my friends there. Then raced to Ft. Collins to pick up a copy of Big Life Magazine, which bought my story about road tripping with my mom and my son in Oregon and Washington back in March 2021.

I found the final copy at the Barnes and Noble there and then raced home before the weather could get too bad, with an ETA of around 11:00pm. The roads were dry and clear all the way up until the pass on the Colorado/Wyoming border, but with 4WD locked in, I didn’t have any problems. Just the solitude of the road at night and the ground blizzards which whip across the highway like snow snakes.

Today, I finally got a chance to read the article. Other than a few edits they dropped in, it looked great! My son and I have a picture together in the pages of a nationally published magazine for which I am a writer in the Summer 2021 issue. The magazine is about living your best life, and in a weird meta way, selling a story there was doing just that.

My imposter syndrome has taken a major hit.

Sometimes I feel like moving back to my home town was the worst mistake of my life. It cause a lot of feathers to be ruffled. Parents often live apart so that they can pursue their goals and dreams and continue to provide the best life for their kids. I’ve known parents who live a thousand miles away and make it work. Moving has brought me back to court. This process is slow, painful, and expensive. I’m not a fan.

But moving has challenged me to refurbish a 120 year old house and push my comfort zones in so many ways. Recently I designed, built, and installed a secret door bookshelf because I’ve always wanted one. I have Scooby Doo to thank for that. In the last couple months, I have taught myself how to use carpentry tools and skills I never thought I would have used past Woods I in high school.

I highly recommend the Bostitch 16 guage nail gun, by the way. It saves so much time and makes a better looking product than trying to beat nails in with a hammer.

Also, in moving, I have a little bit more freedom to write. I’m making headway on the novel. I’m pitching stories to magazines. I’m getting out more and having new experiences and writing about them. Sometimes things get intense, but on days like those, I pet my dog, Penny, and I sit down to work on the book or write a blog post, or challenge myself. In the last eighteen months, I’ve lost a few people who were very close to me. I blame myself for a lot of that. My regret is that I wish I could have been better. But it’s hard to do that when your world is coming apart at the seams. We are all struggling these days.

I’m learning. Always learning. Some lessons are hard. They humble you. They make you grateful for what you have instead of what you want. You learn that you can’t take anything for granted. Not your kids. Not your health. Not the people who are closest to you. You need to appreciate every moment you get, because nothing is guaranteed. We are not promised tomorrow.

Today, I read that article and for a little bit there was a break in the clouds. I am a nationally published travel writer. I’m achieving my goals. It takes baby steps to get there, but a year ago, I would have never dreamed I would be writing these words. A year ago was a whole other life away. Someone else’s story.

Tonight I sit typing these words in my office. I feel comfortable in my own skin. I miss my son, but I am trusting in the process. I’m working. I’m keeping my heart open to lessons it has needed to learn. I no longer fear the winter like I used to. Back in those days when being snowed in felt like you were being strangled, for no other reason than you were locked in with yourself.

Tonight, I’m comfortable with that. Listening to my Portishead Live from Roseland NYC album. The house is coming together. Things are falling into place. What comes next just might be scary, the next push out from my comfort zone. The next horizon to cross and a whole other set of stars to see shining in the sky.