First published in the Rocky View Weekly on June 14, 2016)
Though I’m not sure if The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) was intended to have underlining hints towards questionable perceptions of masculinity, the title sure is an eerily accurate ways to describe the relationship between men and emotions.
I can’t say I handle emotions well and honestly, I don’t think society ever really gave me a chance.
Clint Eastwood’s man with no name character certainly never dropped his gun belt to sit in a circle with other men and describe how any of the emotionally scarring circumstances he faced made him feel.
He’d probably get shot for doing so and though the days of gun slinging outlaws is long past, that rough and tough emotionless image of manliness is still prevalent today.
I also just want to point out for a brief moment that the Man with no Name character actually had a name. It was Joe.
Clint Eastwood did eventually portray a character that was truly nameless in High Plains Drifter (1973) and that film epitomized the emotion I find most men relate to well – anger.
It consumed much of what my reality became after our daughter died late last year.
I was angry this happened to my child. I was angry no one understood. I was angry when people tried to understand. I was angry at the fact I was angry all the time. I was angry at anger and that doesn’t make any sense.
When I went back to work nine days after, I had hoped I could bury myself in it.
What I actually buried was the emotions I was afraid to deal with and that fear made me angrier.
I let myself continue to dig down and when I couldn’t see the light from the surface anymore I convinced myself the only way to get out was to keep digging.
It took me seven long months before I finally took the gun belt off.
Sitting in a room with a group of other men who experienced a similar loss, I realized I got angry because it made the sadness go away, at least temporarily.
I had to be strong for my wife because I’m a man and that’s what men do.
Anger kept me in “the bad” stage of dealing with my emotions. Sure it wasn’t ideal, but it kept me from facing what was next.
In the back of my mind I think I truly believed I could find some way to “the good” without hitting “the ugly.”
I’ve come to realization that there are no shortcuts when dealing with grief.
This concept of machismo driven “strength” hasn’t helped me in the slightest and I’m ready to kick the habit for good.