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The Holidays

A Tough Time for Some Men

On the Men's BBS when it was part of The Microsoft Network we had a discussion about holidays being a tough time for some men. The discussion seems as timely today, even if some of the original posters' situations have changed since then. Here are excerpts from that discussion:

 

(Please note: Bulletin Board posts are frequently composed on the fly. There may be problems with flow, continuity, grammar, spelling and the like. But their content is from the heart. I urge you to focus on the content, not the literary style.)

Here's a message I posted over on our main Bulletin Board:

 

It's the holiday season. One member has posted that she's busy getting the house ready for a feast with grandparents. Another mentioned in chat that he's redoing the carpet, or something, to make his home as presentable as possible for the festive family reunion.

I remember an email I got from Jim Bracewell last year. I asked how his Thanksgiving was. He said he'd spent the afternoon with a man who was going through a painful divorce. Just being with him, and knocking around together. That's the kind of guy Jim is, and that's why I'm so proud to have him as Executive Assistant of the Men's Forum. Not because he's articulate about Warren Farrell and the evils of circumcision, but basically because he makes a major difference in a lot of other men's lives, just by being himself and by being there for other men. That, at heart (and I choose my words carefully) is what all this "men's movement" stuff is all about.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are a stressful time for many men. Men without away from their kids and families. Men who don't talk to other men are also blowing their brains out at a rate far exceeding that of women in this age bracket. I got an MenWeb email from Utah a bit ago. He's forming a men's group. "If I can keep one man from being alone and blowing his brains out, it's worth it," he said. Or something like that.

One of the strengths of the Men's Forum, in my view, is that men can share their own stories - not just because it's good for them, but because maybe some other man, a "lurker," will read it. And know that he is not alone.

So, men, how are you handling the holidays? What's it like to spend a Thanksgiving without your kids, or to be embroiled in a bitter divorce or custody situation at this time of family festivities. Share your own story, for yourself and to make a difference for other men.

I'll also dig out some articles on men and depression, men and suicide, and how men cope with the holidays, when they're alone. Not a pleasant conversation to be having in the holiday season. But a very real one.

in the interest of men being there for other men,

Bert

--

Bert H. Hoff

Men's Issues Forum Manager

And here are some of the responses:

Bert, The Holidays suck!!! And it starts with this one coming up. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday but as the years go on, it seems to become meaningless. Weds. evening I will cook a bird that I raised, I will make a cabbage salad like my mom used to, blue hubbard squash, smashed taters, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving morning I will be in my tree stand, hunting deer. And as my brothers and cousins head home in the afternoon to celebrate with their families, I will remain in my stand. At approx. 5pm I will head home to heat up my dinner that I prepared the evening before. This is the day I let my labs sit at the table with me. And we will eat and I will have more than my yearly share of manhattans. Then I will fall asleep. And try not to think of what a disaster my life has turned out to be without my girls. This is my choice. This is the way I handle the holidays. I lie to everyone about where I am having dinner. My mom is the only one who knows my secret and she doesn't push it. My brothers and cousins think I am spending my evening with a girlfriend. The girl that they think I am spending dinner with, thinks I'm spending it with my family. This is how I spend the day. You see, there's a lot of kids in my family, and although I love my family dearly, it ain't no fun sittin around being uncle markie on this day.

Mark

--

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.

Macatay@msn.com


 

Why don't you try doing something good on this day.

I believe you have laid things out so beautifully here! Unfortunately, some people will get it and some will not! They will sulk and cry and moan and grobble over the negative. . .never once focusing on such good things around them. (Not meaning this to Mark or anyone else, but in general) This one day that we Americans have laid aside called "ThanksGiving" is actually something that should be everyday. Giving thanks for all that we have been given! So much in life is taken for granted. . .IF one only knew what lies on the other side of the fence, then it is perhaps they would want to take each day and give their entire day to do for their fellow man as a way of giving back to God what He has so lovingly given us!

{{{{{{ Happy Thanksgiving To All! }}}}}}

Mitake Oyasin! (All My Relations!)

--

~ Summer

GentleRain@msn.com

---------------------------------------------

"Unfortunately, some people will get it and some will not! "


Summer,

Have you ever wondered why some men seek the company of other men in times of trial? In my own case in past years, and Mark's case now (I'm not attempting to speak for Mark, but using his situation as an example), there were ongoing struggles regarding the children. The benefit I found in speaking to other men was, they quietly understood without trying to "fix" me. Both those who had and had not had my experience. By the way, an ongoing struggle over the children is as emotionally taxing as anything I've experienced in my life, leaving me with out the emotional resourses to do no more than simply endure. In those situations that are irreversible, yes it is best to get on with your life, but in a continuing struggle, it is often those feelings which you and Cheyenne seem inclined to attempt to "fix" with platitudes that actually give us the strength to continue the struggle.

glyn

oddbirdie@msn.com


 

Glyn,

Boy, you always seem to beat me to the punch. You are correct, we do seek out the company of other men and this is because men don't put bandaids on things such as this. Not wanting to belittle the women on board but it is obvious that they do not understand. Every man that responded to this post did so in the way that I expected. Just the way the men in my family respond when we get together. And cheyene and summer responded just the way the women in my family do.

Mark

--

Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.

Macatay@msn.com


Judith,

I found a real difference between being alone for the holidays when the kids were young, and not having the kids here after they were grown. When the kids were grown there was more of a sense of "completeness," I guess - they're leading their own lives now, and the time I'd spend would be with grown kids, anyway. When I didn't see them over the holidays when they were young, there was the "emptiness" I described in another post, and a sense of "incompleteness." The not spending the time with them when they were kids, with all the "child energy."

Bert

--

Bert H. Hoff

Men's Issues Forum Manager

berthoff_msn@msn.com


 

I have not celebrated a Thanksgiving with my family in years. When I was working in Budapest, I would be invariably invited to the American Chamber of Commerce's Thanksgiving Day Dinner or the party held by the American Ambassador if he was in town.

I don't recall Eva being here for Thanksgiving. I was planning to spend the day alone again but my new Mexicana friend invited me to her house to celebrate a Mexican-style Thanksgiving with her, her sister and their combined children. I bought her a 22 pound turkey today and will whip up some of my own family specialties to bring over.

I really appreciated her offer as I was dreading spending another holiday alone. Christmas has been a nightmare for me since my divorce. We had huge Christmas celebrations in California with my ex's 4 children and my daughters coming in from New Jersey and my Mom from Denver. It was a lots of fun and wonderful memories.

As a child, I remember my Mom's first attempts at the traditional American holiday and how Hungarian the cuisine turned out despite my Mom's attempts at Americanization! She made wonderful Hungarian pastries but her attempts at American Apple and Pumpkin Pie are hilarious memories and we still laugh at reminding her of pie crust dough being flung across a kitchen sticking to the wall before she got the hang of it! She still denies this ever happened but my sister Irma and I just wink and chuckle.--

I cooked a Turkey last year and took to a homeless shelter and helped serve. It was one of my better Thanksgivings and gives a person a little perspective into how fortunate many of us have it and how " There, but for the grace of God, go I" is so very valid in this season.

I wish all of the members of this Newsgroup and lurkers too, a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving.

PJ

" Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt "

H.L.Mencken

MOLDSNOW@msn.com


From Rene, explaining why her husband decided not to spend Thanksgiving with their family:

Thanks, Jack.

No, no reason really. Truly I would have believed before that it was just selfishness and self centeredness. But I am beginning to believe it is much more, more maybe than he understands or is able to communicate. I think it is some of the sorrow many of the men here have talked about. He has been separated from his family for many years. He misses them terribly and while my family has always opened their arms to him, I guess sometimes he needs to grieve for those losses, and being with my family doesn't fill those holes.

I can understand that, but I wish it didn't have to hurt our kids.

--

Rene

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

teachrs@msn.com


 

This reminded me of when I was growing up and my parents divorced. I was always so worried about my dad being alone, so much so that my mom would get truly angry with me. But the deal was holidays were with mom and her family as that had always been our tradition. However, even being around family and lots of people, there was a hole in my heart too. I wanted my dad with me. Even writing about this now brings tears to my eyes.

During those years before he remarried, my dad would always spend Thanksgiving at a shelter, cooking and serving a thanksgiving dinner. When I was older, I often split my day between my mom's family and helping him serve dinner. It was then I really began to understand the meaning of the day. But I remember most, though, that most of the people there (volunteering) were misplaced dads and it was a quiet and somber time. No joking around, laughing, etc. Not uncomfortable, but contemplative for sure.

--

Rene

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

teachrs@msn.com


Rene,

The {{{{{ Rene }}}}} is for armor-plate.

Wow! I imagine that could be hard to deal with. I've been sitting with it for a while (and seeing responses) because it isn't my place to "give advice" and I don't want to offer "preaching." We have a custom of saying at men's gatherings, "Are you open to feedback?" before continuing, and not offering any unless we get a "yes." But we don't have that luxury in Cyber-space (although the little X in the right corner helps.) All I can do is offer some perspectives from my own experience, for you to take or leave.

I see you're grappling with whether it's "selfish." That's a tough one, I know, because I had a first wife who was "Me! me! me!" selfish to the point that my daughter had to do some real "breaking away" as a 30-year-old. And, on the other hand, sometimes it takes a long time for a man or a woman to finally speak to what they need, maybe some deep, but unexpressed frustration. One of the fears is that they will be seen as "selfish" for speaking for themselves. As I read CarolAnn's story about what she said she needed for herself for the holiday season, for survival, it struck me that folks might well have told her that she was "selfish." So it's really hard to say, isn't it, whether something is "selfish." And I see that you're looking at the question, rather than assuming the answer.

FWIW, I can sure remember other family visits with the wife's family, and how I still felt isolated or distant, no matter how welcoming they were. It just wasn't the same love I felt when I could be with my own family. And, yes, I'd miss my own family even when I was with the wife's. It wasn't until recently that the families were close enough together to spend some time with each. And I can remember thinking from time to time (prior marriages) "why is it always her family?" even though they were open and loving. All I can offer you on this is one man's experience and perspective, which may or may not be germane to yours.

I also had a chance to look recently about taking care of my own emotional needs or taking care of Bernetta's first, when a former friend assaulted me and tore the place apart and Bernetta was very distressed. It seemed really natural to want to take care of her needs first, and put my own aside. And a lot of guys feel (and they may be right) that "family" and "relationships" are more important for the spouse than for themselves, that they can harden themselves to put aside their own needs to take care of hers, "for the greater good."

Your story also reminded me, for myself, of the times when I haven't felt like stating clearly where I was or what my needs were, but would simply announce a decision, and then withdraw. It would seem a lot easier to me, in your husband's shoes (which, of course, I'm not) to simply say "I'm not going" than to either show vulnerability or get into a "my turn your turn" back-and-forth argument as to why I wasn't going.

Again, I have no idea whether this relates at all to you, It's just the thoughts that crossed my mind as I tried to envision the dilemma you spoke of.

and whatever way things do turn, I do hope that you, your husband, the kids and the families involved do all find their ways to have a happy holiday!

Bert

--

Bert H. Hoff

Men's Issues Forum Manager

berthoff_msn@msn.com


 

The holidays have always been the time that I have to fight my depression the hardest. It has been this way all my life, and I don't see that ever changing.

I think what we need to remember here is that different people have different ways of coping. While statistically men do have a higher holiday suicide rate than women, plenty of women do themselves in during the holiday season as well. I think, perhaps, the only reason I never attempted suicide during the holiday season was because I had children young, and I focused on them instead of myself.

That, in itself, is another way of coping. Is it running away from my problems? Most assuredly, but it saves my life every year.

It passes by the point of being a men v. women issue, I think. I understand how Mark feels, while at the same time I understand how Cheyenne and Summer feel. All the time that I'm dying inside, I put a happy face forward - no one close to me knows how I really feel during the holidays - I will not burden them with and ruin their holidays with my problems.

Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if our intense focus on Thanksgiving and Christmas isn't a societal way of overcoming feelings of inadequacy and depression. Holiday happiness always seems to have a forced edge to it - like, we are happy, damnit, and no one is going to tell us we're not. We gain something to ourselves by giving and making others happy - a sense of satisfaction, and job well done.

I have a good friend who is disabled, living on Social Security disability (which in Texas isn't enough to live on by far), and has had two major surgeries in as many weeks. All I hear from her is how she has no money to get anyone anything for Christmas. She feels inadequate in that she is unable to give materially, failing to see how no one around her expects or desires for her to kill herself to give gifts. Nevertheless, she worries herself to tears over it. Who is she wanting to give for? Herself, of course. It's Christmas, and therefore she must give. So she will drive herself into the ground to do so.

My fellow members of the media have children in a "I want this" tizzy, parents are stressed about paying for it, retailers are banking everything on sales of the Christmas season. We buy into the glitz and glamour of the holiday season to defend ourselves from those feelings of inadequacy.

This year my children are going to go with me to volunteer at a nursing home if I can arrange it. We all need to see beyond the material and the commercial - how time is a far more precious gift than toys, stereos, clothes, cars....... How simply talking to someone and reaffirming their worth is the best gift we can give. To let others see that they are still viable and vital human beings, regardless of physical or economic condition. To see that people are the most important component of any joyous occasion.

However, there are those who do not wish to socialize, who do not wish to bare themselves to others because of pain, anger, frustration or the fear that once the door is opened they will not be able to close it again. If that is how they protect themselves, there is nothing wrong with that. If that is how they protect their loved ones, there is also nothing wrong with that. We take the path that is open to us, as well as the one that holds the least hazard to our emotional and physical well being. As long as we do not isolate ourselves to the point of self-destruction, it is a perfectly feasible and realistic path to take.

-- Be Well - CarolAnn --<--<-{{@ Doing It One Day At A Time!

steann@msn.com


CarolAnn,

Thanks so much for the sharing, the hearing of Mark's story and the telling of your own.

I focused on men for a couple of reasons (aside from the obvious one that this Forum is about men's issues): men often don't even talk about it, and men do often have different ways of coping with it. And I think when you say "surviving," you've hit the nail on the head. Once we take care of "surviving," then the world can open up for us into a beautiful place for living. But Robert Bly talks a lot about the "descent into the ashes." Sometimes we need to come to grips with the real world we live in, and be in those ashes for a while, rather than pretending that these ashes are carbon, are bits of future diamonds. (That process takes a few million years, I understand.)

And I hope that you, your 10-year-old in the size 28 underwear, and the rest of the family have a joyous holiday season as you celebrate your new life on the "other side."

Bert

--

Bert H. Hoff

Men's Issues Forum Manager

berthoff_msn@msn.com

Here are some articles, to support men in dealing with grief and depression and to stimulate discussion on this important topic.

 

"The Way" of Depression, by James Dolan

A Man's Grief, by Tom Golden

Gone but Not Forgotten A Reflection on our Ex-wives, by James Dolan


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