Friday, March 13, 2009

A Guy's Guy

Introducing my other half. Take it away, Bob...

Am I a guy's guy? I don't know that really means. I know I'm a guy. A guy that has friends over to watch the Bears on Sundays during football season. A guy who works hard, takes pride in his work and provides value to his company and clients. A guy who loves and takes care of his family by being the major breadwinner. If that’s a guy’s guy, then I guess I am.

I’m also a guy who is in the midst of losing everything he’s worked for his entire life. Everything that’s defined me and my success up to this point is vanishing right in front of my eyes. Like a candle being blown out by a strong swift breeze. Now you see it, now you don’t.

Growing up in a trailer park in the Midwest in my younger years had me yearn for more. There was nothing wrong with where I lived. We had a simple existence. I just saw that it was possible to have anything in life you just had to go out and get it. It was clear that nothing would just be handed to me. And it seemed that there were so many different and exciting things “out there”. Why not go out and see what I can accomplish? What I can do? What I can make of myself? Find out what things I love, what things I don’t? I wanted to go out, develop my character and be a well-rounded human being. I wanted to be able to sitting in my rocking chair 70, 80 years down the road, look back at life and say, “It was worth going for it all.”

As a kid, I saw people around me that seemed to be stuck in life. Stuck for good. There was anger, depression, and sadness. And I did not want that. That seemed to be the worst possible existence one could have-- living in America, the land of opportunity, and being stuck. It seemed impossible. Yet, it was right there.

So I went to college, moved to the big city, got a tech job, married an amazing woman, and started making some good money. Living-wise, I progressed from trailer to apartment, from apartment to condo and condo to house.

My plan seemed to be going really well. Until about two years ago.

I began to feel stuck. Stuck for good. Just like those people I saw in my hometown as a kid. I felt complacent. Numb. It affected everything- my marriage, my work, my life. I had everything I thought I would ever want, but I wasn’t happy. I remember thinking: “I can’t live the remaining 60-70 years of my life like this. What the hell am I going to do?” And I also thought, “What happened? It’s not supposed to be like this!”

Together, my wife and I started therapy. We knew we had to do something. Anything was better than pretending that things were working. I really believe that would have driven me to an early grave.

Did I want to be put under possible scrutiny of a third party? No. Did I want to find out that I could be the entire reason my life wasn’t working? Of course not. I definitely didn’t want someone telling me that I failed, there’s no way to fix it, I was completely broken and incapable of being fixed. That I was a complete failure of a human being.

It’s been said that courage is being afraid, and acting in the face of the fear. I was terrified. Of what my life was then, what kind of human being I was, as well as what I was going to find out about myself. I acted. Some call that courage. I felt more like a coward. I would have to give the title of courage to my wife. She was the one that suggested counseling. I owe it to her. Even if she decided at some point she was going to leave me, I wanted her to be able to leave and move on and have a better life. I didn’t want my shortcomings and mistakes to impede her future.

Fast forward to a year later. We had worked through some really deep-seeded issues. Both of us. As individuals, as well as partners. And we came out the other side happier than ever. Our lives seemed magical again. The spark had returned and I was happier than ever…

Then my contract was terminated… early. And suddenly. My client was moving in a different direction. No job. No Money. How will we keep the house? How will we keep anything? I can’t go backwards!

As a guy, a guy who has based his entire identity on striving for and pursuing money, a nice car and a great house, how do I keep my dignity? My self respect? My pride?

Over the last few months, it’s been quite a ride. I’ve secured a job – at 40% of what I was previously making. I’ve had to let go of many possessions, many frills. The latest casualty is satellite TV. It’s been a challenge to say the least.

I have my dignity, self respect and pride. Probably more so than ever. I’ve realized that it wasn’t the things I own, or what I do for a living that defines me. Whether I live in a trailer, or a mansion doesn’t matter. It’s how I act in the face of uncertainty, in the face of tough times. And having my wife as my teammate makes all the difference. When we first met on the AIDS Ride more than ten years ago, we were very clear that as long as we were together, we could accomplish anything. And that makes all the difference. The ‘together’ part.

Anyone can be happy when things are going great. How are you going to act when the chips are down? When there’s nothing left? That’s the true test of your nature. One’s character.

It’s the fourth quarter, less than a minute, you’re on your one yard line. You’re down by 6. You’ve got to drive the whole length of the field to win. Are you going to just quit the game? Walk off the field? Abandon your teammates? Or are you going to play your heart out, and go for it all. Go for broke. That’s what this guy’s gonna do.

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