I admit it, I don’t Understand!

Generational or cultural expressions of what it is to be us in our natural and spiritual selves have in many cases been the foundations for who we are or have wanted to be. The expectations of those “passing the torch” may come with a pat on the head and a “be a good boy, do what I say and things will be fine” mantra. They are loaded with warnings and implied repercussions for disobedience.

In light of this, I have learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut. I have learned that by appearing to agree with them, I’m protecting myself from a storm of daggers and thunderbolts. I am protecting myself from the exertion of their demigod-like power for the sake of peace. I am shielding myself from myself because to expose that would be war.

Is it your duty to maintain or to advance?

At times I find myself trapped between a desire to maintain the best of what I have received, and build better versions of the worst. Within that are insecurities pertaining to the reception of my evolved view of the worlds I am in. There are also insecurities about knowing enough, being skilled or capable to deliver. Am I enough?

What I can say is that foundations require work. What held the initial version of you together may have to be revisited brick by brick. I am at that point.  I admit it, I don’t understand a number of things that relate to the worlds I belong to. The questions I have, are generated by a level of discomfort with varying structures, attitudes and practices. The byproduct of this is a greater understanding of what I consider to be important.

What I consider important may not line up with generational or cultural expressions or expectations. However, my level of comfort in articulating that through word and deed can only increase by acceptance of that fact. From there, as I know more, I become more. I can exchange old clothes for new clothes and accessories because I know my size, my shape, my style.

Humanity has many dimensions, it’s our duty to discover as many of ours possible.

 

Photo Credit: Jenny Harper Photography

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Brothers in Season

If you listen to the movies, life happens when you don’t make plans. Materially successful people will sell you a book that tells you to make plans for your plans.

If I’d had my way I would have changed career and left this city long ago. It would all have been on my terms and conditions, there wouldn’t be any of this, beyond your control malarkey.

When the mist of Christmas cleared, I was thrust into a spiral that at times became a whirlwind of despair and frustration. There were days when I couldn’t face the mirror let alone the world, days where I didn’t want to hear my own thoughts or superficial well-wishing. Give me what I need or leave me alone was the sentiment. I believed I had to roll with the punches and keep the scars hidden. The blessing in the storm was that for my sanity, I wasn’t allowed to do that.

For me, the darkness that descended occupied 3 out 4 seasons this year. Despite the fears, the tears, the rants and the rejections I find myself grateful for the unexpected brotherhoods that have developed. Support networks of guys who somehow appeared when I’ve needed them to keep the light on for me.

I’m thankful for the school friend who introduced me to a global group of like-minded guys who were open about their struggles and gave each other support.

I’m thankful for the Man Up project which has given me a greater understanding of the journeys to and through masculinity. I’ve been able to drop a mask or two and find acceptance waiting for me. I have learned that masculinity cannot truly be taught from one-dimension.

I’m thankful for my brother CJ who has been the general on the ground who doesn’t use “how are you?” as a greeting.

By the end of August, I will have told my story to a few hundred strangers. At some point, I’ll have new colleagues to create new stories with. It may take time to recognise all the lessons that this season within seasons has taught me.

However, the one I resonate with the most is that life is a team effort. As we understand each other, we grow, we become ourselves, we fly higher and sew into new teams.

For this, I am thankful.

 

Photo credit: Rob Mcleod

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Plodding

You’ll never know what you can bear until you fight with one.

Though I wasn’t bred that way I take a slice to know the light is on.

Been decked by my cards so I shuffle around the boat.

Drowning in the blue that the red mist lead me to.

Clutching pearls that swine gave me.

Scorched earth screaming green as new shoots.

Golden boots give tours of their shoe collections.

You’re only good as your answer to the last question.

The fable of favour requires faith to become a fact

I fight with enlightened beasts, it kills me where I’m at

Blind mice testifying of finding big cheeses releases of hope of planting my flag on the moon.

Everything I should have done has been festooned.

Everyone I should have been, marooned by who am I now.

I look up to look up though I’m down.

What now?

 

 

 

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Man Up! How?

I’ve spent the weekend in the presence of up to 30 men. An environment where masculinity and mental health within men were explored with a view to an eventual performance. It gave scope for bonding, conversing, unlocking doors to experiences that have brought joy, pain and indifference. It allowed creatives to create and every voice to be heard.

At the end of the first day, my niggling thought was, can I separate masculinity from race? I ignored the thought because I didn’t have a place in this sphere.  At the end of the second day, it returned. The truth is I don’t know if I can make a definitive separation.

Whereas some groups have to an extent, found a voice to articulate their struggles and versions of their humanity, I cannot say that my voice has the capacity to capture hearts in the same way. Some go as far as labelling other groups as “the new black” as they draw parallels with being a minority group, and discriminatory attitudes towards them. This is not to say that I am jealous of the shift towards social acceptance, or seek to dismiss their voices. Rather, being within earshot of this has been a trigger, a point of reference from which I begin another journey of understanding.

When I entered the room ahead of the session, I entered as a creative. I entered simply seeking inspiration and hoping that I might write something I could show off. That was the way I would get by.

My masculinity has been heavily influenced by cultural expectations, traditions and race-based perceptions. They have been compounded by faith based interpretations of manhood.  I don’t get to see myself as just a man. I am black man and whisper it….I’m a Christian. To the world around me, to the world inside of me.

I am not socially acceptable in my real form in as many spaces as others are afforded.

In seeking to stay on topic I kept my mention of race down to one conversation to provide context for my story. I didn’t want to as people say….play the race card. Was this men’s space a white space?

In the black community, we are pretty expressive, yet Mental Health is something we collectively seem to be quieter on. My mother was a mental health nurse so she was and still is aware of the signs when particularly I have encountered struggles with mine. In wanting the best, tough love was a method of dealing with it. Yet even in that I was never just a man. Always a black man.

“You are a black man…..you cannot afford to let yourself slip. You cannot afford to….”

I have always had to be aware of how I speak, how I act so that someone else feels better about themselves. At times it feels like as a black man, I don’t really get to have a safe space because I am going to be a threat to someone. I am going to be lumped with some part of society. I am part of something that will be invaded by well-meaning trend seekers who will sell a version of me back to me as though they were Christopher Columbus.

If I show I’m intelligent, I’m a threat so I’m getting passed on for promotions and meaningful career development activity.  If I wear certain clothes, I’m a threat. If I show that I’m angry I’m a threat. Then there’s the projections of promiscuity and prowess. I self-edit constantly to ensure that everyone feels comfortable.

Should I seek black spaces?

Again….do I get to have shared experiences? After all I am male, I was once a child that has become a man.

However, as a child in primary school, my white headmistress sent for me during lunch time. She told me that a black kid has to work 100 times harder than a white kid. I wasn’t given any reasons as to why she chose that moment to give me “the fact of life” that many black kids have drummed into them from birth. Yet, it eroded my self-confidence as a child.

Through the years, versions of this were re-iterated in order to keep me on the straight and narrow. I was even told that if I was a white guy, I’d be ten-a-penny. That I should be fortunate that black people are a minority, as it’s the only way I would stand out.

Shared experiences where being black doesn’t have a say in proceedings seem few and far between. Celebrity deaths get more reaction than folks arrested for waiting at Starbucks. Maybe that’s a different issue. Somehow, somewhere, between principles and expectations, nature and preference, I exist

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Home Is A Diving Board

diving board

Trapped between the sound of splashing and touching water

Wearing fanfares to allay fear

Fostering first finishes from ticks glimmering

They say…

Stand within ear shot of the gun to know your target

Is clapping the fruit of the harvest?

Drown, and become a compass from a floating carcass.

Another one who did the math only to make up the numbers

Saddled with sackcloth, shame and numbness

Straddling feint margins, seeking waves as markers.

Struggling to strum the melody of the barking.

Seeking to beat this with heartstrings.

A war-torn dome is only enlightened by stillness.

Choose your weapon before tumbleweed kills you.

Strike with every breath, release gold or reach home.

Time the trapeze, then reach and step.

Let your soul know this was a good body to rent.

 

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Cloud Control

handling1

I thought I could handle it.
This is my 99 final
I’m writing a manuscript.
I’m a royal male
Stamping my authority on the situation enveloping.
I hit the post, and caught a P45 for arrested development
Had to face the music but couldn’t sell a tape.
Feeling 21 again except
I’ve gained a lot of responsibilities and different education.
Job applications, eat n sleep them , play station.
Go to church, be grateful, remix, repeat, template it.
Don’t leave the screen, or time waste.
Just, keep your head up and eyes straight.
What’s patience when you’re gaining weight?
Wait on God for your phone call, an interview.
They say, a head on your shoulders is a stage for greatness.
The inner you, is pained but heal and grow bro.
I’m left wondering how the gravy train became an engine less stage coach.

I thought I could handle it.
First in last out, I thought I’d get the hang of it.
That’s the way I planned for things.
To be, shunted, that’s the manure script.
No more banter filled, days that raise you from the grave workload your facing.
No secret santas, random nights out or days to stuff your face with
Sugar laced platitudes are crack when you need a fix.
Unkempt nuns aren’t the only ones with bad habits.
Things fall apart when you’re barely playing a part.
Would wisdom have seen my false start?
I thought I could handle it

Name changed from Adrian to bastion.
An analyst in a battalion banking on being valiant.
The canon changed so much I was a candidate for valium.
Alarm bells were haranguing me.
Ropes disguised as ribbons were asking to hang with me.
I saw through the eyes of the needle.
That year I’d, had more hits than Ed Sheeran.
More scars than Killmonger.
Some firsts were longer and the endings sweeter.
As the facts started to pan, hopes started to Peter.
Blip, blip, blip, bleeeep

Now my last wage has to stay past my birthday.
That’s months away and there’s bills to pay.
Everyone’s a sage and their advice is playing on one of 5 multiplex screens.
I’m praying I’m not brought to my knees.
Telling myself I’m a man, I’ve got to handle this
Don’t prolong the shame on your family.
You’re not penniless with Jesus sandals begging in the city centre (Hanley) yet.
You’re not a father so it could be a lot harder.
Yes, darkness smothers the brightest of days.
Create your own karma.
Replace that window pain with thankfulness.
Let your actions anchor it.
Be a man in this

I am not my father, I am more than his son.
I can’t wait to announce that Karmas pregnant because I’ve overcome.
Until then I shall feed my vision with knowing the mission is cooperative.
The new world I desire will take more than thoughts and prayers to populate.
Because I am built to handle it.

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Down Day

Image result for feeling down

 

They say men are made from stuff women aren’t.

Stronger hands, harder hearts

You can take a beating and dare not flinch

The measure of man’s tiers found in grit not ink.

 

He’s made of wildest dreams and infinite schemes

A man is built to last.

He can plot a tree and chop down forests.

Just women’s ages he dare not ask.

 

A man should have money, a man should have style.

A man commands the stage.

Men have no fear, knows lust not love.

Being a MAN is all the rage.

 

So why do good ones fall and bad ones rise?

Is it safe to even ask?

Is it weak to cry, will he be despised?

Is it wise to be about that?

 

I’m drowning in supposed to be.

What I’m not has been my yoke.

If I’m a man or so I claim will my man card be revoked?

 

I guess I’ll hang from ropes you beat me with.

My failures and dented pride.

When love is lost we count the cost.

No hope and suicide.

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