Free to Be

I’ve come to realize that the opposite of being a good man isn’t being a bad man. That’s always been my equation in life. The opposite of a “good” man is being an authentic man, a man of integrity. There’s no good or bad in it. Integrity and authenticity are never ending endeavors—mountains without a top.

I know I often stumble at both. These falls have been a failing in my marriage. It’s often a steep climb up these mountains. The only way to access authenticity and integrity is being authentic about your inauthenticities, and to recognize when out of integrity.

I’d like to talk about this with my wife but there’s been a quiet yet distinct shift in the house since I returned from Los Angeles and the course at UCLA. The clearing for authentic conversation has been covered. I had hoped, now that the die has been cast–legal papers filed, moving plans made, both of us looking ahead to new, separate lives—that we could talk to each other like people who once loved one another.

Our conversation is the smallest of small talk. Nothing remotely personal is mentioned. Brenda didn’t ask one question about the course I took, or what its impact was, despite aspects that were directly shared. Thank god we have the dog to focus our attention; otherwise the silence would be deadly.

I am afraid to say anything. I have been cordoned off into a Quiet Zone.

One key goal of the course was to experience what it would be like to be free—free to be and free to act; to leave behind the way we wound up being; free to choose beyond the way we wound up being. This means facing squarely all the ways we’ve been inauthentic, out of integrity. Only out of that fearful recognition can freedom be forged. Only then can we ever be out here with life.

Right now it’s hard to know what this looks like. I have to risk giving up everything I get about myself in order to deal with life. I have to give up all the judgments I make about myself. Quit deciding things, and ask Who am I really?

We don’t see, and we don’t see what we don’t see. Too often we walk around in tranquilized obviousness. We go through the motions, at life’s petty pace. I went through the motions in my marriage, and took for granted that the way we were living, even when unsatisfactory, was just the way it was. It was good enough even when it wasn’t. I should be grateful that she had her clarity of vision to say it wasn’t working.

I can’t speculate about all the reasons she felt so sure that our marriage couldn’t be saved—with work, and talking, with authenticity and integrity regained.

I would have given all to try.

Yet….now, on my own, a chance to figure out Who I Really Am.

Free to be, free to act.

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