Writing as Therapy for “Cowboy Up” Syndrome

Writing as therapy for a man who has trouble admitting he has emotions

The first time I came across this blog thing was in 2004, during the Iraq war. I stumbled onto a political blog and started reading some of the stuff. Lurked for quite some time, finally joined in, made some comments, and wrote some posts. It was easier on a political site because, as the comedians say, the jokes just wrote themselves.

Wyoming_CowboysBut I eventually grew tired of all the rancor and kind of let it drift away. I still go back there from time to time to see what’s the outrage de jour, but I haven’t written anything there in a couple of years. And I rarely participate anymore because politics has just become such a free-for-all pie fight.

Still, I find that I miss writing something and putting it out there to see if anyone notices. Maybe that’s why I’m doing this, but I don’t really know. Perhaps another reason is I’m trying a bit of self-finding, although that sounds quite trite as I say it. I’m finding myself, like I had somehow lost myself. I’m pretty sure I’ve known where I was all along.

But like many of my species (Homo sapiens males) I do have a hard time with those pesky emotions. Expressing them, that is, talking about them. I grew up with that stoic, man up, suppress them at all costs mentality. Oh, I’ve got them all right, big old weepy mounds of them, but talking about them is verboten. At least, it’s always seemed that way.

So perhaps, by trying to write to elicit emotion from an audience, I might find it easier to confront and talk about my own emotions. And maybe writing about my emotions will let me see that talking about them isn’t as hard as it seems after all. It could happen.

I remember, as a child, finding a kitten at my grandmother’s house, and begging my mother and father to please let us take it home. They relented, we named her Mittens, and I also remember when Mittens died. At the time I was old enough to know that death was permanent, but had not yet fully experienced the grief. I remember the emotion to this day.

I remember when my mother met me at the door when I came home from school. She sat me down and told me the news. I remember not being able to speak, and tears welling up in my eyes and squeezing them so tight I couldn’t see, and a tightness in all my muscles all at the same time, and tears and sobbing. I had no idea what was happening to me. It was a long time before an emotion struck me like that again.

In my 20’s I attended the funeral of a childhood friend, Jim. He was one of the neighborhood kids, a year older than I was, and his father was a widower lawyer in town. We palled around a lot as kids, playing army and football and riding our bikes, until we got into high school, and then some after. He went away to college, so did I, and he took his own life sometime after that, I don’t remember how long after.

When I entered the funeral home for the visitation it was like old folks at home week. People I hadn’t seen in years, people from the neighborhood, mutual friends from high school. I had brought my girlfriend at the time, who also knew Jim, and we spent some time talking with the various people and introducing her to people she didn’t know. Jim’s dad was there, remarkably stoic, seemingly all smiles and his usual jovial self, but now I know, with the benefit of all this hindsight, that he was probably a wreck and just refused to let it show.

And then I felt someone grab my elbow from behind, and I turned around and there was Marguerite, the housekeeper that Jim’s dad had hired to keep things moving after the death of his wife. Marguerite had raised Jim from early childhood, and I still remember time spent at his house with Marguerite.

“Don’t you think it’s time to go see Jimmy now?” She always called him Jimmy. She took me by the elbow and we walked to the open casket. “He looks so peaceful, doesn’t he?”

I couldn’t speak, I was crying too hard. And she comforted me as she had done when we were young and would skin our knees, in that long, sing-song country way. “There, there now boy, you just let it on out.” And it was a long time before an emotion struck me like that again.

I was thirty something when my grandmother passed away. I knew that my grandmother was doing poorly, and I was traveling on business when she passed. I agreed to fly in to be at the services, but had not yet truly come to grips with grandmother’s death.

My aunt, my mother’s younger sister, was a bit of a New Age spiritualist type at the time, and she decided she wanted to hold a remembrance service at her little congregation. My grandmother had a habit of writing down spiritual little snippets on pieces of paper and secreting them away in various places. My aunt had gathered them up and placed them in a box, and she thought that each of the grandchildren should choose one and read it aloud to the people who assembled for the service.

I chose my slip of paper and waited my turn. And when that turn arrived is exactly the moment when my stoic facade gave way. And I couldn’t speak, and tears welled up in my eyes and I squeezed them so tight I couldn’t see, and all my muscles convulsed at once, and I realized I couldn’t bring myself to read the little inscription, written in my grandmother’s beautiful handwriting. I kept the slip of paper for a long time, though. I hope I still have it.

Since these times I know the feeling when emotion is slipping up on me again, and I’ve learned that it’s easier to “let it on out” than it is to try to bottle it up. And I know I had better get in practice. Still not easy though. That cowboy up mentality is a hard one to break. There, that’s why.

Author: rudyblues57

A fellow traveler in our journey around the neighborhood thermonuclear explosion. Full of random thoughts and esoteric observations about the human condition, how we treat each other, and other detritus of life.

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