Man Up!

“I’m not convinced by this new trend of male public soul-bearing. Time for our gender to get a grip, methinks. Life’s tough- man up.”

Piers Morgan wrote this on Twitter on May 5th. The ensuing argument amongst his fans and foes was actually rather entertaining to watch, particularly seeing him trying to justify his particular choice of words.

To begin with, yes, the idea of saying “man up” is sexist. It’s a reference to “toughen up” but with connotations suggesting that being a man is essentially being tougher than a woman. Oh and if you question “should we change everything with the word man in it then? Like Mankind?” Then yes, we probably should. The idea stems from a patriarchal and misogynistic bygone era that some people understand we need to move away from are trying to take us out of. Mankind should be Personkind. Just because the phrase Mankind has been around for a long time and has become ingrained into our vocabulary does not mean it doesn’t need to change with the times.

Also I have to mention that he doesn’t seem to have a problem with women baring their souls in public, just the men. This is probably because he still holds onto the age old belief that men can only be men if they don’t show emotion. Men are apparently supposed to be stone-faced, stoic and emotionless when in public but women can apparently break down and cry regardless of what happens. This is the idea that women can be considered weak, after all it doesn’t impact our perception of them because we must already think of them as weaker. But men are strong and strong people don’t bare their souls. If a man breaks down, cries and bares his soul then he’s weak and that impacts our perception of him in a negative way. This, in case you haven’t already guessed, is also a sexist way to view the world. Don’t segregate men and women. Biologically and physically there are differences between men and women (talking about sex and not gender here) but anything a man and a woman are capable of doing should be treated entirely equally. If a man were physically unable to bare his soul in public then I would get your concern, as it is both sexes are capable of baring their souls to whomever they like and as such we should encourage the open and honest communication of anybody and everybody.

Mr Morgan also goes on to defend himself by claiming that he really only speaks about celebrities who are trying to endorse a product or some sort of new venture they may have coming out soon. True, some celebrities are encouraged to play up to the cameras but this doesn’t mean we have to discourage everybody from doing it. I believe the phrase One Bad Apple perfectly explains that “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch” and so just because one person does it for attention doesn’t mean we should dissuade everybody from doing it.

And, whilst I don’t actually believe the claims that Mr Morgan wasn’t speaking directly about mental health, to separate mental health and soul-baring is a dangerous thing to do. Bottling things up inside can cause mental health problems. Having to wait until you get home to talk to somebody about something can warp your mind over time. Assigning times and places to when men can talk about their feelings does nothing but promote an unhealthy attitude towards mental health. Mental health problems begin somewhere and they usually begin with the attitude that people shouldn’t speak about their problems. Your statement, whilst maybe not entirely directed at people suffering from mental health issues, does not help anybody who is currently suffering from mental health problems.

The Things We Don’t Say

Today was my grandmother’s funeral.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer and then it was only a week or two before she could barely lift her head and wasn’t eating or drinking anything. My dad would tell me that when he went down to visit her all she would have would be three half tablespoons of tomato soup and a sip or two of water to keep her going for the entire day. Despite having spent a couple of years on an oxygen tank I didn’t expect her to go so quickly after her diagnosis.

I had never doubted that my grandmother loved me. I never for a moment believed that she thought anything but positive thoughts about me and the rest of my family. She was a woman who would fight staunchly for her family and loved us with all of her heart. This was no secret and we all knew how proud she was of us. She never played favourites and made sure that everybody was always treated equally and fairly. She is actually one of the few people I can say that I felt never judged me. I knew she would accept me regardless of who I turned out to be. If I succeeded she would always be there with a congratulations and if I failed she would always be there with helpful words to try and pick me up out of the funk. To me she didn’t have a mean bone in her body.

But over the majority of my life I have been struggling with unemployment, depression, anxiety, trust and acceptance issues and my motivation to leave the house had slowly been dwindling to almost non-existent quantities. When my parents and I moved away in 2012 it became increasingly difficult for me to spend time with those people I cared for because now they lived so far away. For these reasons I didn’t get back to my old hometown as much as I would have liked. I didn’t get to visit my grandmother as much as I wanted because my brain wouldn’t allow me to make the two and a half hour drive (including motorway driving) down to my old hometown.

Now I bring this to light because of something somebody said to me at the wake. I hadn’t visited my grandmother for a few years and simply remarked that a picture on the front of the Order of Service book didn’t look like the grandmother I knew. She had gained weight from inactivity and I simply remarked that I never saw her like that. This prompted somebody else to comment “You didn’t visit her? That’s awkward. You probably don’t want to be saying that too loud around here.” This simple comment hit me harder than a full-speed truck.

I suddenly felt like I had let her down. This was woman who had shown nothing but unconditional love for me and now I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called her grandson. I felt like a fraud, a failure and a horrible human being. I still do. But that’s why I write this, because I missed my opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me.

This was the third funeral in my lifetime and I have never felt emotion like this before. The other two funerals I had been to – my grandfather and my other grandmother’s – didn’t leave me devastated like this one because I had no doubt that they both knew how much I loved them. Even if we didn’t always agree on things, even if we argued, there was no doubt that they knew I loved them and I knew they loved me too. This one doesn’t feel the same. This funeral felt like I didn’t belong because I felt like she didn’t know I loved her. I feel like she left this world thinking me ungrateful and disrespectful and she won’t ever know how far from the truth that is.

I am currently a mess of tears and tissues because I’m trying to find the words to explain why I didn’t visit her. Some people don’t understand the crippling pain of anxiety or the inability to do anything when faced with depression. It’s paralysing. I didn’t want to visit her because in my mind I thought she didn’t want to see me. On clearer days I could see how stupid this was but in the midst of depression you don’t see or think clearly. I also thought I had more time with her. She wasn’t seriously ill until she was and then she very quickly deteriorated until we got the phone call telling us she had died.

But there’s nothing I can do anymore. I understand the ultimate-ness that is death. I know that however much I cry or pray she isn’t going to come back just so I can tell her all the things I wish I had told her. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. It doesn’t stop me from finally understanding all those songs where people wish for just another day or just another hour, or even just a minute. I finally get it. Because now I feel like she won’t ever know.

I don’t often find myself looking for solace in religion. I have never considered myself a man who would turn to religion for anything. But during the service the Reverend would talk about a day when my grandmother would be reunited with everybody once again. I don’t know if I believe it but I know I want to believe it. I want to have another chance to apologise to her. I want to have a chance to tell her all the things I wish I could have told her and how much I respected her both as a person, a woman, a mother and a grandmother.

I also want her to be reunited with my grandfather in whatever afterlife there may be because I know how badly she hurt when he died.

One of the last things I remember my mum telling me my grandmother had said was how she wished she could see the sky and the trees again before she died because from her hospital bed she couldn’t see anything. The bed she died in had a clear view of both the sky and the trees.

If Merle Would Sing My Song

 

This is probably one of my favourite songs. It’s a bitter-sweet song about how somebody is looking for success, trying their hardest but isn’t getting the breaks or the opportunities that they feel they might deserve. It’s also a nice commentary on the world today when it says “But I still could be an overnight sensation / It would only take one sympathetic ear.” Because as we all know, with viral videos and trends these days, one person’s life can literally change overnight.

I perhaps relate a bit too much to this song. Perhaps not in the realm of music and playing a guitar on the streets of Nashville, but I have been writing content since I was eighteen and I have been applying for literary/journalism jobs since I graduated University. I’ve yet to find that sympathetic ear and it’s not for lack of trying.

I find this song to be quite alarming in the idea that it can literally take just one person to change your entire life. I’m also not sure how much other people realise that a simple act can change somebody’s life. It may not be a secret, I’m not sure how many people realise it, but I have written off and written open letters to people in positions of celebrity and high profiles asking for that “one sympathetic ear”. A chance to prove myself and to prove that I am good enough to put myself forward as a viable person with something to contribute to society (something which I don’t often feel currently in life). However, I have received no replies. Even those who I viewed as borderline infallible and practically perfect in every way didn’t even send me a courteous “acknowledgement but sorry” reply. It’s times like these that I feel invisible in the world.

The way I see it is that I’m in a huge hole. Probably about ten, maybe twenty feet deep. And I’m stuck there shouting for help. My friends are there and they know I need help but don’t have the resources to help me get out of the hole. Occasionally people walk by with a rope or a ladder and I try to ask them for help. Just to throw down a rope or ladder and then they can be on their way. They don’t have to jump down into the hole with me and stay with me, all I ask for is a rope.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s not an obligation to stop and help somebody out of a hole. There is no law that says they have to help me out just because somebody is in a hole and they have resources to help the person out.

Some may call me selfish, some may call me ungrateful for what I do have in life, but I’ve reached my end. I’ve been stuck for so long that I no longer know what to do without other people’s help. I no longer feel capable of getting out of this hole on my own. I’ve even been told that “that’s life” and that “dreams aren’t made to come true” but the only recurring positive I’ve had in my life is my dreams and I’m not sure what happens to my life if I decide to throw them away and give up on them. There’s an old adage that says “it takes a lot of strength to admit you need help” so I don’t believe asking for help is selfish, I believe it’s just admitting that perhaps you can’t do everything alone.

I’m probably not the only person in this position, in fact I can almost guarantee I’m not. But I’m asking for help. From anybody who has the resources/connections to help. I learned, from my time unemployed, that many people refuse to give “handouts” to those that need them. It’s no secret that a lot of people believe that a person should be able to “get themselves out of their situation” be this unemployment or purely mental health, however I have to say that sometimes it’s beyond your own capability to progress from your current situation to a better one, that’s when we need to ask for help.

Sometimes people don’t need a handout, sometimes people just need a hand.