Boys Don’t Cry

I’m old enough that I was brought up with that mentality: boys don’t cry. Girls are free to bawl as much as they want to, but boys don’t. Well, some do, but only sissies, pussies, wimps, and the like, and most impressionable young boys don’t really want to be any of those, they want to be Men, or at the very least if their parents teach them early on that they ought to be Men (newsflash to parents: young kids often fear you stop loving them if they don’t do what you want just as much as you fear they stop loving you if you don’t do what they want). How do you become a Man, then? Act like one. Be tough. Don’t be a sissy. Don’t cry.

If you're a girl, crying is a perfectly natural expression of distress

If you’re a girl, crying is a perfectly natural expression of distress

Okay, my parents weren’t horrible, but in some respects a little old-fashioned, and the result is, I can’t really cry unless some truly momentous disaster befalls me or mine, like a loved one dying, you face bankruptcy and it’s your fault, your favorite toy breaks, you get the picture. Everyday annoyances… nope, can’t do it even if I wanted to. Not even when I found out of an incurable ailment (back problems that’ll restrict what I can or can’t do and cause constant pain for the rest of my life).

The thing about crying, though, is that it’s an outlet, and a pretty handy one at that: feel frustrated? Shed a few tears and it’ll purge your system a bit. Feel wronged? Cry yourself a river. Feel angry? Open the dams for some good, old-fashioned waterworks, and soon the anger will seep out like air from a balloon. At least to a degree.

If you're a guy, crying is like taking your pants off in public

If you’re a guy, crying is like taking your pants off in public

What do you do then, when you’re a Man and can’t cry? There are several options, but one of the most common is anger. It often manifests as aggression, especially if you’re competitively inclined, like yours truly. The assholes take it out on their loved ones or anyone who happens to cross their paths when they are venting (essentially a situation where any other human being except a Man would cry). Smarter Men take it out on something else, preferably something inanimate, like a heavy bag, weights etc. Actually an animate object is even better, like a friend from the boxing gym: put on your helmets, mouthguards, gloves… and do not forget your groin guards! Trade some blows and you’ll feel so much better, trust me, especially if your friend is bigger and tougher than you are.

Boxing is a great way to vent your anger in a controlled manner

Boxing is a great way to vent your anger in a controlled manner

The thing is, what if you can’t access a gym when The Anger hits you? By “The Anger” I mean a state of existence where your emotions are at such a volatile state that they require some kind of an outlet, usually crying, but, in the case of Men, a display of aggression. Let’s say, you’re driving home from the doctor (after hearing some bad news) with the Mrs, or you’re at a family dinner (and you get a call from work that you’re fired, just when all those bills are due), or you have a few friends over, or whatever; some situation you can’t immediately escape and something happens that really gets under your skin and riles you up. What happens then? In my experience, nothing positive.

Let’s take the “driving with Mrs. next to you” -example. At best, she joins you and you’re angry at the world together. At worst, your venting is so colored by The Anger, that she thinks (and usually understandably so) that you’re actually angry at her or, at the very least, your tone and word choices are so antagonizing, she feels your taking it out on her. And the next thing you know, she’s crying, and you feel like a complete asshole because that’s what assholes do, remember? They displace their anger on their loved ones.

Another worst case scenario is if your anger has you so riled up, you break something. Like punching the car’s windshield and, whoops, there’s a crack so big it won’t pass the next yearly inspection (or however often they inspect your car in your country). Ready to pay 200-300 bucks to get it fixed ’cause you were angry and broke it? In your defense… windshields are supposed to protect you and your family from all the shit that could hit your car while you’re driving. How can a punch, a fucking punch, and one thrown while sitting at that (hardly the optimal position for optimal power generation, ask any boxer), break the windshield? But that’s beside the point.

The point is, it would be so much easier (and cheaper!) to just shed a few tears and be done with it. But us, Men, we don’t have that option; it was robbed from us, usually at childhood. Maybe we could learn the art of crying, but I don’t know, it would take some serious reprogramming because the mere thought of myself crying feels about as alien as having sex with a member of the sex I’m not attracted to (if you’re bisexual, just think of having sex with an animal. If you’re into beastiality… get some professional help, seriously).

So what’s the solution? I’m afraid I’m all out of good ones. What I’m trying to do (and frequently failing; it’s a learning process), is to either express my anger in such a controlled fashion, that my wife has the time to adapt to the change in atmosphere and can join me for some good old husband-wife world bashing (try it, it’s fun. Seriously. And it brings you two closer together. And then you can go home and have angry sex!) or I try to bottle it up and let it loose the next time I can unleash the fooking fury (ten points and a nude badge for anyone who gets the reference) in a safe, controlled setting, like the gym.

My absolute favorite is to spar with the biggest, toughest blokes from our boxing gym (since they’re much better than me, I get my ass kicked anyway, so I can go pretty much full force, full speed, which is a great release for anger). That one hurts, so a word of warning: if you can’t take a beating, if you’re shocked to see blood on your mouthguard, do one of these two: hit the heavybag (but wrap those hands and wear gloves if you can punch so hard that you’ll break your hands otherwise ̔cause nothing’s more frustrating than cracking a knuckle with the first punch when you were amped up enough to go ten 5-min rounds), or do a heart killing circuit workout: no breaks, nada, zip, zilch, just one grueling exercise after the other. My favorites are push-ups, pull-ups (the proper kind, not the crossfit ones), the ab wheel, and a sprint on the crosstrainer.

But I’m rambling again. The point is, whether your thing, your release, is boxing, lifting iron, running, playing guitar in a metal band, listening to metal, punk, or whatever, napkin folding, whatever, think of something, some activity that allows you to release your anger without causing casualties among innocent bystanders. Also, be mindful of the moment when The Anger is gone, because sometimes it’s sneaky: you think it’s gone, but once you get home, you blow up because you just thought you got it out of your system. I’ve found that a good way is to just kill yourself doing whatever it is you do for the release. If you’re too tired to empty your gym bag, chances are, you’re too tired to blow up and The Anger is gone.

Mind you, there’s a scientific explanation for The Anger, namely adrenaline, how it builds up in your system and stays there, making you apt to blow up at an inconvenient time if you don’t do something that releases it. The funny thing is, some releases actually cause more adrenaline to leak into your system (like my fave, getting my ass kicked at the boxing gym) because it can be a scary situation, but the physical strain it puts on your body overcomes the extra adrenaline and it ultimately drains The Anger and you’ll be a tame, cuddly teddybear again. But adrenaline is a whole other subject, and if you want ot learn more about it, I seriously suggest checking out Geoff Thompson’s books (my recommendation would be Dead or Alive: The Choice is Yours, ’cause it’s kinda like a best of the best of his discoveries and ideas).

Anyway, in the meantime, you can practice crying. Don’t ask me how, I have no idea. I’m still at the “trying to accept it doesn’t make me any less of a man and a complete wuss” -stage, and I’m not entirely convinced I’ll ever get past that, but I’m trying. After all, remember the saying about minds and parachutes and how both work better when they’re open?

So, whether you’re a Man or one of the smarter folk, be mindful of The Anger, that it’s your cross to bear, not your wife’s, child’s, parent’s etc, find your outlet, and don’t be an asshole.

Peace out,
T.Trian

Happiness Through Action

By T.Trian

I haven’t spent hours, weeks, days, or months on our couch. I have spent years lying there, wasting away into nothing until I was but a shadow of my former self. Sure, one could argue that I have a reason because of my (at times) debilitating back pain, but I feel that would be lying to myself, like settling when I know I could get so much more, be so much more, at least what I used to be, hopefully more. It goes without saying that a physical ailment such as this, an ailment that limits one’s life to this degree has its effect not only on the physique, but the psyche as well.

This experience of some five years has taught me a few things, but I feel the most important is this: inactivity is like a psychological cancer that eventually starts to erode your body as well. It grabs hold of you and if you don’t shake it off immediately, it latches on and starts growing, breeding inside you at an unprecedented pace, and it’s fucking scary.

If you’re a neat freak, this metaphor will probably fly over your head (or, rather, crawl between your legs), but it’s the best one I have in mind: the messier of us often make decisions to keep our homes clean. We’ve spent hours tidying up and decide ”never again, from now on I will be a neat freak, I will put everything where it belongs after I’ve used it.” But then one day you realize that your apartment is a mess. Again. How did this happen? Messiness creeps up on you like a ghost.

Inactivity works in much the same way: once it has a solid hold on you, before you know it, you’ve been diagnosed with depression or adjustment disorder or whatever, and you’re stuck in your bed, couch, or wherever it is that you glue your ass when you’ve had it for the day. The problem with inactivity is that the longer you’ve let it hold sway in your mind and body, the harder it is to shake it off, get off your cute, little ass and do something, anything.

Well, here’s a little secret tip: that feeling of an insurmountable challenge you experience after a long spell on inactivity is an illusion. Imagine spearheading an army against your enemy’s fortress. You’re rumbling down the field and towards the castle walls, screaming at the top of your lungs, about to smash the battering ram at the sturdy gates. And then you burst through to the other side. The gates were made of paper. That’s how solid the mighty wall of inactivity is.

I know it’s fucking hard sometimes, trust me, especially at first, but it is doable. All it takes is that first step. That’s it. After that first action, it’s as if the shackles pinning you down shatter, and you’re free again. All you need is that one battering ram to punch through the debilitating mirage.

What’s my battering ram, my secret? Push-ups. I’ve tried the guitar, studying, even dry-fire drills with my pistol (though sitting down, more comfy that way for a lazy bastard like myself), but they don’t work as well as something purely physical, something that forces your body to crash through those paper battlements. If I had a pull-up bar, I’d do those too.

Try it out. I dare you. I double-hare dare you (had to use hares, they’re just so damn awesome in all their fluffy cuteness). Get up and squeeze out as many push-ups as you can. Find out how many you managed and let me know in the comment section below.

The first time I did this after years of inactivity, I managed only 20 (I used to be able to do 4-5 sets of 45). My body was in shock, my heart was bursting through my rib cage, and I was breathless… but I felt good! It was as if my muse had emerged from her own dimension into my reality and blown a breath of energy and inspiration, a breath of life into not only my body, but my mind as well. It was almost like a dense fog was lifted; I saw the world clearly again.

Nowadays I do push-ups, bicep curls, the ab wheel, the horse stance, and the plank several times a day, every day. Sometimes I forget a set here and there, but I try to do one set every time I get up, be it to go to the fridge or to take a leak or whatever. Nothing fancy, just a set of push-ups. The next time you get up, a set on the ab wheel and so on and so forth. Now I can do 4-5 sets of 20 push-ups a day, 1-2 sets of 15-20 reps on the ab wheel, 1-2 sets of 75 seconds in the plank (single position, longer if I do my sides too), 3-4 sets of 6-9 curls per hand with 12,5-15 kg per hand,  and a set of one minute in the horse stance. I know, it’s not much, a far cry from what I could do before, but it’s a start. Since I don’t do the sets one after another, I don’t even get sweaty: I do a set, then return to what I was doing before, so I don’t need to take ten showers a day.

I know this comes off as a fairly brutish routine since it has nothing to do with spirituality or positive thinking or anything fancy like that, but who cares as long as it works? Since I started doing this, I’ve been more inspired to write, practice the guitar, study for exams, in essence, get my shit together.

I just participated in a sci-fi short story competition with my wife at www.writingforums.org (we both submitted our own shorts, which was a fun experiment, but that was it for us as far as solo writing goes: to us, it’s just double the fun to write together), I signed up to take part in an IPSC competition, I’ve recorded with my band and guitar trio, and I’m studying for the year’s last exams. And it feels amazing. My life is finally moving forward, I am moving forward, out of that perpetual limbo, no longer trapped in that couch-shaped cage that was my prison for so long.

And all of this started with one set of push-ups. That simple exercise we all know, love, and hate. It’s so simple one might even think it couldn’t possibly work, but it does. Try it out. Then again, what works for me, might not work for you, but try different things: go for a walk or a run, go swimming, do yoga, dance. Hell, fuck or masturbate, do whatever it takes to drag your body and mind out of that fog that envelops us when we succumb to inactivity.

So, get your heart pumping and your testicles or tits quaking, tear down the castle of inactivity, and find that spark again, bring yourself back to life. Like Geoff Thompson says; find happiness through action. I did.