I’m struggling to find the words. I’ve been struggling for some time…my whole life I think.

The first of the words came when I gave birth…to my son. Hank is almost 19 years old. I’ve watched, struggled, cried, laughed, loved, liked and worried more than I ever thought possible raising this highly spirited and out of the box thinker. He has, as of late, magically become one of my best friends. We talk for long hours into the black of night…dreaming, scheming and creating words from thought. He is my kin, both by birth and by spirit. We are wonderfully and frighteningly similar.

fooling around

A couple of weeks ago, he and I took a short road trip to my sister’s house. We were each captive to the other on the two and a half hour car ride. I shared with him how fascinating it seemed to me that “my story” changes with each year that passes…how my levels of awareness increase and hence the story that explains my life does as well.

“Hank, when did your story begin…the story you currently claim as your life story?”

He thought for a minute or two. “That’s a hard question,” he said.

And then the words flowed. “I’d have to say it started the day you and Dad divorced.”

My initial gut reaction felt like knife to heart.

“Tell me more,” I asked.

“I remember our pulling out of the driveway. And I knew that my relationship with my Dad would be different. It had to be. I was only five, but I knew even then that my whole life was changing.

My whole life since then has been trying to find the man in me…to define the man I want to be. That’s why I’ve been through a lot of what I’ve been through…sometimes trying to find that man. Sometimes it feels lonely and sometimes I’ve made unhealthy decisions trying to mold myself into how the world defines man…but now I know, it’s all good.”

I didn’t say a word. We drove a few more minutes.

“Actually,” he continued. I think it’s less about finding the man I am…and defining the PERSON, I want to be.”

hank with vinnie

I’ve learned so much from Hank. He has so beautifully integrated the feminine I live into with such ease, with the man he has become. He is both strong and vulnerable…loving and firm…compassionate and protective.

And he got me thinkin’…I wonder how things might be different if we stepped outside the gender box and allowed people, regardless of gender, to bring their full selves forward in whatever way and capacity that revealed itself.

Because I think, if we get really honest with ourselves, beneath the gender dialogue is the continuing belief and unspoken reality that those who continue “devaluing women” either consciously or unconsciously, at the highest levels of leadership (and in certain cultures, do not value them at all), has more to do with devaluing those traits we typically label as feminine…compassion, love, tenderness, empathy and understanding. In spite of the fact that nearly every spiritual teacher, across all religions and centuries has shouted from the mountain top, the transformative power of love, compassion and acceptance…the expression of these, are for many, still seen as signs of weakness.

As a matter of fact, these “softer” sides of our humanity can be scary…threatening even…especially to those of our brothers and sisters who haven’t experienced or actually lived into the power and strength that comes when we allow love, compassion, vulnerability and tenderness to fully integrate into all facets of our lives. It is a blessed and beautiful day when the breakthroughs occur for folks, but the build-up or prelude to our breakthroughs often require breakdowns that are soul-wrenching, humbling and certainly not “fun.”

Hank is one of the most compassionate, loving and tender folks I know…and has struggled immensely trying to be heard, seen and understood in a world that values the man, but not the “feminine” qualities a man such as he, possesses.hank and macie

I’m not satisfied with these words yet, but they are coming…