Many men and women live insulated, mechanical lives and may not have any friends who truly know or understand them.
Leslie died on a February morning, leaving Doug feeling colder inside than the frigid arctic air outside his bedroom window. For months after her death, he functioned mechanically in a world that seemed meaningless and empty.
They'd been married for twenty-seven years. She'd been beautiful when he first met her with big, dark, dancing eyes and curly auburn hair. She reminded him of a young thoroughbred. She'd been energetic and playful and yet graceful and unconsciously elegant at the same time. He, at twenty- six, felt like a man of the world in the company of this vibrant girl-woman. They married within a year after meeting and moved to a New England city where the rewards of his promising career as an engineer began to materialize as planned. They purchased a stately Victorian complete with a victory garden and had a son within their first two years together. Their life proceeded in a normal and satisfactory fashion. She was involved in community projects, as well as in the lives of her family and friends. He was engaged in the earnest pursuit of financial security and social respectability and was reasonably content.
Doug can't describe his inner life before Leslie's death without sounding vague and hazy. "Leslie was the one with the inner life. She had so many interests and felt great passion about people and ideas. I just sort of moved through my life calmly and methodically. My life had an order and, in retrospect, a sterility to it. She was by far much more interesting. She was the messy one. Everyone loved her."
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Doug came to eventually recognize after Leslie's death how insulated his life had been. He'd had acquaintances with whom he worked, socialized, and played golf, and yet not a single person other than Leslie had ever truly known him. He'd been somewhat numb for the first few months after the funeral, but then was confronted with a despair that threatened to overwhelm him. "Leslie was my best friend --the only person in the world I had ever allowed myself to need, and she was gone. I truly felt that I had nothing to live for. I'd heard that it's common for someone to die within a year after their spouse; well, I was ready, and yet, damn, I was too young. We were supposed to grow old together, and I hadn't even reached retirement age. I felt so heavy from my grief, I could barely move my body. I was walking around like an old man."
Doug suffered profoundly and in silence. One day Marty, a co-worker who had for years been trying to talk Doug into attending a men's group with him, finally succeeded. "I was really uncomfortable at first, but as I listened to these men talk, I began to see myself. This one guy was expressing his frustration with his wife's failure to be organized. My eyes filled with tears. The words he'd confronted his wife with were the very same words with which I'd admonished Leslie. Marty noticed I was having a hard time, and he reached over and started to rub my shoulder. I hadn't been touched in a very long time, and I couldn't remember ever being physically comforted by a man. It felt awkward and yet good." Doug returned to the men's group and soon found himself looking forward to the meetings. He became increasingly aware of how difficult it is in our culture for men to connect with one another. He began to look at how he'd distanced himself from his son, in particular, and resolved to attempt to repair his relationship with his only child. He began reading about men's issues and participating in workshops conducted by experts in the field. At the age of 56 he found himself attending graduate school part-time taking courses in psychology. At 59, he was co-facilitating men's groups and writing poetry. At 61 he was living in a house with eight other non-related adults committed to community living. Doug recently shared:
"A major transformation occurred for me after attending a weekend retreat which focused on spiritual living. I went at the request of my son. I had no personal interest but felt as though it might afford me the opportunity to do some father/son bonding. It did that but more importantly, I was able to bond with an inner source that had been available to me all along. I was just never aware of it before. I'm more than just satisfied with my life now. I find it exciting! I have intimate relationships, adventures to look forward to, and a deeply rewarding spiritual life finally."
Staff, H. (2008, November 15). Doug's Discovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 13 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alternative-mental-health/sageplace/dougs-discovery