I can still remember travelling down to Embercombe to do my NWTA Adventure as if it was yesterday, when in fact it was September of 2010. Approximately 18 months before I set off, I was approached by a friend of mine, John McLaughlin. In a very easy way, he said that he does some stuff that he thought would be good for me. It was as simple as that, no hard sell, not even an explanation. I asked what it was and he just said that he thought I would get something from it. I then said "maybe" or words to that effect, and carried on with my life. What he didn't know was that small conversation stayed with me until it was mentioned again, about a year later. I then said "how many do you do a year?" He told me and I replied that I would "do one before the end of that year". Leading up to September John called me up and said that there was one approaching, he told me the price and I paid over the phone. Job done. I knew nothing of what I had signed up to.... men’s work?.....no idea!
However what was really strange was that when I put the phone down I burst into tears, to this day I still do not know why. But I remember feeling a massive relief, but I didn't know what it was, just an overwhelming feeling, and it lasted for ages.
Still not reading up, or taking in what this weekend was about, all I knew was to bring some food and some winter clothes. When I was driving down I was in such a rage, swearing and cursing to myself, calling my partner and doing the same thing to her. I was driving to a place in the middle of nowhere, I knew no-one, because I had asked John to stay away for my weekend. I understand that he was a man who staffed every weekend, and finding he’d be there made me feel uneasy. About halfway into my journey I got a text from John - "trust the process" was all it said. It kept going around in my head, over and over again......what was it supposed to mean? But it was those three words that got me through the doors, and through the first evening.
On arrival I was so agitated, so angry. I was fuming, but that was more about what was happening inside me. I was greeted by one man who directed me to another, the first question/words that came out of my mouth were "when can I leave?" I was getting angrier and angrier, yet all the time I kept repeating those three words from John "trust the process". I put every bit of trust in that man and my partner, who’d kept encouraging me to do the weekend. I had never before heard the lines, “rites of passage”, “work on myself”. Never spoken to anyone about this stuff.
From the Friday night to the Sunday afternoon it was a rollercoaster of emotions for me, for the first time in my life I was honest with myself. I started to see who I was, maybe who I was meant to be. I could sit in the company of other men and not feel intimidated, not have to roll out wisecracks for the hope of fitting in, to be accepted. I think I started to think that it may be OK to be me...as I am........I shed many tears, tears that I maybe should have shed many years ago. I allowed my emotions to go on show, if that was what they wanted to do. At times it felt as though I had been walking around with a rucksack full of bricks, all of my life, without realising it. Then brick by brick as the weekend went on, they slowly started to leave, and the load was getting lighter and lighter.
On the Sunday when we said our final goodbye, the tears were streaming down my face, I had a heavy heart. Yet when I walked out of the gates I felt as though I could have climbedMount Everest, just for the fun of it.
The weekend is no walk in the park, there's no making daisy chains, yet I remember thinking that I would happily pay double for that all over again. I remember calling John on my way home and thanking him with all of my heart, I remember telling him that I would forever be in his debt for the gift that he had given me. One year on and I have embraced as much as I could and I’ve staffed in Embercombe, inIrelandand in the Comb.
I have done an intensive PIT [the follow up course to the NWTA] and staffed one as well. I am also in an iGroup [an ongoing men's group]. I have met, and continue to meet, some great men whose company and character I just love. As for my life? I now get to see things in all of my honesty. What I mean by that is, gone are the days when I would see something, or find myself in a situation thinking "what should I say, so that I fit in. How should I act?" I look for my truth, and hopefully I find it. I try to be the best that I can be....before, I didn't think that I deserved to be the best. When I find myself in a situation faced with something that makes me uncomfortable, I don't react straight away, I don't make a judgement. I try to see if something is happening for me, I look to see if I am looking in a mirror.
Today I can look at something, or hear something and if I think "man that’s beautiful" then I will say it. I want that man/woman to know what is going on for me, and if it's something good, then it's no good sitting in my heart, in my head. That way no-one knows....what a waste.....Today I like who I am, this time a year ago I could never have said that. And this time next year I hope to like myself a whole lot more...........Aho!